Thursday, November 19, 2015

Giving Thanks, a bit early

I have to be thankful, not for food or health of any of that, but for, after all these years, after trying numerous careers and jobs, finally being a full-time writer. That's not something most people who aspire to it get to do.

And it's been almost a month since I blogged anything because frankly, I was busy writing. Sure, fun features at work, emails, Facebook posts, and birthday cards; okay, I watched some movies. But you know, I just cancelled my Netflix as an impetus to watch fewer movies and write more. Also, Netflix sucks. And Hulu sucks. And even the (alleged) online TV show sites I (may or may not) visit that have cable shows...well, they suck sometimes, too. So it's on to the writing.

Many writers like to "pick my brain" when they're about to finish a novel, and most have gone on, with some of my help, to brighter success, with agents, book deals, and good reviews and sales. They also enjoy the high-profile advance reviews of Booklist and Publishers Weekly, unlike me.

While "the big time" is often a bit of a pipe dream, the reality is, with the help of others, I did it myself, sort of. And even some big authors now admit, that may be the way to go.

Author Alan Moore (co-creator of Watchmen, From Hell and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) said in a recent video interview that authors should self-publish, because the book industry is a mess, and, he said, "Big publishers suck."

Well, I've been tangentially connected to big publishing houses through my short fiction. And Wrestling Team, the German translation of PINS, enjoyed a European publishing deal for a few thousand Euros and a few annual bucks in royalties, that is until the publisher went bankrupt and dumped the unsold few hundred copies. 

I could have bought them wholesale, but my potential readership of people into a gay wrestling novel in German had pretty much already been found. When Bruno Gmunder got a new parent company, they offered me a letter to request the remaining few Euros worth of last royalties. But the hassle of getting it wasn't worth the postage. I never even got to meet the guy who spent months on what I'm told by bilingual readers is a terrific translation (We did email a lot about New Jersey and U.S. colloquialisms.)

So, I can't offer much other advice about getting a big publishing deal. I do have tales from colleagues who got such deals, only to be left high and dry in mid-list purgatory, to do their own readings and promotions, or have their rights to audiobooks and translations set adrift or bought for a pittance.

But you could also listen to the advice and experiences of best-selling author David Mitchell, (Cloud Atlas, Bone Clocks) whose latest tome is published by the big publisher Random House, about getting on with writing. He doesn't share any specifics about landing a big time agent, or what's probably a five or six-digit advance. But hey, he does say, "Just write." And isn't that nice.

But the best advice for me is that from readers. Despite a few snags, cranky snots who stick out like olive pits on an otherwise delicious pizza, the overwhelming majority of readers of my books, the last two in particular, got them, understood them, and appreciated them, despite or even because of their flaws.

While the love and passion portrayed in Every Time I Think of You charmed most readers, the year that I wrote it was quite tumultuous in my personal life. 

As Mitchell says, "Things you don’t want to discuss—your scars, your shadows, your psychological baggage from childhood. It’s useful. It’s therapeutic to deploy them. You kind of win by using them."

While none of the pain was translated exactly, it was diffused, transformed, and sculpted into that book. And this latest review pretty clearly shows that I got something right:
"Gah, I cannot deal with how much love I have for this book and both of its lead characters.

Reid is so gorgeously adorkable with his tree obsession, and I totally felt his overwhelming infatuation, as well as his occasional irritation, with Everett who is far more cautious with showing his feelings. It's so perfectly, so beautifully written that those delicious little moments where Everett's feelings for Reid are laid bare are all the more thrilling.
They go through so much in the course of the book, but there is a wonderful thread of humour to balance out the angst - I particularly loved Reid's letters to Everett whilst he was away doing his summer job. And let's face it, their enthusiasm for a little bit of exhibitionism is delightful!

The author never takes the easy or sentimental option when dealing with Everett's accident and his disability.
Seeing Everett go through the denial, anger, acceptance and come out the other side an incredibly strong human being is incredibly uplifting. But I also love how the author shows that Reid isn't instantly perfect with him, but sometimes tries too hard.

One of my best reads this year. Oh, and I really like the title song by The Babys too!"
Thank you, Clare! I do, too!

And would that have ever happened if I'd waited another year or three for a publisher to decide whether that book was good enough? Probably not.

Moore explains that "many publishing houses are afraid of taking risks on fiction. Moore’s solution? 'Publish yourself. Don’t rely upon other people.'"

Well, while I didn't sit on my hands to dive into the sequel, Message of Love, or expect a publishing deal to arrive in the mail because I won a Lammy (It didn't), I did not exactly do it myself. I relied on the stories of more than a dozen people to shape and grow that book. While, as a few reviews have stated, it could have used some pruning, I wanted a big full story that would satisfy readers; a full course.

And judging by this glowing review from no less than author, editor and prolific book blogger Elisa Rolle, it worked:
"Provenzano continues the story of Reid Conniff and Everett Forrester (begun in the novel Every Time I Think of You) subsequent to Everett’s accident and resulting paraplegia. Beginning with a flash-forward 10 1983, then returning to 1980, and progressing month-by-month, the ups and downs of a new and untested relationship is beautifully developed by the author.
The overshadowing of the AIDS plague, while particularly painful for this reader, is wonderfully true to the period and makes for a far more poignant story. The developing story is beautifully rendered and leads, one hopes, to another sequel following the men into their post-graduate college lives and further.
The City of Philadelphia, and its environs, become a third major character in this novel. Provenzano obviously knows the city well, and its use as a force in the story can only be compared to that of Armistead Maupin’s use of San Francisco as a character in his Tales of the City series. Having lived in Philadelphia for a short time, I felt I had returned to a place with many very happy memories.
While Everett and Reid continue to come alive on the page, Provenzano’s development of his many secondary characters is handled with perfection. The reader really cares about not only the [main characters], but also the vignettes that make up the many characters passing through their lives. Wonderfully developed.
Provenzano captures a turbulent period in gay life in an singularly epic fashion; continuing to hold the reader’s interest throughout the novel. In particular, he made this reader long to continue the story of Reid and Everett in further novels. This is the highest compliment one can pay to a writer’s style and is character’s stories."
So, I'm thankful indeed. I'm thankful that I got to do what I wanted to do, my way, faults and all, with help, yet on my own.

But your help is always appreciated. If you've read my books, even years ago, or last week, share a review somewhere, be it on,, even on my YouTube channel, where the music from several of my novels is collected, or seemingly vacant Barnes & Noble. Somewhere, Share the love, and I'll be thankful.

Because I'm not doing this on my own.

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