Friday, May 23, 2008

Exile in Readerville -- American Cool

Who's got more Indie than me? Helio Castroneves has a lot more Indie. Harrison Ford has major Indy again. But when it comes to books, I'm like Liz Phair up in here with indie cred.

What I'm saying, poorly, is this. My collection of short stories, American Cool, won the bronze medal in the 2008 IPPY Awards, Erotica Category. This time it merits a picture and a link!

American Cool at B&N
or at Amazon

Also, it's been named a Finalist in the 2008 Indie Book Awards, in the Short Story Fiction Category!

I'm really happy, particularly because these noms are spanning a couple of different categories.

And I reference Liz Phair because, well, she's cool and is gearing up for the re-release of her debut album, Exile in Guyville, which you really oughta check out if you've never given it a listen. But also because we have a few things in common, such a penchant for sexually explicit content and really foul fucking mouths. Also, the awards kinda like her, but she's never the big winner. And, when it comes to mainstream success, we've both asked "Why Can't I?"

Frankly, I figured that little ditty up there was gonna do it for Liz. I don't know what the fuck with her, you know? Me, though? When I asked "Why Can't I" and then tried to write a mainstream answer, it just got all fucked up and went to hell. I just can't, that's why. It's not what I do or what I write, and I can't change that, at least not yet.

That's the whole point of "Indie" -- it doesn't have to exactly conform to the mainstream expectations. And though I love plenty of mainstream books, movies, and TV, it's apparently, clearly not quite what I create. So some people like what I do, and some hate it, and some are offended by it. But there's also not a whole lotta people liking or disliking. It's, like, exile in readerville, dig?

So my point is this. When someone does like my stuff, maybe it's a little more precious to me. (I mean, it's not like Gollum and the Ring precious, but, you know.) And maybe it's not, I don't really know. I'm still pretty convinced they're judging the book by its awesome cover anyhow!

But I do know that I like being raunchy and foul-mouthed and as indie as I wanna be. That's unironic American cool.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cookin' Up A Finale!

It was a good thing I wasn't at this finale because I'd have been drunk and I'd have probably peed my pants on three separate occasions. At least in my own home, I just squealed and spilled some of my cocktail and applauded a television screen. And since the screen is not sentient, it holds no judgment against me.

You know you're in for a good night when the first big guest is Seal. Seal!

I'm not the biggest fan of crass cross-promotional crap. Nevertheless, Mike Myers made me giggle a couple times, and if it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have had this great moment of Ryan nearly crashing on a magic carpet.

Oh sure, the night belonged to Cook, but Seacrest nearly stole the show a couple times. First the crash, and then he actually got up and joined the SYTYCD guys and boogied. This was fast, and you may have missed it, which is exactly why you check in here, so that I can point out and take fuzzy pictures of the floor-spinning Seacrest. Behold.

Oh yeah, that's our host! Please note, I don't think these pictures being blurry are a function of my consumption tonight; my equipment just blows. Anyhow. So what made Ryan boogie? Bow down, bitches, to the premier disco diva of the '70s, Donna Summer!

Donna came out and sang with all the girls and rocked her new song, showing Pauler how a comeback should look and sound, and that gave me the first gleeful, pee-my-pants moment. I didn't take pictures of all the girls, because, as you may have noticed if you've been reading here all season -- or if you even watched the whole season -- the girls, except for Carly, bored the hell out of me and I didn't really care that they were back.

In sharp contrast was the reappearance of all the boys.

How great is that picture? Castro is off his mark, leaving a big gap which puts poor Chikezie all alone, and while they're all singing, Jason's back there with clenched lips like "What the fuck?" I loved and missed them all. If only top 7 had been all the guys and Carly.

Speaking of Fangs, she and the Kangaroo Fucker made a grand reappearance together and smoked everyone else off the stage.

I like this pic because Michael is, naturally, making one of his silly faces, reminding me of the good ole days. Seriously, the group dances were back to fun with him gallivanting around and Castro missing marks and Mojito overselling it all. There's so much goodness in this picture, I can't even dissect it.

Sometimes, people who don't watch the show ask me what the appeal is for me, and I try to explain it, but just can't. Like Carly and Johns singing together, sometimes it's just shockingly good, almost sublime. Sometimes, it's just cheezy. And sometimes, it hits the apex of reality ridiculousness and can't help but glorify those heights. Such as with a feathered fez, marching band, and early round castoff.

It became obvious early on that it was Cook's night. He and Archie both got new cars. I'm simple and I like it when people win cars. But then for their big number, Cook got to perform with ZZ Top. (I don't know, but it worked.)

Meanwhile, Archie got to sing a couple bars of "Apologize" while One Republic's singer kept a stranglehold on the falsetto notes.

I searched and searched, but Hasselhoff was nowhere to be found. Instead, most of the focus stayed on the contestants, which I appreciated. And we still had moments.

This is the moment where I realized what Jason Castro needs to do. He needs to audition for the role of Vincent Vega in the Pulp Fiction prequel, "The Vega Brothers Broadway Revue." Go Jason.

Then came the second gleeful, pee-my-pants moment. The group-sing is "Father Figure" and of course they give David Hernandez this line to sing: "For just one moment, to be bold and naked, at your side." And does he shy away from it? Oh no! He gives it his best school-of-Constantine-eye-fuck-Blue-Steel treatment and emphasizes/whispers "naked."

Yay Mojito!

Third gleeful, pee-my-pants moment? I seriously stopped reading any news or spoilers about the show about three weeks ago, so I honestly didn't know this was coming beforehand. I mean, I'm buzzed, not a fucking moron, so as soon as the group sing started with the George Michael songs, I figured he was the "Big Guest" to be appearing next. And yet, I was still all giddy when he actually showed up.

Bow down, bitches, to the premier diva of the '80s! George Michael! There he was, showing us all how to age gracefully without the use of surgery: sunglasses and subtle backlighting!

I was not the only one moved. Paula cried.

I realize that getting Pauler to shed tears isn't exactly as difficult as solving a quadratic equation with a complex coefficient. But fuck. It's the finale, and Hasselhoff wasn't around, so someone had to mist up.

So after all those shenanigans, there wasn't anything else left to do except send security to restrain FuckFaceFather Archuleta while Seacrest read the results. OH, yeah, wait. One last thing. Simon checked Dial Idol today and so he made it a point to eat crow and say that last night wasn't as a clear as he thought and that he would be thrilled to have either of them win.

And then, Cook wins! I don't know if he was swapping tips backstage earlier with GM, or if the crack makeup department just took care of him, but he showed us the importance of waterproof eye-makeup if sunglasses aren't readily available or acceptable.

And then he sang the winning song. Though it shares a title with a really popular Green Day tune, it is not nearly as cool as a Green Day tune, even that sappy one.

And then there were fireworks!

He wins 2008! (<--something even Hillary Clinton won't be able to say! So that's a big fucking deal!)

And now that's all until January. Thanks so much to everyone who read and/or commented here all year. And thanks to Don for filling in while I was under-the-weather.

Now bow down, bitches, as the premier AI blogger takes her leave! ( Okay, seriously, you don't have to bow. And you're not bitches, that was the booze talking, not me. And I know I'm not premier. Maybe like, 18th best or something, I don't know. Really, I'm not cocky, I was just trying to wrap up with a theme since I don't have pyrotechnics available here. )

How about this -- enjoy summer everyone. Ciao!

AI Finale Insider's Report #1 -- Mojito Still A Hottie!

Who has the best friends ever? I do! As if you didn't already realize that from the comments and posts around here, I have more proof. A few of my friends are at the American Idol finale, both last night and tonight. So I'm like TMZ up in here with all the "insider info"! For instance, they tell me that FuckFace Father of the Year Archuleta was actually outside on the red carpet last night signing autographs. That's right, not David A signing. His father signing autographs. Gag.

They also met a bunch of the AI luminaries, both from past years and this year, including my beloved mojito David Hernandez! How much do they love me? Enough to get me this present:

How cool is that? He wrote Mojito!

And, they even had the presence of mind to snap a picture of him writing it.

They assure me that he was sweet as could be and, of course, looked hot.

Thank you, Ladies!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Are-Chyu-Letta-in' the kid win?

I'm savin' it for the finale tomorrow night. So, quickly:

Paula looked pretty.
Nice to see Jim Lampley gettin' work.
What? They couldn't get the "Rocky" theme music for their boxing setup because DWTS was using it?
I love the English aversion to eye-closed singing. Not since Hugh Grant took fruit to the head for it have we seen a Brit so emphatic about it. ALW is alright.
Cook's version of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"? Pussyfied. Can't explain why. Just was.
Archuleta singing all treacly ballads. Check.
Extreme lighting to visually shave 100 years from Clive Davis? Check.
Hasselhoff? Did NOT see him! Sad.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Za Vashe Zdorov'ye!

Oh! Vodka, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, the catalyst for "Pine Barrens" (the greatest Sopranos episode ever) and my pal Irene. As if I wasn't a big enough fan of Russians already, they just made vodka even more fun. George Thorogood and I never have to drink alone again. Or, more precisely, we can drink alone and people can stay off our shit because the genie makes it cheery. I most love the progressive slurring part of this device. I am, on average, not a big "consumer." There are a lot of gadgets, products, brands, and just general crap out there that I don't give a toss about ever buying. But this? I must have one!

Bring Adam Back -- American Idol

I got this info passed along to me from Anita. Even though David Cook hasn't exploited this situation with his brother, I am aware of it, so I'm posting the info here in case anyone is interested.

I wanted to let you know about a grass-root group that is helping to bring Adam back for David Cook’s appearance in the finale! I’ve been following it for a while, and have called the bank in Terre Haute to be sure it’s legit.

Instead of mailing a donation, I used my PayPal account, with the payee being

As many of you have said, I’m not a fan of just David or David (!), but of both of them. To me, I’m not donating a few bucks to a “TV star” but to a family and a big brother who’s fighting the battle of and for his life. If something as simple as a visit to LA can give Adam’s 2 little kids their Daddy for a while longer, I’m in!
End Quote

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Moonlight Gems

You never know when you'll be looking for a beautiful and unique piece of jewelry, so I wanted to pass this interesting link along. Moonlight Gems creates one-of-a-kind pieces using gemstones and either silver or gold. You can check out the website for more pieces, but I'm lucky enough to have a lovely pendant. My picture taking skillz, as always, are lacking, but here's the gist of it.

This was made for me out of a stone that Native Americans called the "happy stone." That's because it's lepidolite, which is the mineral in the mica family made mostly of lithium. So, basically, when I suck on it, I get a buzz. Seriously, did this jeweler have me pegged or what? Not to mention that it's absolutely gorgeous. So next time you're looking for a lovely gift, or something nice for yourself, do keep them in mind.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Congrats Gwendolyn!

Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz has just won the Glass Woman Prize for her short story, "The Story of My Life (So Far)." !!! YAY GJM!

Also of note, my pal Jen just finished her first novel! YAY JEN!

So long Syesha

Well. She's finally gone. Has there been anyone else so consistently in the b2-3 to last as long as she did? It was inevitable, but it sure took a long time.

Good move on the part of the editing team to keep Archuleta's follically-challenged father out of his hometown visit package.

I do have to wonder now, though. I thought it was a done deal that Archuleta would win this year even before the Top 24 started. But I have to say I wouldn't be shocked if David Cook steals his thunder and actually wins. Well, maybe I'd be a little suprised. Then again, did you see how some of the girls just were unable to maintain around him? Crying and sobbing and shit? The girls squeal and clap and hug Archie. But when you're able to make them lose their minds and cry because you're signing their poster? That's some serious mojo.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Three Wasn't A Charm

Look, I'm not gonna try to shit you here. I've lost Mojito and then Chikezie and then the Kangaroo Fucker, and then dear Fangs and then last week Castro went poof. And as each one from this "Best Season EVER" left, the ennui started insidiously insinuating itself. I know everyone has to leave. I knew from the first week that Archuleta was going to the finals, and it became quickly evident that Cook would be on his heels. But I still think an awful lot of fun potential of this season was lost by booting people at the wrong time. Syesha is just another replay of Kat McPhee -- albeit a better singer and performer, and I can't help but wonder how much better this season would've been if a couple of the more interesting people stuck around a little longer.

But it is what it is and I'm not mad at it at all. But I was a little bored tonight, and so this recap isn't all that. Since getting "let go" from his label, we didn't even get to see and make fun of the dark lord Clive. Instead, the "producers" picked songs (songs which were at least laughably atrocious) and we didn't even get to see them talking about their choices or the contestants to stir up controversy.

The big cue that it was a big night was Syesha's wardrobe. She was wearing so many sequins I wondered if she ran across the lot and raided the DWTS closet, but then realized that although she had plenty of sparkle, she also had way too much overall fabric for that to be the case.

Randy gave her an Alicia Keys song to sing, and she did well with it. Then she picked "Fever" and went old-school cheesecake, which sadly only highlighted her smug factor. Then the producers gave her "Hit Me Up" which sounds a little dirty but I guess it was from a children's movie. Overall, she came off better than Archuleta, but no one was willing to give her credit for it and they all wrote her off tonight.

Also dressing up for the evening's festivities was Archuleta's dad. Maybe he had extra time on his hands since being banned from rehearsals this week, but he switched it up and actually got rid of the baseball hat. And replaced it with a fucking plaid golf cap! I shit you not!

Maybe he's trying to secure some secondary merchandising deal.

Or, more likely, this guy really is just a bona fide asshole.

His son, however, did okay. Paula gave him a Billy Joel ballad to sing, and then he picked Chris Brown's "With You" which was sort of funny, but not nearly as funny as the producers' choice of Dan Fogelberg's "Longer." My jaw actually dropped when I heard they gave him that song and I don't think I clamped my mouth shut until he was done. Yeah, he sounded fine, but are you fucking kidding me? We have to listen to the judges complain all season about the contestant's song choice, while we know they railroad certain songs onto certain singers, and then they still have the audacity to ADMIT to forcing this song on this kid? There's a famous quote that goes: Life is a tragedy for those who feel, and a comedy for those who think. In the AI world, song choice is a tragedy for those who have a horse in the running and a comedy for those who are just watching for curiosity. Priceless.

Paula also put on some sparkly this evening. But the best of the outfit was revealed when she stood up to give Cook his standing O. Sequins and pleather in a baby-doll/dominatrix mash that's been her general milieu this whole season.

Though he didn't actually wear a crown, they did basically give David Cook an early coronation. Randy withheld his props, telling him that everything was just basically alright. But Paula blathered and Simon preened, even after saddling him with Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." Cook was, you know, thrilled with that choice.

But he did actually sing it well, even though he obviously didn't find someone else's version; someone who already gave it a modern, alterna-twist. Then he sang that Switchfoot song. And then comedy-tragedy struck again when he had to sing Aerosmith's "Don't Wanna Miss A Thing." To quote Randy, I thought he was all pitchy and shit and it sounded like hell, but Diane Warren was in the audience and they slobbered all over him and that stupid fucking song. Me? I loved Aerosmith back when they were on drugs. I'm glad they got clean and rich and are loving life. Really. But from Permanent Vacation on, Aerosmith no longer rocked. And that ballad that finally gave them their big number one hit? Blows. That said, I still dig Joe Perry and Steven Tyler sings that song better than Cook by a mile.

But, clearly, this is the direction "the producers" would like to see Cook go. Just make them oodles of cash. And this crap will pull in big bucks, and it's painted with a veneer of acceptability to Cook's tastes. I mean, he did choose Switchfoot all on his own.

Monday, May 12, 2008

More good reads

William Reese Hamilton has some marvelous new fiction live:
The Shaman of El Mamon at Eclectica
Incident at Port Royal at Temenos.

Also live is the new issue of TQR.

Friday, May 09, 2008

IPPY Dippy Joy!

This year's Independent Publisher Book Awards have announced their semi-final results.

I apologize for being unbearable with more joy, but my book American Cool from Rebel Press made the cut! (If you click that above link, scroll down to category 37, erotica, and there it is.) I so love Rebel Press and my pal Don Capone for all the help he gave me with this book. Again, I'm sorry for talking about the book to an insufferable amount lately, but, fuck, it's the IPPYs, man. I will refrain from posting another picture of the book's awesome cover, though.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

30 Rocked

Funniest show of the year, again, was 30 Rock. Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy made me glad the writers' strike ended. From their constant lampooning of politics to their witty repartee, Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin are a comedy dream team. They switch from silly to sly on a dime and neither shies away from a sight-gag or slapstick when needed. And they've found the perfect guest-star foil for Lemon in Dean Winters and his Dennis Duffy. One second he's charming Lemon's socks off by calling her "Dummy" and berating her coworkers and the next he's trying to throw her under a subway, but Winters somehow gives the unshakable loser just enough glint in the eye and that lovable edge.

If you didn't watch this season, do yourself a favor and catch up.

Donna George Storey

Today, I'm thrilled to be bringing you an interview with one of my favorite writers and people, Donna George Storey. Donna is already a literary superstar in the world of short story erotica. She's had stories appear in Best American Erotica, Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, and Best Women's Erotica. Her debut novel, Amorous Woman, will be available this summer.

I've already read and reviewed the book, and I loved it. It's a sexy trip through Japan that's not just sensual, but also incredibly smart.

So please meet Donna George Storey.

1)Clearly, Japan was a big inspiration for Amorous Woman. Do you have any memories of what first attracted you to Japanese culture?

My love of Japan can be traced back to my first big crush in high school. Of course, I was too shy to even talk to the guy, but I noticed he was reading James Clavell’s Shôgun, so I picked up a copy as a way to get closer to him—reading the same book is a rather intimate act. The crush passed into history, but my interest in Japan remained. At a loss for what to do with a BA in English literature, I went to Japan to teach English and that’s when the spark burst into sizzling flame. So much of Japan was truly exotic, but in other ways I felt very much at home. Unlike extrovert Americans, the Japanese appreciated the depth beneath my quiet exterior. Not to mention my small breasts suddenly seemed quite adequate…

2) Lydia, the main character in Amorous Woman, kind of goes down the sexual rabbit hole when she gets to Japan. Was the Japanese setting more conducive to her sexual experimentation than an American one would have been? I guess what I'm getting at here is this: As a broad statement, would you say that Japanese culture is more open, frank and adventurous with its sexuality than American culture? If not, where do you think it gets that cache of "exotic"?

The foreign setting is definitely more conducive to sexual adventure for Lydia, as it is was for me and most people, I imagine. The folks back home aren’t around to judge, plus the language barrier makes it all the more appealing to try out nonverbal forms of communication. Many Japanese are interested in making foreign friends, so there’s lots of opportunity for a Westerner who wants to go a little deeper into the culture. Lydia was sexually “exotic” to them as well, and she took full advantage of this situation!

In some ways Japan is definitely more relaxed about sexuality. Rather than a “sin,” it’s seen as a natural human urge, a form of “play” (literally, that word is used) to be enjoyed in its proper context. There’s a long tradition of a separate entertainment district where (mostly) men can indulge the playful desire for female attention—for a price. The contemporary “floating world” is impressively imaginative. There’s always a new gimmick—bars where you get a blow job with your drink, coffee shops where you can ogle waitresses in skimpy French maid outfits, clubs where men can play doctor or “sexual harasser” or subway pervert with a college girl moonlighting for extra income. The popularity of pornographic comics and internet-driven sex services and the ubiquitous photos of women artfully bound in rope certainly fuels the idea that Japan is kinkier than the US.

On the other hand, a double standard still persists there as it does here. A “nice” woman doesn’t even let a stranger hear her urinate—they really do have special white noise machines in public restrooms to drown out that shameful sound. I wonder how easy it is to shift from well-mannered lady to slutty, uninhibited vixen? Not to mention studies I’ve read where the hard-working, long-commuting Japanese report a lower level of sexual activity than US respondents.

It’s interesting to me that while we think of Japan, and to some extent Europe, as being more laid-back about sexuality than Puritanical, God-is-always-watching-you America, they think of us, especially our liberated women, as being super-charged in our sexuality. Bottom line--I think the “Other” always seems to be having more fun in bed than we are.

3)Amorous Woman is your debut novel, which is a great accomplishment. However, you've been writing wonderful short stories for years. What made you decide to tackle the novel format?

Actually, I always thought of myself as a would-be novelist. When I first started writing eleven years ago, I figured I’d try a few short stories as “practice” for a longer project. As it turned out, I found it easier to work on short stories in conjunction with my “day job” of raising my two kids. But most foreigners who’ve lived in Japan feel they have a book in them, so when a respected editor approached me about doing a novel for Orion’s Neon erotica series, I realized this was my chance to write my own “love letter to Japan.” And I guess I did have a book in me, because it poured right out!

4) I love how you're able to use language in your writing. You're fluid and graceful, and have a propensity for plucking an unexpected word, which ends up being perfect, to describe things, and yet it seems effortless. Do you work and re-work the language to get it so perfect, or does it flow easily for you? What do you think is your greatest strength or asset in your writing? Your biggest weakness or flaw?

Effortless? How I wish! I’ll tell you a secret—my first drafts really are really “shitty,” to quote Anne Lamott. I do a lot of editing, both at the computer screen and then on the sofa with a red pen. The pages are bloody with scribbled changes. My greatest strength…hmm, I’d say sleep. I always think my latest writing project is horrible and hopeless in the evening, but after a good night’s sleep, I usually wake up with the plot problem solved or a better ending. My biggest weakness? I try to cram too much into a sentence or a scene. Especially endings. Most of the time the ending of a published story is about a third as long as the endless original draft.

5)Who are some of your favorite writers and how do you think they’ve influenced you?

The top of my list is Alice Munro. I just love the texture of her work, the complexity and realism of her characters. Mary McCarthy’s The Group is the novel I wish I’d written—a smart, witty examination of sex and love and lies and ambition in women’s lives—plus it made tons of money. Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is a novel I read every few years (it’s way better than the movie). It’s hilarious and tragic and pithy all at the same time. Right now my favorite Japanese writer is Tanizaki Jun’ichirô—he captures the allure of Japanese tradition so well in his novels and there’s plenty of sexual obsession. Not that I need nudging in that area, but he’s an inspiration.

6) When did you first get the feeling not that you wanted to write, but that you could be so successful at it? What are you working on now?

I’m not sure I’ll ever be “successful” at writing in terms of money or fame, but I do know the act of writing enriches my life and engages me in a way nothing else has, so in that respect, I’ve “succeeded” in finding work I love. That keeps me going through all the bullshit and silliness of the publishing biz, but okay, if we’re talking public validation of my scribbles, two moments in particular stand out. One is when I got news of my very first publication, a personal essay for a parenting newsletter. As modest a beginning as it was (although I got $150 for it which is way more than the going rate for erotica) I put on my favorite disco CD and danced around the kitchen in delight. The other feel-good moment was when Susie Bright informed me she’d chosen my story “Ukiyo” for Best American Erotica 2006. For a minute there I thought, “Hey, maybe I don’t suck?”

I’m just about to start my second novel, which will be a sort of historical erotic romance, a peep through the bedroom keyhole of twentieth century America. Working title: “The Secret History of Lust.” I think it’s going to be fun to write.

7)Other than fiction writing, what's the biggest lie you ever told?

This question really got me thinking and stirred up all of that Catholic guilt I’ve tried so hard to banish from my psyche. I’ve spent too much time in Japan to trouble myself over polite lies like “Gee, I love your new haircut”—yours looks GREAT, by the way—but there have been a few lies I’ve told that I excuse as diplomatic, mostly having to do with sex. Like if a guy I’m seeing has a girlfriend back home, is it really his business if I’m sleeping with someone else on the side, too? But probably the biggest lies I tell are to myself. And by definition, I can’t really be sure what those are. Is this answer squirmy enough for you?

8) Stock question: Dinner with anyone, dead or alive. Who is it?

I don’t like to disturb the dead, but you know, I would love to get together with Jimmy Hoffa and ask him what really happened. I was a kid in Pittsburgh when he disappeared and it was big news—my first history mystery. Maybe it would be the first of many dinners I could host to set the record straight?

9) Stock question 2: One book, one CD, one DVD. What are they?

This is for the desert island, right? I’d take Mary McCarthy’s The Group, because it’s like bringing along a whole crowd of quirky girlfriends. I could listen to Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark over and over and for viewing, The Godfather, Parts I and II (I know part Part III comes with the set, but I’ll only watch that one when I’m really bored).

10)Suppose you can't have both: Would you rather have respect from your peers and critical acclaim (but not making cash from writing), or would you rather be a bestselling author with the fat coin?

I’ve always chosen love over money, and really, have you ever met a rich person who’s as happy as he should be? But by choosing to write erotica, I’ve already lost the respect of hoity-toity literary types, so it’s hard to pledge allegiance to that crowd. On the other hand, I also strive to be a good storyteller who can entertain my readers which is what you’re really referring to with the “fat coin,” but the ones I’ve seen so far are rather thin. The truth is, whenever someone tells me they read Amorous Woman and enjoyed it, I feel rich and acclaimed all at the same time. So I guess that means my answer is—neither!

Some Good Reads

Short Stories

"Revolution" by Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz.

"Soap" by Katrina Denza.


"Porn Star's Sunday Song" by Dennis Mahagin.

Shorts & Poetry
A new issue of FRiGG

Short Story Collection
The soon to be released Silent Girl by Tricia Dower. This book is a collection of short stories inspired by Shakespeare's plays, giving some of his most memorable women inspired new settings and stories. (Imagine The Taming of the Shrew's Kate as a girl in nomadic Kyrgyzstan or Desdemona as Vietnam vet's wife.) What I read was amazing and riveting, so I can't wait to read the entire collection.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Hey Hey My My, Rock and Roll Can Never Die

Rock and Roll was here to stay.
Sung by Syesha, Castro and two cats named Dave,
But is it better to burn out, than it is to rust,
Or to have to sing in front of Ryan Seacrest?

Maybe it's just me, but because of Paula's blunder last week, and the way they were so over-the-top with their dismissal of Jason this week, I kept looking at the judges and just kept thinking that they're puppets. Simon even made his valiant, rebellious attempt to buck the wishes of the controllers when he told Syesha that he "has to be fair" and then praised her. That's always the cue that he's been instructed how they want the night to go, but that he's going with his own thoughts. But he is still puppetty. In fact, I've always thought that he bears a resemblance to this fellow.

Randy? I know I shortchange Randy here, because he's mostly like an olive in a dry martini, which is to say that he's necessary and also dispensable. But here's how he came across to me tonight.

And Paula? Yeah. She's still just Paula.

Paula actually managed to raise the bar on her own antics tonight, yet again. It's usually this time of year when she starts getting weepy anyhow, but she flipped the 'script and this time, during her emotional, praise-lavishing babble about Syesha, she managed to make Syesha cry!

It was great. This was also the moment when Simon broke the code-of-conduct missive issued by Nigel and agreed with Paula that Syesha gave a great performance of Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come." By doing so, he left Randy hanging out there in the breeze as the only one to blow off the performance as not working for him.

Syesha also did "Proud Mary" and if I recall correctly, Paula and Randy kind of liked that one, and Simon didn't. Me? I still prefer Angela Bassett as Tina Turner.

No one bucked the system to stand up for Jason Castro tonight. He finally let his hippie-freak flag fly high as he did Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff" and Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man." Yeah, he lost a few lines during the second number, but at least he didn't stop and start all over again. As for his "Sheriff". Um. Let's start with this -- the band fucking blew. BLEW. I couldn't even find a reggae beat in it most of the time. Did they seriously have that much trouble hitting the one and three? For music's sake, even Bob Weir could find the reggae beat in a 7/4 time song. Oh, sorry. That was a totally random and arcane deadhead reference, which Jason just sort of brings out in me.

Anyhow, his voice didn't sound so hot in "Sheriff." But he seemed even more outgoing and comfy onstage, and it's obvious that he knows what's going on and he's handling it with a lot of class. And, frankly? It's to the point where I'd rather listen to what he ends up putting out than anyone else there, anyhow, because he's a hippie freak who chose to do Dylan and Marley!

That's right. He took some seriously harsh comments from Simon and just went about his business anyhow.

Simon acted as though Jason had just shot Leona Lewis after he finished, telling him that song "shouldn't be touched" and calling it either "atrocious" or "horrendous" or one of his words like that. I don't know if Jason shot a sheriff, but he may have shot himself in the foot and murdered his chances of making top three. But fuck it. At least he's him.

Also having a strange night? Cook. He seemed lost 'twixt and 'tween when he did "Hungry Like the Wolf." A couple of brief times, he let a little cheekiness out during it.

Though he did tempt fate by allowing one of the pit people to reach up and brush his hand, even that was a strange move, as though he was passing by and deigned to allow them brief contact.

But mostly, he didn't so much prowl the stage so much as just walk around it, undecided whether to go camp or emo with it, and not getting either working. Then, speaking of songs that should not be touched, he took on The Who's "Baba O'Riley." I love The Who. Didn't really get this version. It just seemed like Cook was going through the motions.

Going for the win was Farchie. Pleasing grandmas and little text-equipped gals everywhere with his beautifully sung versions of "Stand By Me" and "Love Me Tender." What can I say? He sounded really good on both of them. I just...I just wish he was 18 and that he already had his own lawyer and accountant who could keep all his money away from his father and his father's ballcap collection. Did this guy just get hairplugs that he can't ever be seen without the damn baseball hat? What the fuck's he gonna wear on finale night when everyone else is all gussied up?

Final four is gone but it's not forgotten.
Simon treated Castro really rotten.
One of the kids will be kicked off, and left in the dust.
Syesha cried and Cook was grim,
Archie got a little step closer to the win.
My My Hey Hey
Drunk Paula is here to stay.

Monday, May 05, 2008

It's not Cannes, but I Can't Complain

The 2008 Beach Book Festival announced its winners this past weekend. My book, American Cool, took the runner-up prize in its category of romance. I'll take that. So, if you're looking for a good beach read this summer, other people agree that American Cool is perfect for a hot, sunny, lazy day.

If you're looking for some other good reading this summer and short stories are your gig, be sure to check out 5 Star Literary Stories for some reviews. My pal Don Capone even reviews a baseball story from Hobart Magazine by Andrew Bomback.

Also, speaking of five-star literary offerings, if you haven't yet checked out Ron Currie, Jr.'s novel in short stories, God is Dead, now would be a good time. He just won the 2008 NYPL Young Lions award for it. MAJOR.

I mean, it's not as major as taking the runner-up prize in the romance category of the Beach Book Festival, even if the cash prize is much gianter and the prestige is much grander and the recognition and literary merit are much more laudable-er, but hey, this was Ron's debut. He'll get there someday ;)

Fuck it. Who'm I kidding. Like I said, it wasn't Cannes. But hey, they also didn't treat me like Cannes treated Medellin. <-that's for all the Entourage fans out there. Summer's fast approaching, and the boys will be back!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Water Foul

Tony Soprano has nothing on me.

I don't know if you'll recall this story, but a couple years ago, I got a pool put in. I don't live out in the country or anything. I live in the city, but fairly close to the beach, and my house has a couple blocks of trees-woodsy area surrounding it. So I'm often doing battle with all kinds of wildlife. Raccoons, groundhogs, bats. There's even a fox, but he doesn't cause any trouble. And last year, there were some strange happenings and rooster crowing that made me believe one of my neighbors was hosting cock fights late at night. But I digress.

Back to when I put the pool in. Before the fence went up, a deer decided to take a swim and it sort of ruined a lot that had to be redone. I wondered what the hell drew the deer in the first place. Months later, I took in a disposable camera to have the film developed and found these pictures on it. Apparently, one of my nephews was aware of the deer and fawn and made a habit of feeding them, drawing them closer to the pool.

And he obviously took pictures while doing it!

Cute, huh?

Yesterday, I opened the pool again. It's a mess and will need a few days of cleaning. But this morning, I got up and sat by the pool and was having a Tony Sopranoish think about life. Seriously. Suddenly, I heard this honking overhead, and looked to see a couple geese aiming for the water. Sure enough, they landed right in the pool and started hanging out. With me sitting right there! Shameless!

I figured no one would believe me, so I went and got my camera. By the time I got back, they were done swimming, but still hanging out.

I stood there thinking, "If these were ducks, it'd be spooky." I swear, I barely got that thought out when there was more flapping overhead, and look what decided to take a swim next.

Do you believe this shit? Duck, duck, goose, they were all hanging out together and didn't give a shit that I was right there!

Me, being an idiot, thought this was kind of cute. So then I went and got some bread to feed them without thinking it through. See how the patterns repeat in the family? I was miffed at my nephew years before for feeding a wild animal and being dumb enough to take photographic evidence of doing so. And yet, I snapped these pictures and then fed the damn ducks! Know what happens after you feed ducks and geese? They shit everywhere. I don't know how Tony tolerated all that shit. But I decided I can't tolerate it. So then I went about chasing the birds away. Know what happens when you start yelling and waving your arms and chasing ducks and geese? They ruffle their feathers and shit even more! Everywhere! Shit everywhere!

And I've been assured by numerous people that it doesn't matter that I chased them away. Since I fed them, they're sure to be back.

I blame David Chase for this. Sometimes, life really shouldn't imitate art. At least, not when there's bird shit involved.

On the bright side, I just got one of these.

If they want to insist on repeated visits, the proverbial and literal goose will be cooked. And its duckling friends, too!