Best Man – Now Available for Pre-Order

My 2019 Reading List

Howdy all, the reviews are coming in for the advanced review copy of Best Man. Thanks to everyone for showing an interest in my book and for taking it so seriously. The book will be available for free on NetGalley until May 26, available here:

https://www.netgalley.com/catalog/book/160184

Best Man is now available for pre-order on Amazon. Click here for more details:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PF5B4DR?ref_=pe_3052080_276849420

It’s also available for pre-order on Smashwords. Click here for more details:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/927880

In other good news, I recently got the delivery of the books I plan to read between now and the end of the year. Only one of them, Ursula K. LeGuin’s “Tehanu,” is by an author I’ve read before. I’m looking forward to making new friends this year.

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Save the Date: June 1

Buster (left) and Willie.

I’m as pleased as my cats Buster and Willie to announce that the publication date for BEST MAN is set for Saturday, June 1. Just in time for wedding season. Let the bells ring!

An advance review copy should be available on NetGalley within the next few days. I’ll let you know when it’s up and running.

In the meantime, you can read the story synopsis on Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44099475-best-man

I can’t believe that after all the writing and rewriting, my journey with Frank, Julio, Jonathan, and Marcus is drawing to a close. I look forward to sharing their story with you.

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Best Man — Coming Soon!

I’m dashing off this note to let you know that my third novel, “Best Man,” will finally be out this summer. Right now I’m combing through the manuscript and making final edits. In the next couple of weeks or so I’ll be putting it up on NetGalley before making it available for sale on Amazon and elsewhere. A book description and a trailer are on their way. In the meantime, please enjoy my cover and let me know what you think.

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First Drafts and Food Porn #amwriting #MondayBlogs

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Wearing my heart on my spoon for Thanksgiving.

I volunteered to serve Thanksgiving this year. It’s long been my favorite holiday—a simple day to relax and eat and feel thankful for whatever you want to be thankful for. The only stress of the day boils down to a simple but fun question. What to cook?

Luckily for me, the not-to-be-outdone staff at the New York Times launched an addictive new cooking app, just in time for the holidays. The app holds thousands of recipes covering what feels like every cuisine on earth, main dishes, side dishes, desserts, you name it. Thanksgiving is covered on the app as exhaustingly, maybe even as numbingly, as next year’s presidential election.

And no Internet recipe would be complete without a vividly glammed-up photo of the finished dish. Hunks of pancetta glistening among roasted Brussels sprouts. Ruby-red cranberry sauce dripping off the wooden spoon. A golden turkey resting on the cutting board, ready to submit to the knife. Forget about trolling the Calvin Klein underwear catalog. I’ve spent the past three weeks wallowing in the delectable muck of food porn.

Rummaging through the cooking app led me to thinking about where I am with my writing. With my latest manuscript more or less finished, I’m now in the process of letting go of characters I’d grown to know and love over the past three-plus years. A new story will have to fill the vacuum. But who will make up this new cast of characters? What form should this new novel take?

It soon struck me that the answer is as thrilling—and as terrifying—as trying to figure out what to put on the table at Thanksgiving. I may not know what I’m serving, but I have a general idea of the contours that meal will take. Same with any novel, which has to have characters—some nice, some not so nice—following a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

The trouble is I could scroll through novel ideas forever. People, images, scenes, stories—all of these are roiling around my head, clamoring in my ear to be chosen. Some are as a fleeting as a chance face I’d see on the train. And since I know I can write anything at this point, I might end up writing nothing. This must be what all writers go through when they are between projects.

For the Thanksgiving project, at least, I knew I couldn’t page through recipes forever. As any good writer knows, nothing cures writer’s block better than an unforgiving deadline. The holiday loomed over me. The turkey was a given. Gravy too. And after sifting through the myriad recipes for stuffing, sweet potatoes, vegetables, pie—editing the menu, as it were—I eventually locked in my choices.

No such deadline looms over me for this fourth book. No guests knocking at the door at an appointed time. I can only go on faith that the noises in my head will quiet down long enough for me to catch the thread of a new story. And make the choice to follow that thread.

In the meantime I’ll bide my time, pare my nails, watch the Golden State Warriors on TV, and maybe even take a few moments to realize how lucky I am to have my health and my family and a roof over my head, and how lucky I am to share food this year with family and friends. And if there’s time left, I’ll catch a few minutes of food porn.

 

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Out of the Shadows #amwriting #MondayBlogs

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One of my notebooks for the new novel.

I’d previously posted that I intended to publish my third book by 2015. Well, here it is, November 2015, and no book is in sight. I regret to report that I won’t be publishing this year. But I promise, the new work is on the way.

A lot of this tardiness has to do with the story editor I’d hired to review my manuscript—or should I say, the editor who was gracious enough to take me on as her client. I had handed her what I’d thought was a decent manuscript in September 2014 after two and a half years of almost daily writing. I’d expected her comments on the characters, the plot, and the pacing would probably lead to three, maybe four months of revisions.That had been my experience with “You Are Here.”

Instead she had me pulling out and rewriting nearly everything I’d written, leaving little more than the characters and a bare-bones structure, and start from the ground up again. I’d learned that much of the inner life of my characters existed in my head, not on the page. Her comments had me working mornings, nights, and weekends, and even then it took me a whole year. Okay, so maybe my working relationship with the editor was considerably more cordial than the one from Billy Elliott, but still, the experience was much tougher than I’d bargained for.

 

The extra year was worth it. I’m much happier with the new version than the one I’d finished last year. I’ve skimmed through the manuscript I’d given the editor last September and am horrified that I’d ever thought it was near publication. My readers would likely have been horrified too.

But even now, I still can’t make any promises about when the new book will be out. For one thing, the manuscript still isn’t finished. It’s still being vetted for story and characters, and then it’ll go to a copy editor for grammar and fact-checking. That will take the project to the end of December. In January I’m going to take a stab at landing an agent and maybe having the manuscript published by an actual publisher. If that happens, I might not have a book out in 2016 as well. But sooner or later, one way or another, that book is going to see the light of day.

In the meantime I’m filling my hours writing blog posts—namely this one, and maybe a few more blog posts over the next few months. Then I need to catch up on my reading (right now it’s Nelson Algren’s “The Man With the Golden Arm” and William Godwin’s “Caleb Williams”), a daily diary, maybe a writing exercise or two. With my mind now (mostly free) of the characters I’ve been working on for the past four years, I’m now looking for a new hero, the man or woman I’ll fall in love with enough to inspire my fourth book. I know he—or she—is out there.

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Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards Winner!

I’m happy to announce that You Are Here won first place (mainstream fiction category) in the 21st Annual Writer’s Digest Book Awards. When they contacted me last Friday to tell me I’d won, I waited all weekend for them to write me to say they’d made a mistake. Instead, they gave me this nifty little badge.

7737 SelfPub-hi-1st

And when I submitted the book to the contest earlier this year, I’d thought that maybe, if I was lucky, I’d get an honorable mention.  I never imagined they’d pick a “gay romance” for a “mainstream fiction” prize. Well, I stand corrected. I am very grateful to the magazine for choosing my book out of many worthy candidates. And I am very grateful to my readers — and to anyone, really, who has ever said a kind word to me — for giving me the courage to put my work out there.

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“You Are Here” Radio Interview

I’ve always hated hearing my recorded voice talk back to me.  So I haven’t listened to my latest radio interview, in which I talk about myself, my life as a writer, and some of the ideas that went into “You Are Here.”  Click the link below to download the interview; it’s about 15 minutes long.  Feel free to share!

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Huffington Post Blogs

I haven’t been blogging much on the website lately because I’ve been working hard on my latest novel as well as contributing blogs on gay issues at the Huffington Post.  But if you happen to stumble on this page and wish to check out my contributions to HuffPo, the links are below.

For my first blog, from February 2013, I wrote about how my life in San Francisco tracked Dorothy’s journey in The Wizard of Oz.  When I moved to the Bay Area in 1993, I’d bought the myth that San Francisco was like a gay Oz.  The reality turned out to be something different.

Where Will Your Yellow Brick Road Take You?

For my second blog, I commemorated the 25th anniversary of my coming out, which began when a slip of paper fell out of a library book at the Boston Public Library.  I wish I’d kept that slip of paper.

A Silver Coming-Out Story

For my third blog, I interviewed my 83-year-old neighbor Robert Akeley, who over the course of his long and colorful life has “come out” no fewer than three times.  He told me his third time coming out — just shy of his 83rd birthday — was the scariest for him.

A Portrait of the Artist at 83

Finally, for my fourth and latest blog, I had a chat with the amazing Grace Sterling Stowell, a transgender woman who’s thrown her life and soul into one of the oldest gay-run youth groups in the country.

Amazing Grace

Enjoy!

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Yoga, Writing, and The Next Big Thing

I started taking yoga classes in the late summer of 2009, a few weeks before my 41st birthday.  I had just recovered from a debilitating back spasm and was determined to strengthen myself against future back spasms.  More than three years later, I’ve become addicted to the classes at Flying Yoga, my neighborhood yoga studio run by the inimitable Laura Camp.  I haven’t had a serious back spasm in three years.  Best of all, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting — and practicing with — some of the nicest people the Bay Area has to offer.

Rachel MeyerOne of these people is the instructor Rachel Meyer, who, in addition to running a super-fun but super-tough class on Sunday mornings, is a writer working on a book project you can read about on her blog.  It doesn’t surprise me that both writing and yoga come naturally to Rachel, since both require the same set of skills:  focus, discipline, a sense of humor, and a willingness to return to the practice despite any frustrations or setbacks.   In her classes she makes no pretense that the poses are easy — but what she does do is offer me the possibility that someday, maybe, I’ll get that funky pose right.  I think I could say the same thing about the many fine instructors who have patiently overeen my progress these past three years.

Anyway, Rachel reached out to me as part of a “chain blog” to answer ten questions, listed in bold below, about a book I’ve recently published or a work in progress.  In my case, I have a recently published book and a work in progress.  I wasn’t sure which one I wanted to write about.  The book I published has been out there since August.  But the project I’m working on is still in the claymaking phase (as opposed to the sculpting phase), and I’m very reluctant to say anything about it yet, not even the working title.  So for those of you who aren’t yet familiar with “You Are Here,” I give the color below.  For those of you curious to know where I am on the current project, check out the postcript at the bottom.

Enjoy!

What is your working title of your book (or story or article or whatever)?

“You Are Here.”

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The first literary spark came from Jane Austen’s brilliant “Mansfield Park,” in which the dashing rake, Henry Crawford, falls under the spell of the quiet, unassuming Fanny Price.  I even remember the sentence that made me first want to start writing fiction:  “It would be something to be loved by such a girl, to attract the first ardors of her young, unsophisticated mind!”  I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of the man who can have (almost) anyone he wants, yet finds himself falling for the one person he can’t have.

And then there was the passage of Proposition 8.  I could write at length on the injustice of that law and how angry it still makes me feel.  But if there was one good thing about that law, is that it gave me ideas for the story arc of my book’s three main characters – Peter, Miles, and Nick.  So this book incorporates many layers of my life, coming in at different times of my life.

What genre does your book fall under?

Gay literary fiction.  Or gay romance.  Or a story in which the main characters happen to be a bunch of gay guys.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

The first fiction-writing class I ever took was at Harvard Extension, taught by the formidable Pamela Painter.  I remember her forbidding us, in her usual forceful tone of voice, that we should never, ever picture our stories based on a movie or movie stars.  If there is ever a movie rendition of “You Are Here,” I expect the characters would be played by a bunch of unknown actors who then go on to make their careers – you know, like Leonardo DiCaprio in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.”

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A young painter moves to San Francisco to escape a personal tragedy and finds himself the unlikely love object of two more experienced men.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’ve self-published both books.  I’ll probably self-publish the third.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

It was a hell of a long time ago, but I’m pretty sure I first attempted a draft in 1996 and finished it in 2000 under the title “Peter’s Room.”  I actually managed to get an agent for the book, who shopped it around without success for two years.  By then, I’d already started another book – “The Love Thing,” my first published novel – which I finished by the end of 2006.  While “The Love Thing” got shopped around (without success), I then turned back to “Peter’s Room,” which I drastically rewrote and published as “You Are Here.”  Looking back on it, I’m glad the book never got published the first time.  The time wasn’t right.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Anything by Stephen McCauley (particularly “The Object of My Affection”).

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

In 1993, I quit a sputtering career in journalism to move from Boston to San Francisco and devote myself to writing fiction.  My new home turned out to be a scarier and more confusing place than I’d anticipated it.  (You can read more about that on a guest blog I wrote for The Huffington Post’s Gay Voices series.)  So that was very much on my mind when I first conceived the idea for this book.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

A very generous Goodreads reviewer said she liked my work because my books “are just. …more.  They’re not your typical romance. They’re not even all that steamy, really. But it totally works. Because you’re dealing with characters who are making mistakes and are going through some hard things in their lives, and nothing is easy, which is more true to life than most books you read.”  I invite all potential readers to check out my books to see if that reviewer got it right.

What about the next book?

On January 17, 2012, I made a public bet that if I didn’t have a draft of my third novel completely finished in 90 days, I would donate $100 to an anti-gay marriage charity.  Horrified by even the remote possiblity that this would happen, I finished this draft in 90 days — on April 15, to be exact — and donated the money to Planned Parenthood instead.  I wrote 102,000 words.  I printed out what I’d written and circled the parts that I wanted to carry forward to the second draft.  Then, on May 29, I began this second draft.  As of today, I have 83,108 words written.

I’ve made a public commitment to have this third book out by 2015.  For this to happen, I would have to have the manuscript in final form by the end of 2014 or early 2015 at the latest — after that, I would then move to getting a professional editing job, a process that took me about three months for “You Are Here.”  In order for me to have a manuscipt in decent enough shape between now and then, I am going to have to write pretty much every day.  What I have so far is still a mess.  But I’m not worried.  It’s just like yoga —  if I fall today, I’ll just keep on returning to the mat until I get the damned pose right.

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Glacier Blue

The welcome sight of blue.

The welcome sight of blue on a cloudy afternoon in Glacier Alley.

As the ship crept along the Beagle Channel on the approach to “Glacier Alley,” I realized only then that I didn’t know what a glacier looked like.  I guess I was expecting something that looked like one of the ice cubes from my freezer, only larger and dirtier.  But what surprised me, ultimately, wasn’t the bigness of the glaciers—although the glaciers, don’t get me wrong, were awe-inspiringly big.  It was their blueness.

Until then, the color blue had been in dismally short supply that day. The blue sky that greeted us upon our re-entry to the Beagle Channel from Cape Horn got swallowed up by lowering clouds, turning the water in the channel to a dull charcoal-gray.  So the sight of the blue ice, tumbling down like piles and piles of cake frosting between the darkish-green mountains, came as something of a jolt—a pleasant jolt.

Less than a month ago I’d read an article by Natalie Angier in the New York Times about the fascination the color blue holds in science and in history. “Blue’s basic emotional valence is calmness and open-endedness, in contrast to the aggressive specificity associated with red,” Angier writes. “Blue is sea and sky, a pocket-sized vacation.” And I couldn’t help thinking of that article here at the ship’s rail, the icy mist blowing more and more into my face as we cruised down the Alley.

The ice seemed to tumble like spilled cake frosting.

Tumbling ice.

This blue was no ordinary blue. This was the blue you see in Windex and Curaçao bottles, the blue they dye cotton candy and Popsicles with, the blue of the Disney genie in Aladdin.  And, like the genie, the blue seemed to glow from some mysterious inner chamber of these behemoths. As the ship’s science guide explained to us over the loudspeakers as we snapped pictures, the glaciers get their blue from the sheer weight of the ice squeezing out all its light-diffusing air.  In other words, the awesome ice that carved out the Chilean fjords also produced this color before me, this mysterious Glacier Blue.

I can’t help feeling that if humankind allows global warming to continue to its logical conclusion, we’ll suffer not only from the devastating rise in sea levels but also from the loss of these gorgeous blue glaciers.  We’d mourn the glaciers the way we’d mourn the extinction of some beloved species like the elephant or the tiger or the rhino.

But the glaciers won’t be extinct.  Most likely, the glaciers will take implacable revenge in the next Ice Age, which has to happen sooner or later.  And what will the glaciers do to us then?  As the science writer Chet Raymo put it in an article he wrote for The Farmer’s Almanac, “They will push down across the continent like mile-thick bulldozers, scooping, grinding, and breaking.  They will plane off the top of hills and excavate valleys.  They will scrape Seattle, Chicago, New York, and Boston off the face of the Earth.”

The blue seemed to glow from an inner light inside the glacier.

The blue seemed to glow from an inner light inside the glacier.

Glacier carving a path into the water.

Glacier carving a path into the water.

Fishing boat at the base of the glacier.

Fishing boat at the base of the glacier (closeup).

Fishing boat, wide shot.

Same fishing boat, wide shot.

The apron of light blue around the promontory is not a trick of light; it's the fresh water of the melting glacier meeting the salt water of the channel.

The apron of light blue around the promontory is not a trick of light; it’s the fresh water of the melting glacier meeting the salt water of the channel.

Waterfall from retreating glacier. The mist got thicker the further we cruised down Glacier Alley.

Waterfall from retreating glacier. The mist got thicker the further we cruised down Glacier Alley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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