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Showing posts from 2015

Goodbye Saulsbury Street

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The other day I opened my email ten days late and found the following note from the Judith, the woman from whom we’d rented a cottage at Dewey Beach each year for a decade:
This is so hard for me to say - we have decided to stop renting the cottage. For the past two years we have been trying to find a way to continue renting, but with our new schedules and locations, it is proving very difficult to keep up with all the duties and responsibilities required to rent Dewey. I wanted to wait until the end of the season to let everyone know - and give you all plenty of time to look for new places.
We’d discovered the cottage at 109 Saulsbury Street when our friend Shirley invited us down for a few days. We fell in love with the house, and Dewey Beach, and Rehoboth. The next year we rented the house the week after Shirley. For years our routine was thus: Shirley would rent the house for 2 weeks in May, we’d rent the week after her, then we’d go down early and Shirley would stay late so our v…

Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover

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Don’t judge a book by its cover.
We’ve had that drilled into us—at least my generation did, and, to a large extent, we believed it—I believed and I still do. At least as far as people go. And dogs—you ever meet a dog who looks mean and you want to step back but then he approaches you gently and licks your hand?
Anyway, never judge a book by its cover, unless of course, it is a book. I’ve been thinking about covers a lot lately. It started when we released Vampire Rising, my allegorical Vampire novella. It pays homage to Bram Stoker’s Dracula while reinventing the Vampire genre. In the story I tell there were certain elements that helped tell the story—mockingbirds who appear wherever Vampires gather, the iron gates that demarcates the separation between the Vampire state and the human world. And the story is described in grays and purples. So I wanted to include all of those elements that in the cover.
When my publisher notified me that they would be re-releasing the Boughs of Evergreen …

Why Queer Novels Matter & Why Diversity is Important

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Having just read The Advocate article, "How The Tenth Challenges the Image of Black Queer Men," I thought I would repost the post I did for Queer Romance Month in October.

I read. A lot. And I collect books. I have hundreds. Many are classics—Fitzgerald, Wells, Dickens, the Brontés. Virginia Wolfe. But many more are contemporary gay fiction ranging from newer, lesser known writers to the literary lions of gay literature: Felice Picano, Mark Merlis, E.M. Forster, Baldwin, Burroughs (William, not Augusten), Alan Hollinghurst, William J. Mann, David Leavitt.

The first queer novel I read was Patricia Nell Warren’s The Front Runner. I remember finding it at the book store at Penn freshman year. My roommates, who were on the track team, were at an away meet that weekend. I read the entire book before they returned, barely stopping to sleep and eat. I read The Fancy Dancer, too. But it was The Front Runner that started me on the pursuit of queer fiction. From then on I read queer …

A Reading Teaches Me Something

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I did a reading at the Bureau of General Services - Queer Division on Friday night. My friend and fellow author David Swatling, invited me to join him, Daniel W. Kelly, and J.L. Weinberg, at the reading featuring horror and suspense fiction in recognition of Halloween.

When I arrived, late, after a nerve-wracking and slow moving drive down the Henry Hudson Parkway from the Bronx, I discovered my third book, Unbroken, would be on display along with my allegorical Vampire novella, Vampire Rising. I immediately recognized I faced a two-fold challenge: how to present a horror novel that really wasn’t a horror novel at all, and, two, how to tie to very different books together.
I read third. While awaiting my turn, I wrote an intro for myself and pulled a reading from Unbroken. What follows is an excerpt from my reading.
“For me, when I think of horror, I think the true horror is how we sometimes treat each other—especially those who are different from us.
“I’ll be reading from Vampire Rising…

Smile

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This week I am contemplating the smile and the nature of happiness.
Sunday I was walking in Carpenter’s Woods with our two dogs, Toby and Riley. As we swept around a curve in the trail, I spotted a thin androgynous figure moving towards us. As the person emerged out of the shadows I saw it was a young woman; her hair, bleached to the color and consistency of straw, stuck out at almost right angles to the red wool cap pulled low over her forehead. On her face, she wore an expression as devastated as Nagasaki after the bombing. She continued walking towards us with heavy steps, seeming to sink further into the soft earth with every step, the weight of the world’s woes piled on her back.
She stared at us approaching through eyes dulled by the twin cataracts of sadness and disappointment. Riley, spotting her, ran towards her. Her mouth was a thin line of grim determination as she regarded him with a mixture of dread and suspicion. What new hell this? she seemed to be thinking.
Riley rush…

In Honor of National Coming Out Day

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In honor of ‪‎National Coming Out Day (which also happens to be my birthday),‬ my ‎LGBT‬ coming of age/coming out novel, Unbroken is just 99 cents! If it's been on your To Be Read list you may want to buy it now.

Coming out for me wasn't hard--I was never "in," by which I mean closeted. I could never see the point. I mean what was the point--you just had to look at me to know; I've discovered that people see what they want to see so if someone didn't know, it wasn't my fault. I didn't see the point of hiding. I mean, sure people might dislike me because I was gay, they might even try to hurt me, but the same could be said of me being black—just look at the number of black people being hurt and killed by the police—the very people they are supposed to look to for protection. So was I supposed to hide myself away? never leave the house lest I walk into a store and be followed as a potential shoplifter? Or wrestled to the ground and tasered for asking, …

Remembering Coco

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Two years ago today, we had to let go of our precious girl, Coco. She was fighting heart disease and the effects of old age. We knew it was time and she let us know she was ready. Still, it was hard. She wasn’t the first dog we’ve lost—but in the intervening years, grief had lost its edge.

We’d had to put down my first dog, Channing, after an attack by a neighborhood pit bull. For a decade he’d been my most constant and cherished companion, predating Stanley. I was, to put it mildly, devastated. It wasn’t until we adopted Coco that Stanley stopped looking at me with anxiety and inexpressible sorrow. Weeks after we got her, I was talking to my mother on the phone and something she said made me laugh. She paused and said, “You know, after Channing died I didn’t think I’d ever hear you laugh again.”
It was only then that I realized how deep and visible my grief had been. 
I made an appointment for that Saturday at 3. Stanley left work early and met us there. I’d spent the my rock, falli…

Vampire Rising & Its Angel Number: An Explanation

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A reader, who recently finished Vampire Rising, commented that it was different from my other books mostly because with the others I spent a lot of time on character development so readers really got to know the characters. And that is true, with What Binds Us, we follow Dondi, Thomas and Matthew for ten years; in Unbroken, we first meet Lincoln at age six and Jose at age 12. Their story spans 40 years and we watch them grow from children into brave young men and on into parenthood.
Vampire Rising is a very short book. It tells the story of the damaged Vampire, Gatsby, who is still reeling from a decision made 200 years earlier that saved a life and cost him his love, and the young human, Barnabas, who, abandoned by his mother, becomes a ward of the state, unwanted and invisible for too long.
But the story really isn’t about Gatsby and Barnabas; the story is an allegory, it’s a metaphor for how (poorly) we treat those considered the least among us are a metaphor. But, I tried to give …

The Making of a Book Trailer

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"Guerrilla filmmaking is driven by passion with whatever means at hand."—Mark Hill, Yukon Film Commission Manager
When we released my allegorical Vampire novella, Vampire Rising, in July, I quickly realized I wanted to create a book trailer for it. To make a book trailer I knew I had to meet a new challenge—I’d already told the story—but for the video I needed to retell it. Visually. This was the challenge. I am a story teller: in my day job I tell stories; if you’ve ever met me in person and spoken to me you will, no doubt, remember I am prone to telling stories; as a writer, I tell stories. But for my writing life, I focus on the words—the words for me are as important as the story itself. I want to use the right words, to define a mood, to capture the rhythms I hear it in my head.
Having written four books, I’m fairly confident in my voice but I knew I’d have to rely on images and actions, rather than words, to tell the story. The story’s main premises are simple enough: “h…

"Ekaj," a Movie Not to Be Missed

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Back in July 2012, I wrote a blog post about an LGBT film, “Prince and Ekaj,” which was being made by Mike and Cati Gonzalez. (Read the original post here.) The trailer was very promising and I was excited to see the film giving voice to LGBT youth who often remain invisible, voiceless.

So, I was delighted when I got an email from Cati telling me they had completed the film, now titled, “Ekaj,” and asking if I wanted to preview it. My answer, in a heartbeat, was, “heck yeah.” And I am so glad I said yes. The movie covers topics not often seem or spoken of—homeless youth, finding a way to survive and love in a harsh world. Happily the film doesn’t dwell on any one thing but it covers a range of very real issues that are seldom spoken of anymore, and when they are they are it is in whispers, or spoken of as if they existed in the distance past: AIDS, drug abuse, domestic violence, rape. This is a socially responsible film that is never pathetic or preachy.
Filmed in the Bronx and Harlem a…

Kenneth Larsen writes...: Flagging support

Another thought-provoking and well written post which is especially fitting on Independence Day.



Kenneth Larsen writes...: Flagging support: Nine people were gunned down in a South Carolina church, and the overwhelming response has been to ban a flag. If that sounds too simplis...

Weighing in on the SCOTUS Decision

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I read about a year ago that the marriage equality movement had reached critical mass which meant it was essentially unstoppable; it could be resisted, it could be delayed but change was gonna come. And come it did, last week when SCOTUS, in a 5-4 decision, made marriage equality the law of the land.

Like most successfully married couples, Stanley and I know each other better than anyone else knows us: he knows I miss seeing my father, that I hate the idea of being buried, knows I wish to be cremated; I know Stanley is loving, and generous and so is an organ donor.
To those wishing to deny me my fundamental rights based on their “religious beliefs,” I have this to say: I do not want to get married in your church before your God for I believe in neither. I don’t believe in your religion, a sanctified lean-to built on a foundation of fables, hearsay and superstition. And I don’t believe that a God, who would allow His son to be nailed to a cross, who would allow generations of innocents t…

Kenneth Larsen writes...: Love Wins!

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I admire Ken Larsen's writing and his posts are always excellent. This is one of my favorites from him. (Use the link below to read his post.)

Kenneth Larsen writes...: Love Wins!: " It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respe...

SPAM

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There’s a woman in Germany named Mel on Goodreads who writes wonderful reviews—insightful, and entertaining without giving away too much away. She caught my attention because she has been going through my books and reviewing each one. She started reading Damaged Angels and posting reviews of each story. Her review of my short story “Spam” caught my attention. Of it, she wrote:

Oh my... this one’s a riddle. At least to me. It’s kinda impossible to say what’s real and what not. And while I’m confused, I still appreciate this. In the end it doesn’t really matter what exactly went down here.
Her review (read the full review here)led me to decide I would dedicate this blog post to explaining that story. Spam,” is, in a way, a story about identity. Identity has been much talked about. First it was gay identity, then transgendered and gender non-conforming identity (though I think gender non-conforming identity has always existed and been talked about). Then, there was the recent fallout over…

Weighing In On…Rachel Dolezal—Why Does Race Remain Locked, Unchangeable?

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I must admit that when I first read about Rachel Dolezal―who leads the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, teaches African studies to college students and sits on a police oversight commission, and who claims to be black when she may not be by birth―I was surprised and amused. You see, my short story, “Howdy Billy, Cabbage Ma’am,” (Damaged Angels,2012) deals with the same issue—a privileged white woman masquerades as black for decades and is eventually found out. But the more I read, the madder I got. It seems the entire controversy surrounds how Rachel Dolezal identifies racially. Say what?

Why are we so outraged by Rachel Dolezal’s racial identification in an age when we are told gender exists on a spectrum and can be “fluid,” in an age when it is argued that marriage is the right of any two people in love? Why are we outraged by this when we accept the fluidity of gender roles and embrace the reality ofstay-at-home dads, and women on the battlefield? Just the other day I saw a trash colle…

Catching Up with… Mark William Lindberg

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This week I’m chatting with the remarkable Mark William Lindberg, a queer author, artist, performer, and educator, whose new novella, Queer on a Bench just came out. Let’s just dive write in, shall we?

As a writer, I am always interested in other writers' writing process and what inspires them, so can you talk a little about what inspires your stories and what your writing process is like? I'm really interested in form, so a lot of the time—certainly with my two books so far—I'll start with a what-if question. 81 Nightmares came from asking myself, "What if all you had was one character's dreams? What if that was the whole story? What could you learn about that person? What would you think you knew about them? Is it possible to tell a complete story that lives only in a character's dream life?" My new book, Queer on a Bench, began with the question, "What if the whole story has to happen between the time a character sits down on a bench and when they g…