TL:DR because I don’t trust other fiction.

I toddled down a rabbit hole this morning.  I say toddled because I got myself out so quickly instead of losing 2 hours to doomscrolling.

I was following a series of increasingly strident flags declaring that THIS  is “the great gay American novel.”  And I mean, I like great novels and gay people and am interested in America and anyone who has the nerve to lift the curtain.  But like I always do, I started by reading the worst reviews. That’s where the gold is, the truth, the ick, or in some cases “this was too horny for me and had too many queer characters” in which case it’s a one-click buy. But sometimes it’s:


That’s a one-click read, that review. If it inspires such vitriol then either it’s a masterpiece or a steaming turd.

Ah.  The latter.

Because I’m absolutely not a little bit sorry, but The Great Gay American Novel is not allowed to be a goddamn Kill-Your-Gays trope.  Not a fucking chance.

We’ve heard those stories. They’re called queer history.  Despair, isolation, mental illness, and often the only defence is to destroy all human feeling in your soul so you don’t have to cope with the fact that if everyone knew you for who you are, they wouldn’t just hate you, they would want you dead.


Boooooooorrrrrrrring because it’s horrible and spiritually deadening and it still happens in real life all the time and so we don’t need a 700 page novel about a loser who spends the whole book being awful to everyone and experiencing zero emotional growth but he just happens to be a gay man in a book about gay men so that makes it THE GREAT GAY AMERICAN NOVEL. It just feels like more trauma porn: look, here’s a walking, talking tragedy, let’s zoom in closer on all his faults. Now closer. NOW CLOSER. 

Look, I haven’t read this book and under no circumstances will I ever read it (ok, a million dollars but I get half in advance.) I am basing my opinions on one review and the blurb of the book. And an interview in which the author said they didn’t believe in psychology and that people who were broken should essentially just stay broken.

That’s when I realized I’d *never* read the book, nor probably anything else this author has written. The way to help someone who is broken is to see them, hear them, love them, help them. “I see your pain.  Your pain is real.  Pain ends.  I trust you. I believe you.” You don’t shrug and then take character notes.  I refuse to read 700 pages about someone who refuses to grow, who gets no help, and whose main characteristic is being an irredeemable piece of shit.  Just sounds like a novel about straight people.

*and write

16 – Tear






























This poem is part of an ongoing dialog with identity and self-knowing. I’ve been buying a lot of new Canadian poetry at independent book fairs and am struck by its precision. A descriptive poetry, emotional but not instructive the way I find a lot of modern poetry can be. The poetry I like the best says “here we are, you and I, and this is what that’s like for me.” And the “you and I” can be anyone: you and everyone, you and no one, you and the world, you and yourself.

You maybe don’t have to love yourself. You can maybe just be satisfied with yourself and that will be enough for now. You don’t have to love toast but you might happily eat it every day. The heart is a muscle and all muscles need training. Even when the heart is metaphor for the locus of all your emotions, it must still be trained. If you want to move mountains, you start with one stone.

It is possible to exercise love for all creation by annihilating the self, but the empty vessel is itself a conceit, an opportunity only afforded in a society of abundance. If we are all Buddhists, who fills our begging bowls? Most of us must wade through the muck of our attachments–to spouses, children, parents, life–but to do this well requires an open, active heart. Brave-heartedness, the will to show love despite the countless reasons not to, will be key to our survival in the coming decades. Shallow, angry thinking cannot save us from our selves. We need more and stronger love.

We need more tears.

Who owns us?

Way back in the wayback, I started this blog by talking about Cory Doctorow.  He really is a smart person, and in this guest blog for indie author legend Brian Sanderson he brings his ethics and intellect to bear on how Amazon is ripping everyone off.

The problem with Audible is not that it makes a wide catalog of audiobooks available through a convenient app. The problem is that Audible uses technology, accounting fraud, and market power to steal vast fortunes from creative workers and the audiences who love their books.

Disclosure: I’m an author who uses Amazon as a sales platform, but in this insular space I feel safe in expressing my deep concern that we have let a single corporation insert itself into so much of our daily lives. I’ll let Doctorow himself speak to that.


I don’t have any audiobooks for sale. Authorship and publishing take so much attention that I haven’t had any to spare for yet another aspect of it, so I can’t add much commentary.  But Doctorow has nothing to gain by refusing to list his audiobooks on Amazon. In fact: 

my agent tells me that it cost me a fully paid-off mortgage and a fully funded college savings account for my daughter.


If more big-name authors were prepared to starve Audible of their content, would Amazon cave to pressure and make the deal fair for everyone?  Or is it going to take another few election cycles before President Warren (don’t laugh) demands the break-up of this predatory company? 

Until then, I’ll keep listing my books on every platform I can.  There is another way.  We can and must find it.  For everyone’s sake.

Clever Soup

Alphabet pasta letters in a spoon spell out "SOS"

A holodeck and a human actor: a best-case scenario for AI filmmaking. Human actors reacting in human ways to whatever scenario the filmmaker invents, which is not much different from what goes on now.

The thing is, you can’t fake human, and maybe it’s not worth trying.  Everything else in filmmaking—sets, props, locations, eldritch horrors—can be represented artistically and therefore generated with digital imaging.  It’s the people you can’t fake.

Consider: we pay people to do nothing but be good at emoting.  Certain people emote i.e. act more skillfully than others, and we make them millionaires and give them gold statues and big parties and all our attention.  One individual, idiosyncratic human with their asymmetrical face and personality quirks and gut biome, singular among all other humans currently alive, can win the hearts of millions.  You’re telling me a calculator (which is what a computer is, writ large) is going to be able to fake that any time soon?

AI research has over the years taken up billions of dollars, and we’re still nowhere near faking people.  Maybe it can’t be done.  A computer as intricately modeled as the human brain might need to be either the size of a mountain or be an actual biological brain, grown in situ.

We are clever soup.  But we are like nothing else.  We’re cheap to make, easy to teach, endlessly inventive.  Why bother trying to mechanically replicate what’s already so abundant?


You know the feeling that someone is standing nearby watching you? What if they were doing that not to make you afraid but because they love you?

I generally like all my characters. If I’m going to spent fifty thousand words or more with someone I have to like them, right?

Then there’s a few who get inside your heart and never leave…

But that’s the thing with love: it’s not always up to us.  Sometimes love comes out of nowhere and takes over.  Makes you want to take chances.  Do things you never thought you could.

And yes, romantic love does this, but so does true friendship.  So can mentorship when given with a pure heart, in the spirit of service.  So does love for yourself.

That’s all my characters are.  Little bits of myself I set loose in worlds I created. 

That I can feel such love both for and from these unreal avatars of my unconscious is part of the mystery of the human mind.  I’ll take it, though.  Unconditional love? We should all be so lucky.

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

The post nobody read

[edit] Look, I don’t mean for this to sound like a complaint, a “I did a cool thing and no one noticed, boo hoo” entitled little sulk.  I’m just baffled.  I haven’t had *crickets* in ages, maybe never.  So let’s stir the pot.  Will someone go back and read this? 

Interestingly the post had a lot of meaning for me.  The next day, I tossed together a stream of consciousness poem and posted it right away, and boom, views.  And you would not believe how common that is across the creator-sphere: the thing you pour your soul into gets barely a glance, and the piece of fluff you made for a laugh goes viral. Which is really justification for making as much art as you can.  Who knows what will get noticed?

The Post FKA: “The Ides of March? Never Met Him. What’s He Like?’

Three years ago, I self-published my first short story.

Two years ago, I had fourteen titles on sale, was writing a few novels, and felt like I was figuring things out.

Last year, I went over the edge.

Any old edge will do. How about this one? (photo by Alan Tang on Unsplash)

Up till then it had felt like I was doing everything right.  I don’t think I knew how depressed I was, which is something my mother said in reference to the same time in her life.

Taking medication was me making a sensible choice for a goddamn change. A grown up, self-disciplined decision to rein in my worrisome habits of thought and behaviour and become (what the hell was I thinking?) a productive member of society.

The results were predictably bad. You may recall that I am manifestly incapable of doing anything directly. Plans adjust themselves, reality reorganizes, and my intentions never end up aiming at my goals. I must approach all challenges and opportunities sideways: improvise, adjust, create new ways in the midst of living them. This is a very durable feature of my personality, and it affects everything I do, including taking medication to regulate my brain function. I’m sorry, but my brain function is a bratty queer with a glitter gun and the first six rows of the audience *will* *get* *wet.* Trying to rein this in leads to wildly unregulated emergent behaviour, and it was bad.

While high on legal speed, I did not buckle down and focus on my writing, which I was suddenly unable to do. Nor did I get really organized and plan my next year, down to the hour.  No, in between the bouts of tremors and sobbing into the carpet, I decided to start another blog, devoted not to writing but to (honestly, what the hell was I thinking?) historical menswear.

I swear it made sense at the time.  A distraction from the stress of a publishing career and encouragement to do more sewing, and if I was lucky, a back door into being known for anything at all, which somehow optimism and fairy dust would turn into a book career. It became one more task looming over me, one more chore to neglect. I needed to write books, not faff on about cravats on a blog no one would read without me promoting it like crazy.

I took the medication for a week. I quit when they wanted me to up the dosage.  Once I recovered from my inadvertent meth bender, I wrote a novella in which a doctor gets punched. I’ve done plenty of drugs under my own recognizance, and if I’d paid a schemy 22-year old in a nightclub bathroom for a pill that did to me, I’d hunt the little shit down and get my money back.

The blog lasted six months.

edit: This blog? This blog I do nothing to promote, that doesn’t sell my books, that does nothing for anyone? It’s coming up on two years. 152 posts. See? It’s just like I said. Sideways or not at all.

Slay all day? In this economy??

You’re not going to believe this, but I learned a lot about writing from reading this article about, er, recording and mixing pop songs. But what does an interview with one of Beyoncé’s sound engineers have to do with writing a book about kissing?

I write genre fiction, the pop music of the literary world.  And before you sneer at that, consider that romance novels make up 40% of the entire global book market.  Your literary stream of consciousness debut novel is a free-rider on our sales (you’re welcome.)

Pop music has to get its point across in three minutes.  Less, ideally, because if the first fifteen, twenty seconds don’t slap, no one is going to want to hear the rest.  And by slap I don’t mean bombast.  I mean that the opening has to suggest a big payoff is coming.  A fat beat, a mad drop, some crazy vocal run that make your hair raise.  The money shot, if you will.  The Big Fight at the end of the action film or the last kiss at the end of the romance (where we always promise a happy ending.)

But again, what does that have to do with writing books?  It’s all about Stuart White’s commitment to the first take as being the truest. Understand that this first take he’s talking about isn’t a demo.  When Queen Bey walks into that sound booth, it’s already planned what’s going to happen when she starts to sing. Hours of thought and setup, years of training and experience, all come into play in creating a perfect moment, where singer and song unite at an instinctive level, the way they ideally do onstage.  Everything after this first take is fine-tuning.

Similarly, by the time I write my ‘first draft’ of a book, I’m ready to deliver a great performance.  Even though I call it a ‘zero’ draft (gives me permission to let it be bad) I go into writing a book with a full synopsis, and all the scenes I’ve collected since thinking of it all nicely laid out in order. With chapter headings. Ready to write.  What’s missing at that stage is the feelings.  And those can be planned for but not plotted.  That’s what I deliver when writing a chapter from my notes, the emotions of the scene, which register in my body* while I’m writing. I don’t want to stop and figure out which character is sitting on which side of the bed in the middle of getting them into the bed.  If all those bothersome details are plotted, everything else just flows.

Your results may vary, but this is my system and it’s what my high-diffusion scatter ADHD seems to like: wild ideas, usefully structured, with a flowchart of operations and a minimum of attractive nuisances i.e. side-quests my characters don’t need to go on.

What my dang brain hates is editing. The rewrite, the do-over, the second take.  A rerun of the same creative form that strives, and often fails, to improve on the first instinctive attempt. And for my busy little enterprise, a massive time and/or money sinkhole.  

I despise writing words that I’ll have to delete, and that’s what happens when I write without a plan.  Being very (problematically) imaginative, I can take a story in any of a dozen directions if left unsupervised.  My plan is therefore my supervisor, and they’re a hard-nosed bitch who I hate to disappoint. Speaking of, they’re looking meaningfully at me over the imaginary cubicle wall.  Time to clock in.

*This is why I hardly ever watch tv or movies and am very selective in my reading.  By the end of the day I’ve had So Many Feels that I don’t want to have any more, and certainly not most of the feelings that ‘broadcast entertainment’ wants you to feel: jealousy, confusion, revulsion, futile anger at the establishment (I have that to spare, you want some?)  When my day is done, I want real people.  Or sleep.   

WHAT RUINED ME Episode 9: ‘Watership Down” by Richard Adams

This book is tied for first with THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY for most important book in my personal history. Douglas Adams taught me about absurdism, and the lyrical power of words. A Doug Adams run-on sentence is a thing of near incalculable beauty, and I’m pretty sure Ford Prefect qualifies as my first book boyfriend (the talking mouse in the Narnia series doesn’t count, as I more wanted to be him.)

Richard Adams taught me politics.  Just like Tolkien, he liked to say that Watership Down isn’t about totalitarianism.  Like Tolkien, he is both right and wrong.  People who haven’t been to war don’t know how deeply it changes you.  Whether or not Adams set out to write an allegory, I believe his experiences serving in World War II, fighting literal totalitarianism, became part of the myth of himself.  

So yeah, it’s a book about rabbits trying to find somewhere nice to dig some holes, but it’s also a classical pilgrimage from base delusion through the vale of sin into moral righteousness.  And it’s also about the horrors of authoritarian rule.  In every case that our plucky, fluffy heroes encounter an anti-democratic system of rabbit governance (Adams gave them cops and kings) the outcome is disastrous.  Denial, subversion, death. 

Meanwhile our heroes are like a carrot-seeking antifa.  They don’t have a chief, until other rabbits start referring to one of them as such.  They don’t impose their will on each other.  They innovate, make friends with other species, liberate tame rabbits from captivity, and defend themselves gallantly against a vile oppressor. What in the world was I meant to learn from this book other than the principles of utopian anarchism?

Like hell it’s about rabbits.  It’s about surviving this maddening, misunderstanding, murderous life we’ve granted ourselves.  These times are both like and unlike any time in human history.  The challenges are enormous.  But the will of every heart to go on beating means we will face them and rise above. 

I have to believe this. 

What else is worth believing?




# OF DAYS TO GO: 134

TOTAL WORDS WRITTEN:  934,411 (of 1,000,000 = 93% OF MY GOAL)


A lot of benchmarks are not useful because they achieve a specific practical goal but because they make you feel better.  This is true in writing as much as anywhere else.  A few weeks ago I thought it would be fun to set a goal of writing a million words by the middle of 2023.  That’s not lifetime, not spotty rough drafts, but fully formed pieces of writing I’ve completed in the last three years. 

I had about 110k to go to reach this, and I was feeling confident.  That’s only two novels, and I have two novels in the planning stages which shouldn’t take more than a few months to bring together (to all the writers who never seem to do any writing: another world is possible.) 

Then I found out that WordPress logs your word-count.  And that I’d written 52k words for this blog over the last three years.

You better believe I counted that.

So now the total stands at a thrilling 934,411 words written (and most of them published) since the start of the pandemic. If I wanted to show off, I’d dip back into 2015 and pull the numbers on the two standalone novels and the five part contemporary series I completed while tending the reception desk at one of the country’s biggest real estate brokerages.  Thanks, Joey.  I couldn’t have gotten this far without you.

So I’m editing this book, see…

and the word count keeps goes down.

which is why I don’t track daily word count.  What matters is the books.  The end result. 

don’t muck around and seek the unattainable goal of perfection, but don’t deprive your writing of the time it needs to be excellent.

excellence and perfection aren’t the same. 

set a standard and keep meeting it. 

that’s all you gotta do.