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Thursday, February 27, 2003

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

KC & the Sunshine Band

My next blog entry will be number 100! Please read that! Meanwhile, I want to share some news, then tell you about a somewhat overlooked CD by one of my favorite groups.

Amazon.co.UK has posted extended reviews of The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer and my science fiction novel Degranon. Click those links to read about the books and their themes, as well as more information about my writing.

CD Review: Oh Yeah! by KC & the Sunshine Band. Also available at Amazon.co.UK.

My responses, one song at a time.

"Megamix." This eight-minute medley combines some of KCSB's most popular songs. It uses a new recording that flows together, instead of splicing together clips from separate recordings.

"Somebody Somewhere." Backup singer Maria De Crescenzo steps up to sing this beautiful ballad with KC. Besides the great vocal match, the lyrics will inspire and comfort listeners. This song would make a great dedication!

"Will You Love Me In The Morning." KC forgets to breathe in his rapid delivery of impassioned lyrics.

"Hold Me Tight." This dance song would fit perfectly into a collection of club mixes, except that it's already mixed just right!

"Give It Up." A new version of their 80s hit. I don't like it quite as much as the original, but it comes close enough as an alternate version.

"Please Don't Go." A scaled-down live version, with just KC and a piano. KC adds an extra love note in the bridge.

"Coast To Coast." Funky and distinctly 90s dance music, but also distinctly Sunshine Band.

"I Can't Forget." Another ballad that would make a great dedication. It reflects an enduring relationship, not unlike the one between KC and his fans.

"Gonna Let It Go." This uptempo ballad deals positively with moving on after a failed relationship.

"Don't Stop." A surprisingly danceable remake of the Fleetwood Mac classic. The optimistic message makes it an obvious song for KCSB to record.

"Turn The Music Up." Basic KCSB, spotlighting a jazzy sound with heavy percussion. I would have started the CD with this song (with the medley second), because it's signature KCSB, and because of the title.

"Desire." Though upbeat and danceable, this track sounds unlike any of the others, often letting the sexy backup vocals take over.

"High Above The Clouds." Another major departure for the band, this techopop number provides a lovely ending for an enjoyable collection.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Book review: Uncle Sean, by Ronald L. Donaghe

While much shorter than Ronald L. Donaghe's “Common Threads in the Life” novels, Uncle Sean is certainly no less realistic, thought-provoking, or intriguing. Though told entirely in first person, the narrative actually uses three different voices. The first voice is that of a man who finds the materials and instills in readers a desire to learn the story they hold. Another is of the young man Will Barnett, who realizes that he wants a boyfriend. And the third voice is of Uncle Sean himself, the object of Will's affection. Donaghe uses each voice as a different way of exploring the complexities of same-sex attraction and, more universally, the frustrations of feeling isolated and rejected. The Salvation Mongers remains my favorite of Donaghe's novels, but Uncle Sean is perhaps his most touching novel, and I think countless readers will relate to Will's desire to find someone "pretty" to love forever.

Saturday, February 22, 2003

Book review: The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, by Gertrude Stein

In using her lover Alice as the narrator of something called an autobiography, Stein reveals that we can expect something unusual with this book. Of course, she delivers, turning ordinary events and words into a sometimes difficult but always fascinating prose narrative. One can easily see why so many artists and writers sought her company.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Matchbox Twenty

CD review: Mad Season, by Matchbox Twenty

I could name many other twenty-first century bands who deliver straight-forward rock songs and ballads with a lot of harmonies and some catchy lyrics. But none of those other bands have the amazing Rob Thomas as their lead singer and main songwriter. Thomas is a major talent, and he surrounded himself with band-mates that fit his style perfectly. This album provides an hour of satisfying rock 'n roll.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Book review: The Salvation Mongers, by Ronald L. Donaghe

Ronald Donaghe, the author of Commons Sons, offers a look inside the bastion of bigotry and self-loathing that many people know as "the ex-gay movement."

Though The Salvation Mongers is a work of fiction, it builds its suspenseful, engaging plot upon the philosophies of that actual movement, and the ordeals of its actual victims.

Most people assume that these groups mean well and couldn't possibly hurt. This novel suggests otherwise; the book's afterword (a non-fiction essay) proves otherwise.

From my research into the ex-gay movement, and from my conversations with people who have seen the rotten fruit of its labor, I know that this work of fiction bares more truth than any of the promises that so-called "reparative therapy" makes.

Donaghe creates believable, tortured characters. I've met all the "types" he portrays in The Salvation Mongers, including some of the more sinister characters. I've also seen the beauty of the New Mexico landscape that provides an effective contrast for the ugliness that Donaghe exposes.

This book is both alluring and repulsive in its accuracy. Please read it before you join or fund an ex-gay group.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

HubStuff

The eighth issue of HubStuff: What’s Going on in Lubbock just came out! It includes “My Sunrise Friend,” a poem by Shawna Chandler, one of the authors of The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

DVD review: Stargate SG-1

I always enjoyed the 1994 movie Stargate, so I was glad to hear that Showtime planned to make a TV series of it, with reruns appearing in syndication. The special effects let me down at first, but not the acting or writing. Richard Dean Anderson is perfect for the part of Jack, so much so that it now seems strange seeing Kurt Russell in the part when I watch the movie. The special effects budget for the series has obviously grown over time. So has the mythology. This show provides a showcase of many talented people (on both sides of the camera) and keeps building on the possibilities that past episodes have raised. Stargate SG-1 eventually moved to the SciFi Channel, but has kept getting better!

It isn’t quite as good as Babylon 5 or Star Trek: The Next Generation, but it comes a lot closer than most scifi shows!

Monday, February 10, 2003

How The Internet Changed My Writing Career
By Duane Simolke
(Updated from previous postings.)


I began writing at a young age and constantly submitted my work to a variety of publications, sometimes with success. While those publications never paid more than five dollars, if anything, they helped get my name and my writing to the public. I also edited or wrote for various college publications while attending those colleges. Still, my attempts at finding a book publisher led nowhere, except for offers from people who obviously wanted to rip me off.

When I began exploring the internet, I quickly found e-zines (web-based electronic magazines) that featured work by unknown writers. Internet newsgroups, message boards, and mailing lists offered more outlets. Some people even asked me for permission to post my essays or poems on their websites.

Those venues not only gave me new places to get published but also led to feedback from people around the world. The feedback included questions, encouragement, and criticism, all of which pushed me to expand and improve the writings I posted.

Soon, I tried publishing collections of my work as e-books (electronically published books). Though some writers reported great success with e-book publishing, I found little reception for my e-books. In all honesty, I wouldn’t buy an electronic document either. Also in all honesty, most of the people whose books sold well in e format were already well-established authors, such as Stephen King.

During all that time, I continued to submit my books to traditional (print) publishers, with no takers. I also found new readers by continuing to submit my work to newsletters and other smaller publications that would give unknown writers a chance. Many of those readers asked when my books would appear in print. That became possible when I discovered print-on-demand (POD) publishing, a technology that allows the printer to only make copies of a book as people order them.

POD publishers tend to rely on their websites and the online bookstores for selling their books, so it is a largely web-based industry, with sales mostly coming through the sites, the various online bookstores, and the efforts of the individual author. Most on-demand publishers won’t publicize their books outside their website.

Also, brick-and-mortar bookstores usually won’t stock POD books, largely because—with a few exceptions—POD publishers won’t take returns and don’t offer enough profit for the bookstore. I’ll accept those drawbacks for now, because the benefits outweigh them for someone who hasn’t yet found a traditional publisher.

I only recently discovered Everything You Always Wanted to Know About POD Publishing But Didn't Know Who to Ask!!!, by John F. Harnish. That book explains POD publishing and marketing in ways that would have saved me a lot of time and money if I had known the secrets it reveals before writing four POD books and co-authoring another. Still, I certainly wouldn’t change my decision to use my POD publisher, iUniverse.

Thanks to on-demand publishing, readers can now order all of my books at online or brick-and-mortar bookstores. The creation and constant expansion of my website has helped me promote those books, especially since that website contains information that consistently attracts a diverse audience.

Aside from my site, I use the following methods for promoting my books. From book sales and e-mail responses, I know that all of them help.

1. Continuing to contribute to websites, especially Amazon.com, AuthorsDen, StoneWall Society, and my own site. People keep seeing my name at those places, and often read more about me—including information about my books.

2. I mentioned that I also co-authored a book. That one, The Acorn Gathering, raises money for cancer cure research. John Mudd, the publicist for that book, suggested new ways to make my Acorn Gathering website more effective (study the site to see what I mean) and also introduced me to blogs (weblogs). Blogs, a growing trend, help active writers, critics, hobbyists, etc. constantly provide a fresh exchange of observations and ideas. They appear more quickly in search engines than traditional webpages appear, and they form quite a community. I created three blogs at Blogger. John Mudd also helped me network with media people, which means more exposure for an important project.

3. Advertising my books in the classifieds sections of various print publications. The expense more than cuts into my royalties, but the publicity allows me to reach outside the net and gain a larger audience. Besides, classifieds cost much less than other forms of print advertising. I choose publications that somehow relate to the book I’m promoting. For example, my first book, The Acorn Stories, uses a West Texas setting, so I advertise it in Texas publications. Of course, I usually include my domain name, to make my writing easy to find.

4. Sending review copies of my books to people who might write about them or help me schedule a signing or reading. More than half of those review copies result in nothing. But a single review copy will sometimes yield considerable results. I receive much better results if I contact the person in advance and ask for permission to send the review copy. I eventually learned not to bother with the leading magazines, as most of them will only review books from the leading publishers (i.e., the ones that advertise in those magazines). Smaller publications often take interest in unknown writers. As John F. Harnish’s aforementioned book points out, most newspapers won’t review POD books; I wasted a lot of money by not knowing that simple fact.

5. Holding local signings or readings. For an obscure writer with no financial backing, going on the road costs way too much and offers way too little. However, many people will take interest in local writers. While newspapers and other local publications tend to ignore POD books in and of themselves, most of them will write about an event that involves those books. The article will include information about the book.

6. Using press release services to submit news about my books. This procedure can prove costly, but it gets the word out quickly to people I wouldn’t otherwise reach with my website. I hear from many people who say they purchased my books after reading one of my press releases.

7. Adding link pages to my site, where I tell people that I will (with reasonable exceptions) link to their site after they add a link to one of my webpages, or to an online bookstore listing of one of my books. A quick Google search will reveal many other link trades sites, which is how mine grew so quickly. I also trade links with the writer sites that will list my biography, my books, and/or my home page; such sites help writers and deserve our support, even if that support comes only in the form of website traffic. Breeze through my link trade pages, and you’ll find many such sites.

8. When people write to me with praise of one of my books, I kindly ask if they would submit those comments as reviews for Amazon.com or bn.com. They often say “yes,” increasing my exposure on those sites.

I will continue to explore the possibilities of publishing via websites and POD publishing. Still, I hope to eventually see my books published by traditional publishers, so they will find their way to the shelves of bookstores everywhere!

The internet has allowed me to not only find more readers but also become friends with them, as well as with some amazing writers. I soon learned that such friendships with readers and writers can hurt me, if I foolishly agree to proof or critique their books or “help with” (which usually means “do”) their research or critical studies. However, with reasonable boundaries in place, we can mutually benefit from shared contacts, ideas, and encouragement.

I could go on about other ways the internet helps me as a writer. In fact, I can’t measure all the ways it affects my life and my work. As my books continue to sell and my audience continues to grow, I remain constantly aware that the internet has changed my writing career.

Visit DuaneSimolke.Com to see examples of the approaches I discuss above; that page includes links to The Acorn Gathering site and my links pages.

Saturday, February 08, 2003

Book review: Two Paths to Now


Can honesty save lives? That question seems to linger between the lines of Dann Hazel's novel Two Paths to Now. The dialogue and interior monologues of the teenage main character (Rusty) are completely believable. So is the situation, which involves two generations of deceit and closets.

I've met or received e-mail from many people who are in situations similar to the ones Rusty and his parents must endure. Most people say to keep homosexuality locked away and silent, no matter how much lying and pain that requires. But can honesty save lives? Well, read the novel.

In addition to believability, Hazel also creates beautiful prose. Often, the paragraphs become extremely short, with terse but elegant phrasing that captures the tensions and fears that haunt Rusty and the other characters. Though I usually hear Hazel referred to for his nonfiction work, I think his fiction deserves much more attention.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Book review: Common Sons


This book will upset people whose childhood included rejection by their parents or their classmates. It will upset people who think everyone should look, think, and act alike. It will even upset people who know the satisfaction of treating everyone with dignity and respect. In other words, this book will disturb countless readers. Why? Because Ronald Donaghe offers such an honest and detailed look at two boys who fall in love with each other in a staunchly anti-gay New Mexico town.

Despite the novel's many portrayals of negative and even violent responses to the love between Tom and Joel, Donaghe delivers an ultimately inspiring tale of how two people can overcome the obstacles that could deter their happiness and honesty. This book can give hope to the many gays who still fear being themselves, and it can give hope to the many older gays who worry that their young counterparts will always face nothing but hatred and violence. But its appeal isn't limited to gays; nongays might read it to understand people who are different from themselves, or just because they like reading a well-written and exciting novel.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Video review: Greater Tuna

As a writer who lives in West Texas, I know that there are enough absurd characters here for a thousand plays or books. The incredibly talented Joe Sears and Jaston Williams could play all of those characters with total accuracy. You don't have to be a Texan to love this wonderful video, but most Texans should admit that these portrayals reflect many of the people they've encountered.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Poetry.

My book Holding Me Together features some of my most popular essays and poems. I don’t write poetry anymore, but here are three of my favorites from Holding Me Together.

This poem deals bluntly with unprotected sex among gay men. It might offend some people, which wasn't my intention. It might scare some people, which was my intention. Bareback.

Though it captures universal themes of romantic love, this one is actually about the love of a gay male couple. The title “Holding Me Together” comes from lines in this poem. Home.

Should we all be the same? Wouldn't it make life better if everyone learned to blend, to fit in, to conform? Would you like that? Rainbow.

Joseph Wright (aka Mountman) posted an usual presentation of Rainbow on his site, using internet software. Visit Mountman’s Techno Pages to see that, as well as other works he posted.

Monday, February 03, 2003

More about Angels in America.

Friday, Feb 14-Sunday, Feb 16; Friday, Feb.21-Sunday Feb. 23. The Texas Tech University Theatre presents a local production of Tony Kushner’s controversial but important play Angels in America: Millennium Approaches. Click here to read a feature story about Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, in the The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.


Saturday, February 01, 2003