john irving

John Irving Wins Lambda Award: Actor Learning to Love; Week’s Bestselling Indies

(Update: Lambda finally posted winners here. )

(Update II: This may be insignificant, but I think it’s interesting to note that several Lethe Press books won in several categories. The reason why it’s interesting is because owner of Lethe Press, Steve Berman, went on an epic rant about the LLF and the Lambda awards not too long ago. You can read about that here. I’ll bet you won’t read THAT update anywhere else online today.)

In order to find out the winners of the 2013 Lambda Awards, I had to go to wiki to find a list. I don’t know why nothing’s been published anywhere else yet, or maybe I missed it. But this is the best I could do with a simple search. I was thrilled to see that a book I read and reviewed when it was first released by John Irving won in the bisexual category, In One Person. I have never read a book that gave a more accurate and detailed account of what it’s like to die from AIDS before. You can read my review here.

Of course this explanation of what attracts Billy as a bi-sexual is vital to the story with respect to how he managed to avoid being infected with the AIDS virus. If I go into more detail here I run the risk of another spoiler, so I’ll stop while I’m ahead. But I do want to say this one thing. This account of what actually happened during the height of the AIDS epidemic is the most accurate I have ever read in fiction. Irving either did a great deal of research, or he experienced all this for himself, because I know for a fact that he nailed it with perfection, from the Hickman catheter to PCP pneumonia. And if you are young and you are LGBT you should read this novel just for the historical facts. You won’t hear them anywhere else. I have over ninety published works out in the LGBT genre and I touch on these topics, but it’s not a place I want to go into detail about because it’s just too painful to revisit.

Although I’m not always thrilled with the LLF, especially because they don’t allow digital books to be entered in the Lambda Awards…as if digital books aren’t even real books…I do think they are important to the LGBT community and I think they finally got this one right with John Irving.

You can read the winner list in full here. I haven’t read any of the other books, and probably won’t.

And, as a side note, I read John Irving’s book, In One Person, in *digital* format, not print, on my iPhone the day it was released.

Most Discussed Books this Week

The most discussed book this week is Dan Brown’s “Inferno.” It’s interesting because I recently downloaded a copy from audible.com and I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet. Tony and I have a seminar in Philadelphia on Thursday and I think I’ll listen to it in the car on the way down.

The most talked-about book in April was also the most talked-about book in May. According to our monthly chart on books trending in social media, provided by CoverCake, Dan Brown’s Inferno is again cropping up in the majority of online conversations centered on books. Jeff Costello, CoverCake’s v-p of client services, said he thought the novel got a boost from a public relations blitz at the beginning of the month, following its mid-month publication. While comments about Inferno have been mixed, Costello said that “people are definitely talking about this book.”

The article also goes on to mention a few other books people are talking about, and there are a few familiar names on the list I read often.

The Actor Learning to Love

My new release in the Bad Boy Billionaire series, The Actor Learning to Love, is out today. I’ve posted about it here with excerpts. I don’t have any links yet, but I will update later today. Update: Here’s the publisher link.

The actor is the bad boy billionaire who hires someone to stay in his NY penthouse and care for his exotic parrot…a talking parrot he inherited from an ex-boyfriend who couldn’t put up with the bad boy actor.

The guy the actor hires to live in the penthouse for one year is Rory, and Rory has a young son and they recently moved out of their Brooklyn apartment. The reason they moved out is because Rory just went through another divorce and he’s fed up with love, marriage, and men altogether.

It seems like the perfect arrangement, but the bad boy actor has ulterior motives that involve Rory and his son. I won’t give out any spoilers, but this is the first time I’ve ever worked the attacks on the World Trade Center into a novel (you can see the twin towers in the background on the cover)…it’s also the first time I’ve ever written a strong lesbian theme into the subplot.


Indie Bestseller List from Galleycat

Here’s list of self-published books that made several bestseller lists this week.

To help GalleyCat readers discover self-published authors, we compile weekly lists of the top eBooks in four major marketplaces for self-published digital books: Amazon, B&N, Apple iBookstore and Smashwords. You can read all the lists below, complete with links to each book.

I still find it amazing that I’m now seeing bestseller lists for self-pubbed books. Even though I’ve self-pubbed several of my own it’s not something I ever could have predicted ten years ago. Notice how they mention digital books, not print books.

I’m going to be publishing more posts on indie publishing over the summer from my own personal experiences. And one of the angles I’m going to take is how some authors need to self-publish now in order to survive. I love small e-publishers, all of them. I don’t have any issues on a personal level and I will continue to support and promote them as much as I can. But I find issues in a general sense that go across the board. These are the issues that prompted me to self-publish my first indie book over a year ago, and I’m going to start talking about them more.

Authors are going to be put in the position of learning to manage their own careers more and more in the future. If you’re lucky enough to have a great agent, that will make the difference. But for those who work unagented like me, it’s important to know what’s right for you. I had one e-publisher once tell me that I was getting too much exposure. I didn’t buy that then, and I don’t buy that now. In fact, Joe Konrath recently talked about this on his blog, and I happen to agree with him 100% on this topic. How can a genre author ever have too many books out and get too much exposure? I’m Ryan Field, not Ryan Seacrest. The more books I have out for my readers, and the better I can price those books, the happier my readers are going to be. But you see small e-publishers can’t compete that way. They are promoting a stable of authors, not just one or two. And the individual authors finds himself or herself in a precarious position, especially an author who is able to release more than eight books and stories a year.

So I will be going even more independent this summer and I will be self-publishing more books and stories on my own. And I’ll go into as much detail as I can about why and how I’m doing it for those who might be interested.

In One Person by John Irving: Bi-Sexuality, LGBT, AIDS, and Sexual Suspects


The reason I titled this review of John Irving’s “In One Person” this way is because it is a book that encompasses all these things and more. It’s also about the way people live and die while trying to make sense of everything that happens along the way. In this novel, it’s about the life of Billy Abbott, a boy with a quirky mother, a cross-dressing grandfather, and an extended family that never seems to fully understand him. Part of his quest in life is to learn more about his father, a man he’s never met…and is never quite sure he ever will meet.

The beginning of the novel discusses Billy’s need to learn more about himself…about life…and he tries to do this by reading fiction. His Aunt Muriel gives him hand me down romance novels and when he reads the comments his angry female cousin made in the margins he learns more about her as well. I found cousin Gerry’s comments both entertaining and amusing for a variety of reasons, partly because most heroines in romance novels with covers that have women in long flowing gowns are usually self-congratulatory prigs:

“The Heroine was a self-congratulatory prig, who would never let her boyfriend touch her breasts…Gerry responded in the margin with: “I would rub your t–s RAW! Just try and stop me!”

One of the most interesting characters is Grandpa Harry. He’s an old Yankee lumberman who LOVES to put on his over-bearing wife’s dresses and act in school plays. I won’t give any spoilers here because there are a few surprises. But Grandpa Harry plays an important part in Billy’s life and is often the only voice of reason in his life.

It’s important to understand this novel takes place during a time when the word “Gay” didn’t even exist. Here’s an example of a conversation Billy has that discusses his attraction to “transvestites.” You also have to remember this is before we all became so politically correct.

“My attraction to transsexuals was pretty specific. (I’m sorry, but we didn’t use to say ‘transgender’…not until the eighties. Transvestites never did it for me, and the transsexuals had to be what they call ‘passable’…”

Of course this explanation of what attracts Billy as a bi-sexual is vital to the story with respect to how he managed to avoid being infected with the AIDS virus. If I go into more detail here I run the risk of another spoiler, so I’ll stop while I’m ahead. But I do want to say this one thing. This account of what actually happened during the height of the AIDS epidemic is the most accurate I have ever read in fiction. Irving either did a great deal of research, or he experienced all this for himself, because I know for a fact that he nailed it with perfection, from the Hickman catheter to PCP pneumonia. And if you are young and you are LGBT you should read this novel just for the historical facts. You won’t hear them anywhere else. I have over ninety published works out in the LGBT genre and I touch on these topics, but it’s not a place I want to go into detail about because it’s just too painful to revisit.

Billy’s relationship with Miss Frost, the town librarian, is unusual and yet believable. As a young adult, Billy’s not sure what he is or who he is. He’s not sure what Miss Frost is or who she is either. But he’s attracted to her and he discovers his love of reading through her. The beginning of his fascination with her begins at the public library and follows him for the rest of his life. As in all Irving novels, it’s detailed, quirky, and very civilized. But at the same time edges toward controversial because Miss Frost is a good deal older than Billy.

You can’t read an Irving novel without reading a few strong political statements. In this case, a few of those statements were made about the war in Vietnam. And they are issues gay men still deal with on a daily basis to this day.

“I’ll tell you when I might take seriously the idea of service to my country,” I began. “When local, state, and federal legislation, which currently criminalizes homosexual acts between consenting adults, is repealed; when the country’s archaic anti-sodomy laws are overturned; when psychiatrists stop diagnosing me and my friends as clinically abnormal, medically incompetent freaks in need of ‘rehabilitation’; when the media stops representing us as sissy, pansy, fairy, child-molesting PERVERTS!”

I’ve often complained about how gay men are treated by some women as pet poodles. But Irving takes it to a completely different level in this novel with one of his characters. To give anymore information would also spoil this part of the book. But giving this example won’t hurt.

“They find something they love about you…even if there’s just one thing they find endearing.”

Followed by this:

“Those things they DON’T love about you…those things they don’t even LIKE…well, guess what women do about THOSE things? They imagine they can CHANGE those things…THAT’S what women do! They imagine they can change you…”

I’ve read a few of the other reviews about this book and I’ve found them interesting. I have to agree this book is not a fast read and like all Irving novels it takes a while to get into. But I’ve also always appreciated that Irving’s novels take a long time to read because I want them to remain with me as long as possible. And every single aspect of this book is important to the overall story, and I’m glad I’m not the kind of reader who stops reading a book too soon. From bullying to AIDS, from classic gay literature to the paranormal, this novel takes the LGBT experience to a literary level with intensity, humor, and detail. And never in an offensive way.

John Irving’s Story of a Bi-Sexual Man: "In One Person"


I’ve read everything John Irving has ever had published…sometimes more than once. And so far, though I’m not finished with “In One Person”…I haven’t been disappointed.

Here’s a quote from a personal essay written by Irving:

In One Person is about a young bisexual man who falls in love with an older transgender woman–Miss Frost, the librarian in a Vermont public library. The bi guy is the main character, but two transgender women are the heroes of this novel–in the sense that these two characters are the ones my bisexual narrator, Billy Abbott, most looks up to.

You can read more here.

All I can say is that it’s interesting to see this subject being tackled in mainstream/literary fiction, and it’s even more interesting to see how Irving did it.

I’ll post a full review when I’m finished. I read Irving’s books very slowly because I don’t want them to end too soon. For any writer, just examining how he does things is worth making the reading experience last. I’ve often tried to apply the same techniques to romance/erotica, often getting slammed because some don’t get what I’m doing. Or, some get it and get pissed that I’m doing it.

If it’s true that from a physical standpoint we are what we eat, then as writers I believe we are what we read. And sometimes we all need something with substance, like John Irving…if for no other reason than to let us know there’s still hope out there for publishing.

And, though I’ve been told more than once by editors younger than I am that I’m not supposed to use parentheses because it “pulls the reader out of the story,” Irving does it (and very well), so I’m going to continue to do it, too.

Last Night In Twisted River by John Irving


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last Night in Twisted River, by John Irving, and Write What You Know

I’m finishing up John Irving’s Last Night in Twisted River and I’ve been dying to post the following excerpt from the book. And, just so this is clear, this not John Iriving’s personal opinion on the subject, “write what you know.” I have no idea how John Irving feels about “write what you know.” This is John Irving’s character’s opinion about “write what you know,” Danny Angel the writer.

I know I’ve heard, from teachers and crit groups, that fiction writers should always “write what you know.” Thankfully, I never paid attention to any of them. (There’s always been a lot of bad advice out there, and now more than ever the Internet has expanded this.) I’ve always believed fiction should be larger than life.

I’m not commenting on the character Danny Angel the writer’s opinion any further. I’m just blogging about it because I think a lot of new writers wonder about, “write what you know,” and when I read this I thought I’d share it. I think it sums up the concept of “write what you know” better than anything I’ve heard or read in years (smile to all the creative writing teachers out there).

This kind of question drove Danny Angel crazy, but he expected too much from journalists; most of them lacked the imagination to believe that anything credible in a novel had been “wholly imagined.” And those former journalists who later turned to writing fiction subscribed to that tiresome Hemingway dictum of writing about what you know. What bullshit was this? Novels should be about people you know? How many boring but deadeningly realistic novels can be attributed to this lame and utterly uninspired advice?

John Irving’s LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER and Reviews

I’m in the middle of reading LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER, by John Irving, and I wanted to talk about how I feel reaching the middle of the novel. I’ll leave a rare amazon review (rare for me) when I’m finished, but I wanted to discuss something I think is important when buying books nowadays.

First, I’m a John Irving fan and have been for years. I read his first novel in college for a contemporary fiction class, and I’ve read everything he’s written since then. And though I like some more than others, I’ve never been disappointed in the way he combines story with writing style. But more than that, I read his books slowly on purpose to keep them going because I don’t want them to end.

And so far, while almost exactly in the middle of LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER, I’ve been completely captured by the story and the writing. It’s classic John Irving and I don’t want it to end.

I’ll review it later on amazon, which is something I don’t like doing mainly because I think there are already enough people reviewing books. They don’t need my opinion as well. But I did want to make a point of saying that if you are thinking of purchasing this book…and if you’re a fiction writer in any genre and you haven’t read John Irving you damn well should be thinking about reading one of his books just to see how he handles certain situations, with regard to writing style and storyline…please read the reviews with caution. If I didn’t know better and I read some of the negative reviews for LAST NIGHT IN TWISTER RIVER I might not have purchased the book.

But I do know better, and I know when a book review can be taken seriously and when it can’t…good or bad. And this is an important skill to learn these days, whether you’re reading amazon reviews, goodreads reviews, or the many so-called professional review blogs on the Internet. This is one of the reasons why I love and trust Elisa Rolle’s review blog: I know she’s passionate about books and reviews with her heart. And, unfortunately, it’s also one of the reasons why I stay as far away as possible from another romance review blog without the love or the passion, which shall remain nameless. It’s an interesting concept. You can tell when the love is there and when the reviewer or blogger is truly passionate about books. Just as you can tell when the reviewer is only doing to garner attention they normally never would have received before the Internet.

Here’s an interview with Irving discussing LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER.