Monday, December 31, 2007

Literary Plea

The last post of this year will be a letter that I received from the novelist John Morgan Wilson (pictured).

Dear fellow writers and readers:

Peace and joy to all in these troubled times.


Massive Internet used book sales are literally killing the careers of countless writers. We get no royalties or credit for these used books sales, and our publishers make no money from them. As soon as our hardcovers or paperbacks hit the market, the Internet booksellers start buying them up used and selling them very cheaply, and resell them over and over. Why should someone buy a new book when they can purchase a used hardcover for a fraction of the price? Used book sales, which reportedly now account for about 12 percent of the entire market, have eaten so deeply into our paperback sales that many of us no longer have our books published in paperback, myself included. Consider this: Recently, my first mystery, Simple Justice, turned up at Number 51 on the bestseller list for current gay men's mysteries. That's great, except that Simple Justice has been out of print for more than seven years, meaning these are all used book sales. After writing ten mysteries, I have more readers than ever but am only credited with my initial hardcover sales. Over ten years, as my readership has grown, my income from my books had declined by half, and my publishing contract is in jeopardy. And now these Internet used book sales are starting to eat into my hardcover sales, further threatening my ability to make a living as a writer. The Internet booksellers like to say that used books are a good way for readers to discover new authors. But most of those readers will simply continue to buy used books, so the offset is negligible. The Internet booksellers are killing the golden goose but don't care. Immediate profit is all that matters to them. The bottom line is, if you are buying used books on the Internet, you are seriously hurting the authors.

That's my message. May the new year be a good one for you and yours.

Cheers, John

John Morgan Wilson in Blood, the seventh in the Edgar Award-winning Benjamin Justice mystery series, is now out in hardcover. The eighth Justice novel, Spider Season, will be published next year.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Literary Christmas

Is that a book contract I hear? Happy Holidays to all.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Literary Incarnations

I saw Wicked. Brilliant. The musical (loosely) based on Gregory Macquire's novel "Wicked, The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West," inspired from L. Frank Baum's "Oz" stories. I read Maguire's book and thought it, for lack of a better word, enchanting. It took some obscure mind to imagine the life of the Wicked Witch of the West. I found myself watching the musical thinking, that's not how it happened in the novel. However, I did find Maguire's endorsement of the musical comforting. The first act closed with a true showstopper. This video from the Tony awards doesn't capture the breadth of seeing it live.

I gotta say that Wicked is now up there with another favorite musical "Into the Woods." What both of these stories offer is the retelling of children's classics. There's something appealing to me about the darker sides of stories, a truly post-modern undertaking. In this video, you'll recognize some familiar characters.

What I loved about these stories was the beautiful handling of intense themes like oppression. Afterall, the Wicked Witch dealt with prejudice due to the color of her skin. This inspires her to become an animal rights advocate, freeing caged flying monkeys and a scared lion cub (who eventually becomes the Cowardly Lion). The song "Children Will Listen" from "Into the Woods" discusses the spreading of ideas and how they're passed onto generations.

I'm still not too sure if I'm going to see Sweeney Todd with Johnny Depp. There are some versions of stories that I'm satisfied with. (I saw the movie Hairspray, then the musical Hairspary. I don't have the time or money to see the movie of the musical Hairspray.) I was satisfied with the version of Sweeney Todd that I'd seen on PBS and on stage. In my mind, Sweeney Todd is a middle aged guy, kinda hefty. Not Johnny Depp in a fright wig.

I'm looking forward to seeing the musical version of The Color Purple. I'm curious. I saw the movie, loved the book, and wonder how the musical will do. I'm telling you right now: If there is a movie made of this musical, I'm not going to go see it. I'm not going to see the movie musical when I'd read the book, saw the movie and the live stage musical. That's too many incarnations for one lifetime.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Literary Dispute

I thought this was funny. I love the simulated kung-fu moves.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Literary Racism

This article appeared in the Washington Post. It was results of a new poll among African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans. It also added thoughts on how people of color see each other. I found it interesting because it reinforces themes that I try to develop in my work. People have actually said that stories around race is a "Post" issue. We are post-racism, post-multiculturalism. I would love for this to be the case. However, I work in AIDS, a disease that strikes some of the most vulnerable populations in our country and the world. Let's face it: I don't think we'd be here--millions of people dead of AIDS--if we listened and respected one minority--gays.
Something that the article did mention is that these groups believed that we should be willing to put aside our prejudices and work together.

Read it here.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Literary Stereotype

See these guys with their laptops at some coffee shop? Disgusting. Ever since I saw these dweebs show up at my caffeine watering holes, I'd give them dirty looks and wish they'd go back home with their techno gadgets. I thought they were pretentious ass wipes letting the world know they're working on the next big screenplay.

Well, today, I couldn't take writing in my apartment one more minute. Actually I wasn't writing in my apartment, which made me wonder if there was something to writing in a coffee shop. I packed up old Myrtle, my laptop's name, and we headed over to the Coffee Table, a joint about a block away. I ordered their Asian Chicken Salad and sat down to work. You know what? I came up with some pretty good pages, I think. Yes, there were about five other people in the place writing and I thought maybe it was this collective energy of writers trying to put things down on paper that helped me write. I mean, anything in a group harnesses power. (I meditate alone which is great, but meditating in a group has its own kind of greatness.
You might see The Coffee Table in the Acknowledgment section of my next book.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Literary Studio

I'll be teaching at the Writers Studio for UCLA Extension. It'll be for four days from February 7-8, 2008. What's so exciting about it for me is that I went to this very same event almost ten years ago. It's fantastic to return to this as an instructor. I loved spending four intense days writing, writing, talking about writing, then writing some more. I'll be focusing on "Characters and Dialogue."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Literary "Journey"

I have these personal essays bottled up in me. Some day, I want to get to them after I write my third novel, a collection of short stories, and a new solo show. I think about that time of coming of age. I want to write about the music that I listened to. I just read from the Thai Crackhead known as Prince Gomolvilas that the band Journey, whose Escape album was part of my development, recently announced their new lead singer...and he's Filipino. They found him on You Tube of all places.

From the Journey Website:

(Oh, the Noel referred to in the press release is not me.)

December 5, 2007 -- After much speculation…the wait is finally over. JOURNEY--Neal Schon (guitar), Jonathan Cain (keyboards), Ross Valory (bass), Deen Castronovo (drums)--is proud to introduce fans all over the world to their new lead singer, Arnel Pineda (“pin-eh-da”). He replaces Jeff Scott Soto, who parted ways with the band earlier this year after stepping in for Steve Augeri, who had to leave the band in 2006 for medical reasons.

Arnel hails from Quezon City in the Philippines and has been singing Journey songs--in addition to original material--with his band, The Zoo, for the past couple of years in clubs all over his homeland. Joining the legendary band is a dream come true for him. “It’s so exciting to sing with one of the best bands in the world. It’ll be a lot of hard work on my part and I’m actually looking forward to the scrutiny I’ll get from the hardcore JOURNEY fans. I know they’ll expect me to sound exactly like ‘the voice’ (Steve Perry), but that will never happen. I know there's only one Steve Perry in this world.”

When it was time for JOURNEY to look for a new lead singer, the internet came to their rescue. Guitarist Neal Schon wanted someone new to the music business, so he turned to YouTube. After finding Arnel singing “Faithfully,” he knew he had found the perfect frontman.

“I was frustrated about not having a singer,” explains guitarist Neal Schon, “so I went on YouTube for a couple of days and just sat on it for hours. I was starting to think I was never going to find anybody. But then I found The Zoo and I watched a bunch of different video clips that they had posted. After watching the videos over and over again, I had to walk away from the computer and let what I heard sink in because it sounded too good to be true. I thought, ‘he can’t be that good.’ But he is that good, he’s the real deal and so tremendously talented. Arnel doesn’t sound synthetic and he’s not emulating anyone. I tried to get a hold of him through YouTube and I finally heard from him that night, but it took some convincing to get him to believe that it really was me and not an imposter.”

Arnel Pineda picks up the story: “My friend Noel picked up the message on YouTube and told me it was from Neal. I thought it was a hoax so I ignored it. Noel said, ‘what if it really was Neal and he wanted to offer you the chance of a lifetime?’ So I e-mailed Neal back and the rest is history.”

“Arnel brings a soulful and passionate voice to JOURNEY,” continues keyboardist Jonathan Cain. “His personality is very well-suited to our music. He’s a sincere, authentic person with a great smile and a big heart. I think fans are really going to love him. With Arnel’s soaring tenor, Journey returns to our heritage sound.”

Schon agrees, “We feel reborn. I think there’s a lot of chemistry between the five of us. At first we were going to go into the studio and just write 4 songs, but now it’s escalated to a lot of great new and diverse material. The stuff sounds tremendous. Everyone’s so stoked about it. We feel very fortunate to have found Arnel.”

JOURNEY is currently working on a new album with legendary producer Kevin Shirley, which they hope to release by spring/summer 2008. Details will be announced early next year.

More in this Rolling Stone article.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Literary 3D

I finally saw the stunning Beowulf in 3D--Amazing! I didn't understand why no one had thought of bringing this epic English story to the screen before. What amazes me is that the original author of the story is unknown--who the hell wrote Beowulf?!?! I believe it was penned sometime in the first millenium. I doubt that the writer of Beowulf could have ever guessed that his (or her?) story would be enjoyed by those living in the third millenium.

On a side note, as I watched the movie, caught up in the troubles of fighting the first antagonist Grendel, I kept thinking of the Philippines' version of America's Next Top Model. Ur, the show is called Philippines' Next Top Model. The winner of the show is a lovely Filipina named...Grendel. What were her parents thinking naming their daughter after a legendary monster? (Grendel below)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Literary Sewing

When the writing gets discouraging (I can't think about these characters anymore!) or work gets hectic (Why am I the only one working on this project?!?!?), I have to clear my head. I sew. I started sewing several years ago and then I stopped when my dad died. I pulled out the trusty sewing machine not too long ago when friends said that I looked stressed out. Sewing calmed me down.

I began to sew out of necessity. Often pants are kinda long for these legs of mine. Having someone hem them for me was a fortune ($8 for one leg, one seamstress told me. As if I'm only going to hem one pant leg.). I'd want to buy bedding or curtains and couldn't believe how much that sh*t costs. I'm no genius, but aren't duvet covers and pillowcases nothing more than two sheets sewn together? Aren't curtains nothing more than long pieces of cloth attached to a rod? I could do that, I thought.

I went to Target and invested a hunrid dollars in a Singer and off I went. It was one of the best investments I'd ever made. I made curtains and bedsheets and hemmed clothes. I tell all my friends to learn how to sew. It'll empower you! I didn't take classes, I just read the instructions that went with the machine.

Lately, I'd been dealing with my writing frustrations by cutting up clothes and putting them back together again. I'm a big thrift store rat. I bought these dollar blazers. I bought a footbal jersey, an old t-shirt with a boxing motif, and a red sweat jacket with a hood. Each a dollar. I cut off the number 13 from the jersey and attached it to one blazer. I cut up the boxing t-shirt and ripped off the hoodie from the sweat jacket and sewed them onto another coat. Two new blazers that no one else has, all for $5. I had the coats dry cleaned--the dry cleaning cost more than the materials!

Afterward, I felt more refreshed. I returned to writing or to my job. I reveled in the fact that I took out my frustration on a cheap endeavor that allows me to be creative AND better my wardrobe.