Saturday, May 18, 2019

Everyone Dies: Games of Thrones, fan disappointment and delusions in fiction and fantasy

On this rainy Saturday, while I'm looking forward to this evening's plans, I feel, like many others, a sense of dread and worried anticipation for the series finale of Games of Thrones tomorrow night. Fan outrage over the last episode has reached such a tumult that nearly 700,000 people have signed a petition demanding a re-shoot of their favorite TV show. 

It sounds completely absurd to non-fans, but there's a reason for it. I'll explain, and of course tie in concerns about the comparatively tiny yet related themes in my novels.

First off: massive spoiler alert. If you're at all aware of pop culture and entertainment, you know that the last episode featured 'Mother of Dragons' Danerys Targaryen taking a 'mad' turn by ignoring the tower bells that signaled the surrender of the army at King's Landing. In a seemingly abrupt move, Dany foists her fire-spewing dragon over the city, killing soldiers and citizens alike in a violent spectacle of destruction. Several characters die dramatically or disappointingly. Arya witnesses the destruction and mass deaths on ground level, and Dany and her dragon are removed from close focus to become a flyover horror.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Self on a Shelf: Interabled Relationships, Queen movie's censorship, and other not-yet-abandoned topics in my novels

Bohemian Rhapsody in China = NoHomo
How long after an artist has fully explored a topic that they care about should it be abandoned, or put on a shelf? 

Granted, my novels will always be about gay men and the depiction of their humanity. But the specific themes and interests have to be stored and cherished, then put on a mental (and actual) side shelf to make way for new exploration, unless you're the kind of artist who continually explores the same themes; not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just not my style.

Allow me to touch on some of my recent novels' themes. I'm going against all the author tips for discussing one's art while trying to lure in a few sales. "Write short quick blogs! Tweet funny memes!" Nope, a few long rambling essays a month or so is where I'm at.


Flick of the Wrist
While finishing Now I'm Here, my sixth novel, I immersed myself in Queen's music, even made a chapter-by-chapter playlist. As the recent awards season proved, the film Bohemian Rhapsody was a crowd-pleaser, despite having warped the life of Freddie Mercury into a truncated and myopic tale.

Nevertheless, I piggybacked on the film's release and success as a tie-in for the novel, which includes the main characters Joshua and David attending a Queen concert, and a lead character who gains fame with his solo versions of "Bohemian Rhapsody."

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Fight Back Club: how Star Trek: Discovery's Hugh Culver helps us remember the future

"If Memory Serves," the eighth episode in Season 2 of the amazing Star Trek: Discovery, not only recalls the earliest of days of the show's legacy, but along with a thrilling multi-layered story, reminds us of how LGBT people recover after the 'death' of violence.

While viewing the episode, I had an epiphany, which I'll explain. But first let me go back, or forward, if you will.

I have an enemy. I will confront him again.
Perhaps you do, too, that one most evil soul who assaulted you, or betrayed you beyond explanation. A gay-basher, an abusive partner, a violent authority figure with weapons and power who dragged you off at a protest, or for no reason other than being Black, or gay, or transgender, or poor; a former employer who sabotaged you, a judge who disdained and sentenced you in one way or another.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Patricia Nell Warren, author, mentor, shero and the Mother of Gay Fiction


Patricia Nell Warren's The Front Runner remains one of the prime inspirations for me to write fiction. News of her death today has reached beyond mutual friends to her many fans. I recall many conversations we had during her visits to literary conferences, and events in San Francisco. 

Her writing and advice were a true inspiration in literature and the global LGBT sports community. I still have the worn 1979 (fifth edition) paperback from my first purchase of a gay novel in 1979, which she signed, along with others over the years. If you haven't done so, you owe it to yourself to read more of her work. Farewell, dear woman.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Disagreeing on Disagreement: the Upside Down of 'Them'

Three examples of online arguments vexed me enough to further explore them. The first was being scolded for calling Starbucks coffee drinkers dumb, the second for getting rightwing hatred in a rock music group, the third being outright rabid hatred for ads with my new book trailer. They're each strangely connected, and worth comparing.

First off, reviews are good, so it's not about my books, although they could certainly use some new ones! That's one thing I can take, a critical book review that focuses on the storytelling. 

Of course, if more people were buying it, I wouldn't feel compelled to spend a few bucks to promote the very nice trailer for my book. I'd uploaded it to YouTube and Instagram, hoping to promote them both, but had to re-upload it on Facebook to try to get it on Instagram, which failed. So I simply paid about $30 to get the trailer show up as a sponsored ad on Facebook. I chose three categories; people in the U.S., who like the band Queen and, when searching for Gay Interest, chose "Gay Life." Okay.

A day later, I got a notification about two comments on the shorter book trailer. Yay!

But they were abrupt virulently bible-hatred of 'the gay.' A day later, another one 'Heck no' was less offensive. Each of these people happened upon my ad, whose thumbnail shows the two cover models in the back of a truck being affectionate.
  These are Diane Mcallister Nichols' comments. I could show you her anti-Muslim, anti-everything not her posts, but I'll spare you.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Don't Stop Me Now - pianos and protease

With a few Golden Globes, five Oscar nominations, and fan adoration worldwide, Bohemian Rhapsody is enjoying another encore.

I'm making plans to see the sing-along version of Bohemian Rhapsody, because despite its flaws, and even disdain, I want to have fun with the music again.

But it's not without a skeptic's eye, for while the band's music continues to please, the praise is a bit perplexing to some. Insider considers Bohemian Rhapsody to be among the 12 least deserving Oscar noms, and allegations on its director are coming out in full.

"To even begin to argue over whether or not Bohemian Rhapsody deserves its best picture nomination you have to ignore the Bryan Singer sexual assault allegations (it's worth noting he was let go from the project but still took credit for its Golden Globe win on Instagram) and the accusations of straight-washing and lack of conversation around Freddie Mercury's death from AIDS, which Rami Malek admits is a problem."

Fans of Queen don't care. The band, Freddie Mercury in particular, always had a contentious relationship with the media. They just love the music, and the story, despite its numerous fictionalizations.

Queen devotees now can sing along for a pre-Oscar victory lap in 750 theaters. It's the latest phase of the expertly marketed film and music enterprises; book, album, a Carnaby Street takeover. Amazing; very Queen. I still feel bad about paying to see it considering what's to follow, but I didn't pay the first time (see onstage interview with 3 of the cast), if that counts.

 
"Great King Rat was a dirty old man"
What's not very Queen is the now-re-announced multiple accusations of sexual assault against (85%) Director Bryan Singer. The Atlantic says the director "has been trailed by accusations of sexual misconduct for 20 years. Here, his alleged victims tell their stories."
According to multiple sources, Fox had no idea that the Sanchez-Guzman lawsuit was coming when the studio fired Singer. Still, Sanchez-Guzman’s claims shouldn’t have been much of a surprise. Almost from the moment his star began to rise, Singer, who is now 53, has been trailed by allegations of sexual misconduct. These allegations were so well known that 4,000 students, faculty members, and alumni at the University of Southern California had signed a petition asking the school to take Singer’s name off one of its programs, the Bryan Singer Division of Cinema and Media Studies—which the school did immediately after Sanchez-Guzman filed his suit. As one prominent actor told us, “After the Harvey Weinstein news came out, everyone thought Bryan Singer would be next.”
Other publications are catching up to what many have known for years, like this expose in Vanity Fair, which puts Bohemian Rhapsody's producers and stars in a sticky situation; little if any mention has been made to Singer through the Golden Globe wins (albeit a cryptic tweet), and the upcoming Oscar rite could endure the same mendacity. Make jokes about convicted Cosby and harpooned Harvey, but Singer's mum because why ... because you knew?

Singer's response, according to IndieWire, is that the accusations and article are nothing but "homophobic attacks" against the film's success. That's hardly valid, considering that the alleged sexual assaults go back years. Is it 'homophobic' to treat a gay alleged sex predator the same as a straight one?

But GLAAD isn't waiting for a court of law, and has snubbed Bohemian Rhapsody from its lauded roster, Variety reports in their statement issued two days after the Atlantic article and other articles were published.  GLAAD won't be tossing their usual lucite awards to straight actors playing gay this time, despite its rather sympathetic, if not clich├ęd, depiction of Mercury's life.

“In light of the latest allegations against director Bryan Singer, GLAAD has made the difficult decision to remove ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ from contention for a GLAAD Media Award in the Outstanding Film – Wide Release category this year. This week’s story in The Atlantic documenting unspeakable harms endured by young men and teenage boys brought to light a reality that cannot be ignored or even tacitly rewarded.”  

And while most of the straight fan-mania ignores this, or has no clue, elation continues among the band's larger fandom ("I've seen it six times!" they crow online). New young fans exclaim their devotion, having only been born decades after his death.

Lives have changed. The face of AIDS is almost lost to myth to them, except fan groups obsessed with Jim Hutton's later years, hinted at on-screen in the film, but more in home movies and memoirs that document what happened after Live Aid. Freddie's other life scenes were left unshot. 

Who Wants to Live Forever
These missing elements I instead chose to include in my Queen-inspired novel, Now I'm Here; not just the peak moment of the characters' joy or love or defiance. 
I chose instead to share their entire lives. 

Is that why it's struggling to find readers? The fact that it won a (tiny) book award didn't gain me any attention (So, my advise; don't bother with those).

As for the Lambda Literary Awards? My publisher submitted it, as did publishers of more than 70 other submissions. Not very good odds this year.

One of the questions I have about the lack of attention my book is getting is in the Romance area. Because of the story, and the strictures of that genre that did me well the last two times with Every Time I Think of You and Message of Love, it's not categorizable as a romance, which is  too bad, because it is romantic.

And I don't see how a sequel to a largely ignored work, despite being among my best, could find more material. It's complete. What does it take for you to decide to read a book watch a film, more than once?

Whether you think the film Bohemian Rhapsody "completes" you, or you think it's a complete mess, or even boycott-worthy (which, after $800 million in box office, is rather a moot point), it's now stamped into the legacy of tragic gay male celebrity death Oscar-bait that. 

And rumors of a sequel threaten more of what one critic, Indiewire's David Ehrlich, who panned the movie, wrote: "Queen's music may have been unclassifiable, but their movie is as trite and textbook as it gets." Oh, and don't hire a potential felon to the crew. How 'bout that?

That's one critique I'll never receive. Personal attacks have been few, but dismissal, sometimes based only on a book cover, are inane, and still on Goodreads!

But I really told a good story in Now I'm Here
 It's gotten nothing but praise, mostly from a select few, men who lived through the 1970s and/or '80s.


Yet, despite doing everything, and I mean every little thing to promote it (except paying the $500 for a BookList or PW review) . . .

- finished a 20-year Queen-inspired novel completed months before a major film about the band
- new website with SEO out the ass
- sweet book trailer, full-song and short version
- fabulous reading events
- podcasts and radio shows
- music playlists
- Facebook page updates ($10, 8K clicks, 2% click-thru)
- Instagram updates (#hashtagged to filth, but who cares?)
- Twittercisms and a $50 paid Tweet that got 3800 views).
- a friggin' live concert with the music of Queen! 


... and I still sold only a few hundred books.

I don't know why.

I also don't know WTF is going on with these Google analytics search results. This is how randos find me? WTF with the dia... no, don't type the word, or I'll get more!

 Okay, I may not know the interwebs anymore.

I do know that you should read my books. Share them with friends. Review them. 

Tell someone. I don't have a million-dollar campaign or a trendy social media anything, apparently. Freddie's making bank (the Zanzibar currency above is also on sale on eBay), years after his death.

The Show Must Go On
One of the questions a few fans have raised are what kind of music Freddie and Queen would be doing, if any, today. What if Freddie Mercury has survived into the next four years, just long enough to try the then-new protease inhibitors? As this Grunge article reminds us, Mercury's remaining years and posthumous iconography does tell an equally compelling story.

But that unanswered question of what kind of music he might have created is the reason for AIDS-inclusive art; to remember what is forgotten, the hundreds of thousands, or, in the case of Now I'm Here, a few close friends.

I know that despite this inexplicable sales slump (Perhaps the problem of a rage-filled shut-down tyrannical MAGA-thug government's making people distracted?), this story will find its readers, one by one. I'm not saying it as an inspiration, but a statistical fact.


A touching related story; Dr. Joseph Sonnabend is a doctor, a famous one, you should know; one of the first to identify the AIDS virus.

He is now an aspiring concert pianist. Sonnbend's legacy began early:

"He started writing the list in 1984, six years after he first suspected there was something wrong, that patients were suffering symptoms with no explicable cause. He tried to raise the alarm in 1979, two years before anything was reported in the press. He was ignored."

"Sonnabend was one of the very first physicians to spot the early warning signs of what would become the AIDS pandemic. He had no idea what was about to hit."

I'd like to hear him play, just as I would the many others lost in the past, including some of my characters.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Now We're There: mapping time through fictional realities

The recent trend of sharing then-and-now photos has me thinking of the years spent between major accomplishments, and how we document our lives. I mark my timeline by novels, and where they took place has been aided by old analog maps, memories and photos, from slides to prints and now online searches.

I remember a lot, which is good, because a few pivotal moments' memories never got mapped or on film.

Now I'm Here... now I'm there, too
The years that my novel Now I'm Here took place, 1970 and 1980s, are countered by my many return visits home, where the story seemed to be accumulating like slow ivy. The two main characters are Joshua, a piano prodigy, and David a pumpkin farmer.

For piano provenance, proving the years of my musicianship existed, I offer a newly found (see PINS photo/map search above). The piano itself and its location in our home is the dining room. I'd play for hours, but also at the local (then) Ashland College studios, choosing from Yamahas and Steinways.

For farm boy authenticity, sadly I never documented my pumpkin farm experience in any 1981 photos. It was often beautiful amid the labors of hauling truckfull after truckfull for months, but not a camera-ready environment back then. I never even remembered to drive by years later and get an image of the farm house and barn. Now it's all floral greenhouses, as I included in the story.

All I have left are the Red Wing boots I bought for the job, which lasted 40 years. But they're in the basement and you don't need a photo of a pair of boots. You'll have to settle for the 1998 image above.