2012 Thus Far

Thought it might be interesting to take a quick inventory of all that’s happened thus far this year. The good and the bad.

  • Scott interviewed for a new job (mid-January).
  • I made travel arrangements for my trip to London (mid-January).
  • I wrote and finished my novella “St. Peter in Chains” (January).
  • Scott was offered the job in San Francisco and accepted (early February).
  • My play “Warm Bodies” was produced and was a finalist at the Valley Repertory 3rd Annual Lab Works (late February).
  • Movers packed up our house, and after a couple nights at a hotel we flew to San Francisco and moved into temp housing (mid-March).
  • I flew to Boston for a night, then on to London for a 10-day stay, then back to Boston and home to San Fran (March-April).
  • While in London I: converted “St. Peter in Chains” into a short screenplay, saw two plays, and celebrated Easter alone.
  • I submitted the screenplay version of “St. Peter in Chains” to the Nicholl Fellowship (April).
  • An area agent and an agency in the UK asked to look at my Sherlock spec; the UK agency also asked to read “St. Peter in Chains” (April)
  • We sold our house in Massachusetts (April).
  • I found out three pieces of my flash fiction had been accepted to be published in a 2013 anthology (May).
  • The agent declined to represent me and the UK agency did not respond to my follow-up query (May).
  • Scott’s parents visited and Scott and I celebrated our 11th anniversary by staying at El Drisco, eating at a fancy restaurant, and seeing Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers play at the Red Devil Lounge. Scott also gave me a gorgeous ring (May).
  • We moved out of temp housing and into a new house in Livermore (May).
  • I flew to Washington D.C. to see “Warm Bodies” produced as part of the Source Festival, and also got a chance to meet and spend the day with one of Scott’s high school friends who until then I’d only known online (June).
  • Scripts sent to Script Pipeline and the Page Awards did not advance (June-July).
  • After repeated rejections, I self-published the novella version of “St. Peter in Chains” as an e-book; it’s had steadily increasing sales (late June).
  • Encouraged by the success of “St. Peter in Chains,” I also self-published “Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Last Line.” It has outpaced “St. Peter” by a large margin and has been especially popular in the UK (July).
  • I did not advance in the Nicholl Fellowship (early August).
  • I self-pubbed my Star Signs Operating Manual (August).
  • I found out my play “Warm Bodies” was to be published in an upcoming anthology of short plays (August).
  • I was invited to submit a full-length play to a competition that only accepts full-length plays via invitation (August).
  • I did not advance in the Austin Film Festival screenwriting competition (August).

So . . . A mixed bag. I’ve left out the fact that a small army of query letters has gone without response. I’m chipping away, you see, but I wouldn’t mind a bit more success. The year is two-thirds over. Not sure what else I can hope to accomplish. I am working on another Sherlock Holmes story, and I am hoping to submit something to that playwriting competition. I’m also hoping some other plays I’ve submitted to various venues get selected for production. And more than anything I’d like these scripts I’ve written to get some notice. That, for me, would be the big win.

Why “St. Peter” Fared So Well

I was asked why I thought “St. Peter in Chains” darted up the charts like that yesterday. (Last I checked it had gone to #5 in gay fiction and #36 in suspense.) Honestly? It’s because people like free stuff. I mean, right? It was selling in mediocre fashion, but make it free for a week, and voilá! Those curious folk who didn’t want to waste 99 cents on someone they’d never heard of decided to give it a free spin.

The other thing about “St. Peter” is that it’s about a gay person without being about being gay. Because I don’t think gay people’s lives are all tangled up in their homosexuality any more than straight people’s lives are all about how they’re straight. Human experience is universal in a lot of ways: desires, motivations. Sex is an issue for everyone, in one way or another, regardless of gender or gender preference. And so, yeah, Peter has relationship issues, but they’re not because he’s gay. He could have the exact same issues if Charles were a Charlotte. And I think—and this is just garnered from what my gay friends have said and things I’ve read here and there—gay readers would kind of like to have some stories about other gay people without the whole story revolving around the gay bit.

And before you point at me and yell, “Marketing ploy!” let me tell you I didn’t plan for Peter to be gay. In my original idea, he wasn’t, except when I started writing him, he made it quite plain to me that he was.

ME: And you and Miranda . . .
PETER: Oh, but I’m gay.
ME: Oh no you’re not. You are not gay. You cannot be gay. I need you not to be gay.
PETER: But I am.
ME: Well . . . fuck. Back to square one then.

Simple as that.

But really? “St. Peter” did well because it was free, I think, and because people finding my Sherlock Holmes story also saw this other free one and snapped up both.

At least, that’s what I think happened.

As for “The Mystery of the Last Line” (which has also done very well, #2 in British detectives, I would guess mostly because Sherlock Holmes has a large following of readers in general), fun fact: that story was the writing sample I submitted to get into graduate school. And I did get in. Not that I think the story is the reason; I think I have the letter of recommendation from Dr. Douglass Parker to thank for that. He was one of the best champions of my writing. In any case, the published version is much edited, and the better for it, I would hope.

“St. Peter in Chains” Climbing the Kindle Charts

My e-novella “St. Peter in Chains” just made #10 in gay fiction on Amazon, and has cracked the top 50 in suspense. Thanks, everyone, for your support! I hope you enjoy the story!

“St. Peter in Chains” is free on Amazon through this Friday, July 20. So is my Sherlock Holmes story “The Mystery of the Last Line.” You can find both on my Amazon author page.

“The Mystery of the Last Line” is also free over at Smashwords. It will be up at iBooks and Nook soon.

“St. Peter in Chains” FREE on Kindle this week!

This Monday through Friday (July 16-20), you can download my novella “St. Peter in Chains” from Amazon for free! No need for a code or anything, just pop on over there and pick it up! (Of course, this promotion is for Kindle users; if you want a free copy but don’t have a Kindle, you can always go read Christine Rains’s interview with me and get the promo code for a free Smashwords version.)

As an aside, “The Mystery of the Last Line” (my Sherlock Holmes story) is also FREE on Smashwords.


Head over to Christine Rains’s blog for an interview with me + a freebie!

I should add that I originally conceived of “St. Peter in Chains” as a stage play but wrote it in novella form first, then adapted a stage version and a screenplay. I was told by a couple theatre directors that it would be difficult to do on stage but might be ideal for film.

It’s funny, but I do find it easier (faster, really) to write in prose and then adapt to other media. Sitting down to write something flat out as a screenplay is more difficult for me, though I have done and can do it. For stage work, I can go either way. My reasons for doing “St. Peter” in prose first was to work through Peter’s range of emotions so I’d be able to give the actors enough to work with later.

I don’t direct in my writing. Some directors love that, and some hate it, and some are just confused by it. But we were taught in screenwriting class not to call the shots—literally. That’s the director’s job, and later the editor’s job: to make it look right in the end. As a screenwriter (and playwright), I feel it’s my job to tell a good story, and to give the actors/characters enough material to make it work. So I guess I do direct the actors in a subversive way, though I only dictate actions that are key to the plot; mostly my goal is to give them a toolbox of emotions and motivations to help them build and understand their characters.

The result is I sometimes (often, actually) get actors who are very excited by my scripts and directors who have a lot of questions about “how [I] picture” this or that, what I was seeing as I was writing, I suppose. But as a screenwriter it isn’t only my vision that counts, I don’t think, and if I’ve written something well enough, a good director will have a vision of his own as he reads the script. Though I always appreciate collaboration.

More on “St. Peter in Chains” & some K-Pro

Fellow writer Christine Rains will be posting her review of “St. Peter in Chains” on her site on Tuesday. The following Monday, July 9, she’ll publish an interview with yours truly. Thanks, Christine, for the awesome hospitality!

Now to focus on The K-Pro. I’ve given myself a deadline of July 31 to finish the draft. I’m not sure yet how realistic that actually is since lately I’ve felt kind of flat when it comes to writing, but I’m sure as hell gonna try. I sometimes forget that a draft is just that: a draft. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It won’t be. But if I want to try Camp NaNo in August, I need The K-Pro to be done first.