Sunday, October 27, 2013

Why Love is Suspenseful @QueerBooksPlease + NaNoWriMo

I was delighted to discover a podcast review of Love by the Numbers posted at Queer Books Please yesterday and what's even more delightful is the insightful description of why a romance novel can / ought to be suspenseful for the reader. This is a podcast that both readers and writers will enjoy.

You can listen at the window or download the mp3 and take it with you.

Blogger and host Mary also invites listeners who are doing the NaNoWriMo thing to hashtag her. I'm not sure what my NaNo plans are this year--it's looking more and more like NoNo plans or at best Novella plans as this past month's writing agenda has been upended more than once by unexpected events. There's nothing worse than coming to the keyboard feeling rusty. Of course there's nothing better than when the joints stop squeaking and the words start to flow. 

You can pick up Love by the Numbers at multiple outlets online, but it's on sale at this weekend for both the eBook or paperback.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Colorful Bay Area Community of Car Pool

It was an offhand comment from a colleague at work that got me thinking about the plot of Car Pool nearly two decades ago, something about how dreadful it would be to get stuck with a stranger she loathed in a long commute. Five days a week, every morning, every evening--what a nightmare! What opportunities, I thought, and so a novel was born. 

Shay Sumoto became my first scientist, born of a strong desire to have more lesbians in my books who weren't behind typewriters. I also wanted to create a character who was facing hard times and had made difficult choices. She had done all the right things to be on one path in life and fate has pushed her off of it.

Anthea Rossignole combined two subjects I knew well: cost accounting and oil refineries. How these two subjects intersect in my life is dull--they're much more interesting in Anthea's life. That's why fiction can be so much better than reality. Her life has been easier than Shay's, but not easy.

The contrasts between them are many: Shay is Asian, Anthea is white. Shay is better educated but nearly broke and working two jobs. Anthea has inherited  money and could probably get by not working. Shay is an environmental activist and loathes the job she does at the oil refinery. Anthea hasn't given her employer's role in the world much thought. Shay loved her parents and is still grieving her father's death. Anthea has good reason not to miss her parents. And so they spend ninety minutes each way, twice a day, five days a week...

Shay and Anthea, and their two gay friends Harold and Adrian, have inspired two additional short stories in my Frosting on the Cake collections, "Mechanics" and "Divided Highway." You can listen in on a reading of a portion of "Mechanics" during my visit at the Stonewall Archives.

The Bay Area is a community of colorful people, and when I wrote Car Pool I was living in Berkeley and working in San Francisco. Outrageous gay friends, supportive Catholic grandmothers, great bookstores, racist bosses, people trying to help people, and chili pepper oil on body parts where it was never meant to be, well, those things were all real. They're all still real except for the chili pepper oil bit; that lesson was learned and not repeated.  

Car Pool has been out of print for a while and is now available again, and is now finally available in eBook formats at You can read all about it at Bella. What you also see here are the various covers of Car Pool over the years, including its French and Spanish versions.

I wrote Car Pool after getting to know writers, readers and booksellers in the Bay Area community, some of whom show up in its pages. They know who they are. I'm glad to have an opportunity to thank them again for their kindness and support over the years.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Do You Review? Blog It! Part 2

Book review site Goodreads has undergone some recent policy changes that have angered readers and led to a massive debate that is detailed in this article at Mashable. The site was trying to end an author-reader escalation of bad behavior and bullying where both groups formed retaliatory gangs that used the review and comment systems to punish each other for perceived bad behavior. The article covers the reason Goodreads changed their policies well. It also points out that Goodreads implemented the policy before announcing it, removing reviews and other reviewer data before readers even knew there was a new policy. Undoubtedly there were babies thrown out with the bath water.

In short -- and the reason why I'm blogging about it -- honest thoughts of readers about books they'd read disappeared. Poof! Gone! Creative work went away because the data was held by the commercial site and it was within their power to take it down. So they did.

When I first wrote my lengthy two cents about why readers who consistently review books ought to create their own blog, it was because Amazon had a history of suddenly removing reviews, and a number of other reasons. At the time Goodreads wasn't owned by Amazon, and it wasn't yet a massive boiling pot of drama, fake reviews and retaliatory strikes. Who knows where all of that will end?
But as it stands, I repeat my advice: Do You Review It? BLOG IT! It's the only way YOUR thoughts about what YOU read will remain in YOUR control.