Friday, August 18, 2006

Mahu Surfer Cover Art

I just got the cover art for the new book, Mahu Surfer, which will be coming out from Alyson in August, 2007.

I think it's cool, though I wish they had been able to find a way to incorporate the Mahu logo into the cover. After all, I'm trying to develop a brand, and the logo is part of the brand identity.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

James Kirkwood

Vicki Van Lieu was my best friend as a teenager. We used to hang out after school and write stories, and it's through Vicki that I discovered a writer who was very influential in my development. Vicki's mother had a sleek black cat named Rajah, and Vicki and Rajah had a love-hate relationship. So when Vicki stumbled on a book called P.S. Your Cat is Dead, she picked it up immediately.

She lent it to me later, and I fell in love with it. It's the story of a struggling actor whose girlfriend has left him, and it's New Year's Eve and he's all alone. Oh, and p.s., his cat is dead.

Then a burglar breaks into his apartment. Could things get any worse? Well, how about if the burglar was gay, and awoke something dormant inside our hero?

I haven't read the book in years, though I probably should again, just to see if it stands up. But it was really meaningful to me back then, when my own sexuality was more than dormant, and I'm not sure it would have the same impact now.

However, it drove me to read everything James Kirkwood had written. And then I discovered he was the co-author of the Broadway smash A Chorus Line, which opened on Broadway in 1975, the year I graduated from high school. He ended up sharing a Pulitzer and a Tony for his work.

I quickly read everything of Kirkwood's that I could get my hands on, and the homoeroticism of his work, which was very understated, spoke to me in a big way. Like A Separate Peace, the John Knowles novel that sparked the desire to write in me, Kirkwood's work came at a time when I needed to read it, and I'll be forever grateful.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Gay Guy/Weak Guy

Though I've pretty much given up on MTV's Real World (I'm just too old for all that adolescent posturing) I'm still a fan of The Real World/Road Rules Challenge. And I'm fascinated by something that Shane, the only openly gay contestant on this season's challenge, said last week.

He and his female partner had to cross this rope strung high across the water from opposite sides, cross over each other, and then continue to the other side. Not something I could do in a million years.

Shane couldn't do it either--he fell to the water below. He was clearly upset with his performance and said, "Don't mind being the gay guy. Don't want to be the weak guy."

It struck me as something that Kimo would say-- and something lots of out gay men would probably say too. We've accepted our sexuality, but don't want that to imply that we're somehow weaker than everybody else.

As a matter of fact, it's probably something Kimo will say at some point in the future. Thanks for the line, Shane.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Now that I've been home from ThrillerFest for a few days, I've had a chance to think about it and process what I learned. I typed up all my notes, which were mostly on the technical panels, and I certainly feel that I learned a few things from those panels. I could have spent a whole day listening to Nick Hughes, and I'd love to get him to Sleuthfest.

First of all, if I closed my eyes it sounded like Sean Connery was talking to me-- and I could listen to him forever. But more than that, Nick had so many interesting things to talk about-- his experiences in the French Foreign Legion, work as a bodyguard, and how to survive a street fight.

The last stuff was the most relevant to my writing. I have Kimo volunteering at a gay & lesbian teen center on Waikiki, and I want him to be teaching a once-a-week course on self-esteem and self-defense. How to stand up to bullies, for example, and how to feel good enough about yourself that you can.

I loved the Arizona Biltmore, and everyone I met was very friendly. On the first day, I jumped into a caravan that went to Poisoned Pen, a bookstore in downtown Phoenix, and then out to the Scottsdale Gun Club. It was Zoe Sharp's birthday, and she wanted to shoot a submachine gun.

The rest of us got to watch her, and shoot a variety of weapons, including a 9 mm and a .357 magnum. I understood why my father's shooting jacket has a padded shoulder-- the semi-automatic rifle I fired had a real kick.

I also realized more clearly the difference between a thriller and a mystery. I don't read that many true thrillers; I hardly recognized any of the names on the panels, and those I did recognize I knew from reading mysteries and attending mystery conferences.

ThrillerFest was very well-run, though I was a bit disappointed that it was so successful-- I had been hoping for a smaller conference where there would be more opportunity to really get to know people, as I did in Toronto. Would I go back? I don't know. It will be in New York next summer, and a lot depends on where else I want to go or need to go, and how willing Marc is to let me go!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Lowered Expectations

OK, I never thought Mahu was going to be a best-seller, or set the world on fire. I hoped it would find an audience, and that readers would like the book.

But I did hope for more than I got, so I'm learning to lower my expectations.

The first person I met who'd read Mahu, outside of my close friends, told me that she was a reader for Insight Out Books, that she'd loved the book and recommended it. So I kept waiting to hear from Haworth, and scanning the Insight Out catalogs that came in. I finally accepted that they had just chosen not to include Mahu in their offerings.

I was hoping to get a couple of decent reviews. Certainly I'd love the New York Times, but I knew that it could only happen by a fluke. I did think I was more realistic in getting a couple of reviews in mainstream publications, particularly my hometown newspapers.

Didn't happen. I greatly appreciate the reviews that Mahu got, which were generally quite positive, but they came from GLBT publications and websites in places like Connecticut and Minnesota. I didn't get into any of the big magazines like Out or The Advocate, and I didn't get into any newspapers in big cities.

The biggest disappointment was not making the top five finalists for a Lammy award. I thought I knew most of my competition and I was sure Mahu would stack up against them. But I didn't make it. Several people told me they thought Mahu belonged there, and that it was a symptom of how biased and/or out of touch the judges were.

I was hoping to get invited somewhere-- to speak at a conference or workshop, or visit a college. Hasn't happened yet-- but it might still, though I'm not expecting anything.

So I'm trying to be grateful for what I've gotten. Some positive reviews. Good word-of-mouth feedback. The chance to sit on a couple of panels at mystery conferences. Sales that look like they will top the publisher's expectations (though my royalties haven't yet paid back the money I've spent promoting, and probably never will.)

I've had a book published by a reputable publisher, and it opened doors for the sequel to come out in Spring 2007 (from Alyson Books) and for me to edit a collection of essays, Paws & Reflect, about gay men and their dogs. That will also be out from Alyson, in November, 2006. I now have a new agent, and I've met a lot of great writers online and through my travels.

I think any new author doesn't really know what to expect, and we should all be grateful for whatever comes out way. Now that I've gotten over my initial disappointments, I think I can be.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Pride Write

When I was at Stonewall Pride yesterday, Eston Dunn (aka E. Robert Dunn, author of the Echelon's End science fiction series) invited me to join a group of other gay authors at a Borders event later in the afternoon.

I was hot and sweaty and tired and knew Marc was waiting for me at home. But I agreed to go anyway (after letting Marc know I'd be late.) And I'm glad I did.

I didn't sell a single book, and there wasn't much of a crowd. But I did get to chat a bit with Richelle, the customer relations manager. I discovered that Borders has so far sold 38 of the 50 copies they ordered for my original reading back in September. At the reading, I sold 24 copies, leaving 26 behind. So another 14 copies have sold since then.

I think that's pretty good. Most stores would have sent back all or most of the unsold copies right after the reading. I did sign the rest of the books, and Richelle gave us all some little "autographed by the author" stickers to put on the books.

I spoke to her about Paws & Reflect in the fall, and how I hoped to do some publicity with Andy Zeffer and Jay Quinn, and let her know that the new Mahu book will be out next spring. And I also mentioned that I'm hoping to get Tony Bidulka to come to Florida, and if she sets up a reading for him I will do my best to draw out an audience.

So I thought that was a pretty productive event, all in all.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Stonewall Pride

Today I spent a couple of hours at the Stonewall Pride Parade and festival in Fort Lauderdale. Andy Zeffer was kind enough to coordinate a table for gay authors uner the tent of his publication, Express Gay News. He and I were joined by Eston Dunn and Richard Blanco.

Our mantra was "Gay Books by Gay Authors" and "Sexy Summer Reading." When people came up, we pointed to Mahu as gay mystery, Eston's book as gay sci-fi, and Andy's book as gay Hollywood. Richard's was gay poetry-- though there wasn't that much gay about it.

I only sold two books, though Eston and Andy did much better. But I had fun hanging out at Pride and getting my name out there. Andy handed out a ton of postcards for us, and EGN advertised the event for us and made up a great poster than ran the length of the table. So there was a lot of visibility.

I met several people who'd already read the book, and I even saw a guy wearing my Mahu t-shirt. I'm still trying to figure out where he got it-- he must have bought it online. He was another walking billboard for me!

I saw so many funny, funny t-shirts out there, and was motivated again to try and take the rainbow surfboard graphic and turn it into a money maker on t-shirts. My favorite slogans were "Hi, You'll Do," and "Stop that man! I want to get off."

My high school speech teacher also showed up to say hello-- which was wild. I hadn't seen him in 31 years, though he looked an awful lot like the way I remembered.

So the message of this post is that you have to take advantage of any opportunities you have to get your name out there and sell books-- and any time hundreds of gay men and women (young, old, and in between; handsome, hideous and in between as well) see your name and the name of your book, it's got to be a good thing.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Glad Day in Toronto

While I was in Toronto, I also had the chance to visit Glad Day Books, which was a huge (by my standards, certainly) gay and lesbian bookstore. My internet friend Pat Brown (her gay mystery L.A. Heat is due out from Alyson any day now, and it's terrific) had arranged for a visit by herself, Tony Bidulka and me. Pat was sick that day and couldn't join us, but Tony graciously agreed to go along with me, even though he'd been there the day before.

Glad Day had so much stock I was just overwhelmed. I met the clerk and the manager, John, and chatted a little-- but honestly, I was too into checking out the stock to spend too much time talking! I noticed they had all four books I'm in at the moment-- Alyson's My First Time 2 and Dorm Porn (in which I have a piece, but under a pseudonym) as well as Mahu and the new Cleis anthology, Cowboys: Gay Erotic Stories.

It was fun to go around and talk to the stores, and now that I've done it I think I'll feel better about doing it in other cities. I should certainly get over to the couple of stores we have in South Florida, even though they don't have that much stock. I'll have to work on that this summer!


Hand-selling is one of the most important parts of the whole bookselling process. A bookstore manager or sales clerk who likes a book, or knows the store's stock, can make recommendations to customers. If you as an author get to know the bookstore's staff, they can help get your books into the hands of customers.

When I was in Toronto for Bloody Words, I went to two terrific gay bookstores: Not the Rosedale Library and Glad Day. At the first, I just walked in off the street and asked to speak to the manager. I had to identify myself as an author-- not some complaining customer. Then the manager and I had a nice chat about gay books, and I told him a little about myself.

And then he hand-sold me a couple of books-- ones that his customers really seemed to like, or so he said. I just finished reading Joey Comeau's Lockpick Pornography, which I bought because the manager thought highly of it and said the store could barely keep it in stock. He knew the author's back story, too-- about how he'd started publishing online to earn enough money for college.

I was hooked. I bought the book, which I liked-- it's a very interesting riff on gender, in particular, wrapped around a sexy, funny story. I hope this manager will be pushing Mahu the same way!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Bloody Words

I just returned from Bloody Words, a mystery writer's conference in Toronto. I think it's important to attend as many as this kind of event as you can afford when you're trying to build an audience for your book. I haven't really sold a lot of copies at events like this-- one at Bouchercon, one at Sleuthfest and one at BW. But I know I'm building my name recognition.

I also post on several list serves, such as DorothyL and Murder Must Advertise. Several people came up to me at BW and said that they recognized my name from DorothyL and wanted to say hello. It was nice to meet them, and to connect a face to some of the names I've seen online.

This morning, I made a post to DorothyL about the conference-- how well run it was, and all the people I'd met. That post served to inform the online community about the con, as well as to give me a chance to get my name out again.

Everyone I've spoken to agrees-- it's a lot of work to promote your book. But if, like me, you're in this for the long haul-- I want to make a career out of writing-- I consider it an investment in my future. And along the way, I'm having fun at conferences. I'm learning from panel discussions and from posts about writing, marketing, and mysteries. Sure, I'm not spending as much time writing as I should-- but at least this sort of thing is a lot more productive than computer solitaire!

Friday, March 10, 2006


I'm finally recovering from Sleuthfest, the mystery writers' conference sponsored by our local chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. I was one of the volunteer organizers, so since January I've been collecting names of people who wanted to have appointments with agents & editors, then organizing those appointments. I spent Friday and Saturday afternoon at the center of barely controlled chaos, as writers went in and out for their 10-minute appointments.

Sometimes we were ahead, and sometimes behind. It's a mystery how it all worked out, but everyone seemed happy--except for one guy. Oh, well, you can't please everyone.

Writers' conferences are great places for name recognition and networking. I think I was laying the groundwork this winter. A couple hundred other writers and I exchanged emails, and then I met most of them face to face, even if it was only for a minute or two.

I didn't sell as many books as the bookseller or I expected, but I think that's because my panels (I moderated one and spoke on one) took place on Friday morning, before I'd had the chance to meet all those writers and impress them with my charming personality. Next year, I'll ask for a Saturday panel rather than one on Friday.

But I think this is like making posts on DorothyL, or the PublishedGayAuthors list serve-- it's about hitting your potential audience with your name over and over again. And I did sell books to people who had met me, or who wanted a gift for a gay friend or relative.

Hopefully this increased name recognition will start to pay off with the next book, Paws & Reflect-- the anthology about gay men and dogs that's coming out from Alyson in September.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Sleuthfest Raffle

I've been volunteering to help my local chapter of the Mystery Writers of America with Sleuthfest, the mystery writers' conference we put on every March. This year's runs from March 2-5, and one of the features is a raffle for items donated by authors.

During the conference, you buy raffle tickets from one of the volunteers (usually women wearing pink boas) and then deposit your tickets in front of the items you want. The more you want something, the more tickets you drop in.

At the cocktail party on Saturday night, someone draws the winners for each prize. We've had some great ones-- trips and dinners as well as autographed books. MWA members were asked to donate, so I came up with the idea of a Hawaii-themed basket of goodies.

I had fun shopping for the stuff-- a platter, glasses and mugs; a bag of Kona coffee and one of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, as well as assorted leis and a ball cap patterned with blue hibiscus flowers. I threw in one of my Mahu post-it note pads as well as, of course, an autographed copy of Mahu.

This is just another promotional expense, as well as a charitable donation. Everybody who walks by the raffle items will see my name and my book's name. This is why I volunteered, too; to get my name out there.

Everyone who registers for Sleuthfest is eligible for a ten-minute pitch session with one of the agents or editors who are attending the conference, and I'm coordinating the scheduling of these appointments. A couple hundred people have been getting emails from me, and will meet me in person when they show up for their appointments.

I know from my own experience that I've bought books by authors I've met at conferences, especially people who've been nice to me. So I'm doing my best to be nice to everyone-- including putting together a fun basket of Hawaiian stuff for the raffle.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Reader's Group

Tonight I had a really great experience. The GLBT book group at the Barnes & Noble in Fort Lauderdale read Mahu, and invited me to join them to discuss the book. The seven folks who were there had all read the book and liked it, and I had the chance to talk about it with them-- my inspiration, my plans for the series, and so on. It was so cool to hear the things that they liked-- the Hawaiian atmosphere, Kimo's relationships with his family, the struggles he goes through as a gay man working in a macho environment.

It was also very interesting to me to react to their comments-- to try and enhance their experience of the book with some background on how it came to be.

Thanks so much to the facilitators of the group-- John Spero, who has been such a supporter, and Leigh Rosenthal, who I went to college with so many years ago. The group was such a great experience that I hope to join them and read with them for a while.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Amazon Programs

I've signed up for two new marketing efforts at The first is their Amazon Connect program, which allows authors to connect with readers directly. I make blog posts on the Amazon site, which are then displayed to customers who search for my books. Here's what the Mahu page looks like.

The second is Amazon Shorts, which allows me to sell short stories bsed on Kimo's further adventures. I've written about a dozen of these stories, and hope to collect them someday in an anthology-- but for now I think it will be an interesting way for people who've read Mahu to see what Kimo is up to now.