Saturday, December 31, 2016

Call and Irresponsibility: Online Censorship and Attacks on Gay Authors

As we dive butt-first into a new year, I was going to repost one of the lovely retro New Year's Eve scenes from my past two books, Every Time I Think of You and Message of Love

But you'll have to check my older posts, or read the books themselves, to enjoy those. It's not that I'm being cautious, but more justifiably outraged by the level of Orwellian idiocy now taking place when authors dare to share their political views.

The simple act of publishing one's thoughts and opinions these days has taken on an absurd level of what I term 'call and irresponsibility.'

Author Kevin Sessums achieved headline news when his post critiquing Trump supporters was only hours later deleted, and his use of Facebook withheld by the bot-like underlings of the social media behemoth.

An excerpt of Sessums comments:
“Matthew Dowd who holds Trump and his followers to the standards of any other politician and hers. But as those who do hold Trump to the standards of any other person have found out on Twitter and other social media outlets these Trump followers are a nasty fascistic lot. Dowd is lucky he didn’t get death threats like Kurt Eichenwald. Or maybe he did and refuses to acknowledge them. If you voted for Trump and continue to support him and you think you are better than these bigoted virulent trolls, you’re not. Your silence enables them just as it did in the racist campaign that Trump and Bannon ran. In fact, hiding behind a civilized veneer in your support of fascism I consider more dangerous. We’re past describing you as collaborators at this point. That lets you off the hook. You’re Russo-American oligarchical theocratic fascists.”

Saturday, December 10, 2016

I Know Where I've Been: Finding Inspiration in Difficult Times

How do we find inspiration to make art in difficult times? What kind of art should we make when our lives are being disrupted by the most absurd and clearly corrupt election in decades? What should be our response?

It's been raining nearly every day and night here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I've not gone out as much as I usually do, and turning it all off to watch a movie or read a book has become a sort of conscious avoidance.

Usually, rainy days and nights are a great inspiration to stay in and be creative. I did some of that; sorted, filed and photographed all of my visual art (yes, I do that, too), refiled manuscripts and research files, and even converted a few old VHS tapes of my dance and performance works to DVDs.

But doing administrative work is not creating work. And as the rain continues, despite the ecologic good it's doing for our drought-ridden state, the rain feeds my sense of dread.

One of the many attempts to 'keep hope alive' phrases written by my fellow artists and gay activists goes along the lines of 'We survived Reagan and Bush. We will survive this."

Well, actually, many didn't survive. Unlike millions of stupid Trump voters (and 'protest voters' for Jill Stein or the absurdly inane Gary Johnson), I remember where we've been. 

Hundreds of thousands died of AIDS under Reagan and Bush 1's regimes, and thousands of U.S. military and more than a million Iraqis died under Bush II's illicit regime, including those lost on 9/11, due to Bush/Cheney's negligence (or culpability). So I don't really feel that gung ho spirit that others espouse.

Eric Arvin
In other sad news, on top of all the talented celebrities dying this year, one of my author colleagues, Eric Arvin, who has been bed-ridden and incapacitated after a brain injury, is basically about to die, since his latest round of medications are not working. 

Arvin's books have been a great inspiration. I reviewed a few, and he blurbed my Lambda Literary Award winner Every Time I Think of You five years ago.

While it's true that loss, and pain, and repressive politics have of course inspired many authors, it's not so easy to create while you're experiencing it.

We're in a very fragile state right now. As quoted in a LitHub article with 22 authors discussing Trump (before the election), writer George Saunders says, "I’ve never before imagined America as fragile, as an experiment that could, within my very lifetime, fail. But I imagine it that way now."


Author John Irving, wrote, "I don’t take what Trump says seriously, but I am seriously worried about the number of people who are as angry, as ignorant, as misinformed or shallowly informed as he is."

As I wrote before, I was rather declarative about distancing myself from such people as potential readers. A few have popped up, with poorly written critiques of a few of my books, each one glaringly ignorant of my work and its themes, purpose and style.

So, are we now supposed to placate such Deporables in the arts? Will Chachi and Chuck Norris make a comeback? Will Ted Nugent play at the Inauguration?


Monday, November 21, 2016

Artists on the Frontlines

People are comparing our situation through less than subtle artistic interpretations this week, from revamped comics to musicals. And music acts are singing their sympathies for those horrified by the new regime.

Who hasn't recently re-shared  famous "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" from Cabaret? Some are recommending dystopian classics like The Handmaid's Tale, no longer a cautionary tale, but an accurate prediction.

Perhaps you watched, or refused to watch them, because it's happening in real life, which perhaps relegates musical theatre metaphors of fascism to the redundant file.

Or, more more immediately, you hopefully watched the zillion-shared video of Victor Dixon, on behalf of the cast of Hamilton addressing the retreating VP-elect Pence, who had been booed during his attendance of the hit musical about, ironically, a lefty radical vice-president. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Politics in the Pages

I once served Donald Trump dinner while a cater waiter in the 1980s, at The Frick Mansion, I recall, and in retrospect, it was the lowest day of my employed life. He didn't even clean his plate; total loser.

The arrogant, bigoted, serial adulterer and now-Republican presidential candidate –update: President-elect– was at the time one of New York City's many bloated egos of metropolitan life, and a mere casual mention in my second novel, Monkey Suits. The book's main nemesis, as covered in a previous post, was a hybrid of closeted millionaire Malcolm Forbes and sinister writer and homophobe William F. Buckley, Jr.

Trump was just a sidebar, a boldface in the gossipy style of that book. I never could have imagined that we'd get to where we are today, mere hours from a presidential election where Hillary Clinton, a woman with decades of political experience, (update) won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College, against Trump, a bankrupt (financially and morally), bloviating serial lying asshole of preposterous proportions.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Forty Wild Crushes: "I love this book."

Forty Wild Crushes won a 2016 Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention! Here are two mini-reviews from the anonymous judges:

"It is so easy to read, sympathize with, laugh with and at times laugh at, yet still admire the author-narrator of these 16 very varied stories that I wasn't aware until I was done with the book how beautifully linked they are and what a many-faceted jewel it is. Has any one made a funeral more human or funny? Has any one ever had a cult-movie crush like this?"

"I love this book. He writes beautifully. Draws characters beautifully. Has a strong mastery of narrative. I want to read more of him."

http://reviews-and-ramblings.dreamwidth.org/4836791.html

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Judging a Book by its Cover: Rainbow Awards' best...and some others that aren't

The book cover for my new short story collection, Forty Wild Crushes, is among the many, many candidates for the Rainbow Awards annual competition. Please vote for mine, which features an original painting by Kenney Mencher, a Palo Alto-based artist.

The contest is run by the prolific blogger, book reviewer and author Eliza Rolle. Her books include the encyclopedic yet totally readable Days of Love, which chronicles the lives of hundreds of LGBT couples though history.

Along with reviewing many books, (including a few of mine), Rolle also runs the annual multi-category Rainbow Awards, which generates a lot of attention for the many LGBT-themed books published each year.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Medals or Bullets: possible fates in fiction vs. reality

While many readers of my last two novels have asked for a third companion piece about the later lives of Reid Conniff and Everett Forrester, I have yet to write so much as a sentence of such a project. But with historic and contemporary events reflecting what could be parts of their lives, the ideas keep forming like distant clouds. And by noticing current events, the fate disabled character Everett could be become one of either athletic glory or fatality from the end of a police gun.


First the Paralympics return, following the Rio, Brazil Olympics. Already, controversies have begun.
 
The Brazilian edition of Vogue magazine published photos of two soap opera stars that had been Photoshopped to make them look like amputees.

In ads for the Rio Paralympics, able-bodied models were hired, and then their limbs were Photoshopped to make them resemble amputees. This MetroNews article explains.  


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Rio Olympics - Gay Dismissal & Hetero Privilege in Athletics Media

With many expected controversies at the 2016 Rio Olympics, now underway, and nearly 50 competitors being openly gay, lesbian and transgender, I longed for the days when I penned my weekly Sports Complex column, first locally in the Bay Area Reporter, then syndicated for the last three of its ten years. Consider this an emeritus column.

First, we have the city itself, which was massively unprepared for the thousands of visiting athletes and fans. Not only were dormitories documented as having broken toilets and sinks, the outdoor waterways used for competition remain a filthy pollution-strewn mess. One kayaker got knocked over in the water after running into a floating sofa.

Nevertheless, the glamour of Opening Ceremonies became the focus, not the massive poverty just blocks outside the arena. And as anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account knows, Tongan flag-bearer and Taikwondo athlete Pita Taufatofua wowed the world with his handsome shirtless oiled-up chest, flirty eyebrow nudge, and traditional skirted garb.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Comedy Salon @ Spark Arts

Enjoy stand-up comedy, and a comedic reading from yours truly, at the premiere of Marga Gomez' 'Comedy Salon,' at Sparks Arts in San Francisco's Castro district.

Hop a bar or three before or after, and enjoy the talents of Natasha Muse, Karinda Dobbins and me, with host Marga Gomez.

 Tuesday, July 26. 8pm. Spark Arts, 4229 18th St.  Gomez recently performed a version of her hit show Pound at the intimate gallery, where art shows open each month.

Here's Karinda Dobbins telling of a "Beauty Shop Beatdown."

As Gomez says, "Do reserve your tickets now - as it's limited seating. If you love comedy but not the noise and heckling of a bar - this salon is the spot for you.  Our closing act Natasha Muse is known for inspired riffing, being clever, hilarious, lovely and chill."

Here's Natasha explaining shoes and her feet. 

Here's the Facebook event page.  See you there!  I'll have copies of my books you can buy and have signed.

I'll be reading an excerpt from my 'Rocky Horror"-inspired short story. Thinking of which, someone suggested I make a trailer for #40WildCrushes, (retweet that hastag, please), like the other three I made for PINS, Every Time I Think of You, and Message of Love.

But I don't have many music references in the stories, and it isn't named after a song title, so who cares? Trailer suggestions appreciated.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Perfectly Queer: July Lit Event, Summer Reading and Serious Themes

Another reading, another bookstore! July 11, I will be part of a reading and panel discussion with two other authors at the new home for LGBT events with Books Inc, at Opera Plaza on 601 Van Ness Avenue. The Market Street/Castro district store closed, as you may know.

Here's the link to Books Inc's listing for my reading with Michael Aleynikov, author of Ivan and Misha: Stories, and Na’amen Gobert Tilahun, author of The Root: A Novel of the Wrath & Athenaeum.

Aleynikov's connected stories share the intimate lives of two brother immigrants trying to survive in Brooklyn with their own family troubles and strife.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Kissing & Bars: Orlando mass shooting struck a gay sanctuary

"If you can't wrap your head around a bar or club as a sanctuary, you've probably never been afraid to hold someone's hand in public," wrote Jeramey Kraatz in one of the more astute of social media quotes that has swept the internet since the mass murder of 49 people at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida.

That first step inside a gay bar, that first kiss between two girls, that first sighting of a trans or drag performer, are rites of passage for most of us, whether magical or awkward. It's a part of coming out and coming of age.

But for two men, one who shot 100 people, killing half of them in Orlando, and another who was caught before bombing Los Angeles Pride, their own internalized homophobia turned outward to violence.

What they may not have expected was the resultant outpouring of compassion and anger from around the world.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Saying Goodbye - and Hello - to Bookstores

Tom Schmidt discusses his photos.
This week I attended and read at two of the last three events at Books Inc. in the Castro. The store has hosted hundreds of readings, many of which I attended. It will close next week, and it's a sad day. 

But while that store is closing because of the exorbitant renewed lease costs, Books Inc, itself is thriving, with several other branches throughout the Bay Area. It remains one of the most successful California independent bookstores. 

The gay events and stock will move to the Books Inc, Opera Plaza on Van Ness Avenue. It's often the location for high profile celebrity signings. With its larger size, it can accommodate signings by the likes of Christopher Rice and other big publisher authors.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

#MeBeforeEuthanasia: The Guy Dies in a Horrid Book and Film

Let me completely spoil the film and book Me Before You, because it represents the worst of ableist pop culture, and because anyone who is disabled knows it, and is saying so. The guy dies in the end.

From Time magazine to individual posts by many disabled people –authors, artists, activists – Jojo Moyes' story of a quadraplegic who 'nobly' chooses to die for the sake of able-bodied others is being excoriated for its ignorance and treacly romance twist on a serious issue.

Let's start with the Time feature, which gives disabled peoples' Twitter posts some deserved attention:

Stefani Shea: Illness and disability do not disqualify anyone from being able to live a full, rewarding life

Imani_Barbarin: Stop perpetuating the idea that disabled people only exist to make you feel better about your life by comparison.

NathanielGale, a fabulous "trans queer non-binary disabled activist and occasional artist" posted his remarks on Twitter, and he just did a BBC interview critiquing the film. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Forty Wild Crushes - Rocky Horror Controversies...in Abundance!

Few works of pop culture hold a devoted fan base like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and its original stage version, The Rocky Horror Show. Months before its October airdate, the Fox TV adaptation is riling fans and critics based on a few publicity photos and a one-minute trailer. My own connection as part of a shadow cast of the famous midnight film screenings is documented in fictionalized, and not so fictional, versions in my two latest books.

Just a sweet trans...gender?
First, the Fox controversy. The network will air their "adaptation" of not the stage script, but a version of the classic film. Playing the lead role is notable transgender actor Laverne Cox, known for outstanding performances in the hit Netflix series Orange is the New Black.

LaVerne Cox and Ben Vereen in the Fox Rocky
Already, rumors of a censored version being produced have ticked off fans of the film and stage play. Despite its innuendo-laden wacky script, the sexuality of the show is farcical and the sex scenes are traditionally done behind screens. How will that translate to a network broadcast?

Recent live broadcasts of classic musicals have also been criticized for casting and production values, but more for not remaining reverent to the original sources. And comparisons have been made to the "cleaned up" and abbreviated version of Rocky performed on the hit Fox TV show Glee

But that episode specifically dealt with the issue of censorship, making for another, in my opinion, "meta-theatre" take on repressive high school morals. The gay character Kurt (played by openly gay actor Cris Colfer) refused the role of Frank N. Furter on the grounds of typecasting, so it went to Mercedes Jones (robustly played by Amber Riley).

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Forty Wild Crushes: PR campaigns and Bitly links

It's more PR time. Win a signed paperback copy of Forty Wild Crushes, my new short fiction collection. Link: http://amzn.to/1TwAew0
 
"Teenage lust in summer theatre, cheating boyfriends on The Tonight Show, and an escapee from a pumpkin farm; these are just a few of the characters in short stories from Lambda Literary Award winner Jim Provenzano. The five-time novelist shares new and previously published works, and excerpts from forthcoming novels."

The GoodReads promo book giveaway is slower to get approval from their staff, even though it's owned by Amazon.com. Kinda ironic, since Amazon is 100 times bigger than GoodReads. Or not. Anyway, it runs May 14 through May 28.

You can pre-order the Kindle edition now, which will be out June 1. I was informed this is a good way to promote a book, so that when it's released it'll show up higher on sales rankings. Frankly, I'm a bit pre-exhausted with all this expected promotional stuff; giveaways, ARC (Advanced Reader Copies), blog tours, etc. 

One friend said "Get a cat and vlog shirtless with it." 
Yeah, okay, no.

You know how I promoted my first San Francisco reading in, 1994? I was in the anthology Waves, which included the title story, "Forty Wild Crushes."


I stood outside A Different Light Bookstore on Castro Street, handing out little mini-flyers with info about my story and the book, with this picture of a shirtless Robert Conrad, like a street huckster. The Wild Wild West actor is mentioned in the short story. By the time the reading started, the store was packed.

So it was surprisingly appropriate that my colleague Aldo Alvarez (whose short fiction collection, Interesting Monsters, was part of the inspiration for my assembling a short story collection) blurbed my book with this quote:

"Jim Provenzano's short stories are as beautiful and chiseled as a young Robert Conrad, and they make me swoon just as much." - Aldo Alvarez, author of Interesting Monsters, founder and editor of Blithe House Quarterly 

I have some San Francisco area readings coming up in June and July. Follow me on Twitter, where everything's reduced to a Bitly link. PR, Sweetie! Pop-Specs!

Selling point! PR! Giveaway link here!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Forty Wild Crushes - my short fiction collection

Forty Wild Crushes , my short fiction collection, is now available in paperback on Amazon.com. The Kindle edition comes out June 1, with pre-sale orders available now.

Here's the descriptive blurb:

Teenage lust in summer theatre, cheating boyfriends on The Tonight Show, and an escapee from a pumpkin farm; these are just a few of the characters in short stories from Lambda Literary Award winner Jim Provenzano. The five-time novelist shares new and previously published works, and excerpts from forthcoming novels. Varying from terse accounts of an anti-gay assault to a post-9/11 moment of resolution, Provenzano shares a diverse array of contemporary experiences in rural Ohio, New York City, at funerals and wrestling matches, Manhattan cathedrals and Paris museums. A moment in the life of a gay divorced father, a transgender performer on the rise, and a footnoted feast of pop culture crushes are included in this compelling collection.

"Jim Provenzano's short stories are as beautiful and chiseled as a young Robert Conrad, and they make me swoon just as much." - Aldo Alvarez, author of Interesting Monsters, founder and editor of Blithe House Quarterly

The fabulous cover art is an oil painting by the amazing Kenney Mencher! Check out his website for beautiful sexy art work available at reasonable prices.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Hail, Mary: Performing as/by Gay and Disabled Jocks

Thomas Gorrebeeck (center) in Andrew Henderaker's Colossal at SF Playhouse.
The intersection of sports, disability and gay love is not an easy balance in art. Few have tried. 

Having taken on this trio of themes a few times (to some good notices, thank you), I was quite interested to see Andrew Henderaker's Colossal at SF Playhouse, which succeeds quite well in this triple-play subgenre.

A three-piece drum corps appropriately accompanies the scene shifts from practice to games, to personal moments in this four-quarter drama. Director John Tracy has assembled a brisk spectacle of heightened drama on a vast Astroturf stage.

Younger Mike, played by the handsome Thomas Gorrebeeck, has strong vigor in his depiction of the hunky football quarterback we wish was gay, and who, it turns out, is. 

Colossal's Thomas Gorrebeeck and Jason Stojanovski
While his deeply closeted on-team affair is hindered, his older self replays his on-field injury while resisting physical therapy and his sardonic trainer. Gorrebeeck leads a tightly choreographed team of actors, a Greek chorus in compression pants and shoulder pads.

Colossal should also be enjoyed for the empathetic yet mostly somber Mike, played by Jason Stojanovki. That he is both disabled and Australian are of note, and fulfill a goal of real representation, even in such a designed style.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

PINS print and Kindle giveaways

Spring into action for a free copy of my debut novel, PINS.
Gay grapplers. Get a grip.

I'm currently giving away a few free Kindle Editions of PINS, for who have yet to read it.Two more weeks.

For a signed personalized print edition, check out the GoodReads giveaway
That's open until April 6. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Gaily Forward: on the Theatre of Writing

So, do we write best with what we know, or what we discover while performing as if we know?

Gay author Garth Greenwell discusses the roots behind his breakaway hit, What Belongs to You, in a Gawker feature, "This is Just a Great Sermon on the Desperate Urgency of Public Gay Identity."
He discussed the urgency of drawing on out gay lives to be honest, and a lot more.


Here's just one great quote:
I would also say that stigma about gay novels, which I do think is often expressed by gay writers who say, “I’m not a gay writer,” or, “This isn’t a gay novel—this might be a novel with gay characters,” or, “I’m a writer who happens to be gay, but that’s not the identity.” I would never want to put any pressure on anyone to identify in any way in any aspect of their lives, but to me it feels kind of desperately urgent to identify as a queer writer, and to say that this is a queer novel. And I think part of that is because of the political moment we’re in.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Writing about Writing: The Muse and Music

"The muse; she speaks through me. I am but a humble servant."

Inspiration can come from the most unusual places, even on episode 2 of Better Call Saul season 2, when actor Bob Odenkirk's character Jimmy/Saul comes up with a wild excuse to shake off the police from his client with a strange concept: that he's a "Squat Cobbler."

You'll have to watch the show to find out what that means. In the meantime, here's a rumination on the volley of inspirational essays and other sources that have filled up my days and nights, days and nights that should have been filled with writing. But I have excuses, plenty of them, and none of them have anything to do with Squat Cobbling.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Six Degrees of David Bowie

David Bowie fans around the world have shown their love for the multi-talented musician, actor, writer and producer since his death last week of cancer at age 69. While I regret having never seen him perform live (except on TV), and like millions of others, I'm surprised by my emotional reaction to his passing, I want to consider his effect on my life in so many ways.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

What I Didn't Write: Terrible Tragedies, Tempests & Teabaggers

Penn campus Ben Franklin statue
In setting a pair of novels from 1979 to 1983, I had the fortune of discovering historical events that matched the stories I wrote. But omitting several other events, while big on a local scale, weren't relevant to the stories. And recent odd controversies, gave me a bit of anachronistic relief for not including them.

Pennsylvania played a strong part in establishing the setting of Every Time I Think of You, my fourth novel. The energy crisis and the nuclear plant accident at Three Mile Island in Harrisburg are given a mention. But narrator Reid is distracted by his boyfriend Everett's situation. His mother even shows surprise at nature-loving Reid's disinterest in the environmental hazard.