A Dog’s Purpose and Animal Abuse Claims; Racism and D.C. Gay Bar; Russian Web Site Counts Gays In Cities; Bisexual Frat Boy and Masculinity

A Dog’s Purpose and Animal Abuse Claims

I’ve been following this one all week. It’s about the film, A Dog’s Purpose, and a video that surfaced showing a terrified German Shepherd being forced into water over some kind of waterfall. If you do a simple search you’ll find all kinds of information out there.

Time is money, as they say on set. That might explain the video, obtained by TMZ, of a fearful-looking dog being placed in turbulent water — ostensibly before he was ready — on the set of A Dog’s Purpose, which was filmed in Manitoba. The clip of the incident, where the dog, Hercules, later becomes submerged, went viral online and provoked calls to boycott the film ahead of its now-cancelled premiere.

You can read more about that here. I think this piece covers the story better than most other things I’ve read. I’m a dog owner and I know, almost instinctively, when my dogs are under stress and when something is about to stress them. I’ve never once forced my dogs to do something that would put them in a place of stress.

With that said, Hollywood person, Dennis Quaid, made a few strong statements about the movie, too. It’s also important to note that Quaid is starring in the film.

PETA has denounced the film, and there have been protests over it.

The protest was triggered by a TMZ video showing a trainer trying to pull the dog star — who was clearly unwilling and upset — into the water.  Producers say it was a one off, where the dog actually liked jumping in but they changed the angle and that’s why the dog freaked out.

And, here’s a link to the actual TMZ video that broke this news so you can decide for yourselves how you feel about this. I’ve seen it several times, and I’m still gutted. I’m also wondering why they continued to force the dog into the water, knowing he was freaked out, because they changed the angle. You wouldn’t force Meryl Streep into the water if she wasn’t ready. So why force the dog?

Racism and D. C. Bar

Here’s another story that reminds me of the one I posted about racism in the Philadelphia gay bar that opened up a long overdue discussion.

The manager of a popular gay bar in Washington, D.C. says he’s not racist despite some rather damning evidence to the contrary.

David Perruzza is the manager of JR’s in Dupont Circle. A recently leaked between him and Aram Vartian, a graphic designer hired to make promo material for the bar, shows the manager requesting a “hot white guy” instead of a black man in a 2012 advertisement.

There’s more here. There are 27 comments with this one.

Russian Web Site Counts Gays In Cities

I’ve been watching a show on Netflix called Between, where it seems the entire town of Pretty Lake is gayless…not a gay in sight. Totally gay-less. Well, in direct contrast, here’s a story about a Russian web site that actually estimates about how many gays there are in towns and cities.

“The website’s questionable methodology for ‘measuring gays’ relies on tracking the number of online requests for pornography in a city and compares it to the number of Internet searches for gay porn, and then applies the differential to the city’s total population and ‘calculates’ the LGBT population,” they report.

They then walk through what a user might experience.

“In Moscow, for example, the website says there are ‘173,851 gays,’ and warns visitors, ‘Oh my! That’s a lot of gays! Danger!’ while offering help in ‘fending off the gays.’

You can read the rest here. Someone should tell them about Pretty Lake.

Bisexual Frat Boy and Masculinity

I think this interesting because it’s an ongoing topic in my current work in progress. I wanted to write about a gay character who questions his own masculinity constantly, and who breaks down the stereotypes.

This article is about a frat boy who identifies as bisexual, and who questions everything he’s ever been told about masculinity and how he should think and behave.

For the first 19 years of my life, I lived under the impression that in order to be recognized as an equal to other men, I had to fit the mold. It was the small details — the words I said, the way I behaved and the things I did — that made me self-conscious of my own identity,” writes 19-year-old Allen Pham, in an article titled “What does it mean to be a man?” for Daily Trojan, the student newspaper of the University of Southern California.

You can read it all here. I think we need more conversations about this, for men only.

Stepbrothers In the Attic

New Release


On Amazon Dropping Gay/Lesbian Category From Best Books of 2012…

This is a tricky post because I can’t find anything out there about it. So if I fail to give the who, what, when, where, and why this time, at least I’m admitting the reason why. I hate to post about things I couldn’t fully research, but sometimes there’s not much choice.

Allegedly, Amazon dropped the Gay/Lesbian category from their Best Books of 2012 list. I read about this in a couple of places earlier today and I was too busy finishing up the next book in the bad boy billionaire series to deal with it.

Here’s a link to an Amazon discussion group about it.

But I didn’t forget, and I’m curious about why Amazon would do this, or, more important, if they actually did do this for a specific reason. It’s not something I would normally pay attention to, but it is interesting.

I won’t e-mail Amazon about it. I’ve learned from past experience their replies are form letters that never really answer anything. I think they have people who studied the presidential debates working there now. It’s amazing how anyone other than a politician can reply to a question, in such great length, without actually saying one single thing of significance.

But I digress because most of my book sales come from Amazon, published and self-published. And to be honest, if they did drop Gay/Lesbian Fiction from the Best Books of 2012 I’ll live and I doubt readers will even care. As I’ve posted before more than once, I’ve had books with far better sales that never made one Amazon bestseller list. I’ve had books that made less money that made number one on Amazon bestseller lists. I don’t get it and I never will. And I’ve stopped trying to figure it out.

Amazon as a company in general is notorious for being secretive about everything, and since they are the biggest venue out there for authors and readers, and since they have done so much for authors and to empower authors, I’m not holding this against them. I’m sure they have their reasons.

In many ways, Amazon has revolutionized publishing as we always knew it for both readers and authors. They’ve changed the world. Those LGBT authors who have not suffered the proverbial fresh hells of literary agents, query letters, and rejection letters, wouldn’t understand this. Without Amazon, the LGBT fiction market never would have grown to the extent it has grown. And the LGBT books available to readers right now wouldn’t have been there if it hadn’t been for Amazon. I think most authors would agree most of their sales come from Amazon, so they must be doing something right.

The LGBT market has always been small, and it remains that way today. It’s growing, but I couldn’t begin to predict how much it will grow. I think what’s going to happen eventually is that mainstream fiction, like films and TV, will take on all kinds of diverse characters, and there will be both gay and straight in these books and no one will think twice about it. After all, that’s what we’ve been fighting for all along, and I’d be fine with that. As a writer, I’ll eventually start moving in that direction myself.

But if anyone has any information about this Amazon deal, please let me know. I’ll settle for links. Anything. The best I could do after five searches was what I’ve posted above.

"The Trouble with Hairy" by Hal Bodner

This isn’t an actual review, because I don’t do many reviews here as a rule. A lot of authors ask me to read their books and review them and there’s no way I could do all those reviews. There wouldn’t be enough time for me to write, and it would change the blog too much.

But I will comment in a general sense on books I love…and authors I respect. I wrote about Hal Bodner’s new book a week or so ago and wanted to follow up. The first book of Hal’s I read was “Bite Club.” I loved it for many reasons…the solid writing, the well developed characters, and the way the gay characters/situations are treated…and when Hal told me about “The Trouble with Hairy,” I couldn’t wait to see what he’d done this time.

The interesting thing about “Hairy” is that Hal self-pubbed this one on Amazon. I want to begin by stating for those who are looking for books self-pubbed that the quality of this book is as good as anything that would have come from a “traditional” publisher or small e-press. Hal is a well published author and he’s had more than one book published the traditional way. He’s not new to publishing or LGBT fiction. This time I noticed a few nice additions to “Hairy,” like a note to readers at the beginning. And a personal dedication page. I like reading these personal things in books. With this book from Hal, I had a feeling of intimacy I don’t see as often as I’d like. (Fanny Flagg does this a lot, with recipes and comments.) Hal’s voice, which is a strong voice in fiction, came through with absolute clarity. Maybe I’m carrying this too far, but I had the feeling Hal was doing what he always wanted to do and he knew what his readers would enjoy. And that’s a nice feeling!! It’s evident this book is all about the readers.

The storyline returns to WeHo, with returning characters Chris and Troy…and gay men are being murdered. Yes, it’s suspenseful and chilling at times. But it’s done with a sense of humor mingled with suspense…and there’s a werewolf. Other enjoyable characters are brought back, and some elements continue where they left off. But this time I found more character arcs…or rather in-depth development that should, indeed, happen in a sequel. I felt closer to them, if that’s even possible. Though it’s paranormal, there’s enough humor and wit to make you smile more than once. A few times I laughed out loud, as I tend to do when I’m reading anything from Hal…even his facebook posts are funny. There’s also a little bit of camp, and it’s the kind of camp I don’t see often enough either. For those who don’t know what “camp” is, here’s a link. And the pace moved quickly, which for me is an important element in any novel.

Becky, the WeHo coroner, is an interesting character:

Despite her ghoulish profession, or perhaps because of it,
Becky was always quick with a smile, a clever quip and a helping
hand in times of adversity. She was a favorite of the City Council
and adored by her staff and the members of the Sheriff’s
Department with whom she worked. Even West Hollywood’s
ineffective mayor, Daniel Eversleigh, looked upon Becky as he
would a favorite niece. She was also, to Delaney’s further irritation,one of the few people besides Clive himself who seemed to be able to actually get along with West Hollywood’s notoriously
cantankerous City Manager.

Hal writes the best detailed scenes/descriptions that help draw the reader into the story, and we and care (and fall in love with) the characters and settings as a result. I especially love old film star references. Here’s one good example of what I mean:

Gertie and Ruth lived in a small one bedroom apartment in the
converted old Charlie Chaplin Studios on Poinsettia Place. Each
unit was unique and, to most people, would be uninhabitable with
oddly slanting floors and windows and doors chosen for quirkiness
rather than functionality. In the women’s living room, the trunk of a huge avocado tree grew smack dab up through the middle and out
through the roof which Gertie had surrounded with a cunningly
constructed wooden bench adorned by Ruth’s needlepoint
cushions. Visitors found their home strange, but Gertie and Ruth
loved it.

All in all, I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys good fiction, and to anyone who’s looking for a good read in LGBT fiction. No spoilers…but I really loved the ending most of all. It’s clearly fiction, yet authentic in a slightly larger than life way like all of Hal’s fiction. And I’ll be recommending this one to my partner, Tony, who happens to be the worst critic I know when it comes to gay fiction. I rarely recommend anything to him because he is so critical (He has what I call “Ivy League Syndrome”). But this time I know I’m safe.

Gay Characters, Authenticity, and Writing What You Know

I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts and a few interviews dealing with gay characters, authenticity, and stereo-types. And like all blog posts where authors are being interviewed, I found most to be safe and lacking fundamental information. I get this and I don’t blame them. Most either don’t know what they are talking about and they are winging it, or they don’t want to say anything that might offend anyone and hurt book sales. These days, it seems like everyone is campaigning for something.

The one thing I never see…anywhere in any form of the media…is that the LGBT community is probably one of the most diversified communities in the universe. Just look at LGBT: there are four different categories lumped into one group, and everyone in those four different categories is unique.

As an openly gay man, I base all my characters on my own personal experience. If you read about a grouchy gay man, with effeminate qualities and plucked eyebrows in one of my books, it’s not a stereo-type. It’s more likely a conglomeration of four or five different gay men I’ve known over the years. If you read about a gay republican attorney, with conservative values, who is well-educated, drives a European car, and lives for designer clothes, I based him on my own personal experiences through the many gay men I’ve know who are like this.

I rarely write about lesbians because I don’t know that many. But the lesbians I do know are either butch or lipstick. When I owned my gallery in New Hope, I remember a ninety year old lesbian who used to live in a grand old colonial house at the end of the alley where my gallery was located. We used to call her “Denny.” She and her partner owned an antique shop in Philadelphia for many years. Her partner was soft and feminine, but Denny was rough, level-headed, and masculine. Denny was an old guard Smith girl, who graduated from Smith during the depression. She wound up working at an all girls school in Connecticut, and then retired in New Hope and opened a lesbian book shop. She wore camel hair sport jackets, mens hush puppies, long sleeve shirts with button down collars, and corduroy slacks with cuffs. She had her hair cut at the barbershop and carried a pocket watch. Once, while she was talking to me and had her back to the gallery entrance, a man passing by asked her directions and mistakenly called her, “Sir.”

And I loved her. I used to listen to her talk about her Smith days, and how she gave up a career in advertising to work as a teacher in order to support her family. They’d lost everything during the 1929 crash, and wound up depending on her for the rest of their lives. And when her partner of forty years died, she lived alone in that big old house at the end of the alley until she was one hundred years old.

I didn’t see anyone like my old friend Denny mentioned in the interviews I read about authentic gay characters. All I saw was a bunch of garbage about love and being real and complexities. Blah, blah, blah. One blogger in particular thinks she knows it all, but doesn’t know jack shit. I guess if you talk about anything long enough, and do it with a slant, you actually start to believe it yourself…and you’ll get a ton of other people to drink the Kool Aide and believe it with you.

But for me, it’s more about basing characters on personal experience, through real people I’ve known, that makes them authentic LGBT characters. This is one of the reasons why I’m always open to any challenges regarding my characters. You can’t go wrong if you stick with the truth. And I don’t think you have to be gay to do this. I’ve read many excellent books by straight women who’ve nailed it. I just wish they’d start speaking up more. We need to hear their voices, because there are too many loud voices handing out some very bad advice.

Is LGBT Fiction a Growing Genre? Is It Even a Genre?

I was reading a blog post yesterday by one of my favorite agent bloggers, Nathan Bransford. And in this post he was discussing various genres, with regard to what authors are writing for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). There was even a poll at the end of the post to see which genre is the most popular this year. As of this minute, over 1,500 people have participated in the poll. It was a fun post, I enjoyed reading it, and I don’t want to sound as if I’m knocking it.

But I was surprised to see that LGBT fiction was not on the list. I probably shouldn’t be surprised, given the fact that LGBT fiction of any kind is usually ignored in anything that resembles mainstream information. Until recently, LGBT fiction was just considered Gay/Lesbian, and the B and T was totally ignored. And Nathan’s Blog, as far as blogs in general go, is about as mainstream as you get, so this is understandable.

I do find it interesting that only one anonymous person on Nathan’s comment thread even asked about LGBT fiction as a genre. As as far I’ve been told, and from what I see from my own book sales, LGBT fiction has been growing by leaps and bounds for the past few years. I post about the wonderful straight women writing m/m romance all the time. I check out the bestseller lists on amazon and see more LGBT fiction than ever before. And all these authors writing LGBT fiction are selling far more books than ever expected. So there’s a market for it, but I guess it just doesn’t deserve a genre or classification yet (smile).

And yet no one is writing LGBT fiction for NaNoWriMO? No one thinks LGBT fiction is important enough to have its own genre? Of course LGBT can be lumped into many other genres…which is what usually has been done in the past. In this respect, LGBT fiction is a lot like Multi-Cultural fiction and all the wonderful books written by authors of African descent. Which, incidentally, I didn’t see a genre listed for Multi-Cultural either in this poll either. At the end of the poll there is a box for people to click “other.”

But what I find most interesting is that LGBT fiction is drawing new readers and authors every day. This, from what I’ve seen and read, is also true for fiction written by authors of African descent. Of course Nathan thinks like an agent, and when he’s listing genres I’m sure he’s thinking about how books are categorized on book shelves in retail stores, and about what he personally reps as an agent. All agent bloggers do this when it comes to categorizing a book. In the past, it’s always been the easiest way to go about the process.

Two summers ago I had the pleasure of having lunch with Elisa Rolle, an internationally known LGBT book reviewer. I’ve written about Elisa on the blog, and I’m very active in The Rainbow Awards, which Elisa started for LGBT fiction. During lunch, we talked about publishing, books, the LGBT market, and other things related to LGBT fiction. And Elisa told me she was surprised when she stopped in a few US book stores and found such a limited amount of LGBT fiction. Again, I was not surprised. Just like I wasn’t surprised to see Nathan Bransford ignore the LGBT genre altogether in his poll.

It’s been like this for a long time. The only difference is that now things are changing, and have been changing in the past decade. (And, there are authors like me out there with very big mouths who aren’t afraid to mention this issue openly. ) These book stores that don’t have an LGBT section are struggling (clawing) to survive these days because readers are either shopping for their print books online, where they get current selections, or they are only reading digital books. And I just can’t help wondering when everyone is going to notice that publishing has gone through many changes lately. With those changes new genres have emerged, especially online with the digital markets. Will LGBT fiction ever be the most popular genre? I doubt that. But I do think, at the very least, it deserves its own classification with regard to NaNoWriMo.

Happy 1st Anniversary, Ravenous Romance

Today is ravenousromance.com’s one year anniversary. And I honestly can’t believe the year has passed so quickly. Actually, I began writing for RR over a year ago, in August of 2008. Two of the owners of RR, Lori Perkins and Holly Schmidt, had contacted me about possibly writing a novel and I jumped at the chance. Although most of my published credits until then had been in print books, with traditional LGBT publishers, I wasn’t a complete stranger to digital publishing. I’d already had a few short story stand alones published by digital publishers and I was eager to learn more about digital publishing.

And RR seemed like a great way to start. First, I’d been a longtime fan of Lori Perkins’ agent blog, http://www.agentinthemiddle.blogspot.com/, and I’d always enjoyed her blog posts. I respected her reputation within the publishing industry and I soon found out that we had similar tastes and backgrounds. Lori and I also share a journalism background, so I know how to dig for information. I did some basic research about Holly Schmidt and was just as impressed with her credentials as I was with Lori’s. And, it turned out that Holly once worked for Rodale Press, which is not far from where I live in Bucks County, PA. Basically, it all felt good right from the start.

Everyone who is associated with RR has worked hard in the past year to put out the best books we can possibly deliver to readers. I enjoy this faster pace; I enjoy working on hard deadlines and having pressure. When I don’t have pressure, I’m bored to death.

But when I look back over this past year, even though all of my experiences with RR have been positive, I think the single most important reason why I’ve been so pleased with RR is the voice they gave me. I’ve been writing gay fiction for over seventeen years. Five years ago I wouldn’t have been able to write the LGBT books I’ve been writing this past year. The gay/lesbian market has always been very small. And publishers have always been cautious about what they acquire. But with RR the process was different, and refreshing. Lori and Holly have trusted me to take their basic concepts and turn them into actual m/m romance novels. And for a fiction writer, it doesn’t get any better than that. And every step of the process, from the initial concept to the final product, has been enjoyable.

I’ve also built friendships with other RR writers that become stronger each day. I’ve read their work and I’m always impressed by the quality of their writing. I only wish I had more time to read everyone’s work.

I could rave on and on about RR. But no one likes blog posts that are too long. So I’ll end this by saying Happy Anniversary to ravenousromance.com, and congratulations to Holly Schmidt, Lori Perkins, and Allan Penn (I still haven’t met Allan, but I hear he’s a great guy) for achieving this accomplishment. It wasn’t easy. There have been times I’ve wondered how Lori and Holly have done all that they’ve done in the past year. But everyone has worked hard, including all the writers and editors (Jen Safrey, the best copy editor on the planet). So here’s to the next exciting year to come, which will be filled with a few surprises and a lot more great books.

But more than that, as a thanks to all the ravenous customers who have been so supportive, RR is offering a one day only special on all e-books:

For TODAY ONLY, ALL e-books are just $.99, in celebration of Ravenous Romance’s one-year anniversary! It’s our way of saying thank you to all of our readers. Stock up and enjoy!

Most Books are now in Paperback on Amazon…

When my books first come out, they are e-books and can be found at ravenousromance.com, loveyoudivine.com, or other well known e-book web sites. And then they go to Amazon and can be ordered as paperbacks.

I’m positing an amazon link because I’ve been getting a lot of e-mails asking why the books aren’t offered in print. Evidently, there are still many people out there who have not switched to reading books in digital print, as e-books. And I guess that’s going to take some time.

I personally took a long time switching to e-books. I love the feel and smell of a print book. I enjoy reading print books as a luxury. But once I made the switch to e-books, I was amazed at how much I loved reading them either on the computer or on my phone. I know someone who has their lap top hooked up to their flat screen TV and that’s how they read all their books now.

But like I said, it’s going to take some time. So here’s the link where you can purchase any one of my books as a paperback. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=ryan+field