Monday, September 27, 2010

New Cover and an Exclusive Sneak Peek: OUT ON THE NET

My e-book novella, Out on the Net, will be published by Amber Allure (the GLBT division of Amber Quill Press) on November 14. The book is about a gay man coming to terms with his sexuality a few minutes before he is about to wed a woman. It's part of the "Stepping Out" series, all centered around coming out.

Just for you, here's a taste from the very beginning of the book, which is told in blog format:

Blog Entry #1: When I Knew I was Gay

I get the same question all the time—when did you know when you were gay? Aside from the obvious sarcastic response to such a query—“when did you know you were straight?” And aside from the obvious further probing of the asker—“well, what do you mean? When did I know? Or when did I accept it?”

Fine hairs.

I knew, accepted, whatever…that I was gay when I was standing in the little room just off the altar at St. Alfonso Catholic Church in Summitville, PA at approximately 12:30 p.m. on a hot and humid July afternoon. I was wearing a white tuxedo jacket, white shirt, black tie and cummerbund, and black tuxedo slacks. My black patent leather shoes were buffed to a high gloss. My dark brown hair had just been cut and not a single one of them was out of place. I could hear the soft talking and laughter of those who had assembled in the church as they waiting for the proceedings to begin. A string quartet played Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” so gorgeously it brought tears to my eyes.

I was thirty years old and about to be married for the first time.

To a woman.

The ceremony was due to begin in twenty minutes.

That’s the moment I realized, accepted, knew for sure, that I was gay. I’d like to say it came to me in a flashing moment of clarity, like some blinding white light. Or that I fainted straight away, hitting the marble floor with a thud. Or that a chorus of angels came down from on high to reveal to me this alarming news in celestial tones.

But all I did was say softly to myself, “Oh shit. I can’t do this. I’m gay.”

My best man, Doug Taylor, primped in the mirror. He had no reason to primp. His reddish blond hair, freckles, and blue eyes were already the lustful design of every female in the wedding party. His body, buff, tight, and ripped, filled out his tux better than I could ever hope to fill out my own.

Doug helped me realize the truth because at that moment—as God, literally, as my witness—I discovered I’d rather be marrying Doug than my bride, Alice, who was I’m certain, waiting anxiously with her father at the rear of the church. Poor Alice’s anxiety was nothing compared to what it could have been had she known what was going through her groom’s head at this very moment.

Doug turned to me. “Did you say something?” He smiled and I have to tell you, Doug has one of those smiles that light up a room. I also have to tell you that it wasn’t quite true what I said about Doug—I really don’t want to marry him, but I would prefer that the wedding night be spent in his arms.

Should I make Doug—my old college roommate at Ohio State University and beer-drinking buddy—the first recipient of my revelation?

I didn’t think about it. I knew that, in moments, the anxiety would rise up, the adrenalin would kick in and I would be a mess—a trembling, heart-palpitating, sweating buckets mess. In moments, thoughts like how I was about to hurt Alice, disappoint my parents, stun the wedding guests, and perhaps ruin my life as I knew it would be taking turns tormenting my mind.

But, as I said, I didn’t think about it. Instead, my mouth worked independently of my brain as I said to Doug, “Yeah. Yes, I said something.” I cleared my throat, and looked around the cramped little room, at how the sun’s beams shone in through the stained glass window of Jesus opening His robe to reveal His heart.

I shrugged, and like a lemming poised at a cliff with a thousand of my lemming buddies waiting impatiently behind me, I jumped. “I said I can’t go through with this.”

Doug grinned and came toward me. He placed his hands on my shoulders. “Dude, buck up. Every groom gets cold feet. It’s natural. Just think of what you have waiting for you. Alice is a beautiful girl. When the time’s right for me, I hope I can be so lucky. And you’re marrying into one of the best families in town. You are going to be so happy, my friend. Just relax. Take a few deep breaths. Come on, we’ll do it together.” Just as Doug was about to draw big gulp of air into his lungs and indicate that I should do the same, I said two words no best man should ever have to hear:

“I’m gay.”

Doug let out a whoosh of air, coasting along on a wave of giddy laughter. “Oh come on, man, save the jokes for the reception! You’re about as gay as I am and we both know that’s not true.”

The music outside shifted to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and I shifted my weight nervously to the other foot. Someone in the pews coughed; a woman laughed. I stared longingly at the exit door just behind Doug’s back.

“No, man, I’m serious. I’m gay. Gay, gay, gay. I like men, not boys. I like broad shoulders, hard pecs, stubble.” I let out a short, near-hysteria burst of laughter.

If I was that lemming I talked about earlier, I had just leapt from the cliff and was now freefalling to the rocks below. Whee! “I like Judy Garland and Broadway musicals.” I stopped laughing. “No, that last part isn’t true. I don’t even know if I can name one single Garland song. Well, okay, there’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” but everybody knows that one, right?” I giggled. And how gay is that? “And I don’t even think I’ve seen a Broadway musical. Okay, I saw Guys and Dolls back when we were in Summitville High. Does that count?”

I stopped, breathless, staring at Doug like he was a stranger. My heart thudded so hard, fast, and painfully in my chest I wondered if I was about to have a heart attack and expire right here on hallowed ground.

Was a Catholic church hallowed?

Never mind.

Doug surprised me. He came toward me and grabbed me, gripping me in a bear hug so tight it ripped the air right out of my lungs. Then he pushed me back and regarded me. “Are you sure?”

“Would I say something like this if I wasn’t? Do you hate me?”

Doug, God bless him, didn’t even have to think for more than a few seconds. “Dude, you’re my best friend. I don’t hate you. I love you. If this is what you know, then I’ll have to deal with it. You will always be my best friend, no matter which side you butter your bread on—or whatever.” He glanced out at the church proper, where I could hear the string quartet tuning up for our processional. We had chosen “Someone to Watch Over Me.” “We’ll all have to deal with it.” Doug stared down at the floor and gnawed on a hangnail. “Fuck, man. What are you gonna do?”

I swallowed. “I can’t go through with this.” I wanted to say more, but the power of connecting my brain to my tongue chose that moment to slip out of the room. I bit my lip. I stared to cry.

“Pull yourself together, man!” Doug gripped my shoulder and shook me.

I could feel myself growing faint. Sweat dripped down my forehead, flooded my underarms, and a crawly flood of the stuff was making its way down my back. “How can I do this to Alice? I have to go through with it.”

Doug smirked. “Listen—hard as it is to believe, even I know, it’ll be a lot easier to get out of this now than somewhere down the road.”

I looked at myself in the mirror over Doug’s shoulder. My summer tan was gone, replaced by a pallor that came dangerously close to matching my tuxedo jacket and shirt. “I have to go out there and put a stop to this.”

Doug leaned close, “You don’t have to do anything but leave.” He turned to the door behind us. “Just go. I will make the announcement and we’ll talk later.”

I stood dumbfounded as Doug hurried out into the church. I paused by the door and listened as he cleared his voice and said, “Everybody? Can I have your attention, please? I have an announcement.”

The voices stopped. The quartet, I suppose, put down their instruments. I pictured my mother, in her mint green party dress, looking up expectantly, not knowing that a bomb was about to drop.

And I, hating myself and believing I had made a colossal mistake that would haunt me the rest of my days, slipped out the door into the summer day.

Freedom.

But at what cost?

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Imagine that: Invoking the Golden Rule has No Effect on Christians' Anti-gay Attitudes

I think it's about hearing what you want to hear and ignoring the rest. But the results of this study, and how some so-called Christians react to Jesus' admonition to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you..." is sadly, not surprising.




I guess that part Jesus said (Leviticus 19:34)  about loving your neighbor as you love yourself would also fly out the window with these folks.

Read commentary on the study here.
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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

FREE For Your Kindle: Elvis Takes a Backseat

They had me at the title. Although not my typical fare, this sounds like a fun read...and fun reads are sometimes a good thing when mostly you read about blood and guts.


From Publishers Weekly

When Claudia, a 40-something Texas widow, holds a garage sale to offload some of her late husband's belongings, she discovers a note he scribbled in the last days of his illness, asking her to return a bizarre three-foot bust of Elvis Presley to Memphis. Reluctantly, Claudia embarks on a return to sender road trip to Tennessee with her 60ish aunt, who knew Elvis personally, and a caustic teenage girl who is harboring a secret. Ellis (who has built a career in romance writing under the name Leanna Wilson) has some strong moments scattered throughout the story, which is laced with over-the-top Elvis humor and interesting reflections on Claudia's cautious return to faith in God. The first half of the novel is an awkward mix of road trip sitcom and overwrought melodrama before jettisoning the humor somewhere after a tour of Graceland. Elvis fans will likely enjoy the homage paid to the King—in addition to the travelogue of sites around Memphis, each chapter is named after an Elvis song—but others will find the gimmicks distracting. Moreover, the writing is marred by theatrical clich├ęs (sudden tears threaten like the storm clouds popping up on the horizon). Despite some entertaining scenes in this faith fiction offering, it lacks cohesiveness. (Jan.)
 
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Bookmark and Share

Monday, September 20, 2010

Finding the Publisher You Want—for Richer or Poorer

This blog originally appeared on the wonderful GLBT romance review site, Reviews by Jessewave. But because I wrote it and because I think it contains some hard-learned lessons about publishing I've accrued along the way, I'm sharing it with you here.
I get e-mails all the time asking me for suggestions for publishers. I greet this question with the same degree of befuddlement as I greet the ones that ask me which of my books is my favorite, or which one they should read first. Both questions have one thing in common—they’re difficult if not impossible to answer without knowing something about the person who’s asking the question.



Usually, though I give an answer of some sort, either referring the one group to my website where they can browse my titles and decide which one best suits them, or to author Lori L. Lake’s excellent list of GLBT publishers, which can be found here. Lori keeps the list updated regularly and I doubt there’s a better overall list in one place on the web.

Anyway, this is my roundabout way of getting to answering the question: how do I decide which publisher is best for me?

The answer of course, lies in your own goals, your own way of working, and what you expect to get out of the relationship. It’s kind of like a marriage, without the sex (or should I just say a long-term marriage?). Kidding aside, getting into a relationship with a publisher can be like a marriage—easy to get into and much more difficult to get out of if you’re not careful. So choose your publisher as wisely as choosing a mate.

I am writing this column assuming that you, dear reader (and potential author), have certain basic skills and talents. You’re a good writer, you have a story to tell, one that people want to read, and you have a strong command of the English language. In other words, you’re a desirable author mate for a publisher.

Okay, so you’ve written your masterpiece, your magnum opus, your culmination of all your literary hopes and dreams, and you’re ready to send it out. You consult Lori Lake’s list of publishers and you send it to every one, figuring the odds are in your favor if you up the number of times you enter the lottery.

Wrong.

The first thing you should do with Lori’s list or any list you compile is cull it. Winnow it down to only those publishers with whom you’d think you’d have a match. These could be publishers whose work you love to read, publishers you’ve heard good buzz about, publishers whom you’ve just seen again and again, or publishers who simply appear to be professional in every way. Whatever your criteria are, start by sticking to what you want and then going out and getting it.

But how do I know what I want? I just want to get published! We’ve all been there and there comes a point when it seems like anyone who will put your name on the cover of a book is a dream come true. But don’t jump into those arms so fast, sister (or brother). Again, a reminder worth repeating: connecting with a publisher can be like a marriage. A good one can make your life heaven on earth. A bad one…well, you know.

I can’t tell you exactly what you want, but below are some questions I myself look at when I consider entrusting my literary output into the hands of a publisher. Note that these questions apply to the field we’re working in: small press m/m romance, mainly.

1. Does the publisher have a web store? These days, most do and if they don’t, I would think twice about joining forces with them. Why? For one, having a web store on the publisher’s site facilitates purchase of your work and it aligns you with the other authors in their stable, upon whose coattails you may be able to ride. For another, a publisher who offers the option to buy books directly from their website tells me that this is a business who is serious about getting the word out about their work…and getting it into the hands of readers. Which leads me to:
2. What kind of marketing will your publisher do for you? First caveat, you should plan on doing the bulk of promotional work yourself, no matter how tireless a promoter your publisher is. No one knows that book better than you and no one cares about it more. But a publisher who is a strong ally in marketing your work can make the difference between bestseller and “never heard of (your name here)”. Ask things like if they have discount programs, or frequent customer rewards. Do they have a presence in social media networking? Do they have a regular way to communicate with readers via vehicles such as mailing lists or Yahoo or Google groups? Do they have a list of reviewers ready to send your work out to? I have worked with publishers who continually push my work in all the above ways (and love them for it) to ones who get the book set up for publication, plop it down on their website, and then sit and wait, thinking “If I publish it, they will come” which seldom works, not with so many millions of options out there for the reading public. Make sure you’re willing to do a lot of the marketing legwork, but also make sure your publisher is a partner in those efforts.
3. How are those covers lookin’? Like it or not, readers can and do judge a book by its cover. If you go to a publisher website and peruse their covers, ask yourself if they look professional—are they eye-catching? Do they make you want to read the books? Do most of them look like something you’d be proud to have as the face of your work? Do they reflect a strong brand? Do they look artful while at the same time enticing to a reader? Lastly, ask up front how much input you’ll have into the cover process. This varies from place to place. Some will present you with a finished cover without any—or very little—input from you; some will work closely with you. You shouldn’t automatically assume, though, that having a lot of say (if not final approval) of your cover is a good thing. Authors and cover artists are often different animals and sometimes you are better off working with a cover artist to whom you can toss the germ of an idea to and then let him or her have his or her way with it. Again: look at the publisher’s covers as a whole, a brand, and see whether you’re impressed or not.
4. What about the company you’ll keep? Aside from looking at covers, take a look at the other authors in the publisher’s stable. Talk to some of them if you can; it’s not hard to do these days. But look to see if you’ve heard of many of them, what their sales rankings are on Amazon, if they have multiple books with the same publisher. These kind of things will help you get a clearer picture of how happy current authors are with the publisher and will also give you an idea of the quality of the publisher. If (insert favorite author name here) works with XYZ, they must be pretty good. It’s not a bad thing to consider—the company one keeps says a lot about a publisher—and an author.
5. To print or not to print? These days e-books are getting all the print. You know what I mean, it’s hard to go very far and not find another news story (in places as august as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, even) about the “e-book revolution.” But one thing you should ask yourself is this: does my potential publisher offer the option of print publication of my work as well as electronic? To me, it’s important that my readers have access to my work in just about every format possible, so it’s vital to me that a publisher these days produce full-length work in both electronic and print. It’s simply covering all the bases. I have heard publishers say they’ll take a work to print if e-book sales are strong enough which seems shortsighted, since they’re different markets. Or they’ll bring out the print version a year or some other time frame after the e-book. That also seems kind of self-defeating. But this is one you have to decide. There are many excellent e-book publishers out there and having your work in that market may be enough to satisfy you and your readers. But with print on demand, it seems so easy (and affordable) these days to also offer your work in a printed edition.
6. The one contract clause to avoid. I could write a whole blog on contracts, but I will limit this discussion to one I think any new writer should avoid because it’s the most likely to get them into long-term hot water. And that clause goes by the name of “Rights of First Refusal”. This is when a publisher asks to have the first option on any future work you do. At first, you might be thrilled they’re so happy with you they want everything else you’ll write, but think twice. And run the other way. Unless you’re contracting with a Knopf or Simon and Schuster, you don’t want this shackle around your future creative output. You don’t know how things will go in the future. None of us do. In the honeymoon stage of manuscript acceptance, everything may seem blissful. But what if, down the road, things sour? Do you really want to be stuck with someone you don’t get along with for years? Contracts are negotiable. My advice to new writers is to ask that this requirement, if it’s in your contract, be stricken. And if they won’t, walk away.

There are probably a bunch of other things to consider, like your gut feeling, how much editing you can expect, how often they pay royalties. It’s probably enough for a book—if I could only find the right publisher.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

10 Ways to Rock on Social Media and Still Have a Life

Follow RickRReed on Twitter
Good advice from Penny Sansevieri, marketing guru and promotional whiz (see her complete bio at the bottom of this post):

It's true: social media is here--and there goes your life! Well, maybe not entirely but it sure seems that way sometimes, doesn't it? If you've held off joining the social media party because you were worried about what a time suck it would be, take heart! There are a lot of authors who feel the same way. I speak at conferences all the time and at almost every event I get at least a half a dozen people who insist they don't have time to devote to social media. Well, the fact remains you don't have time not to! But if you are still worried about the time commitment, let's take a look at how you can do this without dumping too much of your time into this effort. I mean an author's still gotta write, right?


When it comes to social media, understand this: sometimes more is not better; it's just more. You don't want to push yourself to too many sites because that can lead to fragmenting yourself too much online and, when you get fragmenting, you often get site abandonment. Meaning that you populate content on a (social media) site, only to forget it even exists.
1.     Skim: the first phase of online promotion is often reading. This can be anything from Twitter posts to Facebook updates, blog posts and online articles. Here's a tip: skim. You'll want to be very selective with anything that you feel is worthy of an in-depth read. Save your time for the real important stuff and skim the rest.
2.     Subscribe to RSS feeds, but only those you actually read: it's tempting to subscribe to a whole bunch of RSS blog feeds (just like it's tempting to get an email box full of newsletters but save yourself the hassle and only subscribe to content you can actually read). The same goes for people you follow on Twitter, if they don't add value, let them go. You don't need the noise.
3.     Keep a timer nearby: if you are allocating time each day to your online activities, it's safe to assume you'll go over time unless you really police yourself. Get a kitchen timer and keep it near your desk, when the buzzer goes off, stop!
4.     Automate whenever you can:  automating can be the key to your online happiness. When you have autoresponders or auto content generators in place they can save you scads of time. An easy and quick way to implement example of this might be your newsletter sign ups. There are a variety of systems, one of them via Constant Contact that will allow you to easily automate sign ups. Even if you have a giveaway for signing up, the system can handle this too!
5.     Consolidate your online presence: when you use sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Squidoo, you can really consolidate what you're doing online. Why? Because these three sites "talk" to one another, what that means is that if you update one, they all update.  Makes it easy, doesn't it? While you still should visit each of these to populate them with content, you can also plug your information into one source and have it update all your properties. The 'source' can actually be your blog too. Using a site called Twitterfeed can update your Twitter account each time you update your blog, and there are widgets in Facebook and Squidoo that will do the same.
6.     Get a routine: get yourself into a social media routine. You'll want to identify the best times of the day for you to blog, get active on Facebook, Twitter, etc., and then don't diverge from that. Stick to a schedule and a routine.
7.     Cross-pollinate your stuff: much like my section on consolidating, you'll want to also cross-pollinate your content. Syndicated online articles are a good example of that. You can link to these articles from a variety of places. Your Twitter account for one will really benefit from this content, and you can also upload it to Facebook and Squidoo.
8.     Do only essential things: you can waste a lot of your time online. By now you know that a million things can distract you; it's important to keep to the essentials. This means that you define what pushes your campaign forward and what doesn't. By doing this you will gain a better sense of where it's best to spend your time. For example, if blogging seems to get you a lot of new newsletter sign ups, continue doing it.
9.     Don't follow the leader: while there are a lot of folks out there telling you what to do (including moi), you want to do what's right for you and your campaign, not what's popular. Twitter, for example, might make no sense for you at all. So don't just follow advice because you trust the source. Listen, learn, then do what will have the biggest impact on your campaign.
10.  Create a plan: without a direction, any path will do. Make sure you have a plan for going online, don't just do it because it's "hip" or everyone else is. Make sure you spend some time creating a focused outline of what you'll do, what your goals are and what you need to attain to accomplish these goals. A plan will not only keep you focused, but also stay better on track with your marketing. A plan should include goals and a to do list so you make sure and sift through all the action items you need to create a rockin' online campaign.
These days, social media is a must for anyone promoting anything. But it doesn't have to mean that it's a time suck too. Keeping a social media presence also means managing it carefully. Know where to spend your time, what needs to be limited and where your efforts need to be expanded. Sometimes the quickest way to grow traction online is to isolate your efforts, while everyone is throwing it all "out there," you can create a focused plan that will not only gain you momentum, but readers as well. 
Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert and an Adjunct Instructor with NYU. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. She is the author of five books, including Book to Bestseller which has been called the “road map to publishing success.” AME is the first marketing and publicity firm to use Internet promotion to its full impact through The Virtual Author Tour, which strategically works with social networking sites, blogs, micro-blogs, ezines, video sites, and relevant sites to push an author’s message into the virtual community and connect with sites related to the book’s topic, positioning the author in his or her market. To learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services, you can visit her website at http://www.amarketingexpert.com. To subscribe to her free ezine, send a blank email to:  subscribe@amarketingexpert.com 
Copyright © 2010 Penny C. Sansevieri
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Saturday, September 11, 2010

New from MLR Press!

ManLove Romance Press, LLC
http://www.mlrpress.com



Title Home
Author William Neale
ISBN# 978-1-60820-212-6 (print) $14.99
  978-1-60820-213-3 (ebook) $6.99
Release Date August 2010
Cover Artist Deana C. Jamroz
Paperback: 211 pages


Available At: MlrBooks (ebook)
  Amazon (paperback)

Lucas Reed is a Cleveland advertising executive who returns to his southern hometown to deal with the sudden death of his estranged homophobic father. There, he unexpectedly encounters Rogan James, the former high school bully and now local deputy chief of police who had once made Lucas's life miserable.

Reacquainted 12 years later, the two finally acknowledge a long held powerful physical attraction that quickly evolves into an even stronger emotional connection
But all this becomes secondary when a local reporter's secret obsession for Rogan threatens not only the end of their newly found love, but their very lives.



Title
 
Cockeyed
Donald Strachey Mystery Series #11
Author Richard Stevenson
ISBN# 978-1-60820-096-2 (print)
  978-1-60820-097-9 (ebook)
Release Date August 2010
Cover Artist Deana C. Jamroz




Available At: MlrBooks (ebook)
  Amazon (paperback)
When Hunny 'You go, girl!' Van Horn, Albany's flaming-est working-class flamer, wins the state lottery's first billion-dollar payout, his chaotic life gets even messier. It's PI Don Strachey who's brought in to deal with the skeletons tumbling out of Hunny's non-closet, some violent. The eleventh Strachey novel is part mystery, part screwball comedy, and entirely serious in its exploration of the multiple ways of being gay in America.


Title
 
The Tomcat Line Series
Book One
Author Stevie Woods
ISBN# 978-1-60820-173-0 (print) $14.99
Release Date September 2010
Cover Artist Deana C. Jamroz
Paperback: 228 pages
Sexual Content: Rated Explicit
Available At: Amazon (paperback)


The continuing adventures of the trucker and his archaeologist as their lives become more involved and increasingly exciting!

The Hitch Hiker - When Mac, a driver with the Tomcat Freight Line, gives Ian a ride, he has no idea that the bookish archaeologist would lead him into an adventure that he never wants to end.
The Lost Temple -- When Ian plans an expedition to follow the clues and find the answer he has sought for years he is delighted that Mac insists on accompanying him. But Mac's past catches up with them first.



Title Shadows in Time
Author Laura Baumbach
ISBN# 978-1-60820-126-6 (ebook) $3.99
Release Date September 2010
Cover Artist Alex Beecroft
Paperback: 68 pages
Sexual Content: Rated Explicit
Available At: MlrBooks (ebook)
Shadows in Time by Laura Baumbach: Trying to avoid ruin and disgrace, young naive Neal Clifton, wealthy heir to a sizable Boston family fortune faces the illicit and dangerous complication of his first affair with man--a scheming, unscrupulous man with influence and power that reaches beyond the grave. Neal vows to never give into his own unnatural desires again but finds his only hope for escape in the hands (and arms) of stoic silversmith, Peter Wade.

This story is part of the print anthology THE MYSTERIOUS.
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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Gay Teen Suicide: Three in One Year, In the Same School District

Got this disturbing letter from Change.Org. What disturbed me was that, once upon a time, I'd been there myself...and how ignorant people might not realize how much their hatred and intolerance can harm.

Dear Rick,

One suicide is one too many.

But three suicides in one year, within one school district, all by students who are gay or lesbian? That's nothing short of an epidemic, and it's the problem currently facing Minnesota's Anoka-Hennepin school district.

The most recent incident occurred in July, when a 15-year-old student took his own life. A concert cello player in his school's orchestra, the student was incessantly bullied because of his sexual orientation.

"I'm not asking you to accept this as a lifestyle for you," his grieving mother recently said in testimony before the Anoka-Hennepin school board. "I'm only asking that you please make the school safe for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students still alive and in this district today."

Statistics underscore the danger to LGBT students. Nationwide, gay youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual classmates, in large part because of toxic environments where anti-gay bullying can thrive. Nearly 90% of gay students have experienced harassment in school, and almost two-thirds say they feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Yet in the Anoka-Hennepin school district, a "neutrality" policy has tied the hands of school administrators and teachers to combat homophobia. This policy was put in place due to the influence of anti-gay groups such as the Parents Action League, which believes homosexuality is a behavior that can be cured, and it requires teachers and school officials to remain silent about subjects pertaining to sexual orientation.

Because of this anti-gay influence, the school board turned down a request by Minnesota's largest gay rights organization to conduct a district-wide anti-bullying program. And it prevented the district from taking action against two teachers who harassed a student believed to be gay until an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights intervened and punished the teachers.

Stopping the harassment of people based on their sexual orientation shouldn't be a liberal or conservative issue. It's a humanitarian issue, and can literally be a matter of life and death.

The only way to fight the suicide trend in the Anoka-Hennepin school district is by changing the climate in the district. Call on the Anoka-Hennepin school board to stop ignoring the problem and end the policy that prevents school officials from effectively dealing with anti-gay bullying.

Suicide doesn't occur in a vacuum. As we commemorate National Suicide Prevention Week this week, let us remember that we all have influence over the environment in which harassment thrives. If we sit idly by and do nothing, we're part of the problem.
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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Crime Scene Now Available

I'm excited to announce the release of my latest publication, "Crime Scene" from Untreed Reads Publishing. The psychological thriller is an e-book short (only about 4,000 words) and can be read in one sitting...

...but may stay with you for long after.

The publisher synopsizes "Crime Scene" this way:

"After discovering a photograph in a book of a little girl killed by her own mother, a woman becomes preoccupied wondering how anyone could kill their own child. One hot summer day the answer becomes all too violently clear...."

I wrote "Crime Scene" when I ran across a book of very disturbing and explicit crime scene photographs in a bookstore many years ago in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood. I bought the book, which shows you how twisted my twisted interests are. But there was one image that I simply could not get out of my head: that of a strangled little girl. It gave my nightmares. It broke my heart. To this day, I can still see that stark and horrible image in my mind's eye, even though it's been many years since I actually held the book in my hands.

This brain imprinting was what I had in mind when I started writing "Crime Scene." In the story, I wanted to show how something as simple as a photograph can leave a lasting, indelible impression and how that impression can create a yearning to put things right again.

"Crime Scene" has no ghosts or vampires or paranormal beasties. But, as a horror writer, I think I number it among my most horrific--and, in a way, redemptive--works.

I hope you'll check it out.

Here's a short excerpt:

She wished she had never picked up the book in the first place. Wished she had never gone into the bookstore and lifted it from its shelf. But there was the morbid curiosity thing: that stopping to look at accidents on the highway compulsion from which we all suffer.

The book was a collection of crime scene photographs, with notes from a New York homicide detective, who was now retired. These actual scenes of death had no glamorous patina that some thriller movie would give them. The blood was real; the suicide victims with their heads blown off real; the burned bodies real; the executions real--clinical in black and white; sad demises recorded without one whit of sentimentality or sympathy. It made her realize that death was just as mundane, and ugly, as eating a piece of cabbage or taking a shit.

And then she came to the little girl. Oh God, she wondered, hand trembling, match's flame wavering as she brought it to the tip of her cigarette. Oh God, why did I have to turn the page? Why did I have to see that photograph?

It was just one of many. There among the murders, the decapitations, the lovers' quarrels that had ended in a way that ensured no one would ever love again. All of these were shocking, she could give them that much, but they were so outrageous, with all the blood, the grim display of brain and other interior matter, that they managed to keep her at a distance. She couldn't get emotionally involved.

But then she came to that page.

That one photograph had burned itself indelibly into the soft pink tissue of her brain. A kind of branding. As much as she would try, she knew she could never forget it. Almost of its own will, the photograph would rise up in memory, painstakingly detailed, as if she were doomed to open the book again and again to that same page, reliving the nausea for the rest of her life.

You can purchase your copy of "Crime Scene" directly from the Untreed Read's bookstore or purchase an Amazon Kindle version here.


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Monday, September 6, 2010

EW Poll: The Scariest Films of the Past Decade

I have always been a sucker for horror movies. Good horror movies. They can be pretty hard to find.

That's why I was excited when I saw this poll and its results in Entertainment Weekly magazine this week. I have seen all the films on the list and actually pretty much concur with the findings, although I would put The Strangers at the top of the list. That film creeped me out big time, and I'm pretty jaded when it comes to horror. I was also disappointed that Audition, a Japanese horror movie that I would say was the most disturbing film I've ever seen and that's saying a lot. But then I looked it up and saw that it had been released just over ten years ago, so wouldn't qualify. There was one, though, that I was disappointed not to see on the list: Let the Right One In. I really, really loved that one, but it's probably pretty low on the public's radar to make a mass poll like the one below.

Anyway, here are the results of EW's poll regarding the scariest films of the last decade:

The Orphanage (4%)
Saw (6%)
28 Days Later (12%)
The Strangers (12%)
The Descent (14%)
Paranormal Activity (18%)
and...
The Ring (27%)

Really, The Ring was the scariest? I liked it okay, but would hardly put it at the top of the list. If I were to reorder the list, I would put it in the following order, from scariest to least scariest:

The Strangers
Paranormal Activity
28 Days Later
Saw
The Descent
The Ring
The Orphanage

The last entry on my list was an excellent film, but more heartrending than scary.

What's your scariest movie of the last decade?

 

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Two Free Horror Novels for Your Kindle

In my continuing quest to bring you free notable books for your Kindle, I'm blogging today about two free horror novels from the Leisure Books. One is from incomparable horror author Brian Keene and the other is from Colleen Thompson who has a whole series of suspense novels that I haven't delved into yet, but that look really worthwhile. The price for these books right now at Amazon is a big fat zero. But hurry...these books often revert back to their full price with no warning. 

Use the link at right to subscribe to my blog so you don't miss out on these free offers for Kindle, which I will post regularly.

Darkness on the Edge of Town by Brian Keene

One morning the residents of Walden, Virginia, woke to find themselves cut off from the rest of the world by an impenetrable wall of darkness.

Triple Exposure by Colleen Thompson
From Publishers Weekly
Thompson (The Salt Maiden) packs this well-paced thriller full of twists and the local color of a small Texas town. Photographer Rachel Copeland has been formally acquitted of the murder of Kyle Underwood, a young man who stalked her, but she remains disgraced in her adopted Philadelphia community, where many still believe she seduced and killed him. Rumors and harassment follow Rachel as she flees to her hometown of Marfa, Texas, where she butts heads with her stepmother, Patsy, and other locals. One of the few people willing to support Rachel is Zeke Pike, a woodcarver with a secret of his own, and they soon wrestle with romantic feelings for each other as mysterious stalkers threaten and try to separate them. Thompson's supporting characters and their tensions are believable, especially Patsy with her multilayered jealousy and unhappiness. The red herrings are exquisitely placed, and the climax will surprise even the most jaded of suspense readers. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Win a FREE Copy of My New Collection ON THE EDGE

The contest is now closed. The two winners are Jason and Lupa. Congratulations to you both and happy reading. I have sent you e-mails to work out the details.

On the Edge is my collection of gay romantic erotica, stories that had been previously published only as e-books. Now they're available for the print readers among you, in this lovely paperback edition (I think that cover is amazing!).

Anyway, you're saying: "get to the free part, stupid. That's what I'm here for." Okay. The rules are easy to follow:

1. Subscribe to this blog by clicking on the link at the right.
2. Leave a comment below. Very important: give me an e-mail address where I can contact you, should you win.
3. Share news about this contest via Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Your blog, your e-mail...help me get the word out. You can also use the handy "share" button at the bottom of this post to do the above.

That's it. I will announce not one, but two, winners tomorrow. There, your odds have just doubled, so what are you waiting for? The fine print: contest is available only to those living in the US (sorry, but postal rates to foreign lands is prohibitive).

Here's a bit about the book:

In Rick R. Reed's haunting, mesmerizing, suspenseful, and romantic world, his gay male characters live on the edge, often literally as well as figuratively. In this new collection, you'll take a wild ride with some of literature's most unforgettable characters. Along the way, you'll be moved--to tears, to laughter, to uneasiness, and sometimes, to arousal. As Bette Davis once said, 'Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night.' Previously available only in electronic format, these eight stories of Gay Erotica and Romance have now been combined for a paperback edition! Included are the tales:

Superstar (A story about promises made, promises broken, and dreams unfulfilled. Yet ultimately, it's about realizing that love can come along when one least expects it--and in the unlikeliest of places.)
Through The Closet Door (A tale that brings to painful life the consequences of coming out of the closet when you're married. Gregory's mask is slipping, pulled down by the allure of a handsome neighbor and the demands of a desire that only gets louder the more he tries to quiet it.)
Riding The El At Midnight (When the gorgeous and twisted Mark boards a northbound el train, he is looking for love in all the wrong places. Finding Julio aboard that same train, Mark thinks, is the answer to his dreams. But are his dreams nightmares?)
Fugue (Slip into the dungeon playroom of a master and his boy. But in the boy's mind, a dream state takes him places the master could not imagine...places where the established order turns upside down.)
Incubus (Two men, one predator, and a violent crime equal a journey into hellish nightmare territory. This tale merges horror with a tragic love story and the result is...chilling.)
Man-Amorphosis ('I awoke one morning from uneasy dreams to find my penis had transformed itself into a vagina...' Thus begins the story of a very unusual day.)
No Place Like Home (Trannies and Psychos and Bears...oh my! Burl discovers--in a hilariously bizarre quest--that there really is no place like home.)
Pottery Peter (One long hot summer. Three gorgeous men. And a burning triangle set down in the middle of a factory filled with sweaty men with bulging biceps.)

Good luck! And if you can't wait for the contest you can buy your own copy of On the Edge here.
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