Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

It's the spookiest time of the year and my favorite holiday, all rolled into one. In honor of All Saints' Eve, I'd like to share what I think are my top three titles for the holiday--we're talking vampires, werewolves, and ghosts. It would be a real treat for me if you'd pick one, or all three, up in honor of the day.

In the Blood
What Would You Give Up for Immortal Life and Love?
By day, Elise draws and paints, spilling out the horrific visions of her tortured mind. By night, she walks the streets, selling her body to the highest bidder.
And then they come into her life: a trio of impossibly beautiful vampires: Terence, Maria, and Edward. When they encounter Elise, they set an explosive triangle in motion. Terence wants to drain her blood. Maria just wants Elise . . . as lover and partner through eternity. And Edward, the most recently-converted, wants to prevent her from making the same mistake he made as a young abstract expressionist artist in 1950s Greenwich Village: sacrificing his artistic vision for immortal life. He is the only one of them still human enough to realize what an unholy trade this is.

In the Blood is a novel that will grip you in a vise of suspense that won't let go, forcing you to stay up long past midnight, turning page after page, until the very last moment, when a surprising turn of events changes everything and demonstrates, truly, what love and sacrifice are all about.

The Blue Moon Cafe 
Someone--or something--is killing Seattle's gay men.
A creature moves through the darkest night, lit only by the full moon, taking them, one by one, from the rain city's gay gathering areas.

Someone--or something--is falling in love with Thad Matthews.
Against a backdrop of horror and fear, young Thad finds his first true love in the most unlikely of places--a new Italian restaurant called The Blue Moon Cafe. Sam is everything Thad has ever dreamed of in a man: compassionate, giving, handsome, and with brown eyes Thad feels he could sink into. And Sam can cook! But as the pair's love begins to grow, so do the questions and uncertainties, the main one being, why do Sam's unexplained disappearances always coincide with the full moon? Prepare yourself for a unique blend of dark suspense and erotic romance with The Blue Moon Cafe, written by the author Unzipped magazine called, 'the Stephen King of gay horror.' You're guaranteed an unforgettable reading experience, one that skillfully blends the hottest romance with the most chilling terror...

A Demon Inside
Hunter Beaumont doesn't understand his grandmother's deathbed wish: "Destroy Beaumont House." He'd never even heard of the place. But after his grandmother passes and his first love betrays him, the family house in the Wisconsin woods looks like a tempting refuge. Going against his grandmother's wishes, Hunter flees to Beaumont House.

But will the house be the sanctuary he had hoped for? Soon after moving in, Hunter realizes he may not be alone. And with whom--or what--he shares the house may plunge him into a nightmare from which he may never escape. Sparks fly when he meets his handsome neighbor, a caretaker for the estate next door, but is the man his salvation...or is he the source of Hunter's terror?
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Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Homosexual in America circa 1965

I ran across this interesting essay about homosexuality, published in TIME magazine in 1965. Some of its insights are, well, jaw-dropping. Jaw-dropping both because of the backward ideas held in that time not so long ago, but also because there is a certain "tea party" minority I can see nodding along to the essay's conclusions even today.

It closes with this tidy, little summary:

"It is a pathetic little second-rate substitute for reality, a pitiable flight from life. As such it deserves fairness, compassion, understanding and, when possible, treatment. But it deserves no encouragement, no glamorization, no rationalization, no fake status as minority martyrdom, no sophistry about simple differences in taste—and, above all, no pretense that it is anything but a pernicious sickness."

Read the full essay.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Two of My Books are 2011 EPIC eBook Awards Competition Finalists!

I just got word last night that two of my novels have been named as finalists in the 2011 EPIC eBook Awards Competition™.  This is a great honor and I'm absolutely thrilled. Winners will be announced at next year's EPICON in Williamsburg,VA in March.

The two finalist books are:

The Blue Moon Cafe, my homophobic werewolf story set on the rainy streets of Seattle is a finalist in the horror/erotic romance category. The book was published by Amber Allure, the GLBT imprint of Amber Quill Press.

Mute Witness, my controversial child-abduction thriller has made finalist in the mystery and suspense category. The book was published by MLR Press.

The EPIC eBook Awards have been held annually since 2000, honoring distinctive works published in electronic format.

Both of my finalists are available in both paperback and ebook formats. Read reviews, an excerpt, and maybe buy your own copy of The Blue Moon Cafe here and Mute Witness here.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bishop Kicks Gay Catholic Group Out of Church

So it's Sunday morning and I wake up to this news: "San Antonio Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Cantu, who ordered a local parish to stop hosting a weekly Mass for gay and transgender Catholics and their families. The letter, dated October 13, 2010, ordered the liturgies to end as of October 18, 2010." 

As reported in the publication DignityUSA, the bishop most likely believes he is upholding the church's teachings. Instead, he is casting out LGBT singles, couples, and families (some with children) who have used the church as their spiritual home for more than 15 years.

This is Christian?

The article goes on to quote Fred Anthony Garza, who was a member of the ousted church group, who says: "Our community was shocked to arrive for Mass and discover this was the last time we could meet at the parish that has been our home for more than 15 years. It's like being kicked out of our home. We are all very sad. It's especially sad for the members of our community who have children, who could not find Catholic parishes who would baptize or provide First Communion for them. Those children have grown up in our community, and can't understand why their family cannot go to Mass here anymore."

This is Christian?
I'm posting this now because, as I said at the start, it's Sunday morning. For me, raised in a staunch Italian/Catholic family, Sunday mornings once meant getting ready to go to mass, to share in communion, to smell the scent of incense, to watch the priest lift the host high and say, "Take this, all of you, and eat it, for this is my body..."

If it sounds like I'm a little nostalgic for those Sunday mornings, you'd be right. I miss the traditions and the beauty of a Catholic mass, but it's been many years since I've felt welcome in a Catholic church, precisely because of human elements like Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Cantu.

I feel sorry for my LGBT brothers and sisters who wanted to stick with the Catholic church and to be excluded like they have been is, sadly, not shocking, but revolting.

I just don't know how that bishop can honestly answer that often bandied question: "What would Jesus do?" with "Throw 'em out!" and believe he's answering it truthfully.

Shame on you, Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Cantu! And thank you to the Beacon Hill Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, who has opened their arms to the group.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My review: DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN by Brian Keene

I review horror for Dark Scribe magazine. This month, I've reviewed Brian Keene's Darkness on the Edge of Town. In part, I say:

"The dark is one of our greatest human fears, with us from as far back as most of us can remember. To imagine a world where a thick wall of darkness has surrounded it, cutting off rain, wind, electricity, and other humanity beyond the confines of our one small town is some genuinely creepy fodder for spine-tingling horror. What lurks in the darkness? What if the darkness were a real thing? A force, evil and unconquerable?"

Read the complete review here.


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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Social Networking Advice from Marketing Guru Penny Sansevieri

This advice was too good not to share...

These days, you can't go into a coffee shop, bookstore, or turn on your television without hearing about social networks like Facebook, and Squidoo. These sites have exploded in recent years with members and an influx of money that's kept them growing.

The idea behind social networks isn't a new thing, but the concept of socializing online developed and morphed as more and more people spent time in front of their computers. The idea being that you could socialize, network, gather, communicate and meet friends in an online venue, rather than, let's say a coffee shop. Years ago, before social networks, we met people in clubs, organizations, bowling leagues. We may not have had "profiles" like we do on these social networking sites but the concept was still the same: like attracts like and similar interest-based people gathered in places that supported these common interests.

As we continue to delve into this Web 2.0 world, you'll start to see more niche social networking sites like those built for wine lovers, car lovers, and book lovers. The more focused a site can get, the more the network expands. And how many sites should you be on? As many as are appropriate to your message and you have time to manage. If you've got a book about cars then by all means, join the car lover's network. Got a book about travel? There's a travel lover's social network as well (we've listed a few of these niche networks further in this article).

Social networks, also referred to as social media, are places where people can join and become members of an online community. And why does this matter? Well, for a few reasons. First off, consider the Internet one big networking party. As such, you really want to participate, right? So you show up at the networking party (in this case Facebook or Squidoo) and you network. Meaning you connect with others who are interested in what you are doing. And much like a real-time networking event, you give first and ask for the sale later. In fact, in most cases you don't even ask for it. If you give enough, eventually you'll make the sale.

People join social networks for a variety of reasons: to socialize, share and/or self-promote. The one caveat to this is that social networks are not receptive to marketing messages or sales hype, but those sitting on these sites are looking for answers and advice. In fact your presence on a social networking site should be 80 percent education and 20 percent sales. Users on social networking sites want friends, mentors, experts and guidance. If you can offer this to a social networking site or sites, you can certainly grow your list.

The Right Way to Approach a Social Networking Site

There's an old saying that goes: fake it till you make it. This is not true of social networking. You can't fake anything. The best sites are those with an authentic voice. Social network members can sense an individual who is pretending to be just an "average Joe," but is really just looking for a quick sale. The worst thing you can do is constantly promote your book.

Users join social media sites to socialize, learn and get to know what you're offering. Be helpful or be gone. That's the motto of the social networks. Remember that social media (much like anything on the Internet) is a trust-based model. You gain trust by helping, advising, educating, or enlightening your readers. Seth Godin, who started one of the best social networking sites out there today (Squidoo.com), is a great example of what to do when promoting yourself. He offers helpful advice, tips and insights but rarely promotes his book. Does he sell books? You bet he does, but he's helpful first, and a sales person second (sethgodin.typepad.com). The point is, gain someone's trust and you'll probably gain a sale, too.

Tips for Social Networking Sites

The first piece of this is to figure out what your message will be online. If you're going to expose details of your brand, book, business, or life, figure out what you want to expose or, I should say, what's necessary to expose in order to get your message across. This is important because once you start branding yourself on the 'Net via social networks, you want to be consistent.

Next, remember that the first word in social networks is "social," that being said, these networks only work if you interact with them. Whenever appropriate (and this will vary from network to network), join groups, be sociable, be interactive. Participate. You can't just show up at a party and sit in the corner. Well, you can, but you probably won't get asked back.

If you can spend a half an hour to an hour or so a day on your networks, that's great. Don't overdo the time you spend on them or you'll burn yourself out. If you can use the social network feeds to have them syndicate your blog to the site, the updating of your social networking page will be done for you. To a greater degree, anyway. You'll still want to get in there and tinker, update content, add friends, etc.

Fan Pages and Facebook

Since Facebook is the dominating force out there, let's talk for a moment about Fan Pages. Why would you want one? Well first off, you're in the business of marketing and as such, Fan Pages are business pages, so you'll really want to consider pulling your book followers off of your profile and sending them to your Fan Page. Also, Fan Pages are indexed and searched by Google so you'll get great ranking with a Fan Page, more so than you would with a Profile.

Fan Pages, once you know your focus and message, are easy to create and update. You just want to stay on message and know what your followers want.

Tips for Effective Social Networking

Leverage other social media: If you have a strong presence on another social networking site like Twitter or YouTube, then I recommend that you use that to promote your Facebook Fan Page. Let folks know where to find you and never, ever forget to add "Follow Me" buttons to your website pages and your blog.

Tagging: You can drive more interest to your page by tagging an author or a popular Facebook page to a status update, photo, or video. It's easy to do this in Facebook, you can also tag an article that a high profile member ran on their page.

Step outside of your social circle: Try getting away from your inner circle and migrating out to other people who might be good networking opportunities. While it's fun to stay connected to all your college buddies, that's not the main focus of your Facebook page.

Selling on Facebook: Facebook now has an application that can add a Store page to your Facebook Fan Page. What this means is that you can start selling your books and products from your Fan Page.

Slow and steady wins the social media race: The best Facebook pages (and this is true for any social networking site) are built over time. Slow growth is best when it comes to social networking sites, so don't force a sudden surge of growth. This will also keep you from getting booted off if you add friends too quickly. Facebook watches for people who are adding hundreds of friends at a time and will lock your page if they think you're over-promoting yourself.

Don't be shy: The purpose of Facebook is to connect and interact with other members, so don't be shy! Interact with people on your friend list by commenting on their news, and pictures, and/or wishing them a happy birthday. Doing all these things will help others to get to know who you actually are instead of just knowing your name.

Content, content, content: Remember that it's important to add content. You can do this by uploading a video, adding the RSS feed from your blog, and a variety of other things.

Keep updating your Page or Profile: Don't let your profile get stale. Update your status, add photos, and answer wall messages and emails.

Add your Facebook page to your blog: Make sure and add your Facebook page to your blog. You can have your web person take care of this for you; it's a simple widget that gets added to let people know you have a Facebook profile.

Social media is a great way to market yourself and your book. When Facebook is integrated with other social networking platforms like Twitter, YouTube, and Squidoo, it can be an enormous boon to your inbound marketing campaign. Just remember, your website needs to convert the folks you're sending there. Next time we'll talk websites, so stay tuned!

Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques. http://www.amarketingexpert.com
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

FREE for Your Kindle: GIRLS LIKE US--Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon and the Journey of a Generation

I grew up listening to these women. In fact, Tapestry was my first album (yes, vinyl) ever and I still know every word to every song on that disc.

From Publishers Weekly
The epic story of three generational icons, this triple biography from author and Glamour senior editor Weller (Dancing at Ciro’s) examines the careers of singer-songwriters Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon, whose success reflected, enervated and shaped the feminist movement that grew up with them. After short sketches of their early years, Weller begins in earnest with the 1960s, switching off among the women as their public lives begin. A time of extremes, the 60s found folk music and feminist cultures just beginning to define themselves, while the buttoned-down mainstream was still treating unwed pregnant women, in Mitchell’s terms, like you murdered somebody (thus the big, traditional wedding thrown for King, pregnant by songwriting partner Gerry Goffin, in 1959). Pioneering success in the music business led inevitably to similar roles in women’s movement, but Weller doesn’t overlook the content of their songs and the effect they have on a generation of women facing a lot more choice, but with no one to guide them. Taking readers in-depth through the late 80s, Weller brings the story up to date with a short but satisfying roundup. A must-read for any fan of these artists, this bio will prove an absorbing, eye-opening tour of rock (and American) history for anyone who’s appreciated a female musician in the past thirty years. B&W photos.


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Monday, October 11, 2010

Thursday, October 7, 2010

It Gets Better

The rash of teen suicides and the media focus on bullying has made me sit back and relive some very painful memories, memories I thought I had tucked away for good, scars I thought that had healed over.

But those memories of bullying, depression, and longing to be "just like everyone else" have always been there, lurking just beneath the surface. The focus on gay teens taking their own lives and bullies doing things like breaking the arm of another boy because he dared to want to be a cheerleader bring them all to the surface.

I was one of those bullied kids. In grade school, I was the sissy, the one who didn't play sports, who walked his baby sister around the neighborhood in a stroller, who preferred the quiet, gentle company of girls to boys. I was the little boy who stayed inside, reading, while my parents exhorted me to go outside. They even put up a basketball hoop on the garage in the hopes it would make me more like other boys. My father was the only one who used it.

In the school cafeteria one time, one mean girl went around the table, pointing out all the people who were in her class the year before. "I was in Mrs. Kincaid's class with him, and him, and him, and her, and him...and her," she said at last, pointing at me.

Everybody laughed.

In sixth grade, a pudgy boy made me his after-lunch sport and would make it his business to get in line as we went back to our classrooms, where he could punch me and body slam me against the wall. I remember praying in my bedroom for him to stop. God must have not been listening those nights.

As I grew up, the taunts went from sissy to queer and faggot. It was all okay; I was able to leave that identity behind once and for all when I went away to college, where no one knew me from my past life.

But the scars remained. They made me painfully shy and introverted. I think I was afraid if I spoke up too much or made my presence known too well, people would catch on that I was "different" and the teasing and bullying would start up again, only in more sophisticated ways, like alienating me.

I'm not writing this in the hopes that people will feel sorry for me. I don't want your pity.

I want you--and especially if you're a little different kind of kid as I was--to understand that it does get better.

It may not get better right away from outside.

It has to get better from inside. It took me thirty years and more heartache than you can imagine to say to myself that I was tired of fighting and exhausted from pretending to be someone I was not. It was terrifying to lay down the shield and the sword and come out, fearful of those childhood reprisals rising up once more, but I did. I had to. I couldn't go on living a lie--that would have been suicide in either a literal or figurative sense.

And once I was finally able to be okay with being different, with being me, with all my quirks, good and bad...it did get better.

I could at last say, "You have trouble accepting me? You think I'm (fill in the blank)? Well, that's your problem, not mine."

Because once you come to love yourself for who you are, once you realize you are not a "mistake" and that you are not a product of what someone tells you you should be, it gets better.


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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

FREE for Your Kindle: BLUE BOY


This sounds like an absolutely charming read. Pick it up fast...these books usually don't stay at this price point for long.

From Publishers Weekly
Satyal's lovely coming-of-age debut charts an Indian-American boy's transformation from mere mortal to Krishnaji, the blue-skinned Hindu deity. Twelve-year-old Kiran Sharma's a bit of an outcast: he likes ballet and playing with his mother's makeup. He also reveres his Indian heritage and convinces himself that the reason he's having trouble fitting in is because he's actually the 10th reincarnation of Krishnaji. He plans to come out to the world at the 1992 Martin Van Buren Elementary School talent show, and much of the book revels in his comical preparations as he creates his costume, plays the flute and practices his dance moves to a Whitney Houston song. But as the performance approaches, something strange happens: Kiran's skin begins to turn blue. Satyal writes with a graceful ease, finding new humor in common awkward pre-teen moments and giving readers a delightful and lively young protagonist. (May)
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Friday, October 1, 2010

My First Queer Book

For those of you who don't know, each week Lambda Literary does a little feature called "My First Queer Book" and this week it's me answering the question. So what was my first queer book? You'll have to check out the post to find out!

http://tinyurl.com/298t8y8

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