Thursday, April 30, 2009

Chocolate Review: Kinder Bueno

Here's another foreign treat acquired on my trip to Orlando. Interesting to note, this bar is made by an Italian company, the brand name is German and the type is Spanish. Overall, it's a sickeningly pair of chocolate covered wafer fingers, each filled with hazelnut creme. The texture is not unlike the Little Debbie wafer bars, so I'm not sure I would quality this as a chocolate bar at all. I understand these are hard to find in the US, so perhaps I was lucky to get one at a reasonable price.

Each finger is sectioned into four pillows of the sweet creme - and that is hardly the word to describe it. It delivers a lingering aftertaste that pervades others things I eat afterward. As much as I like hazelnut, I think Kinder Bueno is a bit too much for me.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chocolate Review: Aero Mint

A while back I wrote a brief review of the milk Aero bar. Aero is a European brand from Nestle, a novelty as the chocolate in the bar is presented with hundreds of tiny air bubbles - the idea being that as you bite into the bar the bubbles melt. I suppose it's a sensation not unlike eating chocolate Pop Rocks, if there is such a thing. A friend got me the first Aero I tried, and while in Orlando I stopped at a Walgreens and noticed a few unusual selections in the chocolate aisle. This mint bar was one of them. I'm guessing in a city that sees millions of foreign visitors, the stores like to stock a few items from home. Good thought.

The main difference between the milk and mint bars, aside from the obvious flavor, is the appearance. Mint Aero is coated with milk chocolate, but break apart the fingers and you'll see the bright green, bubbly interior. Seriously, it's like neon, and kind of freaky to behold. It looks like you're about to bite into a bright green sponge. The taste is overwhelmingly minty, reminiscent of a Thin Mint cookie without the crunch, and it's not as sweet as the standard milk variety. Having eaten this bar, I feel I can sense the melting sensation the bar advertises, if you hold the chocolate long enough on your tongue the rough edges do slide into a smooth, nice aftertaste. I'm not much of a mint dessert fan, but I find I prefer this selection over the milk.

So, now it's off to find the dark variety for comparison. I don't suppose another trip to Orlando is in order?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Looking Back at #RT09

It was suggested on a message board I frequent that there is some big conspiracy regarding the seemingly silent atmosphere following the RT Convention in Orlando. Where are the pictures, the gossip, the models' hand prints on our asses? Sorry to disappoint anybody expecting a crime blotter, but I did not see anything at the con worthy of a gasp or a hastily written Tweet beginning with OMGWTFBBQ? If memory serves, blogs buzzed with tales of impropriety at the Pittsburgh gig, and maybe some kinky stuff happened in Mickey's backyard. I didn't see any of it. Of course, I'm a clueless person in general. I turn my back and a chorus of frogs breaks into "Hello, my baby....!" complete with canes and top hats.

So, in the interest of moving forward - because the work really piles up after I do one of these things - I humbly submit the highlights and grips of #RT09.

The Good

I got to see a lot of Phaze folks again, some I have not seen in years, and I got to put faces to other names. Stella Price, Alessia Brio and Will Belegon and Cat Johnson I see a couple times of year by virtue of regional signings, but I also ran into Christine London, Robin Slick, Eliza Gayle, Marty Rayne, Bianca D'Arc, and of course Piers Anthony:

All through the week I met authors who told me Piers had been an influence and inspiration. Reporters expressed amazement at his presence, and cover models came up to him to tell him how much they loved his books. Just incredible to see and experience, and I'm happy Piers agreed to let Mundania and Phaze host his visit. It will be interesting to read his take on RT if he chooses to mention it in his next newsletter. I'm almost afraid to read it - clueless and nervous.

We hosted a Club RT table, but not an eBook Expo one. Budget decision, one fueled by the pay-for-Promo-Row policy this year. While the expo (which appeared to have a decent turnout) would have provided us with strong attention, the club table allowed our authors a place for their promo at no cost to them for three days. We gave away books and some nice gifts. Leigh's Dare Me buttons were depleted, as were the gemstone charms. Visitors wanted the doo-dads this year, not so much the chocolate and unsigned paper. Good to know for Columbus.

Met the wonderful L.A. Banks and thanked her for her Coming Together: At Last intro. She gave me a hug. Still smiling. I want to bottle her enthusiasm.

More, More, More! was made available in the goody room, which I noticed was much smaller than Houston's. Our contribution seemed to pop out among the other books because of this. In Houston the walls were lined with Ellora's Cave and Red Sage titles, and visitors had an unlimited pick of books. This year: two titles, until the end of the con when they had to get rid of extras. I thought this odd and chalked it up to the economy - maybe pubs couldn't spare the copies this time around. Next year I might just host the 100 books at our table and hand them out there. That way, we have a captive audience for our other offerings.

Wore the corset to the Fairy Ball. I need a picture of me there so I can write it off on next year's taxes. If you can help, much obliged. Heh.

Best food, hands down: the All Romance eBooks reception. Shrimp as big as your hand. Always a pleasure to see Lori and Barb and the growth they are enjoying with that site. If people can't buy directly from Phaze, I tell them to go there.

The Bad

I don't like to be negative, I see enough of it on a daily basis. That said, it would not be fair of me to completely summarize this con experience without mentioning some of the speed bumps. For one, the lack of free hotel wifi was a bother. I encountered this same problem in Houston, and it's my hope the RT convention staff will consider, going forward, making arrangements with venues that offer free access. Some attendees consider RT a vacation, but I need to stay connected and keep my house running. I need the Internet for that purpose, and having to jockey for space at McDonald's while some jukebox blared "The Final Countdown" over and over proved to be a headache.

Some people complained about the hotel's spread - blocks of rooms set far from the convention area. I packed a pair of Vans and two pairs of heels meant for the parties. I didn't wear the heels, and my feet are still hurting nevertheless. The layout at Houston was preferable; I imagine we'll see that in Columbus. I'm sure, too, the Orlando layout made mobility for those who don't get around well even more difficult.

The Interesting

Some things to note: the crowd did look lighter here than in Houston (I didn't go to Pittsburgh, so I can't compare). We can guess the economy and costs kept some away, and the location may have discouraged West Coasters who might ordinarily settle for a halfway point like St. Louis or Houston. It struck me, too, to see a decline in heavy author promotion. I recall moving through one lunch line where an author stood on the sidelines, signing ARCs that her publicist (?) handed out as we entered the ballroom. One day I came to my room to find a gift bag with books and other goodies. You didn't have that here. Publishers saving their pennies?

Nonetheless, I still acquired an impressive amount of promo for my RT Bag giveaway. From my trip I am only keeping a few items: my signed Piers books, a signed L.A. Banks poster, and the small beer cooler of books from the awards ceremony (sorry, it's too nifty to part with). See my last post for details on entering the giveaway.

Then maybe I'll see you next year.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Win the Best of #RT09! Enter Leigh's RT Bag Drawing

Didn't get to RT in Orlando this year? Let award-winning romance author Leigh Ellwood send you the best of RT! Enter today and you could win all the promotional goodies collected over the week. Tote bags, signed cover flats, pens and calendars, and of course free books are yours for the taking. The bag giveaway drawing is available to US residents - a second drawing will be held for our international friends to receive a $20 gift certificate for Phaze Books!

No purchase necessary to win. Due to the nature of some of this promo, you must be 18 or over to be eligible for either drawing. To enter, visit and fill out the form completely. A winner will be drawn Sunday night, May 3. Good luck!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Leigh's Third Ever #RT09 Bag Giveaway Preview

I'm almost home from the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention. Early flight tomorrow and lots to process - broke and tired and not even hung over. I'm planning a lengthy blog comparing this experience to my last outing in Houston.

In the meantime, some readers know every time I come back from one of these things I hold a giveaway for the promo. If you were unable to attend RT, you're invited to put your name in the hat to receive a treasure trove of promotional materials. Some good stuff in this batch, too. Books, a coffee mug, some "can koozies", cover flats (some signed), buttons, pens, candles, sampler booklets, totes, Ellora's Cave card decks, book thongs, the ARe calendar, and more. Only requirement for entry is that you be a US resident, for postage. International entrants are still in the drawing to receive a $20 gift certificate from Phaze Books.

So watch for details on where to enter!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

#RT09 so far...

Perhaps I am a closet masochist. I sprang for the $9.95 net access in the lobby - as I understand it, access is difficult to get in the rooms, but at least here I don't need an ethernet cable. Nor do I have do sit at the world's largest McDonald's across the street and listen to the endless cycle of "The Final Countdown" repeated on the jukebox.

I'm enjoying the lull between Club RT gigs now. I spent a few minutes at the Red Sage pool party, and when I saw there was no food (not much, anyway) I came into the shade. It's been a nice experience so far. If you've kept up on Twitter (#RT09) you'll find more details. Piers stopped by the table and signed Under a Velvet Cloak and Relationships. I'll try to have some of his books Saturday, and the rest I'll take to Balticon. Very enlightening conversation with him about writing and the small publishing biz, and how he writes to write. I admire how he doesn't necessarily allow himself to be confined to one genre, though many people who have come up to him here are familiar with his fantasy works. He did tip off that he is working on Relationships IV. Can't wait to see it!

Piers and Me

Alessia Brio was interview by ARe, so catch their radio program if you can. So far from the Phaze crowd, I've seen Bianca D'Arc, Marty Rayne, Adrianna Dane, Robin Slick, Stella Price, Eliza Gayle, Will Belegon, Cat Johnson, and Christine London. Everybody is pretty much spread out.

L.A. Banks and Will Belegon

Saw L.A. Banks at the eBook expo, thanked her for the wonderful At Last intro, got a hug. What a great lady.

What's left? There's a reception by the ARe folks, the Faery ball. I've opted out of heels because of the walking - this demon will be wearing Vans. The rest I'll make up as I go along.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Week in Chocolate - Orlando Bound

I didn't get to accomplish all the blogging I hoped to do this past week. What a wild ride. A book release out, an acquaintance lost, and the usual pre-RT convention jitters took all my time, leaving very little for promotion and writing. At the very least, I did finish a free short which will debut in May and will also serve as the prologue for Daring Red. I'm inspired to length that one to a short novel at this point, which would be nice considering all my M/M stories right now don't exceed 12,000 words. I would like a novel-length, printable work to share.

In all this time, too, I've been eating chocolate. Of course. The acai is too expensive, and I have to get my antioxidants somewhere. Yes, there's pomengranate juice, but where's the fun in that? Here's a survey of what I've enjoyed this past week:

Equal Exchange Dark (68%) with Cocoa Nibs - nice snap and taste. The nibs provided good texture and added flavor.

Newman's Own Sweet Dark Espresso - the coffee flavor leaves a bite, but otherwise doesn't take away from the chocolate.

Premium Dark M&Ms - have to admit the lack of a crunchy shell suprised me. This is like eating simple dark chocolate pebbles. The coating is a wild iridescent color and has an odd texture.

Will expand more in days to come, if I have time.

Orlando Bound (and Gagged)

I am packed and ready to go! This week I'll be at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in beautiful Orlando, Florida. If you're heading over for the party, be sure to stop by Club RT on Thursday or Friday and say hello to me. I'll be helping out with the Phaze Books table, where you'll find lots of goodies to take home. We're bringing a selection of overstock books to give away - one per reader, please - and we'll have a lovely basket in the raffle, so definitely sign up for it.

Phaze Books sent over copies of More, More, More! to the book goody room this year, so be sure to grab a copy and I'll be happy to sign it for you. The story features my Dareville BBW short, Daringly Delicious, but I think the entire book is yummy. There are also a few free copies of Truth or Dare at the table this year, but they may go quickly so visit early.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Rush to the Great Beyond Friday

If you think the title is confusing, I'll explain. It was my intent to do so, anyway. It's a blog.

I've mentioned before I hang out on a message board for Rush fans. Over the last five years, it's become more than an Internet site for me - it's a community of people united by the love of music, and in time I've come to consider a number of the board's members my friends. I've met several in person - stayed in the their homes, wandered around Vegas at four in the morning, and celebrated good times and great music.

One of the members I had the opportunity to meet passed away over Easter weekend. As he was an infrequent board poster of late, we are just now hearing about it. What is sad about this situation, aside from the fact that this man passed, is that he was a week or so shy of his 60th birthday. He had planning a mega-celebration of life with friends and family when he was felled, we hear, by a heart attack.

60 is not old. I'm more than halfway there, and looking at this person - this Internet friend - you wouldn't have thought him old. Of course, death doesn't discriminate, it comes when it's time. Nobody was prepared for this, however.

Everybody called him Grizz, a shortened version of his last name. Guess you could say he was a hippie - rarely did I see a picture where he wasn't wearing something tie-dyed...or else a Rush shirt. He often displayed a youthful smile and twinkling eyes - you could tell he was always thinking about something. And he loved that band. The memory I'll always hold of him has him on the dance floor of this tiny venue at RushCon 2112, dancing in circles with his arms held high while the trib band played the 2112 overture. He almost resembled that one relative at your wedding who took strong advantage of the free bar, the one the videotape captured most often. Yet Grizz seemed more drunk on the music than anything else.

He and I didn't see eye to eye on a lot of things, especially religion. I have to admit one post he'd made, inferring me as a whiner and questioning my intelligence because I "believe", caused me to block his posts for several months. Without going into detail, he ended up taking a sabbatical from the board, and he subsequently apologized for his remarks. Me, being a hard-head Sicilian, never officially accepted. Now my chance is gone, and I will indeed regret that. Grizz was once emphatic about his atheism - later events implied a change of heart, but I'm not really sure.

Grizz, if you can hear me now, we're cool.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Enjoy a "Sweet" Free Read

I'm feeling generous this month. Maybe it's my determined spirit in the face of #amazonfail, maybe because it's tax time and I'm aware some people are pinching pennies this week before they feel sure enough to start buying books again. Whatever the reason, I have a freebie to give away this week, and the promise of two more to come.

Anyway, this week it's Sweet Surprise, released for free through Phaze Books. Head over to the free erotic romance stories page there to download the PDF.

How does a sexy Faerie exact justice from a lovely driver whose ice cream company is committing copyright infringement? One orgasm at a time! Josie hates her usual route through Sierra Glade, a creepy little town with a craving for sweet stuff. When the gorgeous Lur takes her hostage in the middle of town, there's a brief standoff...mainly because Lur leaves her too weak to stand! Hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

By the way, I have a new novella out

In the midst of traveling for the Easter holiday and the #amazonfail brouhaha, I had a new release:

The Dares That Bind
Phaze Books, $3
BDSM, Contemporary, Series

Click here to order.

Book 1.5 of Dareville!

Victoria Robeson is content to live at home and work her dead-end job, despite dealing with her overbearing mother, just as long as she has time to write. When she meets the handsome and mysterious Alton Weiss as Dareville prepares for Brady Garriston's big concert, Vic is unnerved and intrigued by how well he knows her personality and desires.

Alton introduces her to a world of sensuality and submission, encouraging her to become a new woman. But is Alton merely a weekend distraction, or the promise of a better life?

This story is set around the same time as Truth or Dare, and the characters will figure into the upcoming Dare Devils. In the meantime, I'm working on a non-Dareville work to satisfy my commitment to Loose-ID (and I hope that work will spawn a series, too), and a Darevile quickie freebie, as well as a few shorts I'd like to send out to a few anthologies. Jolie du Pre's call for cougar stories has me inspire to write one.

Also, a possible story for Phaze's Raven line. I have a great title I HAVE to use for it.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Phaze sale and free download of The Healing!

Celebrate romance at Phaze Books! For a limited time get 25% off your next order, eBook or print, at Use the code PHAZEWIN to get the discount, but don't wait. We don't know how long this sale will last.

Speaking of great deals, for a limited time you can download for FREE a copy of my Gaylactic Spectrum Award shortlister, The Healing! What better way to spend the forthcoming week of tax preparation than with a story about vampires! Head over to to download the story today.

De-ranked: the #amazonfail debacle

I'm hoping by the time I finish this post the words will be invalid. This morning I discovered several Phaze Books titles, including some of mine, were stripped of their Amazon ranks. Now, my books there were never too high on the lists (my personal best is ten thousand-something), but over the years we've had a number of titles do well there. Some placed on the GLBT best seller lists, a marvelous feat.

Today, it appears the majority of books "de-ranked" included erotic romance (Harlequin Spice, Kensington Aphrodosia, and many ePub prints), GLBT fiction and non-fiction. Heather Has Two Mommies, The Front Runner, and Harvey Milk bio are among the listed.

I won't go into detail, but you can visit Mark Probst for the 411. If you're on Twitter, use the search term #amazonfail and get comfortable. I have to hand it to micro-blogging, with regards to getting the word out: a Google-bomb campaign set up by the Smart Bitches has their site ranking at the top on the term "Amazon rank."

What do's actions mean? Basically, it's made it difficult for certain books to show up in search, and some will not show on bestseller lists. And is really screwing around. At 7:20 on Easter night, I did a search Leigh Ellwood in now, and only Daring Young Man in print showed, and just a few of my Kindle titles. Nothing else. Interestingly enough, one of those Kindles is my M/M title, Taste This.

At 7:35, another search yielded all my titles, e and print. I don't know what is going over there, but they truly need to reconsider this de-ranking move.

Until they do, I encourage my readers to purchase either directly from Phaze Books, or go to All Romance eBooks for your fix. If you own a Kindle, like I do, you can purchase titles for it at either cart. In fact, we might sweeten the deal with a sale. Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Chocolate Review: Galler Grand Marnier

I picked up this slim, yet thick bar at Chelsea Market a few weeks ago. The 70 gram dark Belgian caught my eye mainly for the Grand Marnier. I like the flavor of it, and you'd think combined with chocolate we'd have a winner here. Noting the finger-width thickness of the bar, my first guess was that this obviously was not a solid dark. Whether I should expect liquid or creme I wouldn't learn until recently, and on open the heavy wrapper I realized that bar must have been sitting for a while in the market. The four pillow, while not waxy, had tempered quite a bit, and in parts it looks as though the outer shell of the bar is pulling away. Not something I usually see, but I don't really know if this would make a difference in my review.

There is a filling - it is a white, nougat style - a marzipan texture, and boy is it sweet. The underside layer of chocolate breaks easily with each bite, but I have to admit it was difficult for me to get through just one square of this. I've mentioned in other reviews how too sweet of a bar isn't necessarily a good thing for me. If you have a taste for this sort of thing, this Galler may suit you. I don't think I'll be finishing it.

And, to be fair to the grand, I will try a solid as soon as I find one.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Ultimate #agentfail - the J.A. Hitchcock Story

So I hear the Tweeters and bloggers responded to the first ever #queryfail day on Twitter with a turning of the tables. The code #agentfail preceded tales of horror as viewed from other pairs of eyes - insensitive replies to queries, lost submissions, etc. To be honest, #agentfail came so quickly I didn't have time to process it, and as I haven't queried an agent in ten years I really had no war scars to share.

Last rejection I received came from somebody at Kensington who is no longer there. She met me at RT in Daytona thinking I was an Ellora's Cave author (guess she was making the rounds at the big signing) and gave me her card. A few months later, I received word my story didn't "turn her on." To be fair, looking back I don't feel I sent my best work. Other experiences with agents haven't been too bad - many rejected nicely, telling me they loved my characters and dialogue, etc. There was just something missing, something needed to tip the scales. They wouldn't tell me what, however. Here am I thinking there is some mystical canister of Austin Powers glitter mojo I need for dusting the manuscript to make things work. Can I get it on eBay?

Worst experience? I sent a query for a mystery novel to one agent. The letter came back - my own letter - with the word PASS written on it in bold black Sharpie ink. No card, no signature, nothing else. I don't know if this was procedure for that particular agent, or if his secretary simply forgot to send a form R in place of this letter, but I thought that response was quite rude. I'll take the form R postcard over something like that.

This, of course, is not the ultimate #agentfail. I wouldn't wish the ultimate #agentfail on my worst critics. Those who did chime in for these threads ought to be thankful they haven't experienced it. Nicholas Cage, at his oiliest and most buff, might have staggered a bit.

This ultimate fail threatened an online acquaintance name J.A. Hitchcock. I met Jayne through a call for writing for a now-defunct webzine I managed for a Macintosh enthusiast. We hit it off, and soon traveled the same online circles, mainly the USENET group misc.writing. Before ePublishing really took off, we'd scour the listings for magazine calls and agent news. Jayne specialized in non-fiction, children's books, and humor.

One day somebody representing the Woodside Literary Agency posted to the group, looking for writers. Many people on the group thought this odd, considering the fact that agents at the time didn't usually make active calls like this. Curious, Jayne queried and soon learned after a few e-mail exchanges that this agency didn't appear to be reputable. They requested reading fees from authors, and if a writer actually paid they requested more money for a variety of bogus reasons. After posting her findings on USENET, Jayne received a few more anonymous tips about Woodside, further putting their legitimacy into question.

Long story short (and it is a very long and interesting one, worth the read), the people behind Woodside turned to spam tactics, then countered Jayne's warnings with online harassment, then direct mail harassment, then threats of bodily harm. Woodside posted Jayne's personal information on the Internet, claiming she was interested in phone sex. People actually called her house wanting to talk dirty. In my memory, I recount her receiving a collect call from Germany to this effect.

She received notices in the mail from places like the Franklin Mint saying the Civil War plates she had ordered were on their way, along with the bill. Stuff like this might seem like minor annoyances, if you consider mail fraud an annoyance, but it gets worse. A Dateline segment on Jayne showed a clip of her checking the peephole of her front door with a loaded gun in hand. True, that may have been staged for the camera's benefit, but this was how Jayne had to live while Woodside extracted its bizarre revenge. One might think an agency like this, thinking their scam cover had been blown, would fade away and regroup for a different scheme. These people were not literary agents, just unbalanced people who ultimately encouraged a writer to become a crusader against online harassment.

Yet, there was a price to pay for her willingness to take a stand. Jayne had to move, had to change phone numbers and other personal information. Luckily for her, the prepretrators of her misery proved to be easily found. With the evidence mounting against them - from Jayne and other writers scammed by WLA - the two guilty parties involved were arrested. One served jail time, while the other - due to age and frail health - managed only probation. That person later died. Sad aftermath for these folks, but Jayne survived, wrote a book about her experiences, and now heads a great advocacy group against online stalking.

Now that I think of it, I don't mind that big PASS scrawled on my query letter so much.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Print DoMINion

I'm sure I've told this story before. Be patient, there is new stuff coming.

Back when I was just still plain old Betty Munroe I had this cute little book called Love's DoMINion. Just a wacky, sexy story about a divorcee looking for a bit of affirmation in her life. She gets hooked on a Sims-like video game and soon becomes totally, and literally, embroiled in it. I personally thought it was a nice concept, and Liquid Silver Books did as well, else they wouldn't have contracted it. However, LD became the victim of bad timing. Not long after I contracted the story did the publisher of Phaze Books disappear, leaving its fate uncertain. I took on some responsibility thinking the parent company would find a permanent replacement. Three years later, I'm still waiting for that to happen.

So in the midst of all this LD releases, and I unfortunately had too much to do on the Phaze side of things to devote to properly promoting the eBook. I still feel bad about it, because I believed in the story, still do, and had hoped to write a sequel. I still want to, I set up the original story for that, and maybe one day I will. For now, though, I will compensate by taking LD to print and hopefully make some waves at these BDSM fairs I plan to attend. It won't go through Phaze Books, since I plan to keep the eBook at Liquid Silver. They're a great company and I'm happy to be associated with them. As I hold the print rights to this book, I will self-publish.

LD was my first attempt at BDSM. It's not meant to be a primer by any means, but a light look at one women's curiosity and experience. I wanted to write a romantic comedy unrelated to Dareville, something off which I could build a library of similar works. Don't get me wrong, I love my Dareville stories - I hope my readers do as well - but I crave variety. Perhaps with a print option I can find an audience with future offsite events. We'll see.

I don't intend to leave Dareville just yet, either. I am working on a few shorts - a July 4th freebie which will lead into Daring Red, and I'll be working on Dare Devils shortly, hopefully to finish by winter or early 2010. I have the outlines done, just need to write them.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Chocolate Review: Wild Harvest Organic Dark

Wild Harvest is a brand of organic products found in various regional-specific grocery stores. Over here Farm Fresh carries the brand, and while shopping the other week I saw they had added chocolate bars to their inventory. I picked up the Dark (60%) solid, noting the USDA Organic and Fair Trade badges on the label. The chocolate comes from 5th generation chocolatiers, but no mention is made as to whether this is single-origin, and where the cacao came from.

Appearance-wise, it's not a waxy bar. The sheen is a bit dull, and each pillow is emblazoned with a swirling design. After rubbing, I detected a potent aroma of cocoa, almost like liqueur. Snap is not very loud, but each break made came clean, and the taste is rich and smooth. There's no lingering finish or detection of other flavors - it just appears to be a nice solid bar for snacking. If I'm in the mood for something simple that takes care of the craving, this would be a good selection to have.

Geddy, you've been a naughty boy...

It’s my impression that you’re a pretty well-behaved band.
We’re nice boys. But I can’t vouch for us being well-behaved every night.

Are there any classic rock and roll stories you’d like to share?

They will stay with us to the grave.

Come on, none?
[Laughs] My mother could be reading.

Read the whole interview here.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Something Queer Went On in NYC

I needed a few days to process the past weekend before I wrote this post. The first Rainbow Book Fair in Chelsea went modestly well, I thought. The organizers seemed pleased with the turnout, consider this was their first go at such an event and - well, it is New York - there is so much competition for bodies. The day turned out to be gorgeous, as I noted when I went to get lunch at Papaya King, and I had fun meeting other Phaze authors: Jade Falconer, D. Luis, and Robin Glasser.

A few things I did notice at the fair: Phaze Books was one of three vendors offering romance/erotica, the other two being MLR Press and Dreamspinner Press. One vendor supplied BDSM manuals and video, primarily aimed at the gay male audience, other vendors shopped poetry, literature and criticism, and drama. Far as I could tell, only one publisher represented sold primarily lesbian works. With the exception of MLR, Dreamspinner and Columbia University Press, I was not familiar with the other houses.

One vendor offered entertainment biographies - Merv Griffin stared at me all afternoon from a large book poster hovering over the vendor's table. When I would turn away for a break I would see the demonstration video the BDSM guy had on an endless loop.

Merv. Naked guy being flogged. Merv. Naked guy being flogged. The ceiling offered far less in entertainment value, but it helped to cleanse the visual palate.

A few other things I noticed: the crowd tended to skew older, primarily male. A friend would later tell me that he was not surprised by the demographics, believing them consistant with the make-up of Chelsea. Not being from New York, I can't say for certain, but outside there was a mix of ages and genders. Whether or not they all live in Chelsea, I don't know. As the M/M books Phaze offers are written mainly by women, and targeted toward a female audience, I was curious to see how we would do. Modest crowd, modest sales. We did give away a lot of promo, and I left promo at the LGBT Center, so maybe that will take effect in the future. I would be curious to know how everybody else did at this event.

While setting up our table in the morning, I overhead one organizer mentioned that this event was the "learning curve." Naturally they plan to process what happened that day, how they did, and what they should do for next year. If I had to offer some suggestions, and I will because that is one point of today's post, I would say this:

1) Have the event outdoors. Find a space near the Center where tents and table can be set up. Get some acoustic acts to play during the day, set up big banners. The Center was nice, but we were up on the third floor of a building surrounded by scaffold. From the outside, it didn't look as if anything was happening that day. I saw no outside signage indicating a book fair, and on the first floor a used book sale was going on! Right there, we had competition. People could just buy those books and leave without climbing the stairs.

If you have the event outdoors, you can draw more people. Passersby who wouldn't otherwise come into the building may see, be curious, and check out the books. And (and I'll talk more on this soon), you will open the event to a wide audience. You have the opportunity to capture your intended gay/lesbian demographic and others as well who might be interested in the work you do. A gay/lesbian book fair need not be restricted to just that audience. As often as I'm sure gays and lesbians read works by heterosexual authors, I don't see why the reverse shouldn't happen.

2) Invite a keynote speaker/author of some renown. An event like this needs a name to encourage readers to show. At the annual Waynesboro Book 'Em event they manage to get a few recognized authors in addition to local writers. A city like New York should be able to produce a few noted GLBT authors, you think? I don't know if the organizers were unable to find a name this year, but as they now have a whole year to plan the next event that should be plenty of time to approach people.

3) More press, Internet presence. I don't know how the promotion for this event went over locally - if ads were taken out or media called. I do know when I first heard of the fair through my promo coordinator I had to do some scrounging on Google to get information. The Center has a website, yes, but I didn't recall seeing the fair prominently advertised there. It was on the calendar, yes, but for a big event you want it up front.

This fair was a wonderful idea. I learned a lot. The authors with me learned about attending such an event, and I'm sure the organizers came away with the input they need to put on a bang-up show next year. We'll see if Phaze will be a part of it; I have to plan the year in advance as well.

Now, to get to the point of the post's title - no, it's not just for shock value. SEO, maybe.

At the fair, a panel on "The Future of Queer Publishing" was held. Very fascinating dialogue, covering the status of GLBT publishing and what to expect in a tenuous economy where stores are closing, publishers are downsizing, and print media is becoming more digital. What struck me initially about this program was the use of the word Queer. Growing up, and to some extent in these times, I had been under the impression the term had been hijacked to be used in a negative context - much like the "N" word. The official definition of queer is "odd, out of alignment, strange." As a child I loved reading a series of book by Elizabeth Levy - each title began with "Something Queer". Something Queer is Going On. Something Queer at the Ballpark. Something Queer at the Library, etc. It never occurred to me then that the word might be used in a derogatory way to describe a person.

As I understand it, the best defense was to take the word and use it as positive. On TV we see "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," "Queer as Folk," and so forth. So we have queer publishing. We've always had it, however, but it's changing. What I gathered at this panel (and this is to come to pass for "straight" publishing as well, if there is such a thing) is that GLBT authors and publishers will need to embrace the digital age - take advantage of social media to promote their works, and above all to not give up and think nobody is listening or reading.

A woman in audience identified herself as a bookseller. While I got the impression she liked the idea of the fair, she bemoaned the execution of it. Where were the major publishers? Where were the big names? I won't say I wasn't a bit miffed by the inference that those of us who participated weren't up to caliber, but on the other hand she did have a point. Then I wondered: what does it mean to be a queer publisher, or a queer author?

In college I read books from Naiad Press and New Victoria Publishers. There was a Chapter 11 Books next to the movie theater in this shopping center in Athens, Georgia. You could count the shelves of GLBT books on one finger. But the books were there. These days, Naiad has folded and the Kensington Corp. claims to be the largest publisher of GLBT fiction. Kensington isn't wholly gay and lesbian, so do they qualify as queer? Phaze Books publishes GLBT romance, menage stories, and genres some people might think odd, do we qualify?

I write M/M, am I queer? I have never been with a woman, but if somebody cute (oh, let's say, Kate Winslet) were to buy me a drink I wouldn't say no. Am I even qualified to comment? I see so many people who identify as gay or lesbian integrating themselves into the mainstream, and that's fine, but what happens if the reverse happens? Does the term queer need to define just GLBT people who write GLBT books for GLBT publishers?

I have never been one for labels. It can be a challenge to desire total equality yet still want to maintain an identity that separates you from the mainstream. With my writing I try to encompass the best of all worlds. Sometimes characters come out to me on their own - it happens, if you're a writer, you know what I'm talking about. As for the future of queer publishing...I'd like to see all publishing continue. I'd like to see anybody able to walk into a store or log online and buy what they want, regardless of the logo on the spine or the name on the cover. As for the future of this fair, we'll see. Maybe something queer will happen next year.