Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sweet Tooth Party Tonight, Oh F*ck!

You guys, it's happening. Tonight, it's happening. All (some) will be revealed and much (all the) beer and wine in New York City will be consumed. It's gonna be a sloppy train wreck, and everyone loves those, so come on down to Wix Lounge 2nite at 6!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour What?

Folks, I've been asked by my friend the great artist and illustrator Evan Turk to participate in a blog tour centered on writing process. Don't know what a blog tour is? Neither did I, really, but I like Evan's explanation of this particular one, so I'm just going to stone cold steal it wholesale without sending him a dime: "It's sort of a blog chain letter that asks authors to explain a little bit about how they write." You can read Evan's contribution here.

So, with this thing there are four questions I must answer, then I'll be passing the baton to two more writers I've recruited: Kenneth Walsh (aka Kenneth in the 212), whose book Wasn't Tomorrow Wonderful? is available now and will provide you with all the Blondie references you need in a summer read, and Michael Lopez-Saenz, whose first YA novel The Thousand Natural Shocks I really wish I'd had handy when I was a sweaty gay teenager hiding in the orchestra supply closet during lunch.

You can find out about my writing and such at my author website, I've written six books, (four already published, two forthcoming), including two adult books at four YA books. Anyhoo, let's get this thing started with question #1:

What am I currently working on?

So nosy! OK, so my latest book Sweet Tooth was just published and I've just finished the writing of my fourth YA historical fiction novel Massacre of the Miners (two have been published so far, City of the Dead and Ocean of Fire, and the third, People of the Plague, is out in September), so the decks are cleared now and I've begun work on a collection of travel stories with the working title Everybody Hates a Tourist. It'll feature stories of being a hapless visitor to places like Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, Toyama (Japan), London, Florence, Paris, Bangkok and Koh Phi Phi (Thailand), Playa del Carmen/Cozumel/Chichinitza (Mexico), and Blackpool (England), as well as American locales like Los Angeles, Coney Island, and St. Petersburg.

I have no plans right now for another YA historical fiction novel (I signed on for four books in the Horrors of History series from Charlesbridge), but I would like to try my hand at something for kids that's less serious and straight-faced. The HoH books were sometimes a stone cold bummer, since they dealt with horrific events in American history such as the Galveston hurricane of 1900 that killed more than 6,000 people. It's pretty inappropriate to attempt a zinger at pretty much any point in the narrative, you know? So I'd be into doing something less death-oriented, like a book for younger kids about a furry mammal who runs for political office or something? We'll see.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

If we're talking about my books for adults I suppose my genre is "humorous memoir," so here's the easy answer: no other books in my genre are about me! I think in general my books are so specific in their topic that they necessarily stand apart. My first book Tune in Tokyo: The Gaijin Diaries, for example, is a travel memoir about two years I spent teaching English in Tokyo. Now, there have been quite a few memoirs of the foreigner's life in Japan, but I wanted mine to focus particularly on the urban experience of Tokyo and to offer a gay perspective, which was sorely missing from the canon, as it were.

Sweet Tooth is a gay diabetic memoir of adolescence in the '80s, and I'm pretty confident it's the first book you can say that about. At least this year. It's a very playful, though also often fraught, account of my type-1 diabetes diagnosis in 1988, when I was 15, and the simultaneous gay panic I was undergoing as my hormones officially went spastic. It's also a celebration of '80s pop culture, with lots of musical references (The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen), pop culture riffs (on Twin Peaks, for example), and misguided commentary on fashion (more paisley vests!) and haircare (more mousse!).

Why do I write what I write?

Tune in Tokyo and Sweet Tooth really just came out naturally--they were what my hands wanted to tap out when faced with a blank page on a computer screen. And actually, TiT came out of a series of email newsletters I sent to folks while I was in Japan--funny stories and updates that folks really responded to. It was the response that I got from readers that convinced me I could put a book together and there'd be an audience for it. So I actually outlined the book and wrote the first few chapters while I was still there. Then a hundred years later, after I jumped through all the publishing hoops (book proposal, agent, rewrites, interest, rejection, brick wall, debilitating sadness and frustration) I self-published it (and it was later picked up and re-released by Amazon Publishing) and was able to move on to Sweet Tooth, which was a book I'd had in my head for a long time and had already started writing.

How does my individual writing process work?

I get most of my writing done on the weekends, and I have to be very disciplined. Generally, I sit down at the computer, get on the Internet, and watch cat videos on YouTube for a while. Then I get up, maybe do some dishes (not too many!), put away some clothes, call my sister, call my mom, cuddle with my cat Stella, go check the mail, make some food, realize it's a beautiful day outside so I should really go for a bike ride, bike into Manhattan, maybe see a movie or meet a friend for coffee, then maybe go to the Y, get some dumplings, flip through the Village Voice, slowly become gripped by crippling guilt, rush home, and clickety clack on the computer for a few hours, breathless and sweating. The point is, I have a problem getting started so it helps if I'm handcuffed to my laptop or outfitted with a shock collar that will go off if I leave the apartment or go on the Internet for anything besides Wikipedia. And I absolutely must have noise--music or teevee or the vacuum cleaner, whatever. Helps me feel like something else is going on as I write. Once I get going, I'm good for it, but as I said, it takes discipline. Ish.

Thanks to Evan for the invitation! Handing it off now to Michael and Kenneth.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Sweet Tooth Launch Party in NYC May 28!

You guys, there's a party going on right here. A celebration to last throughout the year. These immortal words from Kool and the Gang couldn't be less true, actually. Because the party isn't until Wednesday, May 28, and it will only last a little over two hours, probably. Still, it'll be an opportunity to celebrate good times, come on!

Yes, the official Sweet Tooth launch party is happening in just a few short weeks. So if you're in NYC, come on down! It's being hosted by at Wix Lounge in Chelsea, so it'll be near all your favorite gay bars, and there'll be free beer and wine, so you'll find me more entertaining. I'll be reading and signing copies of the book, and there will be munchies both sweet and savory. And there's no dress code, so I'll be wearing my Speedos and whatever H&M cardigan is closest to the couch that day. (They're all pretty awesome.) You should feel free to do the same.

You can get more information and RSVP here.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Sweet Tooth Jukebox: Joy Division

It's Sweet Tooth Jukebox time again, people. Wtf is Sweet Tooth, you're asking? It's this. Who am I? I am this. We good now? Ok, onward to seventies boy band Joy Division, the happy-go-lucky gaggle of young gargoyles above. They were from cheery Manchester, England, and came together in 1976 after two of them--Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook--saw the Sex Pistols play the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall. They started life as Warsaw before settling on the name Joy Division, which was apparently the name of a prostitution wing at a Nazi concentration camp. Provocative!

Anyway, Joy Division was once called "the missing link between Elvis Presley and [Siouxsie and] the Banshees" by the NME, which, you know, is perhaps overstating it--at most they sound like Elvis sleepdancing with Bela Lugosi after a particularly blue Christmas. The point is Joy Division was dark. Dark like a basement playroom with black mirrored walls and only a dark blue lava lamp to offer you glimpses of your own debilitating sadness. Or something. What I'm trying to say is Joy Division gave you very few reasons to shake your fist in the air and proclaim "Life is totally worth living I'm going to call my mother!"

But boy did they have some midnight jams. Like my personal favorite, "She's Lost Control," which is utterly unembedable but can be heard here, The song, which is carried along by Peter Hook's bouncy yet droney baseline and Stephen Morris's stiff, robotic drumming, is about a girl having an epileptic seizure, with lead singer Ian Curtis playing the agitated, empathetic narrator. Curtis also suffered from an often debilitating epilepsy (he sometimes had seizures while performing), and his urgent delivery on "She's Lost Control" pretty much proves it. Also, this track is pretty much the sexiest song about epilepsy ever--a bold statement, but a true one. 

The band released two studio albums--Unknown Pleasures and Closer--and were officially set for Next Big Thing status just before the release of the second when Curtis hung himself on the eve of the band's first American tour. This, you'll understand, was a stone cold bummer. Two singles were released in the wake of his death--"Love Will Tear Us Apart" and "Atmosphere"--and they are absolute stunners.

"Atmosphere" was actually the first Joy Division song I ever heard. I remember watching the mesmerizing video on 120 Minutes, being hypnotized by those military drums, those chilly synths, and that gorgeous baseline, and then being totally thrown off by Curtis's atonal singing. "Good Lord," I thought, "couldn't they have done a second take?" But it turns out the delicate intimacy of Curtis's vocals--sounding like a robot trying to emote for the first time--completely make sense for the song. It really is the most beautiful track of the post-punk era. Yep, even more beautiful than "Orgasm Addict."

Of course, the surviving members of Joy Division eventually regrouped and continued on as New Order, who over the next decade would show the world that all they really wanted to do was party. But Joy Division is the dark, dusky basement where the party got started, and the band's legend has only grown with time. (Check out the movies 24 Hour Party People and Control for the fun biopic treatment.) A generation of mopey teenagers clasped the band to its breast because they all knew the sad yet somehow comforting truth that no matter how depressed they felt, Ian Curtis probably felt much worse. Teenagers are so tacky.