Thursday, September 29, 2011


If there's one thing I've learned, bullies are sick puppies. and the ones who taunted a kid with a disability should be arrested and put away.

Mitchell Wilson Suicide: Disabled Boy's Death Raises Bullying Concerns

The death of an 11-year-old boy with muscular dystrophy months after his assault by a bully has shined a spotlight on bullying in Canada's schools.

Muscular dystrophy left Mitchell Wilson struggling to do simple things like walking around the block or climbing stairs. He also had to use a walker at school. Doctors had urged him to exercise regularly to stave off the disease's effects, something that was growing increasingly difficult for the boy.

Wilson was mugged last November by a 12-year-old boy from his school. The assailant was after the iPhone Wilson borrowed from his dad. The bully was arrested and removed from the Pickering, Ont. school they both attended.

"He was never the same," said Craig Wilson to the Toronto Star, the boy's father and the one who found the boy's body in his room with a plastic bag tied around his head earlier this month.

Things didn't get any better for the young Mitchell as the court date loomed. And the bullying didn't stop.

"Subsequent to the beating that he took, he just lost that spark you see in a kid's eye. He had huge anxiety attacks about going outside and going for his walks and going to school by himself," Craig Wilson told CTV's Canada AM.

“At the cottage in July, he said, ‘If I have to go back to that school, I’ll kill myself,’” the boy's grandmother, Pam Wilson, told the National Post.

More, with multiple links, at Huffington Post.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


After college and before my return to New york City in the mid-1980s, I lived in Pittsburgh for a very interesting year. I worked with the Dance Alloy, performed a few of my own works. I also held wild band/rent parties and got audiences and reviews for a few shows in a huge loft I lived in over on the North Side in an area called Lawrenceville.

Little did I know that those dance company tours to rural Pennsylvania and my rural/urban experiences there would later become the partial setting of my fourth novel. At the time, I didn't even think I could write a novel. I did hack out a short story on a manual typewriter until I nearly sprained a few fingers.

One of the funnier cultural aspects of Pittsburgh life is the regional dialect of its citizens. "Pittsburghese" is spoken mostly by the working class people. The artsy types I hung out with, along with imports like myself, were often bemused and befuddled by the lingo, which is similar, but not identical to Philadelphia dialect.

Pittsburghese gets a little mention in Every Time I Think of You, and reflects the class differences of its main characters.

Example: "Yins gun duntun?" ("Are you all going downtown?")

Here's a very silly song that sums it up:

Enjoy some instructional videos, here, here and here, here and elsewhere on YouTube.

Oh, and here's a video of people driving through the Fort Pitt Tunnel into Pittsburgh (see chapter 6). It's a bit pedestrian, but the people in it vocalize the impact of being overwhelmed by a city after exiting the tunnel.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Turning a Page

Last weekend, news of the imminent closing of A Different Light Bookstore was published on Bay Citizen. A Different Light had been a standard of the ultimate gay bookstore for decades. Under management by prolific editor Richard Labonté, the store stocked pretty much every LGBT title at the time.

When I self-published my first novel PINS in 1999, Labonté and his staff ordered copies by the carton. I would occasionally haul a 50-pound box in a duffel bag, arrive sweaty on my bike, and unload the books with a sense of accomplishment, and the consignment sales checks kept arriving on time.

I also read many times with short story anthology contributors at events that were more like literary parties. Readings I had at the Los Angeles and New York branches (both have closed) were also successful and fun.

After LaBonté moved to Canada, the new management drastically cut back their stock, which recently has been reduced to fewer titles and a bin of discount porn DVDs.

Having read from novels and short stories more than a dozen times at ADL, it's really saddening to see this happen. Similarly, Modern Times Bookstore, where I also read and bought books many times, has closed.

Everyone saw this coming more than a decade ago. Online sales have wiped out independent bookstores, and people need to support them.

But at the same time, I had to take advantage of online sales to reach a broad audience, many of whom don't or can't buy retail.

As my second and third books, Monkey Suits and Cyclizen were released, I took advantage of the streamlined Print-On-Demand format. Selling them via consignment became problematic, however, as bookstores got a much smaller sales percentage, leaving reading events to be mere symbolic promotional appearances.

Here in San Francisco, down Market Street, Books Inc. maintains success by mixing a good dose of LGBT titles with mainstream books, calendars and magazines. Readings there are usually well attended, despite the occasional clunk of weights from the gym upstairs.

Yet, as this sad news hit, I got a message from the publisher of my third novel, Cyclizen, that they will include it among many titles being published via eBook format free of charge.

This is right when I've been futzing with the problematic ePub application. For this book, at least, that's being taken care of, and Cyclizen should be available via the Apple iBookstore in about a month.

The pages of publishing have been turning, and now scrolling, very fast. As I polish up what may be my next novel, I've already begun formatting it in an eBook-friendly format before offering a print version.

It's sad to see this kind of change, but it's inevitable. Bookstores may not survive, but books can.

And although few things can replace the pleasure of literally sitting down with a book made of paper, the possibility of being more green, while still sharing my work, offers hope.

(Very interesting column by Thomas Roche about ADL's closing, specifically, the comment made that "gay stories have all been told.")

[reposted from my Cyclizen blog]

Extremely Talented

The Santa Cruz Sentinel
recently had a feature on paddleboard racer Jeff Denholm, who competed in a 32-mile race from Molokai to Oahu.

The seasoned sailor had his arm mangled 18 years ago in a fishing accident. Now he uses a removable paddle as a prosthetic.

Not long after he left the hospital, the Maine native was firming up plans to move to the Rockies, where he could ski and hike. To expedite his return to water sports, Denholm even ripped the staples out of his healing wound himself.

But returning wasn't enough. He still wanted to "hammer," as he likes to say, charging as hard as humanly possible, challenging his innermost limits. Soon he found himself designing artificial limb attachments for surfing, climbing, sailing and mountain biking.
I never cease to be amazed at the determination and perseverance allegedly "crippled" people use to make their lives so much more amazing than "normal" people.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Just to be clear, "Every Time" is not Glee slash fiction.

I am not one of those obsessive Glee/Darren Criss fans.

But these people are!

Oh yes, and this one, and this one and this one. Oh, and this one and this one.

Maybe if I said it is slash fiction, they'd buy it, those crazy kids!

Friday, September 16, 2011


The Guardian UK reports on the previously secretive phenomenon of authors, Young Adult writers in particular, being asked to "straightwash" their characters.

Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown's co-written YA novel, Stranger, includes the viewpoint of Yuki as one of its five main characters. Yuki is gay and has a boyfriend, with whom he does "nothing more explicit" than kissing. Writing in the US trade magazine Publishers Weekly, the two published authors say they were contacted by an agent from a "major" literary agency, who offered to sign them up "on the condition that we make the gay character straight, or else remove his viewpoint and all references to his sexual orientation".

The two authors believe that "forcing all major characters in YA novels into a straight white mould is a widespread, systemic problem which requires long-term, consistent action". They suggest that both editors and agents who are open to novels with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender protagonists make this explicit, that readers vote with their pockets and that writers speak out about similar experiences. "How many published novels with a straight white heroine and a lesbian or black or disabled best friend once had those roles reversed, before an agent demanded a change? This does not make for better novels. Nor does it make for a better world. Let's make a better world," they say.
Author Jessica Verday experienced a similar problem.

Author Scott Tracey discusses this issue on his blog.
I had agents who said there wasn’t a market for a paranormal with a gay character who had a romance. I had editors suggest they would reconsider the book if Braden and Trey became Brenda and Trey. Or if I removed the romance and made it a straight girl/gay guy buddy comedy.

Now, at the end of the day, my book wound up exactly where it was meant to: at a publishing house that loved the story, and an editor who was super supportive right from the beginning.

And his most important statement: "If you want more books with LGBT content, buy the ones that are already out there. Show publishers that there’s profit to be made by investing in these books."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

See Me, Read Me

Here's a new book that tackles a different disability; blindness.

Dorothy's Closet has an interview with author Belo Miguel Cipriani, whose book Blind: A Memoir tells of his harrowing experience in being violently attacked, and his recovery, while becoming blind.

I struggled with the idea of recovery from disabling injuries in my own book. Is the reader supposed to anticipate or hope for a character's full recovery? Is his love interest supposed to? should anyone?

I was quite amused by the Cipriani's response to a reader:

"A guy approached me at a bar and told me that my book had left him unfulfilled; it didn't feel like a good ending to him because I did not get my vision back. I mentioned to him that my book is a memoir and that not everyone in life gets justice. The man continued to tell me he had hoped for a happy ending – to which I replied, 'You should go to a massage parlor for that.'”

Check out Dorothy's Closet for more LGBT books reviews.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Just. Too. Awful (and funny).

Nation Afraid To Admit 9-Year-Old Disabled Poet Really Bad

The good intentions of Luke's poetry, coupled with his heartbreaking illness, make it difficult for Americans to recognize and acknowledge the poor quality of his work. The poems are fraught with saccharine sentimentality, slapdash mixed metaphors, and endless clichés involving rivers and the sun.

One example from "What's Most Important," a poem in his most recent book, Offering Of Hopeweavings:
The things that are important in life / Are not wealth and fame / But the sun peering through the clouds / Its light shining on flower petals / And warming a kitten's nose / Making everything beautiful / Because that is what God wants / For us to be happy.

Today I'm going through another round of re-re-rewrites on the manuscript. A dear friend has been checking it for what I call "Cliché Alerts." Originally, I set out to make Reid's narrative voice a bit precocious, like that of a smart yet perhaps overwrought teen whose voice was a bit wordy and florid.

After several friends have read it in-progress, it became clear that some of it was just plain bad! This has all been an interesting experiment, a very different process than my others works. I just hope that in its final version, it doesn't -like the poems of this fictional child author- suck!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Parks & Rec

At the risk of being a bit future-anachronistic, here's an "It Gets Better" video released by the Department of the Interior. I'd like to think that in some kind of fiction-real future projection, an older Reid would be one of these speakers.