Category: book reviews

The Casual Vacancy HBO TV Show; A Lot of Gay Sex In New York; The Pope Is At It Again

The Casual Vacancy HBO TV Show

The first novel J. K. Rowling wrote after the Harry Potter series titled, The Casual Vacancy, was recently made into an HBO mini-series with the same title. When I read the novel I loved it so much I made a point of reviewing it here. 

Here’s part of that book review:

Rowling could have held back in some instances, especially with regard to the male teenage characters. And yet she didn’t, and I found this aspect of the book more like a character study. It surprised me, too. As someone who never had read Harry Potter, I honestly didn’t think she had it in her. This is why I didn’t want to get into an overall plot description with this review. So many others have done that well in other reviews, and I wanted to add a few different thoughts…if that’s possible…for readers who might be thinking of reading The Casual Vacancy but aren’t sure if it’s the book for them.

All I can say if that if you like things glossed over and hidden, and you’re not a fan of really reading about some of the more intense things in life, this might not be the book for you. If you tend to take the more difficult aspects of life seriously and you carry images around in your head for a long time, this book might not be for you either. But if you are interested in reading something that gets into the realities and complications of what life is like today, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprsed at how J.K. Rowling managed to pull this off. And I hope there are more books like this one in her future.

I’ve already seen the first two installments of The Casual Vacancy on HBO and I recommend it highly, even if you didn’t read the book. You’ll also get to see what life is like in a quiet little English village, too…at least I’m assuming this is all accurate.

I don’t have any idea when the show airs again, but I do know that the first two installments are on On Demand. I’m sure if you check your cable listings with a search you’ll get all the information you need.

A Lot of Gay Sex In New York

This one is really nothing more than clickbait and an advertorial for a web series titled, Hunting Season. From what I gather it’s about all the sex gay men in their 20’s are getting in New York. It’s annoying for many reasons, but one of the most annoying reasons is that it suggests that only gay men in their 20’s, in New York, are getting a lot of sex. Which is pure bullshit…on all counts. 

When Alex runs into someone from his past he re-considers the consequences of his freedom and decides to make some changes, with unexpected results.  His two best friends are going through their own turmoil as well, as Tommy (Marc Sinoway) confronts someone who despises him and everything he stands for, and TJ (Jake Manabat) and his husband explore non-monogamy in their marriage.

You can read the rest of this tripe here. It’s the worst kind of advertorial, with cliches like “keeping his dance card filled.” However, as someone in the comments pointed out it’s pure escapism and fantasy and there’s nothing wrong with that. I just wish these PR and marketing idiots would realize that once in a while and say that.

The Pope Is At It Again

This is an interesting Pope. It seems that each time he opens his mouth something more unusual escapes and makes headlines. This time he’s claiming that heterosexual marriage is The “Masterpiece of Society.” Obviously, emphasizing the word “heterosexual.”

Jesus teaches us that the masterpiece of society is the family: the man and the woman who love each other. In many countries, the number of separations is increasing, while the number of children is in decline. Christians do not marry only for themselves. They marry in the lord in favor of all the community, of society as a whole.”

I noticed how he fails to mention that the Catholic church makes money on divorce in a highly interesting way. I’m going to simplify this, but here’s a link to more details. When a Catholic gets divorced he/she is not in the same high standing as the non-divorced Catholic. I don’t think anyone can dispute that, especially if they re-marry. In order to receive what is called a “Papal Annulment” from the church, which will put the re-married divorced Catholic back in good standing, the divorced Catholic has to go through a tribunal council and it winds up costing about ten thousands dollars to do this. I think the costs my vary from place to place. The people I know spent thousands. It also takes a great deal of time…years sometimes. I know several people who have been through this, and I’ve actually answered a ten page questionnaire for someone. And I hope I never have to do that again. They were some of the most personal, private, embarrassing questions I have ever seen in my life. It wasn’t something I enjoyed doing, but I couldn’t refuse either. However, my personal advice would have been don’t bother and spend that money on something more important.

You can check the Pope out here. 

Here’s an excerpt from the link above:

The wait for a decision from the Tribunal can be frustrating, as the process may take many months.  Because of the number of marriage cases pending before the Tribunal and the detailed and careful process with which each one is handled, it is never possible to expedite any one’s request for a declaration of nullity, or to promise a definite date of conclusion, or even to promise a favorable decision.  Because of this, if you are seeking an Decree of Invalidity with a future remarriage in mind, please know that the priest or deacon assisting you in your preparations is not able, and not permitted, to set even a tentative date for a new marriage until you have a final and favorable decision, in writing, from the Tribunal.

Amazon review:

5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Fun Story! April 30, 2015

Verified Purchase

The Rainbow Detective Agency is owned by two gay men – Proctor Gamble and Blair Huntingdon. Proctor is 36 years old and was once a male swimsuit model. The case they are working on now involves a C List celebrity/model named Isaac Luke. He’s a closet gay and also has a very rare physical affliction. He has worked in the past for a designer named Lion Hewitt and has also been personally involved with him.

Isaac is kidnapped and Lion Hewitt hires The Rainbow Detective Agency to find Isaac and to keep the physical affliction from becoming public knowledge. It all turns out to be fun and games until poor Isaac finds his luck has ran completely dry!

The playful banter between Proctor and Blair was a lot of fun and they remind me of Oscar and Felix on the Odd Couple. They are passionate men so you can expect to read quite a bit of steamy scenes with these two. Both, Proctor and Blair were very excited to get acquainted with Isaac and see his special package ( so to speak).

A very fun story! It reads like a smooth dream and the characters have a lot of energy, heart, and charm.

Anne Rice on Bullies-Free Speech; Cover Preview; Log Cabin Gays

Anne Rice on Bullies-Free Speech

It’s no secret Anne Rice has been outspoken about bullies, especially those she considers bully book reviewers on Amazon. According to this article below, she recently signed a petition at titled, Take a Stand Against Cyber Bullies. The petition seems to have been started by someone named Todd Barselow. So far, there are close to 3,000 signatures at the time of this post.

From what I gather, they are petitioning Amazon and Jeff Bezos to remove anonymity and to require identification with regard to reviews and Amazon forums.

I believe, as do countless others—many who will have signed this petition—that the reason this bullying and harassment is able to take place is because of the allowance of anonymity on Amazon. People have found ways to exploit this flaw in the system and are using it to bully, harass, and generally make life miserable for certain authors on Amazon.

In this article, the bully issues Anne Rice has had to handle are discussed in detail. And why she feels so strongly about this.

“My experience with the gangster bullies in the forum has been very bleak and ugly,” Rice writes on the petition to Amazon. “I post there under my own name. They blatantly violate your guidelines with personal insults and harassing posts. If you would only apply your own guidelines this would greatly help. I feel a lot of these people are obsessive abusers who have found some sort of dark home on Amazon tormenting writers. I urge you to take action.”

I’ve posted on the bully topic several times. This link will lead you to multiple posts I’ve written. With regard to book reviews and bullies I’ve always remained objective as a blogger. But I’ve also personally experienced similar situations with bullies that Rice and many other authors have experienced and I’ve always remained quiet about it. The first time it happened to me was about five or six years ago and it wasn’t on Amazon. It was at a vicious book review web site that used authors as bait to get attention and garner hits in a sensationalized way. Since that time that particular blogger has been kicked out of organizations and exposed as a bully, and as a result I doubt the blogger’s reputation will ever be the same again. She’s trying to rebound. But to most she’ll always be that same bully.

The second time I experienced bullying I contacted the police and they handled it. At that point, I decided it was out of my hands and I would let a professional do the work. It was handled quietly and the bullying stopped. What most people don’t realize today is that most local police stations have a cyber crime division and they are more than willing to help people involved in bully situations. If I ever feel as if I’m being bullied again, I’ll contact the police again. Plain and simple.

However, as much as I despise bullying in any form, from book reviews to those who like to bully on political topics, I didn’t sign the petition Rice seems to be promoting. I once posted that I thought the bully issue could be solved by removing anonymity and requiring identification just as the petition I linked to above reads. At the time, I thought it would work. But I received so many e-mails from my readers on that topic I eventually changed my mind. People who read gay fiction, erotic romance, m/m romance, or anything else that might be considered a *discreet* genre feel more comfortable leaving reviews with pen names or anonymously. Most authors in discreet genres use pen names. It’s hard enough to get reviews as it is, and I don’t want to discourage readers by taking away the right to review with discretion. I have always encouraged anonymous comments here on this blog because I respect that discretion and I don’t want to silence anyone’s right to free speech. I do moderate to keep things civil, but I’ve never had to censor more than a handful of comments I didn’t think were appropriate. In other words, if you disagree with me I’ll post your comment anyway as long as you’re civil about it.

This bully issue is a complicated matter and I don’t think there’s quick fix. I do think that places like Amazon should moderate all reviews with more care, even those reviews that are fake and were paid for by authors to gain higher ratings and ranks. The corruption with book reviews isn’t just limited to bullying, and it’s NOT just limited to Amazon. It covers a much wider territory, and it all needs to be addressed. If I were Jeff Bezos I would be obsessed about it to the point where I used it to my advantage as a business professional, making Amazon a safe place to read or leave reviews either anonymously or with real names. I would look for the sharpest young tech pros I could get fresh out of college and put them to work. And my goal wouldn’t be to censor free speech, but to moderate civil discussion.

So it’s easy for Anne Rice to sign a petition that calls for the removal of anonymity and requires identification, without taking free speech into consideration or how important anonymity is for many readers who aren’t bullies and who prefer to remain discreet. But it’s not that simple for me. As much as I despise anything even remotely connected to bullying, I don’t want to take that right away from my readers.

If you are an author who writes in a discreet genre, I urge you to consider all the options before you sign the petition. You might be silencing the free speech of the very readers who would leave you good, honest reviews, too.

Update: The signatures for this petition just keep increasing in number and I’m starting to see this all over social media. Evidently, this issue is very important to people and I’m now starting to wonder if Amazon will actually address it. In spite of my own misgivings, I’m leaning toward signing it more each day just because so many people feel so passionate about it. And I’ve always believed in doing what’s best for the majority, as a rule.

Cover Preview

This is an unusual cover preview for me because it’s not finalized yet, but I wanted to share because readers tell me they like being involved in the process. I often drive cover artists up the wall with these things, and this is just one example of how I torture those wonderful people to the point of frustration. These are two examples, out of ten others I won’t post now 🙂

When I say I’m having a blast with indie publishing I’m never joking about that. A publisher would never allow me to drive them this crazy.

Log Cabin Gays

For those who may not know this, the Log Cabin organization is a group of all gay Republicans. I don’t know why I find this so fascinating, but I do. I don’t get political here on the blog, but I have stated I’m a registered Democrat who usually votes independently. I find that on a local level I can’t always stick to one party because some local Republicans are often more open-minded about issues I find important. I think if you live in a larger city it’s different. But in small towns like New Hope, PA, there really are about 50 shades of gray.

Log Cabin Republicans executive director Gregory T Angelo made the announcement in a column for the Daily Caller in which he decried CPAC organizers the American Conservative Union’s (ACU) failure to allow gay conservatives to participate openly in the conference’s program of events.

You can read more here. If you’re open-minded to all things political like I try to be, I think you might find this interesting. There’s also a brief history about the Log Cabin Republicans and Abe Lincoln’s alleged gay relationship.

Hugh Howey at DearAuthor; Miss Kentucky Was Queer; God Punishes Gays

Hugh Howey at DearAuthor

When I was in college, I took a chemistry requirement in the summer. On the first day of class, the professor walked into the room, dropped her briefcase, and said, “I’d like to inform you that if you have part time jobs you’re going to have to quit in order to keep up with this class because I’m the most demanding professor in this department. If that’s an issue with anyone, feel free to leave right now.” I looked around the lecture room at all the terrified faces, grabbed my books, and stood up. As I turned to leave I smiled at the professor and just kept walking toward the door. I dropped that summer course, picked it up the following September with another professor I knew I wouldn’t have an issue with, and I received an A. I learned early that some people, like that condescending professor in the summer course, tend to make life more difficult than it has to be.

As I was reading a blog post at the DearAuthor web site, it reminded me of that story and that professor. The post is titled, Is Genre Fiction Creating a Market for Lemons? It’s a highly subjective (opinionated) piece written with an elitist academic voice that discusses self-published books, book reviews, and book prices. And while I agree with many of the points made, I found it a little insulting in a “sui generis” way and I doubt most of the people reading genre fiction today would even bother to finish it, which is unfortunate. In other words, I could have just said I found it insulting in a “unique” way, but used “sui generis” to either impress you or make you feel stupid. Because, you know, I went to college and I have them big time degrees hanging on my wall.

In any event, I think you get my point. But the post does get interesting when the author brings up Hugh Howey’s books. It doesn’t get easier to read; just interesting. It’s a clever passive aggressive approach that at one point questions Amazon reviews and the quality of reviews. Again, it’s subjective and in a way it points out some of the issues I’ve posted about previously with regard to all reviews in a general sense. Just look at the reviews I’ve posted about for the TV show, Looking, and the various ways so many gay men have received the show. When I reviewed a review of Looking I wanted to point this out clearly. I also find that the reviews for Looking are honest and balanced…even though I don’t agree with them all. That honesty and balance I find with Looking reviews doesn’t always happen for me with Amazon reviews.

If you can manage to get through the entire DA post, you’ll find a very interesting comment thread where author, Hugh Howey, replies to the author of the post in that humble, down-home, honest way he has that could melt proverbial butter. One comment he made in particular made me read twice:

I remember thinking, when my reviews hit 3,000+ and the book still had a 5-star average, that this was getting ridiculous, and could it please stop. It was a great relief to see the average fall to 4.5 stars, which was less obnoxious.

Talk about sui generis. I can only say that I have worked in publishing for over twenty years. I have best friends who have worked in publishing for over forty years. And I have never once, not in all that time, heard anyone say they wish they had less good reviews. And that’s because I have never seen anyone get only good reviews. Never. Most reviews for most books are always balanced…or at least somewhat balanced. If you don’t believe me hop over to goodreads and check out the reviews for Pulitzer Prize winning authors like Anne Tyler.

There are also a few comments on the thread left by the always graceful romance author, Courtney Milan, who has a gift for balancing the most subjective topics in the most elegant, civil ways.

You can read the entire piece here. I think it’s worth the time and effort just to read the comment thread alone. And, for the record, in spite of my own snark, I don’t disagree with the post by any means. I just wish it had been written with less condescension and more to the point. Because the topic is something we’re all dealing with now: authors, self-published authors, publishers, and readers. Most of us are not happy about it.

God Punishes Gays

Lately, there seems to be something more outrageous in the news as each day passes. This time it’s about a pastor in Tennessee who thinks God punishes gays and lesbians by making them effeminate or mannish. Ugh!

‘God turning people over to their own desires, men lusting after men, women after women, and they receive in their own bodies the penalties for their sin,’ he says, as Right Wing Watch first reported.

 ‘I have watched people go into a lifestyle, and all of a sudden they become…a man starts to become very effeminate – mannerisms, speech.

‘I’ve seen the reverse, I’ve seen the same thing with women [who] start becoming mannish.

‘What’s going on? They’re taking in their bodies a penalty for deviating from God’s loving design and plan.’

You can read more here. This one is pretty self-explanatory. I just feel sorry for the people who believe this guy.

Miss Kentucky Was Queer

In a piece that directly negates the above post with regard to effeminate and mannish gays, a former Miss Kentucky recently came out and said she’s queer.

Her passion has been really ‘fueled’ by a federal judge, who ordered the state of Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriages on Thursday (27 February). ]

As a child, Trent describes how she couldn’t understand why God made her ‘wrong’.

She said she was scared her family members were going to walk out of her life if she were to admit she is queer.

She’s absolutely beautiful, on the inside and out.

You can read more here.

I Love Penis Cake; Barry Eisler on Pot & Gays; Chase of a Lifetime Series by Ryan Field

I Love Penis Cake

I hadn’t heard about this until now, but evidently gay teens are now opting for more creative ways to come out, and they aren’t holding back a thing. In this particular case gay teen, Keanu Williams, came up with an “I Love Penis” cake for his coming out.

“I wanted to do something different to tell them and making a video let me tell people I don’t see everyday something that recently happened in my life,” Williams writes on his YouTube page. “I’m happy and don’t regret what has happened.”

Coming out is a different process for everyone. Good for him. At least he knows what he loves and he’s not ashamed to admit it.

You can read more here.

And here’s a link to a web site where, if you so desire, you can have erotic cakes of all kinds made to order.

Barry Eisler on Pot and Gays

According to a “poll” (and this article), Republicans should expect to lose the fight with same sex marriage and recreational pot. And, author and blogger, Barry Eisler, wrote an interesting post recently that discusses both. He said this, among many things:

The inability to distinguish between subjective taste and objective principle is the very confusion that takes people from “I don’t like gay sex” to “gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry each other.”  Obviously, the tendency is powerful — so powerful it causes a collapse in logic and reason in otherwise presumably capable people, people who can feel so strongly about their own preferences that they manage to leap from “I don’t like X” to “which means X is objectively bad for society” to “and therefore the best and only way to address X is to make it a criminal act.”

I do agree with Eisler’s post, and what he said above. The sad fact is that most…including the media…don’t know HOW to distinguish between subjective taste and objective principle. And the article I linked to above about “Republicans” losing both fights is an example of this inability to grasp the difference between subjective taste and objective principle. In other words, the article was written by someone with such highly subjective taste it’s not possible for her to even fathom that many Republicans are gay (or support gay marriage), smoke pot, and want both to be legalized. That’s not hearsay…though I didn’t take a “poll.” I know plenty of gay Republicans who feel this way. And as a lifelong registered Democrat it often bothers me that so many in my own party don’t understand the meaning of objective principle because they are so caught up in their own subjective taste.

You can read more here. Barry Eisler is probably the most intense, passionate blogger around. It’s not always easy to grasp what he’s trying to say, but it is interesting. He’s straight, too.

Chase of a Lifetime series by Ryan Field

I don’t think I’ve ever listed the Chase of a Lifetime series books in order. Someone asked me this week and I had to scramble to give them an answer because I don’t always remember everything I’ve written on a moment’s notice. So here’s a list of the books, in order, and I’m not sure if the series will continue. There might be a few more books in this series in the future. But not for a while because I’m caught up with deadlines for publishers as this point. All books are stand alones and don’t have to be read in order. But it does help if you read them in order because each book does follow the progression of Jim and Len’s lives.

The first two in the series were indie pubbed with Ryan Field Press.

Book One: Chase of a Lifetime

Book Two: Chase of a Dream (unabridged version with erotic scenes)

                   Chase of a Dream (abridged version without erotic scenes) I self-censored this one book and removed 7,000 words that contained erotic scenes…for those who might want to read a m/m love story without erotica. I can’t find the link on Amazon, but it anyone wants the book e-mail me in private.

Book Three: Chase of an Adventure Fifty Shades of Gay (This was published with e-publisher, Ravenous Romance, and the Fifty Shades part of the title has absolutely nothing to do with the mainstream novel Fifty Shades of Grey whatsoever. The storyline follows Len and Jim, and this time I get into Len’s family that I’d only skimmed over in the previous books.)

I’d like to do more of these books in the future because I set them in a part of California that’s one of my favorite places in the world. I love it so much I could live there myself someday.

I’d also like to thank those who left reviews for all the books. I know a lot of people buy them and don’t leave reviews, and that’s ok, too. But in making up this list it’s actually the first time I’ve seen any of the reviews for any of the “Chase” books and I’m always thankful for that because I truly hate to solicit book reviews from anyone. In a world where authors are always aggressively seeking out reviews, I know I fall short in that department and should probably work harder on it in the future. But we all have things we don’t like doing and hocking people for book reviews is one thing I don’t like doing. So again, thanks to everyone who took the time to leave a review.

Jeff Baker Psychic; Burn It to The Ground Productions

Jeff Baker Psychic

I have to shamelessly admit that I have always been a strong believer in anything spiritual…or of a metaphysical nature like this. In fact, I have been going to mediums and psychics (for lack of better words) for many years and I’ve found some that blew me away. I don’t go on a regular basis; just when I feel the need to learn something that I can’t learn any other way. At various times, when the psychic is good and the energy is just right, I’ve even contacted old friends who have passed on. The most recent psychic I found actually helped me deal with book reviews in a very interesting, scary way.

I know that sounds ridiculous to some. And I am on record as someone who has never complained or spoken openly about a bad review to anyone. I’ve always taken them in my stride, but sometimes we all need some kind of comfort. And sometimes we don’t think a review is fair, especially if every single gay romance the reviewer reviewed has five stars and yours has one. So I found my comfort with a psychic for a while. She would make up little dolls and we would stick pins in them. At the time, I just thought it was something cathartic and didn’t think anything would happen. But I actually had to stop this because of something that happened I still can’t explain. I won’t go into detail about this, but it involved a bad review from an online book reviewer, a doll with pins, and something terrible happening to the book reviewer in a way that rendered her unable to read again. Maybe it was just coincidence. But I didn’t want to take any chances after that. Not even the worst book review is worth that.

In any event, I found Jeff Baker through social media and I couldn’t resist checking him out. I have not contacted him yet, but I’m getting very strong urges. His web site looks very good, and very easy to navigate. And from what I’ve seen he’s also hands on, so to speak, where he actually isn’t too grand to communicate with his followers on social media.

Jeff Baker is a Conduit and an Empathic Healer. He is often referred to as a psychic or medium or medical intuitive. These are all just terms that characterize a giftedness that people find hard to describe. He prefers to just to be known as a person who is a conduit for healing in all the services that he offers. Although his gifts lay in almost all of these “esoteric” areas, Jeff feels that the work he does is grounded in Spirituality and is therefore practically applicable on a real and reasoned human level. And as a conduit, he prefers to not take credit for the work he does but he will say, “I am part of it for sure, but it is innate faith in yourself and what I do that makes the marriage work”. For that reason Jeff does not take on every case that is submitted and prefers to help those that he can’t by training them to be their own healers!

Burn It to The Ground Productions

I’m not sure how Jeff Baker is connected to this next link/web site, but I found the link on his web site and it looks very interesting. I’m not even certain is Jeff Baker is a gay psychic, which doesn’t really matter one way or the other. I just thought it look interesting and I wanted to share.

Burn it to the Ground Productions is currently working on pre-production for a documentary on LGBT rights and issues. This will explore how the LGBT community has been perceived, and discriminated against over the past 100 years, covering all ages, races, and backgrounds. Above all we will examine how love has no gender in a way that is accessible for all. If you are interested in participating and sharing your story, please email Juliett on the contacts tab, and she will get back with you shortly.

Nathan Bransford Post About Bullies and Goodreads

Nathan Bransford Post About Bullies and Goodreads

I wasn’t planning another post today, however, I ran across a recent blog post by author Nathan Bransford about alleged Goodreads bullies and I wanted to link to it for various reasons. One of which is to be able to go back and revisit the topic in the future. I really do think of my blog as a journal and I like having references. Another reason is that I think it’s one of the most neutral and intelligent posts I’ve read on the topic of online bullying in a long time.

I have always remained objective on this particular topic, and I will continue to do so. When I posted about a web site called Stop the Goodreads Bullies over a year ago here on this blog, I offered no opinions whatsoever, and I’m not doing it now. But I think this is an issue that deserves to be mentioned, I think it’s newsworthy to anyone invested in books and publishing (including readers), and I think it’s going to continue to be newsworthy because so many feel so passionate about it.

From Bransford’s post:

Everyone knows that it takes a thick skin to be an author. But no one who writes a book deserves to be subjected to online abuse. It’s one of the strange aspects of online life that it feels like nothing to attack someone through a computer screen, but the recipient of that attack feels as acutely as if it happened in “real” life. Make no mistake: These aren’t reviews, they’re personal attacks.

Bransford goes on to comment about bullying, and he even mentions the web site Stop the Goodreads Bullies. I highly recommend checking this post out. There are over 250 comments that will take a while to read, but it’s well worth your time to see how heated this discussion can get.

What I also find even more interesting is that Bransford is also a consummate, talented blogger as well as an author. He can go to great lengths of writing blog posts with links to publishing related articles on other web sites that are interesting and informative and can enrich our lives, and he only gets a handful of comments. But he posts about goodreads and bullying and the comment thread ignites, which is why I think this debate is only going to become more intense with time.

Do Book Blog Reviews Count? The Women Who Love to Love Gay Romance Update

Do Book Blog Reviews Count?

There’s an interesting post today over at The Passive Voice by a book blog reviewer, Big Al, from Writers in the Storm Blog. He discusses a few things I’ve always wondered about book blog reviews, and compares book blogs to large publications that review books like the New York Times. I think whether or not you agree with him will come down to how you shop for books and how you vet reviews for books nowadays. And I hate to say it’s generational because I know that my own readership ranges widely in age, but I do think that most people in the mainstream under forty-five are getting most of their information online, and in places that don’t charge for it…including book reviews. To make it simple: I’m talking about the difference between people who still write checks to pay bills and those who do it all online.

I agree with the basic point Big Al is making in a general sense, but I also still have to wonder about the significance of book reviews from book blogs for genre authors. In other words, I don’t think book blogs are going to help or hurt the biggest authors with the biggest books and the biggest publishers and agents. But there has been a virtual explosion in the past decade with genre authors and e-publishing who are not Patterson or Grisham. And many of these smaller genre authors are making a small living from writing e-books and catering to a readership who only reads e-books, both self-published and with small start up e-presses. These are the authors that The New York Times…or any other large well known book review publication…will most likely never review. And that’s because so many changes have been happening in the past decade in the way people read e-books and reviews now as compared to five or ten years ago. The same authors in genre fiction that are gaining a readership and selling e-books would not have sold ten print books a year ten years ago.

As a reader, I used to check out the New York Times Book Review weekly. I lived for it. But that was pre-Internet when we were all still reading print. In the past five years I don’t even think to look at New York Times Book Review anymore (unless I find a link and I can read it online for free), and I don’t think I’m the only one because from the looks of how all print publications are suffering, including The Times, a lot of people are finding their reviews in other places, and I have a feeling it’s a combination of book blogs and retail web sites like Amazon. In fact, I rarely read anything in print anymore except for a few magazines I’m still clinging to until the subscriptions run out. A good example would be this week’s Time Magazine book section where they talk about beach books for the summer. It was so dated and so hokey and so out of touch with what I normally find online from book blogs and book review web sites I found it almost endearing in a gentle, harmless way. Kind of like old fashioned charm.

Big Al said this, with regard to book blog reviewers:

The biggest difference I see is that we aren’t normally professionals. I don’t mean our blogs aren’t run in a professional way (I think most try) or that we make just a trivial amount of money for our efforts (although that is reality for most). But the typical newspaper or magazine review was written by a fellow author or at least someone who was a professional writer. Today’s book blogger, while sometimes an author or a wannabe, is more likely to be an avid reader who can manage to string enough words together to write a review.

Maybe this is generational, but I can’t say that for sure because I have no idea how old Big Al is. And as I said, a good deal of my readers vary in age. But the main reason I vet book blogs and retail web site reviews as opposed to “professional” reviewers is because I want reviews that are not written by so-called professional writers…if there actually is such a thing anymore. I don’t want to be snarky here, and I truly do enjoy writers like Joel Stein from Time Magazine, but the only differences between Joel Stein and a writer at a small blog are a few good connections and a little bit of luck.

I do think that I would have fully agreed with Big Al five years ago. But the changes in the way people get all information in the past five years have been so drastic I can’t help but wonder where all this is headed. As I also stated above, I also think Big Al’s post is still valid for big authors with big books, but I do think that book reviews from book blogs can, and do, influence the success of books written by smaller genre authors.

Getting a review from any particular book blog isn’t going to make or break your marketing efforts. Few book blogs are going to give your book the boost that a review from The New York Times Review of Books or Publisher’s Weekly would do.

It’s hard to agree with the first sentence in that paragraph if you know genre fiction and you’ve been up against good and bad reviews from book blogs. Book blogs can, indeed, make or break marketing efforts for some genre authors, especially in romance. And of course the second sentence makes sense, but how many book reviewers at The New York Times are even paying attention to the millions of dollars readers are now spending on e-books in genre fiction like romance. And I think you have to subscribe to PW to read the reviews, and most readers aren’t going to take the time or spend the money to do that when they can get their reviews for free on book blogs that are most likely just as good, if not better, than the so-called professional book reviews. This might sound terrible, and I really don’t mean it to sound that way, but I have two good friends who still believe the only place to get a good book review is The New York Times.  However, these people are not computer literate, they still have a flip top cell phone they only use in an “emergency,” and they listen to records on a stereo. If you ask them what Angry Birds is they’ll tell you it has something to do with nesting and territorial rights. And, their TV still has a rounded edge screen.

I do agree with the last sentence in Big Al’s post. I think this might be the most important part of the post. If you are a genre author it is important to get as many book blog reviews as you can to help spread the word about your book. However, I also think book blogs and book blog reviews are highly underestimated these days by those who don’t fully get the power of online book reviews or the way they can influence readers.

I can’t say this is the case for everyone, but I found Fifty Shades of Grey on a book blog a few months before it went mainstream. No one knew it would become a big book. I posted about it here several times, and then I told everyone I knew about it. I get an average of about 6,000 hits a week from this blog, which isn’t huge. But if 1000 other people did the same thing I did, as a result of reading a book blog, and they told as many people about FSoG as I did, then I think that might be a good example of how important book blogs are nowadays. I also know other cases where genre authors have made out very well as a result of just one book blog review (good and bad), and that review actually sparked their marketing efforts.

The Women Who Love to Love Gay Romance Update

Contracts went out, edits went out, and I’ve heard from all the contributing authors in the upcoming anthology, The Women Who Love to Love Gay Romance. I’m planning on an August 1st release date, but that could be subject to change depending on tech issues that can, and do, arise in the beginning.

I am still on the fence about how to distribute the book. At first I was leaning toward Amazon and KDP select. But that would tie me up for three months with an exclusive, and I’d really like to make this book available on Allromanceebooks, and other retails web sites, too. So as of now, I’m heading more toward distribution as widely as possible. I know readers have favorite web sites and I’d like to accomodate everyone.

Here’s the raw introduction I wrote for the beginning of the book. It’s also subject to change, depending on my last minute thoughts before publication. But I do think you can get a good idea of how it felt for me to work on this book.

When I first imagined the concept of an anthology of short stories about The Women Who Love to Love Gay Romance, I wondered about how many responses I would receive in the calls for submission. The next aspect that made me stop and wonder was whether or not I would receive the kind of stories I wanted to include in a book like this. In other words, I wasn’t looking for M/M Romance written by women in the classic sense. And I didn’t want boring, drawn out academic diatribes about gay men in M/M Romance. I was hoping to receive stories about women who not only love gay romance, but were willing to include strong female characters in gay romance as active participants in the actual romantic storylines. But more than that, these stories also had to be plausible…or at least reasonable…as well. In the same respect, I didn’t want to place any restrictions on the authors, and I wanted them to run with their fictional fantasies, so to speak.

            An unusual thing happened. The moment I opened the first story submitted for the book and I started reading I couldn’t put it down. In fact, I hesitated to open the next story because I was worried it wouldn’t be as good as the first. But the same thing happened the second time: I couldn’t stop reading. And that’s literally what happened with each story that followed. What is even more interesting is that none of the stories are similar, and yet they come together in this book and complement each other in a way I could not have predicted. Some of the authors have been published before, and some are brand new voices. And when I was finished reading all the stories, I found that’s it’s not only possible to include female characters in gay romance, but there’s a deeper emotional meaning that taught me a few things I didn’t know.


Book Review: "I, Rhoda" by Valerie Harper

I didn’t hear about the bio I, Rhoda by Valerie Harper through friends or articles or ads anywhere. I actually happened to pass The Jeff Probst talk show one night in January while surfing through channels and saw Jeff interviewing Valerie Harper. It was the first interview I’d seen Harper give in a long time and I was amazed at how young she looked. I was also amazed at how well the interview went and I’ve become a fan of Jeff Probst’s show as a result.

I hadn’t planned on reading anymore bios, autobios, or memoirs at that particular time, but as a long time fan of Valerie (and Rhoda) I bought the digital book on Kindle anyway. I know they are advertising this as a memoir, but I thought it was more biography than memoir. I’ve always thought of memoir as being a certain isolated segment of a person’s life. But this book covered Valerie’s life from the beginning up until the time she was nominated for a Tony award on Broadway. And that was NOT a disappointment by any means. I’m glad it was more biography because I discovered things about Valerie I never knew…like where she grew up, where she studied, what it was like to work with people like Lucille Ball on Broadway when Ball did the show, Wildcat. So you’re getting a lot more with this book than what you might think you are getting from the way it’s been promoted in some places.

The beginning of the book seems to build up to a pivotal point in Valerie’s life: when she landed the part of Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  Everything that leads up to this point is well-crafted, moves at a nice pace, and it shows how hard Valerie worked to get there. And it really does show; it doesn’t just tell…which made it a much nicer…smoother…read than a lot of non-fiction I see nowadays.

In the sections of the book where Valerie discusses playing Rhoda, she talks about her relationships with other cast members, her relationship with Mary Tyler Moore, her relationships with staff and crew, and also her personal relationships. But there’s nothing too dishy or gossipy about any of this. And that’s because I have never heard anyone, anywhere, trash anything about The Mary Tyler Moore Show. They were hard working people who loved what they did and didn’t spend their free time looking for attention. From everything I’ve heard and read and seen, the people who were associated with that show did get along, did love every minute of what they did, and they focused on their craft the entire time. This is also a huge part of the book: Valerie’s work ethic. She wasn’t just a star. She was a working actress, a business woman, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a wife, and an artist. I don’t think I saw the word feminism in this book once, but she’s a good example of what feminism is all about.

After a great run as Rhoda, both on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and on her own sitcom, Rhoda, Valerie winds down this section of the book with bittersweet comments about how lucky she was to have had this experience and how thankful she was to have been part of something so wonderful. You really feel her gratitude and the love she had for the character of Rhoda. But it doesn’t end there, Valerie then moves the reader forward with the rest of her life and talks about how she moves forward as an actress, an artist, and a woman.

I found the section about her experiences with the TV sitcom in the 80’s, Valerie, honest and up front. I do remember that show well, and I was a huge fan of it. I’d read a lot about the dispute between Valerie and the producers, but never actually heard Valerie’s point of view about what happened and how she wound up leaving a show with her own name on it. And after reading this book I have a better understanding about what happened and how it affected Valerie, too. As a side note, I’d like to add one thing to this that Valerie didn’t mention in the book because she’s far too nice a person. Whenever there’s a hit TV show and producers don’t want to pay the star more…or even negotiate for better terms…it never ends well for the TV show itself. Think Delta Burke in Designing Women…or Suzanne Somers in Three’s Company. They were all different circumstances, and yet the end result turned out the same for each TV show. Once the main star leaves the show fails. I stopped watching Valerie the moment Valerie Harper wasn’t on anymore. The revised show, The Hogan Family, wasn’t entertaining. I also stopped watching Designing Women the moment Delta Burke wasn’t on anymore. And that’s just the way it is. Stars like Valerie Harper have that extra special thing that can’t be replaced no matter how hard producers try. Some things in life just can’t be replaced or duplicated.

In any event, I was just finishing the book when I learned about Valerie’s recent cancer diagnosis. I was right at the part where she had to battle lung cancer in 2009, and I was marveling at how brave she was and how well she handled it. For Valerie to come through that ordeal seemed like such a happy ending for a bio, and then I heard about the most recent brain cancer she’s now just beginning to deal with. From what I’ve read so far, she’s dealing with this cancer just like she’s handled all the things I read about her life in this book, with strength, pragmatism, honesty, and love. I think that’s what I liked most about the book, all the love I read between the lines. It’s truly a book about an honorable life well lived and loved, from beginning to end. And I would recommend it to anyone without thinking twice. You can purchase it here.


What’s a Gay Chickenhawk; Award for Worst Book Review; Eisler on Objectivity; Bully Site Taken Down; Public Domain LGBT Pics

(Update: The web site to which I referred in this post that claims to be anti-bully is up and running again. I don’t think it would be fair to link to them because I’m not linking to sites that are in direct opposition. I’d like to remain objective. But you can do a simple search for any of these web sites, and they aren’t hard to find.)

I don’t know about anyone else, but I always find these things like “gay chickenhawk” interesting, especially since I missed out on that time period in the seventies and eighties where there were so many symbolic slang references in gay culture. I honestly couldn’t tell you the difference between what a red, yellow, or brown scarf means. And even though I’d heard the term “chickenhawk” I never really knew what it was until I looked it up.

According to Urban Dictionary, this is a chickenhawk:

A Gay term for an older man that constantly chases after younger men typically in their 20’s.

The heterosexual female equivalent is the Cougar.

Wiki gets into it a little deeper:

It is sometimes used as a disparaging vulgarity within the LGBT community, or seen as a slur against people in that community. The label can be applied to a man who seeks partners with the look of someone young, regardless of their target’s age.

And here’s an interesting thread at Real Jock.

On to the Hachet Award, which is an award for the worst book review of the year. You can get there from here.

The prize was founded last year by literary website The Omnivore to reward the “angriest, funniest, most trenchant” review published in a newspaper or magazine. Its serious aim is to raise the profile of book critics and “promote integrity and wit in literary journalism.”
“Book reviews are, in the main, too fawning and dull,” said Omnivore editor Anna Baddeley.

What this award seems to be promoting are book reviews designed only for the sake of entertainment. I get that; I’ve been entertained by a few book reviews in my time. And I think if it’s taken with a tongue in cheek attitude there’s nothing wrong with it. There are a few reviews I’ve wanted to write about certain books I”ve read but I’ve refrained because I thought it would stir up too much of a crapfest.

However, I don’t think book reviews are “too fawning and dull.” Not the good or the bad. I think book reviews (for the most part) are honest and people/readers are only trying to help other people figure out whether or not to buy a book. I also think readers want to express their opinions about books they’ve read. I know I do.

BUT, there’s one thing to always consider when writing an overly exaggerated bad book review: the odds are you’re going to be helping a book and an author you don’t like. I’ve seen it before too many times to fall into that trap myself. Which is also another reason why you don’t see me writing over the top bad reviews often. That’s how I found “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and I highly doubt the reviewer was trying to promote it. And I saw one living hell of a gay book get slammed and roasted last year and that hunk of mess went on to become a bestseller and it pushed an obscure new author right into the most pitiful, sickening, foray of social media cuteness and awesomeness I’ve ever seen in publishing.

So I’m hoping this award isn’t meant to be taken seriously, and that it is just for the sake of entertainment. But nothing would surprise me anymore.

Now here’s a smart, simple post from the brilliant Barry Eisler. Though I’ve never read any of his books, I have been linked to his blog and I love the way he writes posts that make me think. I may not always agree with him, but I always respect him.

The primary function of America’s establishment media is to launder government propaganda into something the citizenry will believe is objective news. The New York Times is a dutiful exemplar.

I think this is probably one of his shortest posts, but it gets into a very interesting topic: mainstream media. I’ve often posted about how frustrated I get with bloggers who don’t utilize the who, what, when, where, and why factors when writing blog posts. I get even more frustrated with the mainstream when I see this happen. And it’s really as simple as that. Objectivity is another story.

And speaking of objectivity, here’s some interesting information about “That site that shall not be named,” Stop the Goodreads Bullies. I’ve remained objective about this site since last summer, and I will remain so until the end of time. I’ve never complained about a review for one of my own books, and I rarely even read them. I don’t get bullied and I don’t think of myself as a victim. If you screw around with me online, I’ll most likely ignore you because I don’t want to give you any attention. If you do it face to face, you run the risk of me mopping the floors with you.

In fact, one of the things I have to do this week is figure out how to stop getting notifications every time someone leaves a review for one of my books on goodreads. I never got those notifications before, and now suddenly I’m getting them every single day. And please don’t get me wrong. I appreciate all reviews and I thank people for taking the time to write them. I just like to step aside when it comes to reviews of my own books.

I actually hesitate to post anything about this bully web site now because so many are so passionate about it. But this is news, regardless of anyone’s opinion. And to ignore news of any kind just because you don’t agree with it defeats the purpose of freedom of speech. In any event, it seems this web site has been taken down for reasons I’m not sure about. There are a few articles I could link to, but frankly I don’t trust the sources to be reliable.

For those who don’t know, this is a web site designed to attack online bullies who they claim attack books and authors. And there’s a strong opposition to this web site that’s led to some interesting articles since the site was launched. It’s also supposed to be reader based, and not for authors.

You can read more about it here, here, and here.

Now, if you’re an LGBT blogger, you probably have as much trouble finding public domain photos as I do, and this might help a little. It’s not something I’m raving about right now, but at least it’s a place to go for public domain LGBT photos. And it seems simple enough. One of my issues with is that it takes too long to figure out what’s free to use and what’s not. And some of the most dreadful photos of all time seem to have the most protected copyrights. These highly protected amateur images always remind of the old saying, “You’ll Die with Your Secret.” Because if bloggers like me were allowed to use your images and link back to you, you’d be getting more attention and recognition. As it stands, no one really cares about your copyrighted photos. We can, and will, live without them.

All I know is that if I post a photo here that I’ve taken myself, please feel free to use it in your blog post as long as you link back to me. I’m not that grand that I think I’ll ever become rich and famous for my photos, and if you can use one, have fun with it.

This article gets into more about how hard it is to find LGBT public domain photos. Check around, you’ll see what I mean. I would also imagine it’s just as hard to find public domain photos for any minority group.

 Ever notice how news orgs like TV stations will show gay wedding cake toppers and all they have done is duplicate either a male or female figure and place them side by side so it looks like twins are getting married to each other! Or they just show disembodied hands holding each other! Or worse an image of gay people holding hands but looking away from the camera – implicitly reinforcing the idea of a stigma to being gay. It’s sad, yet often they have few if any alternatives.

Photo above courtesy of this photographer. And a big thank you for sharing.

Gay/Lesbian Fiction Book Reviews…

I’ve been wanting to post about this web site for a while and haven’t had a chance. So I’m making time right now because it’s a great site and I think it will help readers vet books and make choices.

I’m linking to the homepage, here. The first review right now is a book by author Andrew Grey. Although I haven’t read this book, I did collaborate with Andrew last year on another book I won’t shamelessly promote in this post. He’s a great guy and wonderful to work with.

Here’s a blog description:

This blog features book reviews from current and forthcoming books by leading gay and lesbian authors. To find out more about the books being reviewed, please go to the individual author’s website. The link is given at the end of each review and on the sidebar. New book reviews will be posted to this blog as they become available.

As far as blogs in general go, this one is simple to navigate, it opens easily, and it’s well executed.