Welcome Gentle Readers

This blog tends to wander from its main purpose -- updates on my fiction. I do have updates and excerpts of my work. But I also write about my obsessions -- food, friends and pop culture and my weird life in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Senior Set and Smut and Who IS Our Audience?

On Monday, Sybpress did its thing at the Santa Monica Book Fair. I do the official report here. It's an event for the literary and poetry set on the Westside of LA. It was interesting to get a good look at the other small presses in our area in an intimate setting. Our main competition in the literary prose and poetry arena was in that room. It's very difficult for small presses that publish prose and poetry to have a presence nationally or internationally save for Pushcart consideration. We sell our titles primarily at these kind of events or other sponsored readings. Our erotica is a different matter. Genre fiction has a lot of internet venues on which to advertise and in the care of male/male erotica, there are niche brick and mortar stores that will carry our product.

Places like this bookfair are where the two halves of Sybpress collide. Everyone who was checking out our newest literary author, Brenda Petrakos, also picked up our other new title, Connie Bailey's delicously naughty Bawdy Yarns. Most of the browsers had silver hair and well worn faces. I inwardly had a fit each time this happened. It was much the same reaction I have when my Mother-in-Law announces she's read something from our erotica line. I had a strong urge to leap across the table and snatch the tome from curious hands. But this crowd was unique. Many still wore some paisely or had some leather fringe in evidence. I realized that this silver haired crowd was likely a part of the Summer of Love. I doubt anything within the covers of our racier titles shocked them. Jon reasoned that they probably did much of what we write about. That they didn't throw the book aside like it burned flesh should have clued me in.

It was an interesting revelation and comes on the heels of some discussions I've had with our erotica authors recently. Who is the audience for Sybpress m/m erotica? Most of our authors assume that it is the same audience that reads fanfic and slash. That's reasonable since the authors come from there. We do get some buyers from that arena, especially when an author with a following first publishes. They are a small fraction over all. We get another small percentage from romance readers who frequent websites devoted to reviewing such titles. That's been sticky, because the majority of romance readers are really skittish about m/m. We really had an eye opener on that at the last Romatic Times Booklovers convention. We advertise on some romance sites, but very carefully. However, the majority of our sales are to gay men. It's about 90 percent of our buyers, according to our tracking service. The only bookstores that carry our titles right now are gay and lesbian bookstores. It's an interesting relationship, because they still can't quite wrap their minds around women writing this stuff. I and my fellow female m/m writers will be speaking at major gay conventions this year to talk about the phenomenon. While we court the fandom base and attend conventions and advertise with entities that are friendly to the works, our main ad bucks go to the guys.

I know I promised an excerpt from the Soldier's Choice sequel, but I'm too tired to input. It will be in the usually scheduled Sunday blog. And there definitely will be a third installment of the Surrender novels. More on the why of that and what it has to do with Richard Hatch later.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Muse Attacks!

This week has been marked by a huge increase in creative activity. I know that I have preached in the past that a writer shouldn’t wait for the muse to strike to write, but there is another side to that argument. Sometimes, the muse gets very active on more than one work of writing. That can be tiring, but it’s not a moment to be squandered. Thus, I am working on A Soldier’s Choice late at night, the third Surrender book is generally percolating in my brain. I have nearly worked out the plot for that one, but I’m far from putting pen to paper. And I am writing my first non-genre (not erotica, not romance, not fantasy or scifi) short story since Grad School. I’m not sure what I will do with it, but it seems to need to come out right now. Thus, I work on it during my various commutes. It’s difficult, because the subject makes me cry. Then, to add to the fun, Jon and I have been kibitzing about a script we’ve been researching for well over a year. That started after a long chat with my brilliant friend Sarah. We’ve just about reached the tipping point for research and theory and are ready to finally write the danged thing. I hope I’ve finished one or two of the previously mentioned works before that point pops up.

I never fight the Muse when this explosion happens. Sometimes, this kind of surge causes me to find solutions to previous problems with the work. I may not remember those solutions if I don’t implement them when they occur. Time becomes the main problem when the creativity surges. I have other duties and responsibilities that I have to tend to, so something must be sacrificed. Usually, that’s sleep. I write until the wee small hours of the morning until I am literally falling over on my sofa. Then I get up early to get various bits of business out of the way, so I can write a little more before running out the door. The works are shaping up slowly, and I am – for the most part – on top of everything else that’s going on right now.

I keep hearing in the news that 40 is the new 30 or something like that. Oh, how I wish that was true. Last week, when getting ready for the movie screening, I was plagued by acne (Acne!) and cramps. I was plagued by the very same things that plagued me at age 17. I don’t think it’s fair that I don’t have that 17 year old’s body. Actually, I would have preferred the 27 year old body (still a size 8 but with actual curves). When I think about it I’d like some other 27 year old’s body – preferably one of those fine shirtless things that jogs or rollerblades past my house. What was I talking about?

Since tomorrow is a holiday, I will be spending some of it working online. Part of it will be spent at the Santa Monica Small press Book Fair. See the Sybpress Blog for details. Anyway, I will be posting excerpts from the sequel to A Soldier’s Choice at some point tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Big Fun

It isn’t often that my Month of Fun overlaps with business. That usually only happens at the Marche du Film in Cannes. Last week it happened three times in Los Angeles. One was the weekend event I’ve written about in the Sybpress blog Seeing the performances of Brenda’s incredible stories was a wonderful treat for someone who is a writer and a publisher. I count that as quite a treat.

Another happened earlier in the week and involved an audition. Those have seldom been any fun, let alone something I’d call a treat. However, this was both. We’re planning on shooting some short films as proofs of concept for funders and distributors interested in our features. We’re starting with the most developed of the small features, a romantic western called The Gunslinger. Here’s the short version from the Dragoncor Productions website.

The Gunslinger is the story of Shadow Smith – a wanted man who has been wrongfully accused of murder. He has had no end of confrontations over his ill-deserved reputation. While in New Mexico, he rides into a range war to confront a gunfighter who has been using his name. He can’t allow anymore killings associated with that name than he already has. Instead, of a would-be gunslinger, he discovers K.D. Delaney, a beautiful young woman posing as Shadow to fend off two factions that want her land. The real Shadow stays because he can neither resist the fight nor the woman. K.D. is strong despite being wracked with grief over her father’s recent death. And she gives him the first home he has known for a long time. If they survive the superior numbers and weapons against them, will they be able to prevent the law from hanging Shadow?

Because we wrote it, it is a twisted romance. There is a wild subplot involving the fictional Shadow Smith in some really awful dime novels and how KD has fantasized him into a character that no one could live up to. Thus we needed a tall, good looking man (I know, who doesn’t) that can really act and is willing to do the short for the tens of dollars we’ll be paying.

Travis did such a wonderful job with the audio excerpt of Rik on the website for A Soldier’s Choice, he was our first choice for Shadow. And he was willing to audition. Even with all he had going for him, he was not a shoe-in. I had a good feeling though. He asked some really good questions after reading the script and the short. So early one morning last week, I watched him become Shadow Smith before my eyes. Even though the KD he was ready with was Jon, not a lovely blond, he still bowled me over with his version of my sardonic and charming desperado. He was very charming, a little shy and very, very sexy. That was definitely a treat for the day. I can’t wait to shoot the short.

The third business related treat was a movie screening. Every event like that is, at its heart, about business. This was an advanced screening for Pirates of the Caribbean At World’s End for the crew and some of the cast. My date was one of the actors in the film, Ho-Kwan Tse who played both, Hadras and a crewman from the Black Pearl. The screening was at the El Capitain Theater. I’ve always wanted to see the inside of that theater, but the ticket prices are really steep there. The film itself was a blast, and that’s all I can say without major spoilers. Seeing a film with crew is really different. They don’t react to scenes the way a regular audience does. They laugh at odd scenes because of some inside jokes, I assume. And they cheer folks like the stunt guys. It was a most interesting experience along with a great film. Thus this was a big week in the whole Month of Fun.

During all this excitement, I managed to fill notepads with the sequel for A Soldier’s Choice. I am distressing my boys, so that is distressing me. But there are some really hot scenes developing as well. I should have excerpt in the next week or two.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Book Launch and Blog Delay

I had a big week and weekend of fun to write about. I also had a big Sybpress event on Saturday. I had to report on that before doing my blog. I'll post mine tomorrow. Meanwhile, read about the book launch and upcoming bookfair.

Spread the word and come on by!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ya Gotta Have Friends

Warning, the following paragraph contains some general whining. You may skip ahead if this is distasteful.

This has been an unusually difficult blog for me to write. The first attempt came out much too dour. The second was too strange – even for me. I think all of the stressors from the beginning of the year are catching up to me. The manifestations have been numerous. Lately, it has been physical. I think I could sleep for a week and not make a dent in the fatigue. And I always seem to be on the verge of a very bad cold. There is too much that needs to get done, and I have no energy to do any of it.

Of late, I’ve needed to spend time chatting or hanging out with my writer friends. They are the only people who really understand the occasional flare-ups of angst and sadness that can overwhelm a creative mind trying to cope with the business of their work or the people who read it. I have many wonderful and close friends who are not writers, and they try to understand when I’m like this. But only a writer understands feeling the feeling of complete vulnerability and fear after something is sent out to a new editor or published or awaiting review. Sometimes there is a great sadness when something is finished. I compound this problem by working with other writers who all have similar issues. I had been troubled by my inability to cope with all of it. But then, I got some sage advice from the incredibly talented and wise, Sarah Freligh. I give you better than a shout out, my friend. Readers should check out one of her poems and bio here. Though as creative as they come, she is also very practical and really down to earth. I was given a new perspective, and I’m grateful.

My other creative friends helped me bring in another year in their own ways. From Craig, I received a great hug and something to make me laugh. He is my favorite Jersey Boy (a great compliment considering my second favorite is Bruce Springsteen). Craig has a way of always knowing when I need to laugh. While I was at Borders, I could never go through a whole shift angry if he was working as well.

Then there is the wonderful Marie, my co-publisher. She brought me the loveliest and most delicious gift for my birthday. It was a tiny and perfect chocolate truffle cake that I relished. And over much champagne and reinforcements, we watch a great old film and laughed about our past decades – decades! I was encouraged to write the third novel in the Surrender series. I definitely am feeling that pull. But I must spend a little more time with my soldier-boys. I have to have that done for YaoiCon in October. Marie reminded me that times have been pretty good since moving out here. Our little Press is breaking even (very big in the independent press world). And we’ll be doing more traveling because of it. I am writing more than I ever have in the two decades since I got the MA in Creative writing (decades, I tell you). And I am largely happy with the work. I am even considering something ‘literary’ after all these years. Life am good (no, it’s not bad grammar, it’s a reference to an Adventures of. Superman ep, Little-big-head man.

The month of fun continues this week with a visit by a tall, dark and naughty actor-boy and a really fun time at the cinemas.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

I'm an Anime!

I'm working on the new blog. I have a lot to cover and am a bit under the weather. But I thought I'd take a moment to share my new image. This is courtesy of Anne Cain, who did the cover for 'A Soldier's Choice.' I'm really pleased atthe waist-line she gave me! I'll piost the rest of the blog tomorrow, hopefully.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

'Cheesesteaks', Mutants and Strangulation

The So-Called Philly Cheesesteak

I begin with a rant of sorts. Jon and I are from Philadelphia which is home to the steak sandwich, known to the rest of the country as the Philly cheese steak. We learned to live with that slightly incorrect usage. In Philly, it’s a steak sandwich and it doesn’t necessarily come with cheese. You have to ask for that. So, first the term is wrong. Then, there are the increasingly strange variant on this sandwich that are puzzling. The last ones are outright annoying. Philly steak sandwich meat is never put on a hamburger like Dominos Pizza.

While the products are really appalling, the advertising features a Philly accent that neither of us has ever heard south of Brooklyn are worse. I’ve only seen an outsider get that strange, nasal tone right twice. Once was in the Jack in the Box ads for their odd variant on the steak sandwich. The other was from Toni Collette, an Australian actress who played Haley Joel Osment’s mom in The Sixth Sense. I could have sworn she was from south Philly. And the last thing, for those restaurants out here or places other than Philly who manage to get the steak sandwich in the ballpark, they shouldn’t cost more than $6.99. It’s made from the cheapest meat on the planet or it should be if it’s authentic, and is supposed to be a cheap meal option. I’ve seen it for as high as 10.95 in other states. Ridiculous! We’re lucky enough to live near Markie D’s, owned by a man who hails from our fair hometown. He does a good job at a fair price AND he has Tastykakes. Joy! The first time we went there, he asked us what part of Philly we came from. I asked how he knew. He said we knew how to order one, and we called it a ‘so-called’ steak sandwich when we ordered. That meant we knew what a real one was supposed to me. The only thing they need to have is Federal Pretzels and Habersett’s scrapple (it’s sound awful, but them’s good eats) and I’d be in nirvana.

On the food topic, I’ve been having fun with recipes for the sequel to ‘A Soldier’s Choice.’ One of the sub plots involves food, and one character is nearly obsessed with it. Thus, there are already a lot of recipes in this novel. I’ll have to another bonus cookbook. I’ll be attempting two of them this week as part of my continuing birthday celebration. They are more elaborate than my usual efforts, but they are worth the try. I’ll reveal how I did next week.
Mutants, Vampires and Atlereds

The sequel is going well. I was worried that I was getting too involved with the inner workings of the Foundation for Altered Development and it’s headquarters. It is, after all, erotica. Those details weren’t any where near being erotic. However, I hit upon a very valid reason for the characters’ behavior early in the book that causes a crisis in their relationship. This relationship problem flowed organically from the details of the job and the organization they work for. That was one of those unexpected and magical moments that sometimes happens to a writer. It gave the conflict more depth and edge than I’d imagined. Now I’m struggling to keep up with the characters as the scenario are moving forward in my head. It’s a lot of fun. And the erotica is fitting in seamlessly which pleases me as well.

The other surprisingly seamless element in the sequel is the explanation of how Altereds happened. I am fusing a futuristic story with a vampire story. However, at the heart of Demon Under Glass is science. WARNING: Geeky Stuff follows. The Vampire, Simon Molinar, is not of the undead. He is an altered human. We proposed that a virus caused a genetic mutation. The Delphi Project was formed to research how he worked and if the mutation could be generated in other humans. What we figured out is that the results of the Delphi Project’s research was used on dozens of subjects over a number of years, primarily in this country. The descendants of the experimental subjects who really developed Molinar’s traits manifests one or more of them (speed, strength, senses, etc) as children. The military uses the Delphi Project’s old research to further Alter the subject and enhance those traits and cause others to manifest. None of the Altereds have the thirst for blood. Molinar’s real identity of a vampire has been concealed in the years since Delphi was shut down though rumors persist. The sanitized version was that he was a genetic oddity who came to believe he was a vampire. The report calls him a sociopathic serial killer who eventually escaped the facility to an unknown fate. I had to figure out all of this because Bobby hears the rumors told to call new Altereds. Also, in trying to change how Altereds are treated through the medical procedure, Rik and Vincent discover that the practices dates back to the original experiments on Molinar. This sounds very techy and geeky, but it was fun to work it all out as a writer. You can check out the trailer for the film which really covers how the experiments works, and is fun to watch this link.
Month of fun update

Yesterday, I treated myself to a manicure and a dinner with one of the actors who did the voice of Vincent on the website for A Soldier’s Choice. An outing with an actor is always fun, but usually exhausting. We had a rollicking good time though there was some hubbub when Vic found out that I’m doing panels with Travis (the voice of Rik on the website) at conventions. They have some sort of rivalry that they claim is friendly see this link. And I’m in the middle getting strangled. They are both way cute, so the consternation they cause is well worth it.
More to come...