Sunday, April 26, 2009

Here I am again...

I haven't abandoned this blog. I just can't get on it to post during my down time at school. All blogs are blocked in the first place, but I used to be able to use a proxy server to get around that. I know that's not what the school would have wanted, but I figured I wasn't really doing anything wrong. I'm not above breaking the rules if the rules seem senseless. It may be part of my Asperger's or ADD or whatever it is I have. I wouldn't want me any other way, so I don't worry about it.

Anyway, so here I am again on a beautiful (if a bit too hot) Sunday, catching you all up. I hope to be able to blog more regularly again. It's hard to track progress when updates are sporadic.

Quite a lot has happened in the last week, on several fronts. First of all, I'm moving forward on my Suicide Prevention events. The online event now has 26 attendees on Facebook. I never could figure out how to get the event invitation to work on Myspace... it seems to get caught in an endless loop every time I try. So I just posted a bulletin about it and hoped for the best. I may write on some people's comment space as well. We'll see.

Putting this event together--as well as the offline event, which I'll blog about in a second--has been the hardest thing I've ever done. It's not that it's really difficult to set up an online event or anything like that. It's that reading the stories of people who have committed suicide really upsets me.

I started writing Shades of Gay because my best friend used to be suicidal because of his sexual orientation. He didn't deserve to suffer the way he did, and every day I thank G-d that he is still alive. But reading these stories makes me realize how many people aren't as lucky, and how easily it could have gone the other way. More than once I've found myself crying over the needless suffering and waste. So far I've found six stories, and all of them sound the same. This person had a ton of potential. This person was doing good things for their family/friends/community. This person's suicide shocked everyone.

It's time for this to stop. 1 out of 3 suicides is LGBT related. That's about 1500 people a year.

This should be considered a national crisis just as much as AIDS or any other epidemic. Hell, the fact that there are 5000 suicides a year for any reason should be considered a national crisis. The fact that a full third of those suicides are related to being a member of a group making up just 10% of the population should be doubly so.

Anyway, as hard as it is for me to read these stories, I have to keep reading them, because I want to be the voice of all those who have died and who have wanted to die and who still want to die. This is not the way G-d intends human beings to live, it's not the way we should live, and it's going to stop.

Another thing I did this week was create a short video letting people know about this problem. I think if we can put faces and names to statistics, the majority of people can be reached. I'm not worrying about the extremists, the truly committed homophobes who protest the funerals of gay suicide victims and claim that they deserved to die. I'll leave that battle for someone else, thank you very much. But I will try to reach the ordinary people who aren't aware a problem exists, and the ones who are homophobic by default, simply because they've never met a gay person and therefore have had no reason to question the attitudes they've been brought up with.

I'm also trying to reach the people who already care, the people who are LGBT supporters. I'm hoping those people will join me in making a difference.

I've got web sites and press releases and videos galore out on the World Wide Web, and I just pray that it makes a difference. I want to do something important. I want to help people. I want to put an end to needless suffering.

One last piece of news: I am likely having a candlelight vigil followed by a dinner on May 22, in honor of the birth of Harvey Milk and of suicide awareness month. I am working with the LGBT Center of Raleigh to secure a space for the event. Tickets will be $7, and will go towards the LGBT Center as well as the Trevor Project Hotline.

If you do not live in Raleigh, I encourage you to have your own event and let me know about it. I will post pictures, videos, etc.


Monday, April 20, 2009

One week later...

I haven't written in this blog for a week. It' snot because I haven't been productive; actually, I've had one of the most productive weeks in a while. I was on vacation from my day job, and during that time I managed to accomplish the following, Shades of Gay wise:

* Finished the brand-new LGBT Youth Advocacy Site and Store (

* Created a Squidoo page, linked to the store (

* Updated the Shades of Gay Myspace (

* Created a series of events for Suicide Awareness Week, purposely coinciding with Harvey Milk's birthday (exact;y a year before publication)

* Wrote another half chapter of Shades of Gay

Actually writing the novel is at the bottom of the list. I'm doing a lot of promotion, none of which will be any good if I don't FINISH THE NOVEL.

Vacation weeks are always more difficult. As much as I dislike my current job, it does provide some structure. I have to be up at 5:30 AM and doing my morning planning, I have to be here by 7:30 AM, I have to be here ALL DAY (which provides opportunities to work on business stuff), etc.

When I'm on vacation, I'm a lot looser. I stay up late, hang around Facebook a lot (site blocking has its advantages, I guess), spend lots of time with friends and family... I don't regret any of that, but there's a bit less structure... if I'm going to really be a professional writer, I need to be able to discipline myself without external structure forcing me to focus.

So today, here I am back at work, discovering that I can't do half the things I need to do because the site blockers are in the way, half asleep from staying up way too late last night, frustrated, and ready for another vacation so I can be productive.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A new mission

Over the last few days, it's become more clear what my mission is.

I've been saying for months that Shades of Gay is more than just a novel; it's a part of the LGBT rights movement. This weekend, that became even clearer as I began working on my cafepress site.

One of the reasons for Cafepress is, of course, to sell t-shirts. But my primary reason for having the site is to be an advocate for LGBT teens. When Shades of Gay is finished and people read it, they'll see that it's an illustration of the struggles that LGBT teens face, everything from bullying to self-destructive behavior.

I mentioned last week that the real reason I'm writing and publishing Shades of Gay is to stem the tide of LGBT suicide. The new site attempts to address that issue, as well as bullying, the need to explore relationships, etc.

Check it out at I don't have everything up yet, but you should be able to get an idea of what's coming.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Why I'm writing this

Yesterday I was having a hard time writing. For the first time since I began the final push towards completing the first draft, I didn't write 1000 words. In fact, I wrote hardly anything at all.

You see, I'd forgotten why I'm writing Shades of Gay. I'm writing it just to write it or just to make money or even just to have a published book. I'm writing it to draw my line in the sand, to squarely face off all those who insist on judging homosexuality, who insist on accusing good people of being "deceived" and being aligned with Satan, who insist on throwing their hurtful words and sometimes more around and don't give a fuck who they hurt.

I'm writing Shades of Gay to say this is going to stop. I have a good friend who I have seen suffer so much and so undeservedly because of hir sexual orientation. 30% of GLBT youth commit suicide every year because, like my friend, they can't make themselves be straight like the people around them think they ought to be. 30%. According to the Talmud, whoever saves one life saves the world entire and yet we are allowing 30% of our youth to die in the name of I don't know what. Religious people would say G-d, but the G-d I worship doesn't encourage people to live short, miserable lives and die at their own hands.
Sadder yet, knowing this will not change the minds of those people who believe that homosexuality is a sin that they ought to help rid the world of. They'll just say, "The wages of sin are death," as if that somehow makes all this wasted life okay. It makes me wonder what G-d they serve and what they really believe. It certainly isn't the G-d I'm familiar with.

So I'm going to say this one last time: stop being so careless with your judgments. Sit at a distance and judge if you want, but keep it to yourself. Better yet, before you judge, hold your best friend in your arms and pray that it's enough to stop him/her from kill hirself. Then tell me that the wages of sin are death and that if an LGBT person kills hirself it's no loss.

While you're doing that, I'll be writing Shades of Gay.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Help!!! I'm addicted to Cafepress...

So yesterday, I gave in and signed up for a Cafepress premium account because all the succesful shops seem to have one. Cafepress Premium is a little bit like Myspace, except you pay $6.95/month and the HTML is a bit more complicated. And, of course, you can make money with it.

I signed up at work; my original plan was to vacuum the house as soon as I got home so I could get to work. Instead, I thought I'd take a "few minutes" to customize my site FIRST.


First of all, I guess I've been too spoiled by all the free templates out there for places like Myspace and Blogger. After an hour of searching, the best I could do (without paying for professional design) was to find a tutorial about customizing your HTML to make the site...

Two hours later, after playing around for a while, I realized that 1) I should eat supper (which I was surprisingly uninterested in despite my stomach growling) and 2) I needed to actually put some products in my brand new store.

That's where I ran into even more trouble. See, with a basic shop, you can only put one design on one type of t-shirt. With a premium shop, you can make 15 different versions of each style if you really want to. I decided to go ahead and make two versions of several styles of shirt: some with just a design on the front, others with a back side as well.

The problem is that making sure all those shirts are named right, described properly, etc. This can literally take hours and is rather tedious. And while I was doing all that, I WASN'T setting up my main site to look nice.

Around 9:30 or so I decided to delete a bunch of stuff until I could get around to customizing it, on the off chance that anyone looked at my store. (Hey, it could happen. I HAVE been putting the link out there.) I was already exhausted, I'd forgotten about my plans to vacuum, and I still had two new design ideas I wanted to try out.

So, back I was in the other room with the PC with the half-broken keyboard, messing around with PhotoImpact for another hour. After all that, I forgot to save my images in high resolution, so I couldn't use the designs. It would be another half hour of playing around with the storefront itself before I even got around to uploading the designs and discovering this.

My eyes were closing. I made myself go to bed even though I really wanted to design a banner advertising some of my products to go on the front page.

So... here I am, 15 hours later or so, flipping between this blog and the copy of GIMP I just downloaded. I want to learn to use GIMP to create image files so I can get that banner up and make some more designs.

Somehow I got another thousand words of Shades of Gay in before I started feeding my addiction. I guess I should be grateful for small favors.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The best laid plans...

This morning I had trouble writing my thousand words. At first I wrote 200... then 370... then 400... then all of a sudden the scene took off and I wrote the entire thousand words and was reluctant to stop. I had to make myself because I have other things to do today.

I had planned on 25 chapters and had written out an entire plan for each chapter, but as usual it isn't going to happen that way. It seems like my brain always forgets the events leading up to an event when I plan out a chapter. Back in Chapter Five, for example, Mitch asked Arthur out to the arcade. I sat down to start Chapter Six, intending to write the date itself, but things happened and the date didn't take place until the second half of Chapter Seven.

Now I'm in a similar quandry because I have the whole rest of the novel planned out, centered around three major events: A Halloween party at Mitch's mom's, a class presentation on gay rights in December, and the senior prom. I meant to get to the Halloween party three or four chapters ago. Every time I think I'm free to "fast forward" to Halloween, my characters aren't ready to go. Fights between friends and significant others, nagging parents, and school bullies have all interfered with moving forward as fast as I would like.

I'm not complaining, mind you. I think the novel is stronger for all the detours I've taken along the way towards each major story event. I just wonder how many chapters it's really going to be, and if I can really write it all by June like I had planned.

I love writing this novel. You wouldn't think so, judging my the number of other 'important" things I remember need doing when it's time to sit down and write. I am probably spending more time and energy on laying out the text and promoting the finished product than i am at writing these last few chapters. But once I get started, man, is it hard to stop!

I'm going to miss these characters when I've finished. Their lives are so much richer than I thought they were.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Will of the people?

I'm sitting in my empty classroom listening to what sounds like a ferocious storm and thinking about things.

I was all set to write a blog about my day "off" (which really wasn't a day off), but when I signed into Blogger, the first thing I saw was that the governor of Vermont is all set to veto the equal marriage bill that's about to come across his desk. I am saddened, disappointed, angry... but not surprised. I'm also wondering if I should be writing about this in a blog that is supposed to be tracking my progress towards the publication and sale of my novel. However, I also want the novel to be an important piece of the GLBT movement, and I'm upset enough about this to write about it, so here goes.

It seems to me that many in the anti-marriage camp are extremely hypocritical. I've been reading over and over that it would be "wrong" and 'unfair" to overturn Proposition 8 in California because it would be against "the will of the people". Yet it is not against the will of the people for the governor to overturn a bill passed by legislators elected by the people and encouraged by the people to pass the bill.

Yes, I know that the veto system is in place in order to stop any one part of a government from gaining too much power, and that mayors, governors, and even the President would be reduced to being figureheads if they had no say about what bills were passed into law. But civil rights should not have to be legislated in the first place, and it is frustrating to see the LGBT movement making progress, only to be turned away at the last second.

I can't help wonder why there is so much hatred towards the LGBT community that the only way we ever get any kind of equality is through the court system. And then people complain that the will of the people is being "usurped" by the courts. Why are basic civil rights ever subject to the will of the people in the first place?

I wish I was able to address this issue fully in Shades of Gay. There are a couple of references to it, but the novel can only focus on so much of the LGBT movement. Since it's focused on the lives of three teenagers, I have chosen to focus mainly on the safe school issue. I just don't have the room to express my opinion about every aspect of LGBT life. Maybe there's some other books in my future. I don't know.

I do know that the governor of Vermont's expected behavior is shameful. Vermont was one of the original 13 colonies that broke away in pursuit of freedom. Now it is denying freedom to a portion of its citizens because of the whim of one person.

It's time for such things to stop.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

What are YOUR ideas?

I think it's time for a change of direction. I've always been a determined person.(Stubborn is a word some people like to use, but stubbornness implies lack of flexibility. I try to use my strong-willed nature in a positive manner.) Right now I'm determined to make Shades of Gay a success.

I've had some limited success with my Facebook and Myspace pages, particularly on Myspace, where I've been making friend requests to self-identified members of the GLBT community. However, people are not interacting with the site very much.

I think I've been focusing too much on the "new book" angle and not enough on the GLBT community angle. Maybe I've lost sight a little bit of why I'm writing the book... I want it to be a bestseller, of course, as this blog title implies... but I also want it to be an extremely important piece of the GLBT movement.

So this morning I've asked my fans to give their input into what they'd like to see on any of my fan sites. I'm particularly interested in how to make my sites more relevant to the GLBT community. I'm also opening that question up to anyone who reads this blog.

I'm off to the bookstore in a few minutes with my cover designer and photographer to get some ideas about cover layout. I'll be talking about that some tomorrow, and begin incorporating your ideas as well.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

It's funny how I can allow one well-meaning person to throw everything off. Yesterday, one of the other teachers at my current school told me that she talked to the EC Director about getting me a job as a compliance specialist rather than teaching, since I'm doing all the paperwork for several teachers. She said the EC Director is unwilling to create such a position, but consider it if I was willing to do some teaching as well.

Now, there are several good reasons why I am not coming back to this school next year. I travel 57 miles each way and am planning on moving further north, there's little support (either financial or moral) for EC teachers in this school, and I want to switch careers to a more publishing-oriented industry.

Yet for a minute, I doubted not only my decision, but my whole plan. I wondered whether I should be putting so much energy into pre-publication promotion, as well as finishing the novel. For some reason, all my dreams seemed... silly and impractical and unguaranteed. I thought that I wouldn't really sell any books or anything.

An hour later, having listened to some good music on the way home, I had calmed down and realized that my original plan was correct. I was thinking about the chorus to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road:

I've finally decided my future lies
beyond the yellow brick road.

For me, the yellow brick road or false path or whatever you want to call it lies in the safe routes I've always taken because other people thought I should. Being a writer is and always will be a risky career choice. It would be safer to stay in the poor job situation while occasionally working towards something else.

It would be foolish, of course, to live only on the hope of being a success, without a solid plan. I haven't given up on the outside job market entirely, and won't be able to until Ir each my goal. I may have to do something else to support me for a long while yet. However, I am working towards making Shades of Gay a best-seller every day. This blog is dedicated to the purpose of sharing the ups and downs of my new career path.

So I'm getting off the yellow brick road and back onto the narrow path that my company is named after. Here's a few highlights of what I've been doing the past couple of days:

* Got some feedback on my t-shirt designs from other CafePress members, and began revising accordingly. Since several people felt my design was too plain, I'm experimenting with adding graphics. I'll post a picture of my first new design when I get home, as images are blocked at work. In the meantime, here's the link so that you can check it out yourself:

* Finished Chapter Seventeen and posted it on the Scribophile Writer's Workshop site. I'm now well into Chapter Eighteen.

* Continued to make contacts on Facebook and Myspace.

As always, feel free to drop me a line about anything I'm doing or to share your own journey.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Moving right along...

Good morning!

It's amazing how much I want to get out of bed each morning since I decided to focus on making Shades of Gay a success. I'm operating on three hours of sleep this morning without coffee, and even though I'm tried, I'm reluctant to take a nap during my planning period because it would be a loss of precious free time that could be spent doing something productive towards making Shades of Gay a reality.

That being said, I'm not functioning at full capacity here, I need to be forgiven if I say anything that doesn't make any sense whatsover. I'm not exactly speaking English this morning. Besides all that, it's sometimes hard to concentrate on what I'm doing because as a teacher you're constantly getting interrupted by this and that. (Right now I have a child in my room trying to prove that I don't type as fast as I claim to type.)

Anyway, I don't have a whole lot to say this morning. The work is proceeding amazingly fast. I finished another chapter yesterday. I have eight more to go. It's weird to me to see these chapters coming together so quickly. Part of me thinks they must not be that high a quality if I'm getting them out this fast. Yet I'm still working hard on them. It often takes me two or three hours to write 1,000 words. There are multiple stops, starts, do-overs, and word count checks.

Last night I read Chapter Seven aloud to my graphics designer and photographer. It's been a long time since I looked at it. I probably wrote it around Chanukah time. It's always a double-edged sword rereading past chapters. It's easy to fall into the trap of overly admiring it or comparing it to the current chapter. For some reason, whatever I'm writing about is never as good, in my head, as what I've written.

Anyway, the book is coming along. It's probably going to be between 450 and 500 pages... long for a Young Adult novel but hey, it's shorter than Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, so there's no reason it shouldn't sell just as well.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The film that wasn't

Last night was apparently not the night to film the final scene I need for my first trailer. The scene I envision takes place at a community bus stop (since the bus stop is supposed to be a few blocks from Arthur and Mitch's house). It is raining. Mitch shows Arthur a bruise on his arm and says, "I did this to myself because I couldn't stop thinking about you."

Problem #1 was that none of the Sims sites I checked out had a downloadable arm bruise. I did find some nice-looking (if you can call them that) shoulder and knee bruises, so I downloaded that. Then I loaded up the Sims and used a cheat to get enough Aspiration Points to buy a weather-changing machine or whatever that thing is that's supposed to change the weather. I also downloaded a neat looking community bus stop... I figured since I only needed the outside, I'd throw the weather machine and a clothes changing rack into the terminal.

I should add that I have Sims on my old PC but do all my downloading on my Mac because the Mac is way faster at accessing the Internet. I don't have a working flash drive at the moment, so I have to email downloads to myself, get them off the PC, and install them. The PC is also missing half the bottom row of keys, courtesy of one of the cats, and the space bar only works half the time. So it takes longer than you'd think to get things set up...

Anyway, I figured it would be a simple change at the mirror to get the bruises onto Mitch, but I couldn't find the option. I suspect I'm going to have to go to Body Shop and create an all-new Sim to be bruised Mitch...aargh.

The bigger problem is that it won't let me use the Weather Machine on a community lot. I packed it into Arthur's inventory, but no go. You can't take it out except on residential lots.

By the time I figured this out, it was already 9:30 or so, I was exhausted, and I just didn't feel like trying to find anymore workarounds. So I turned off the Sims and went back to the Mac to look at podcast-safe (i.e. public domain) music. I want some kind of rock chorus to play under the main action in the final scene and some incidental music for the rest of the trailer. I only found one site that had songs with WORDS, and you couldn't preview them... so I now have about 45 downloads of songs I don't like sitting in my ITunes folder...

Today is a new day, and I am off from work because of a mid-afternoon doctor's appointment. So hopefully I'll be able to get the trailer put together. Then all that's left is the voiceovers.