LGBT Crime Fiction: A Mystery Writers of America Panel

MWA-NY Event promo graphic

If you’re in the New York City area, I hope you will come out for the Mystery Writers of America-NY Chapter’s February 3rd event where I’ll be speaking with three other authors about the status of LGBT crime, mystery and thriller fiction.

Moderated by author Ann Aptaker (Criminal Gold, Tarnished Gold), the panel will address the challenges of ‘crossover’ from LGBT-niche to mainstream readers. Is there a way out of the LGBT ghetto? Does there need to be? How do LGBT authors themselves respond to books with hetero sex and romance storylines?

Purchase tickets here and join the Facebook page!

 

 

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Giving Thanks to Family, Friends, and Fans

happy holidays

About seven years ago, I took up writing seriously. I was nearing forty, and you could say it was a bit of a midlife crisis. That may sound young for a midlife crisis, but taken literally, you’re a pretty optimistic fellow to call a major lifestyle change in your late forties or fifties a midlife crisis. With all of the bad habits I’ve subjected my body to over the years, I’ll be quite glad to reach my seventies.

I think of it as a midlife crisis in the sense that it had started hitting me hard that I had always loved writing fiction, but I had never made the time for it. Since college, through a combination of practicality and a healthy beat-down in creative writing classes, writing became my dream deferred. That’s not to say that I regret making a career as a social worker, but I felt like a big part of who I am had been left unventured. In Eriksonian terms, I was caught in that quandary of stagnation versus generativity, which brings to bear the big questions about meaningfulness and what kind of artifact of your life will be around after you’re gone.

To most of the people around me, my decision to ‘come out’ as a writer came as a surprise. I had been a social worker and an educator for over a dozen years, taking up the cause of LGBT youth. I’ll always be proud of that work and consider myself privileged to have made a career out of service to my community. Still, there was an entirely different creative side of me that I needed to explore.

I started working on a novel, joined a writer’s critique group, attended workshops and conferences, and read books about plot and structure and writing craft. I took the leap into submitting my work for publication, and in 2009, I placed my first short story in a literary journal. I followed up with that at a pretty brisk pace with more short story publications and now three books in print and two more coming out next year.

This writing thing of mine is more than a passing phase. It hasn’t brought me fame or fortune, but I keep at it because I love putting words on the page and I know this journey is a marathon, not a sprint. I also know that I couldn’t do it without the incredible support of my family and friends and the readers who have taken the time to let me know that they enjoyed what I wrote.

So, as the holiday season has us thinking about togetherness and giving, I wanted to thank the many people I have been fortunate enough to come to know as family. You’ve encouraged me, tolerated me during my reclusive, moody periods, and been there to celebrate with me. Thank you, and may 2016 be a stellar year for all of us.

 

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A Night Celebrating Local Authors and LGBT Spaces

Authors Panel at LGBT Queens Book Night

L to R: Nancy Agabian, Tim Fredrick, Shelley Ettinger, Andrew J. Peters and Rigoberto Gonzalez

Just in case you missed last week’s 2015 LGBT Queens Book Night, here’s a recap.

Sponsored by Newtown Literary Journal and Poets & Writers, the event brought together four local authors to discuss and read from their 2015 releases. The program was moderated by Nancy Agabian, and a nice Q&A took place at the end, ranging from questions about the status of LGBT characters in fantasy to the importance of LGBT-specific (or queer) literary events. More about that later.

As it happened, three of the four of us had participated in Lambda Literary Foundation’s Fellows program. Rigoberto Gonzalez was one of its first faculty. Shelley Ettinger was a fellow at its second annual program, and I was a fellow in 2011. We reminisced and tried to explain to the audience what the experience had meant to us. We each felt that it was one of those rare life-changing moments from which we emerged wiser and stronger. For me, it was an affirmation of my identity not only as a writer but as a queer writer. It gave me the push to get my work out in print.

Queens Pride House hosted the event, which was wonderfully appropriate for a program celebrating the work of local authors. Kew Gardens has been my home since 2001. My husband and I moved into an apartment together in the neighborhood right after our wedding, and we bought the place in 2009.

One thing that we Queens residents are proud of is the tremendous cultural diversity of our borough–the most diverse borough in New York City. Just walking around the block, you have exposure to cultures from around the world. Queens doesn’t have the glam of Manhattan or the hipster vibe of Brooklyn’s trendy neighborhoods. But it has a comfy, down-to-earth feel, and it’s truly a microcosm of the world.

Nancy asked each of us about our take on queer spaces for writers. I can’t say verbatim what my response was, but I know it was enthusiastic. There’s an age-old debate over whether creating queer spaces provides needed validation and support or keeps us segregated from the mainstream. I’ve heard non-queer people say that by closing ourselves off, we deprive them of our experience and point-of-view. That’s something I understand to an extent when I think about the parallel process in other minority communities.

But I don’t think it’s a sufficient argument against creating queer spaces, or spaces just for women or just for other minority groups. It’s based on a false dichotomy. We’re not either in our own community or in the broader community. We’re continuously in that broader community from the time we leave out for work in the morning to the time we come home.

I believe we need our own spaces. For many of us, our lives are full of social, family and professional circles where we exchange and interact with non-queer people, and naturally we grow and change through those experiences. But something special happens when we get together, just as us, unchallenged by real or potential non-queer disapproval. I don’t mean that it’s necessarily more valuable or profound than other spaces that we share with non-queer writers. But it’s a different way of nourishing our souls.

 

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Notes from the Underground

A Wordle or “word cloud” created from Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground, retrieved from acetinc.com

I thought I’d pop my head out of the social media manhole where I’ve been hiding these past few weeks. I’ve never been a wiz at keeping up a dynamic presence here and over at my other haunts like Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads. The month of August was particularly sketchy for me since I had deadlines for two projects.

That does make for some exciting news…

via GIPHY

I finished the last round of proofreading, and Banished Sons of Poseidon is in its final stages of production. Advance Review Copies (ARCs) should be available real soon. The book, a sequel to The Seventh Pleiade, releases on October 13, 2015.

And, I completed the manuscript for a farther upcoming release titled The City of Seven Gods. It’s another ancient world-themed novel with less magic and more Game of Thrones-ish drama, not for the kids table at Thanksgiving dinner. The book was picked up by Bold Strokes, and it’s on the production schedule for an April 2016 release.

Other than that, I’ve snuck in some tennis watching (Go Federer, winning a master’s event in Cincinnati!), and beach-going, and weekend barbecues. Of the latter, I have the mosquito bites to prove it. I’m writing this post while scratching away at my ankles. Grrr…

Oh, I also discovered Terry Pratchett! Well, just his books I’m afraid, may he RIP. I sped through Dodger this summer and was blown away. That’s the way books should be written IMHO: ferociously clever, utterly transporting, satisfyingly tragic and triumphant (and with far less adverbs).

So what did you do this summer?

 

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Heroic images from Paris

We took my parents to Paris for their 50th anniversary. It was my third visit, and instead of the usual tourist photos, I was drawn to taking some shots of sculpture, artwork and architecture, naturally of a classical and heroic style. This of course is from the steps of Opera Garnier.

We took my parents to Paris for their 50th anniversary. It was my third visit, and instead of the usual tourist photos, I was drawn to taking some shots of sculpture, artwork and architecture, naturally of a classical and heroic style. This of course is from the steps of Opera Garnier.

 

My husband and I attended the Gaultier exhibit at the Grand Palais.

My husband and I attended the Gaultier exhibit at the Grand Palais.

 

I only took one shot from the exhibit because this really surprised me: Kurt Cobain in vampiric Gaultier menswear.

I only took one shot from the exhibit because this really surprised me: Kurt Cobain in vampiric Gaultier menswear.

Pont Alexandre III

A pillar from the highly ornamental Pont Alexandre III.

Lion and cherub

Lion and cherub.

A nobleman at Versailles

A nobleman in the gardens of Versailles. Possibly Alexandre the Great?

fountain sculpture

I took a number of photos of fountain sculptures at the gardens of Versailles. These are some scary looking dogs.

Fountain sculpture

Fountain sculpture with hunting scene.

A fountain nymph

A fountain nymph

Inside the Chateau de Versailles, I just took a few shots. Here, the flamboyant Louis XIV.

Inside the Chateau de Versailles, I just took a few shots. Here, the flamboyant Louis XIV.

Ceiling fresco at the Apollo Salon

Apollo has been interesting me lately, and I spotted him on this ceiling fresco in the “Apollo Salon.”

Diana

The goddess Diana in the Hall of Mirrors

Gates of the Chateau de Versailles

The splendid gates of the Chateau de Versailles

Rodin sculpture

Rodin archer statue at Musee d’Orsay

Napoleon

Portrait of Napoleon outside the Musee de la Legion d’Honneur

Le Serment de Spartacus

Le Serment de Spartacus in the Tuileries Gardens

Theseus and the Minotaur

Theseus and the Minotaur

Cain

Cain, after killing his brother Abel.

Dionysius

A Dionysius at the Louvre

Antinous

And, my favorites: Antinous statues in tribute to Hadrian’s famed lover. The description of this work said that it was likely a statue of Hercules, which Hadrian commissioned to have modified to portray his heroic lover.

Antinous

Antinous bust

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My FLAMECON Photoessay

Central Hall at FLAMECON

I arrived at FLAMECON not sure what to expect. The Grand Prospect Hall, a catering hall in Brooklyn that was built in 1892 as a showplace for wealthy Park Slope residents, was transformed into a multi-room convention center.

Gay Geeks of NYC

The first people I met were this cute couple from Gay Geeks of NYC who organize gaymer events at the LGBT community center.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Golden Girls as cats

Browsing around, I was not surprised to see Golden Girls artwork. Though I’ve never seen them turned into cats.

I took a selfie with a guy dressed up as Green Lantern. That was a popular costume for guys and girls.

I took a selfie with a guy dressed up as Green Lantern. That was a popular costume for guys and girls.

YA Panel

I attended a YA Panel with (l to r) David Levithan, Sara Farizan and Adam Silvera. The room was overfilled, and it was nice to see lots of young people in attendance.

The Freaky, Fantastical Four

This was the table for the Freaky, Fantastical Four (l to r): David Swatling, Daniel W. Kelly, Tom Cardamone, and me. I was happy that I sold six books.

This was some artwork that caught my eye.

This was some artwork that caught my eye.

MASSIVE

As did this booth: MASSIVE artwork by Gengoroh Tagame and Jiraiya.

All in all, it was a fantastic day, and I even took a photo with the FLAMECON mascot.

All in all, it was a fantastic day, and I even took a photo with the FLAMECON mascot.

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