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Preview: Bait - A Novel Blog

Bait - A Novel Blog

An evangelical, fundamentalist Christian man, his radical lesbian-feminist sister, and the woman they both love... When faith, family and desire collide, even the most careful of souls can get caught.

Updated: 2018-02-22T07:35:48.982-08:00


The problem with assimilation


The problem with assimilation is, you always have to give something up. Think about it. As liberal as your friends and neighbors may be, as open-minded as your surroundings may be, the fact is that when you say, "Hey - I want to be part of your group," you say, "Hey - I'm willing to become like someone in your group." It's unavoidable. It's human nature. No group of people can come together as one, without each and every one of them parting with some aspect of their personality. It's just not possible. Whether it's conscious or unconscious, people innately tend to "mellow" themselves, when they find a group they want to belong to.Because deep down inside, everyone believes there is some aspect of themself that others won't understand or be able to relate to. We all believe that there is something in us which will cause us to be rejected. We learned that when we were kids, and our parents made it very plain that certain sides of us were unacceptable -- even if they were, when we were kids, we perceived those parts to be central to who and what we were, and the quashing of that was a bittersweet form of oppression. You cannot grow up and be properly trained without some sort of oppression. I'm convinced of it. But the lesson is not that parents should laud and respect every aspect of their children's developing personalities. The lesson is that we should all learn the ins and outs of oppression, and figure out how best to deal with it in our own lives.The thing of it is, oppression has its rewards. Like social prominence. Like a high-profile job. Probably one of the reasons I'll always struggle with the limelight is that the limelight has demands, as well as rewards... and one of the big demands is that you be a good example for others. Loren Stone -- Role Model for the New Queer. No, thanks. I mean, it's all very well and good to be recognized and respected for quality work, but what a trap fame and fortune can be. I'm innately inclined to adapt to my surroundings (whether out of self-preservation, or because I'm too lazy to go against the grain every single moment of my life -- especially in public). And if I drag myself out of my obscure cave and make myself known, I'll not be able to be fully and completely who and what I am. It's not that I'm ashamed of who and what I am -- far from it. There's just too much of me, to fit easily into other people's perceptions, and if I let it all hang out, so to speak, I'd spend all my time trying to negotiate the insecurities and thought requirements of the people around me.People have a lot of thought requirements.So, I lay low. I'm probably sounding like a real wuss... afraid to stand up for myself, afraid to be who and what I am, afraid to strike a blow for personal integrity and uniqueness and queerness and all, but that kind of role-model work is not my main focus. I just can't be friggin' bothered to elighten people about why I really *am* just as normal as others -- perhaps even more normal, since I allow myself to simply be who and what I am. I just don't have the time to negotiate people's perceptions, and while I admire people who are able to be out and loud about their differences... how taxing it can be, to constantly stand on a hill, waving your flag.I've got books to write. I've got ideas to massage. I've got a new book in the works.Yes, it's true. I've got a new one on the way. I may have mentioned it in a prior post, but now it's official. I started it last month (January) and made a lot ofo progress in Provincetown, overlooking the harbor. The first draft is done, and it incorporates some writing from some other work I did years ago, that was promised to be published by a little lesbian-feminist publishing house (which then subsequently backed away from the project, because they thought it was too radical and I hadn't taken enough writing workshops). What a bunch of bullshit. The real reason was, they were in financial trouble, and they needed to stick with the "lesbian mainstream". The tried and true. The fiscally viable, safe and sound kinds of books that lesbian[...]

The wind is up in Provincetown


The wind is up in Provincetown today, Wednesday, January 18th. It's really up. It woke up my beloved, who checked the weather channel, only to find it reporting 25 mph winds. These winds are more like gale force. They're shaking the whole building and rocking the table. My coffee wouldn't be sloshing about in my mug if the winds were only 25 mph.

Later today, we'll be leaving for the mainland again. It's been wonderful, being 50 miles out to sea for almost a week, but all good things must come to an end, I supposed.

Anway, it'll be good to get back and get crackin' on the material I wrote while we were here. I'm writing another book. Not the sequel to Bait (not just yet - the initial drafting is coming later this year), but another completely unrelated novel. A novel that I've been wanting to write for many years, but didn't quite know how. Now I know. So, I have begun.

In the past week and a half, I've written well over 100 pages. I don't want the book to be that long, but that's what I thougth about "Bait", and it ended up fairly hefty, by my standards, I'm doing everything in my power to keep the size down on this thing, butthe story will be told. The story will not be short-changed.

Can't say much about what it's about, just yet. Only that it's set in the suburbs of Boston, and it carries forward a long-standing theme that's recognized pretty universally. So far, so good. I believe it's all possible and it feels genuine.

Bait has only been out six months or so, now. Sales are still slow, but that's to be expected in this day of competing information. I don't feel a tremendous sense of urgency around doing a promotional blitz with "Bait". It's a timeless story, and it's one that won't lose its relevance, once we're out of this century. I really do believe the underlying concepts and tensions and dramas of Bait are central to the human condition, and just as Steinbeck or Hemingway or Stein or Sand have stood the test of time, I believe Bait will prove to be one of those kinds of books. Do I count myself among the immortals? Why not? Why bother, if you don't believe to the very core of your being, that your work has lasting merit? I just have to hope that others feel the same.

It all takes time. And if Bait is worth the effort of reading, it will find its place in the world. Sooner or later.

Keeping this blog is an odd thing for this writer. I know I need to do it, and it can really come in handy, and if I want to reach my audience more thoroughly, I need to keep this blog. But writing novels is such a different process, than blogging. And when I'm in novel-writing mode (which I very often am), the speed of blogging almost throws off my pace for fiction. Fiction, to me, is much more about introspection and letting it flow at a measured pace, whereas blogging to me is all about just getting something out there. Quickly. Post haste. Get it out there - get it out there - get it out there... people are watching, people are reading, if you want people to come back you've got to give them something new and fresh to come back to. Or they might not come back again.

There's an awful lot of pressure in that, for this writer.

So, I'm taking the pressure off, and I'll blog when I can. But I'm not making a huge deal out of it. I'll update when I can, when something comes to mind. Who knows -- I may find even more inclination to do it, once I take away the *requirement* that I do it.

Giving up might be the first step to becoming more fully engaged.

Bait - Lesbian Literature Outside Of the Gay Ghetto


Or LLOOGG for short ;)I was sitting around today, thinking about how Bait is different from a lot of other lesbian novels I've read. I think it's a very different book, indeed, than most of the lesbian literature I've read. Now, why is that? I puzzled and puzzled over that. (In fact, I've been puzzling about it, for some time, now.)And what occurred to me was... the big reason that Bait is different from other lesbian novels I've read, is that it isn't set in the gay ghetto. It's not comprised primarily of gay and lesbian characters. It's not concerned only with gay themes. It's not only about a gay person, a lesbian person, a separatist person, living in her own little lesbian world with most of the sympathetic characters being queer. It's about a lesbian living her life in the midst of the world which doesn't have very much in common with her, and which begrudges her existence somewhat, but still allows her to live to see another day.Okay, so it is set in a part of Center City, which I remember being very, very queer, and very much a ghetto. JD's friends are all queer as the day is long, and she leads a very marginal life, when it comes to the mainstream. But there's so much more to Bait, than the fact that JD (Jax) is queer. It's a major aspect of her personality, and it's what informs her decisions and shapes her life, but it's not the only driver behind the plot. Okay, so it's a primary driver, and it really mucks things up a great deal for everyone, but that part of her does it honestly. And frankly, I can't wholly blame her queerness for messing everything up. It's the inability of the world around her to deal with her queerness, that's the real problem.Oy vey. Which is a nod to the Jews who are celebrating Chanukah this week. Greetings and hello and mazel tov! I have to say, I'm a little glad to come from the Christian tradition, where we only have one big day to give gifts. If I had to deal with 8 days, I think I'd lose it. That, and save all my vacation from work for the end of the year, every single year. But back to the gay ghetto topic, while I'm blogging...Back in the late 80's, early 90's, I lived in Center City Philadelphia, pretty much in the kind of neighborhood that's Jax'es locale. It was definitely the gay ghetto -- the video store across the street, Giovanni's Room on the corner, More Than Just Ice Cream around the block, Hepburn's a few doors down, and the breakfast/brunch/dinner place not far away. It was there, in that gay ghetto, that I first learned what it meant to be QUEER. I'm not talking about gay or lesbian, but queer. As in, you're so different, and you're so smack-dab in the middle of other people who are really different from the mainstream, that you have almost no relationship to "normal" people, and the usual definitions of what "normal" is, just don't apply. In those heady days, when I was relatively newly out and dating and looking around and usually tricked out in blue denim, black leather, and lots of shiny chains and baubbles (which I found go quite nicely together) when I wasn't dressed for work in a downtown law firm... and I was far, far away from my family, I was able to fully and completely be who and what I was, regardless of social stricture, regardless of disapproval (who would disapprove? we were all artistes and odd sorts!). I was actually on my own, for once in my life, and it was a freeing, intoxicating experience.Sure, there were unfortunate occurrances -- like that woman I dated who slowly but surely lost her mind in front of me (chemical imbalance, combined with childhood abuse -- very sad)... like the woman who "stealth dated" me and claimed to have gone out with me, when I thought we'd only gone out to grab some ice cream as friends. And of course, it was no fun living around the corner of the crime scene, where the tranny was shot between the eyes. That was most unsettling and unpleasant.But despite the mean streets and the hazards of Center City before it got all cleaned up (and all the dangerous elements[...]

Bait - A Novel for All Seasons


Well, now the reason for the season of antagonism is newly over. No more fretting about the threat to Christmas from people who resent the use of the term "holidays"... even if we all do get a holiday from the season, regardless of our faith.

Makes me appreciate Thanksgiving all the more. Now there's a holiday I can get behind. Something ecumenical and religious only to the degree that people infuse it with that meaning. Gratitude and thanksgiving are able to be experienced by just about everyone, which makes it just good plain clean fun. Plus, there's food involved, and any holiday that centers around a very large meal of delightful dishes, is okay by me :)

Anyway, the controversy around Christmas makes me wonder if there would be controversy around Bait (assuming people find out about it, in due time, which I'm sure they will) for some of the same reasons. The "flattening of the Christian landscape" in J.D. Madigan's world, where the spiritual transcends the theological... and informs it as much as it challenges it... could well be considered an incendiary concept.

Well, incendiary is good -- especially when the weather is getting cold.

But I worry that perhaps there might be some sort of "Salman Rushdie Effect"... and I cannot get out of my head the memories of that author's struggle with fending off fundamentalist attacks from people who felt that he'd insulted their faith. Fundamentalists of any ilk, from where I'm sitting, are cut from the same cloth. I consider fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Jews and fundamentalist Muslims and fundamentalist Pagans and fundamentalists of just about any ilk, to be far more similar to each other, than they are to the moderate members of their own faiths.

But, of course, it takes all kinds, and it's a little refreshing to realize there are still people in the world who care passionately about something -- enough to defend it rigorously and at their own expense. Granted, the lengths to which zealots will go, is disconcerting and often counter-productive to more moderate ends, but it's still refreshing to realize there are still people in the world who believe in something bigger than themselves and their own petty wishes and whims.

The Gospel According to Loren Stone - Puffing Up vs. Building Up


"Knowlege puffs up, but love builds up. If any one imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know."
I. Cor. 8:1-2

There we have it. Whatever you think you know, you probably don't (at least Paul doesn't think you do), and that "knowledge" that you are so fond of, just puffs you up. But love builds up, so there is some redemption.

I've been thinking a lot about Paul and his letters to the Corinthians, lately. For some reason -- maybe it's the Christmas season -- Paul's message keeps coming through. Ironic, that at a time when the focus could/should be on Christ, my thoughts turn to Paul.

Then again, perhaps it makes perfect sense. After all, I consider the bulk of Christianity to be based far more on the words of Paul than on the words and works of Jesus, and if Christmas is the beginning of the Christian faith (versus the beginning of Christ's life), then it stands to reason that my thinking would be dominated by Paul and his words.

There are worse things to think on, than "love builds up" in these days of violence and conflagration. With everything that's going on in the world, these days, it's a little challenging to keep the focus on love and on building up. But over and over, I come across fine examples of just how Paul's statement holds true.

Take, for example, a certain drama that's engulfing a group of friends I socialize with. Several of these friends have become very close, to the point of two of them conducting what may or may not be extra-marital affairs. One of them says they have an "open marriage" so the sexual energy isn't a problem. The other, however, does not... and that marriage looks like it may be on its way out. It's very sad -- there are kids involved, and the way it all transpired has not sat right with this group of friends... but we've been at a loss about what to do with the information we had (or thought we had) about what was going on. I'm being a little cryptic, I know, but there's only so much I can say...

Anyway, there's been a lot of discussion amongst folks about what should be done. Do we tell the spouses of our concerns? Do we tell the folks who are doing the fooling around, that we don't approve? There's been a lot of speculation and conjecture about what's afoot, and some of the folks doing the conjecting have been in marriages that failed because of infidelity. It's a bit of a mess... but the thing that makes it the messiest, is that there's a whole lot of "knowledge" being discussed, but there's not a lot of love in action, building people up.

This is one of those times when the Apostle Paul could really come in handy. What he says about love building up, and people sticking together and giving one another the benefit of the doubt in community, could really come in handy. But Paul's words and wisdom are lost on this group of folks because they reject Christianity and have real issues with the Christian faith, due to experiences of oppression at the hands of Christians. If they could get past their hurt around the Christian church and open themselves to the ideas of Paul, then the group could conceivably be made stronger, rather than weaker.

But that's not really happening. Folks are caught up in what they think they know about the situation, they're judging like crazy, and they're taking their frustrations out on each other.

In the end, I know these folks will work it out. They're good people, and they know deep down inside what's right and good, and they'll do it.

For now, though, it would be helpful, if they had a bit of Pauline schooling under their belts.

Ousted minister loses appeal


Ousted minister loses appeal: [Philadelpia Gay News] "Out Germantown minister Irene “Beth” Stroud was ordered Oct. 31 to put away her robes by the supreme court of the United Methodist Church for violating the denomination’s ban on “self-avowed practicing homosexual” clergy."

What can you say to something like this... It's really a shame for Beth Stroud to be defrocked, as it is for her congregation. The fact that coming out can cost you your job, is always disconcerting. And it's a grim reminder of what kind of world we (still) live in. As much as folks may say we've come a long way, we still have an awfully long way to go.

And the church does, too. This is just going to drive people farther apart, as far as I'm concerned. How can it not? The schism between the people who devote their lives to manifesting a version of reality they are comfortable with (at the expense of reality)... and the people who are committed to speaking the truth and expressing it in their lives (at the expense of the dreams that the idealists hold dear)... it's getting wider all the time.

It strikes me that this schism is at the heart of much religious controversy, today -- the idealists versus the realists. And the idealists keep winning, no matter how divorced their version of "perfection" is, from the facts of the world around them, because their drive is fuelled by so much fear and anxiety and the desperate need to flee the truth for the comfort of their ideals.

Meanwhile, the people who are trying to evolve the church and bring it "up to speed" in the modern world, are finding it tricky to confront people's visions of the ideal. The more the realists speak their truth and live with integrity, the more they aggravate the idealists, who react with intensity and violence... as though their very survival were being threatened. Because it is. They cannot function without their visions of perfection. And their devotion to the Apostle Paul's admonition -- "Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect" -- is one of the mainstays of their very existence. If they aren't perfect, if they don't hold to their ideals, their godliness takes a hit. And for those committed -- heart, mind and soul -- to godliness, this is an unbearable situation. Anything which might threaten their entrance to Paradise is unbearable.

Those who live for their ideals have a tough time in this world, as it is. And they're used to fighting. So, when realists like Beth Stroud pop up in their midst and say, "Look, folks, I'm flying in the face of your ideals, and I'm fine with it. I'm even more comfortable with it, than I was when I was pretending to support your visions of perfection," well, that will never do.

Pity, that.

Taking a Break for a While


So, Bait has been out since May, and I've got a new line on its sequel. I'm going to be taking a break from blogging (those of you who stop by frequently, noticed that I actually started takinga break a few months ago ;), so I can focus on my in-print writing.

Got a new line on another book. Will write more here... eventually... when there's something to report.

Peace, all

Guardian Unlimited Books | By genre | Rushdie should swap his crusading for novel writing


Guardian Unlimited Books | By genre | Rushdie should swap his crusading for novel writing: "'In lending himself to the role of public figure, the novelist endangers his work; it risks being considered a mere appendage to his actions, to his declarations, to his statements of a position.' So argued the Czech novelist Milan Kundera, picking up the Jerusalem Prize for Literature in 1985."

Just what I've been thinking... But Giles Fraser makes a much better and more eloquent case than I have time to do, right now. Anyway, I'm a novelist, so it's not really for me to take sides for/against good taste in things religious, is it?

But seriously, folks, the piece by Mr. Fraser in Wednesday's Guardian says precisely what I've been thinking -- that my job as the author of Bait is not so much to take sides on either the queer or the Christian front, but to portray different sorts of people in unusual circumstances. The popular inclination of public figures like artists and writers and actors taking sides in politics and religion be damned (so to speak). I invoke the name of the good vicar of Putney, in stepping aside from the political debate around queers and Christians that's raging wild and hot these day.s

Another great review from Family and Friends Magazine


Novel intertwines homosexuality, religion
Reviewed by Anita Moyt, Managing Editor, Family and Friends Magazine, Memphis, Tennessee (July Issue)

Bait is the story of Jax, a musician by night and a temp legal secretary by day, and the lesbian, for sure. She is a lover and “sometimes” girlfriend of Lil. She is also a sister, a daughter, a friend, and, in the not too distant future, a sister-in-law.

Where the major conflict occurs, and continues throughout her life, is between her life as a lesbian, and her life within her family -- fundamentalist, evangelical and consumed by the fact that they all have to repent their way into heaven every day.

And here's where Bait is different from other lesbian stories. Jax is a lesbian and Christian, from an early age. She is secure in her salvation and relationship with her Maker. And she is secure in her life and content with being gay, oh so gay. But her family isn't and have a quest to bring her back into the heterosexual fold, complete with a husband and family. Yet Jax, raised in this churchy family, can battle Scripture with the best of them.

She loves her family, especially her “near-twin” younger brother, who is now almost 40 and still waiting on God's perfect match. So how does she balance the two worlds? More than that, how does she deal with the fact that her brother has met that perfect someone and the angels sang but Jax realizes all is not right. Jax knows that familiar feeling and those familiar looks, but why from Jenn, this wonderful, near-perfect-in-her-brother's-eyes, Christian woman?

The author, Lauren Stone, has weaved a wonderful tapestry in Bait. The scripture, which easily could have been offensive or dry, was well worked into the color scheme. Stone goes way beyond telling you a story, and brings you into the dining room, into the park, into Jax's world, where you, too, can see, hear, smell, touch and even taste what is going on. And, more than that, the needlework, the plot twists, are exceptional. You just don't see it coming, even to the last page.

The Reviews Are In!


QMediaReviews at has some nice things to say about Bait:

Infuriating family dynamics and an irreconcilable clash of cultures serve as the foundation for Loren Stone’s substantial debut novel Bait. About the only thing butch lesbian Jax Madigan has in common with her über-devout, Evangelical Fundamentalist Christian brother is their taste in women and an unwavering faith in the validity and worthiness of their respective “lifestyles.” But when Danny finally meets a wholesome woman worthy of his affection – who just happens to be hiding a radical feminist past – he naively calls upon his sister to make Jenn feel like one of the family.

Steeped in theological arguments and astute social commentary, Bait is as much a story of a taboo love triangle as diametrically opposed ideologies. The prejudice and intolerance of the Madigan clan are no less vehement than that of Jax and her friends, although her family’s homophobia is shrouded in the noble crusade to save her wayward soul regardless of how demoralizing and hurtful their efforts. It is desire – whether carnal or spiritual – that drives them to act, in dramatically different ways, to fight for their beliefs even at each other’s expense.

I'll take it. I'm never one to turn down being called "astute."

It's very gratifying that they "get it," too.

What has happened to the queer press?


Well, Bait has been out for about six weeks, now, and I'm working anew on generating interest about the story. I've been sending out press releases via e-mail and mail, and from the looks of things, the 2000's have not been kind to the queer press. I've gotten back a whole stack of letters marked "undeliverable" and I have to wonder, what the heck has happened to the queer press? Where did everybody go?!I mean, when I first came out, the queer press was the first safe place I could turn for information about what it meant to be queer -- even before I came out, the queer press was present. Philadelphia had not one, but two, gay papers -- the PGN and "Au Courant" which were always liberally available in my queer neighborhood around 12th and Spruce. And those papers helped me come out, regardless of the abundance of naked men for whom I had no interest.But now "Au Courant" is gone, and apparently so are a goodly portion of the queer papers to which I've sent my press releases. How can this be? Is all our work done? Have all the queers moved from Las Vegas and Boise? If not, we can hope they soon will, I supposed (Siegfried and Roy notwithstanding).Can so much have changed, in the past 15 years, that we no longer need the queer press? Can it be possible that we have all the public access we need to images of people like us, people who remind us who we are, who show us the possibilities of being something very, very different, from what the mainstream prescribes and proscribes? Can it be, that the queer press is no longer the definitive authority on what it means to be queer, and popular culture (or lest cable t.v.) has taken over the important task of helping us define our identities, along with the rest of the less-queer world?If so, I really don't know how I feel about this. I mean, queer television images are nice, and it's encouraging to see lesbians who are hot-hot-hot, and queer boys who aren't all straight-acting-and-looking. It's encouraging to see queer cinema on Sundance during June, and it's fun to speculate about the gay escapades of such-and-such a public figure. But the images are just that -- images. And in this very visual age, I worry that we're losing the ability to actually think about what those images mean, and to figure out if they're really what we want for ourselves.The nice thing about the queer press is (was?) that it helped me sort things through in my head. In the privacy of my own thoughts, far from the madding crowd, at the point of origin, the words on printed queer pages jumped out at me to challenge me, to threaten me, to give me hope, to give me pause. There was a lot of parsing going on in my head, in the late 1980's and early 1990's. The parsing didn't happen in public with a camera running and a bunch of people watching and commenting and approving/disapproving. It happened in the quiet of my own mind, in the presence of the only person who could really know for sure who I was and what I wanted for my life -- my very own private self.I miss that private aspect of coming to terms with my queerness. The gay 90's seemed to usher in a mad rush to go public, come out, be loud and proud, and make damned sure everyone around us knew for certain, whom we do and do not sleep with. But in the publicity rush and the headiness of popular acceptance, we've lost an aspect of queerness I have always respected as much as any out-loud-proud agent for social change: the private, silent process by which we come to terms with who we are, and what we stand for -- away from the lights, the camera, the action, and in the silent depths of our own hearts.I miss those silent days. There were plenty of days of silent anguish, to be sure, and the isolation could get to be too much for anyone. But there were also plenty of days of silent exhilara[...]

All good things are wild and free


Back again after a month away.I've had quite a month, including a week-long celebration of my one-year anniversary of legal marriage to my Beloved, a handful of days spent at the Provincetown International Film Festival, lots of running around, picking up a new(er) car I bought before my vacation, turning 40, and being told that I'm no longer a "good fit" for my job and I need to "seek opportunities elsewhere."Lots of changes, needless to say. The most unexpected, I think, is that I now own a car with less than 100,000 miles on it. That's never happened to me before. Then again, I've never turned 40 before, and I've never been told by a company which has profited nicely from my work for over eight years, that I'm just no good for them anymore. Well, not "no good" exactly. Just not cheap enough. I wish I cOUld aTtribute it to SOmething tangible, bUt the Reasons they're giving me are quite logiCal and busINess-based, and they come "from above" so there's nothinG I can do to prevent it, and there's nO Friggin' sense in Fighting it, if I can't get a clear reaSon for wHy this is happening tO me - and a numbeR of other colleages of mINe. Oh, well, Guess I gotta find a new job...Well, not that I didn't see it coming... the job thing, I mean. It seems that the older I get, the more cynical I get, and the more wary I am of anyone who promises to take good care of me, in return for my unflagging loyalty. Somehow, I just don't believe it, when a company tells me that in exchange for x-number of hours of my attention each day/week/year, they'll make my life sweet and comfortably feather my nest. It's all very well and good to get a paycheck, of course, but all their highly-touted "benefits" are pretty much useless to me. The supposed golden handcuffs, like a fully-paid MBA education (which I'm not likely to use) and discounted child care benefits (which I will probably never use) and all those consumer discounts (which I'm reluctant to use) are just lost on me. So, I suppose it's best that I go my own way and leave these ingrates in the dust.I only wish I were at liberty to say who these people are and induct them into the Royal Order of the Ungrateful Wretch, but alas, I'm legally prohibited from making mention of them in writing (especially online) without legal compliance's approval. And we all know how well this sort of complaint would go over with the lawyers charged with defending the honor of _____.So, it looks like I'm on my own again. They haven't given me a cut-off date/deadline. They're not going to chase me from the premises if I don't find something pronto. In that respect, I should be grateful. I think? But something about how this was done, just doesn't sit right with me. (More on this later, when I have more distance and better perspective...) I guess it's the Universe's way of reminding me who I am, after all. I'm a big indie gal, and I always have been, with a number of friends and acquaintances in the indie music biz, the indie film biz, the technical independent contractor biz... so it's about time I (re)joined their ranks back in the independent worker/freelancer biz. I was once a contractor. I've actually contracted, more than I've held down permanent jobs, so I know how it's done.I'm not bitter. Not exactly. I haven't been unemployed long enough to be bitter, just yet. In fact, I'm not unemployed at all, which is helpful in these trying times. I'm an aggressive saver, so I have a safety net -- it's a little less nerve-wracking, than being sacked with only two weeks' pay in the bank. I'm a diligent planner and I've sacrificed a great deal over the years, to be able to bank some cash, so now I've got a back-up reserve, in case I don't find anything out there. I'm looking, and I'm hopeful. But so far, nothing concrete[...]

Of Form and Substance


Now that Bait is out and making its rounds with its two covers, I've been giving a lot of thought to what makes a book great in my mind. I'm an avid reader, and I've been one, ever since I could sound out words in a sentence. My reading was most active, when I was younger -- and it turns out that it was a lot more "classic" than the reading I do today. I started out reading classics like Treasure Island and Louisa May Alcott books, Robinson Crusoe and Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan and all the children's classics. Interspersed with fiction, was research into nature and indigenous cultures and just about any culture I could learn about, period.As I grew older, I took to reading other classic works of fiction -- I read a whole lot of Steinbeck and Hemingway and a bit of Faulkner, here and there. I read Samuel Butler and James Fenimore Cooper and Mark Twain and the Brontes and ... well, you get the point. I grew up immersed in good books, influenced not least of all by my parents, who were avid readers themselves and who kept pretty much above the pulp novel fray, with a preference for established American writers.Now that I've gone on to reading social research, business theory, biographies of founding fathers (and mothers) and the great stream of news items which cascades through my life each day, I spend a lot less time with the classics. And it's been a long time, since I picked up a book -- and held onto it -- with great fervor and devotion, the way I used to. I used to gather favorite books about me like close friends (sometimes my only friends) and I used to feel great fondness for certain books in particular. I still do. But the books I hold most fondly are not ones I've read in the past 10 years.What makes a book great? What endears it to my heart? The way people talk, today, it's the cover design that makes a book. I've spent a great deal of time immersed in cover creation... doing it myself, reading what others have done, looking at the results of their work online and in bookstores, studying what makes a cover great. And then there's the internal design, which has fascinated me over the years. My desk is often piled high with different examples of how different publishers have approached the internal layout of their books. I've sunk a fair amount of time into internal book layout, as well... what fonts work best in book format, how the first page of a chapter should be laid out, how the kerning and leading should flow, what the best format for front and back matter is...And then there's the printing and the paper -- the most physical aspects of a book -- how the ink is absorbed into the paper, if the paper is acid-free, if the trim is smooth, if the cover is properly aligned, if the blues are full and the yellows and reds vibrated...It's all very interesting, and it can be very consuming, if you're into that sort of thing, as I am.But despite my tendency to approach books these days as a designer, rather than a reader, I have to admit that my favorite book of all time meets none of the requirements for current production excellence. It's A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. By today's standards, it might fail miserably in every category -- the production of the book leaves much to be desired, and the writing itself is not (by current standards) the most highly developed. The cover is a somewhat poorly printed, smudgy-looking replica of an oil painting of Paris'es Left Bank. The picture itself is dull, even somewhat maudlin, with various colors competing for attention, but none truly winning. The lettering on the spine is plain and uninteresting. And what's worse, the spine is cracked in places where I bent the book wide open to better read it. The back cover... well, I can't even rememb[...]

Bait (and Switch?)


Osprey Design has weighed in about my covers -- it's always great to get the feedback. I've given a great deal of thought to the different reactions people might have to the covers. Most of all, I've been concerned with the immediate knee-jerk reaction a very conservative and/or nudity-shy individual might have to the "flesh" cover. I think about how my grandparents would react to the covers... and I'm quite sure they would not approve ;)

Here's (part of) what I posted at

When I was writing Bait, one of my main quandaries, from the start, was that the book involves two distinct kinds/groups of people, and that if there's going to be a readership for this book, the cover which speaks to one, might not speak to the other. No doubt about it, Bait deals with a controversial, provocative, and potentially volatile subject -- the conflict of a variety of interests in sex & religion & tradition & personal freedom & responsibility to one's family and faith... and more. I came to the conclusion that I frankly didn't feel like "neatening up" the cover for one group, at the expense of the other, and potentially watering it down for both groups. I'm sure there are excellent designers out there, who could do an excellent job of coming up with a "composite" cover. But the two different covers of this book really give the reader the first inkling of the conflict that takes place on the pages inside. In this case, you can judge a book by its cover(s), because the two distinct designs indicate the two distinct (and conflicting) kinds of people who take part in the drama of Bait.

This book bridges the gap beween ultra-conservative and ultra-radical, and it gives pretty much equal time to each side. There's no easy way to bring these disparate kinds of people together under one roof and get them to make themselves "acceptable" to one another, without each losing some aspect of their own essence. It wouldn't be truthful, and it wouldn't be fair. At some point, each needs to take a look at the other and simply tolerate them for what they are. And the same goes for book covers. If you don't like one, you can have the other. But the one you don't want, still gets to exist.

That being said, I decided to come up with two different covers for the same book. I'll let you decided for yourself, which cover you prefer.

Read on for more.

The business of publishing


Now that Bait is actually out there and available to the world, my thoughts turn to promotional pushes. Going from publishing pushes to promotional pushes... all pushes of some kind...My thoughts are taken up by the business of publishing. For much of the past couple of years, my mind has been fixated on telling a story, and telling it to the best of my ability. It's been an artistic endeavor, this telling, and it's been as sustaining as it's been demanding.Now the story is told, and it's time to tell a different story -- this time an account about the real world, in as real a manner as possible. This is an artful endeavor, once which infuses my attitudes as a businessperson with the spirit of my writing self, and one which is no less creative, tho' money is involved.I'm not sure how the idea got into people's heads that if you're an artist, money doesn't (or shouldn't) really play a part in your work. Perhaps it's because, for generations, even aeons, art has not been prized by everyday folks, and letters have been reserved for the upper classes -- those who could afford an education. Those who could afford to learn how to read and write. If you keep the general populace away from arts and letters, locking them behind bars of privileged education, then it seems logical that the arts would not be valued by those who a) don't have access to them and b) haven't had enough everyday exposure to them to develop an appreciation for them. So, no, if you don't have arts in the everyday for people, you don't have a lot of commerce flowing in and around the arts. You don't have people plunking down a few bucks for something that raises the spirit and invigorates the mind. Not if you don't have ready access to the arts for all.But we live in a different day and age, than when Vincent Van Gogh was going mad from the ionization in the Midi air and slicing off his ear. We live in a different age, than when artists had to literally starve, in order to afford their paints, in order to paint their pictures, in order to gain an audience. We live in a different world, than when playwrights had to run around and suck up (literally or figuratively) to some patron who would support them in order for them to write and produce their plays. We live in a world, now, where more people than ever know how to read and write, where people can be exposed to art in public places on a regular basis, and where it is possible to find a money job that will pay your rent, whilst you spend your vacation days and weekends, honing the work of art or letters that's been near and dear to your soul, lo these many years.I think we live in a very different era, than before, and as we've become more democratized, politically and socially and economically speaking, acceptance of our arts is greater than ever. With that acceptance and appreciation, comes the ability to make money with it -- from corporations which support artists with their corporate art collections. From open-mics at little coffee shops where you can trot out a poem you finally have right. From people who buy the chapbooks and comic books and paintings you carry with you to sell (or even give) to people you run into. From all the everyday folks who, 200 years ago, would have laughed you out of town for being an artist or a writer or somesuch.Or maybe I'm wrong, and things are very, very grim. But I think of all the philanthropists and collectors and patrons out there who have a whole lot of money to spread around, and who make the arts a priority for funding. I think of all the kids in school who learn to draw and paint and play instruments and write stories and poems and who do all sorts of things that used to be considered [...]

Bait Bookseller Discounts


In order to support independent booksellers, Loren Stone is offering 30% off the retail price for booksellers who special order Bait for their customers. Even if you don't stock the book in-store, as a reseller, you can still receive a 30% discount on Bait, so there is some margin involved.

Bait, A Novel : Bookseller Discounts

While some bookstores expect a 40% minimum discount, it's just not practical or profitable, to offer that deep a discount for Bait. It's important that independents all make the effort to support one another, and meet each other half-way. And it's equally important, for established businesses to remain flexible and able to adapt to changing market needs and market conditions.

If we're going to survive as independents in an increasingly establishment-driven world (especially in the realm of the arts, which used to be a lot less respectable than it is today), we need to make concessions, here and there, to support one another.

I'll climb down from my soapbox, now, and get on with promotion and press release writing.

Spread the word -- Bait is available for purchase. And bookstores can receive 30% off the list price, when they order via, whether they stock the book, or not.


News Flash!!! Bait is now available for purchase


Bait is now available for purchase.

I haven't been posting much to the Baitblog, lately, because I've been so caught up in the final-final-final proofing of the book.

Finally, it's set -- you can order your copy at -- choose your cover, and if you've got a promo code, enter it in the appropriate space, and off you go.

Shipping takes about a week, depending on the method you choose. Printing takes several business days, and then it takes time to get from its point of origin to you.

Bait Details:
Trade Paperback: 364 pages
Published: May 8, 2005
Product Dimensions: 9.0 x 6.0 x 7/8 inches
List Price: $19.95


Ya-ya Gotta Do What Ya-ya Gotta Do...


Writer's Blog -- "Rebecca Wells Overcomes Illness to Write Ya-Ya's in Bloom

Rebecca Wells, the bestselling author of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and Little Altars Everywhere, battled chronic illness for seven years before she was finally diagnosed with Lyme disease and babesiosis, a rare, debilitating tick-borne illness with symptoms similar to malaria. But she never let her illness interfere with her writing.

At her sickest, she was unable even to lift her hands, so she would lie in bed and dictate the book into a tape recorder. On better days, her husband, photographer Tom Schworer, would carry her to her computer, where she would work for 20 minutes at a time before stopping to rest. On her best days, she could write about four or five hours, less than half of her normal level.

In her bleakest moments, Wells said she drew inspiration from another esteemed Southern author, Flannery O'Connor, who wrote while suffering from lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that eventually killed her. 'If ever there was a model to help me out here, it's Flannery,' Wells said."

And that is our lesson in commitment for the day.


People are talking...

2005-04-24T06:19:54.416-07:00 | Exclusive | Between a rock and a gay place: "Her sister came out to her, and that was cool—except to their fundamentalist parents, who have since begun a relentless war to “cure” their daughter. What’s a supportive sister to do?"

Everytime I turn around, these days, it seems that folks are talking about the intersection of gays and fundamentalist/evangelical Christians. Here's a story by the straight sister of a lesbian who came out to her fundamentalist folks.

With all the talk about the "culture wars" raging in this country, let's not forget the folks who are somewhere in the middle...

It's official - the covers are in


I've now completed final production on the two different covers for Bait -- one for the demur crowd (note: the one with the water) and one for the folks who don't mind stirring up a little controversy by reading something with a (somewhat) revealing picture of a woman on the cover (note: the one with the woman with the hands on her).Here they are: and I've given a whole lot of thought to the treatments of each, weighing the pros and cons of putting a partially nude woman on the cover of the book. Looking around at books sold in other places by other people, I'm struck by the difference between what gets shown in the States, and what gets shown in, for example, Europe. Not long ago, I found a book listed on which show the exposed breast of a woman. Nicely done, and surprisingly bold.It's interesting, what responses people have to pictures of flesh in public. When Marianne Williamson's book "A Woman's Worth" came out, it had the picture of a nude woman bending over, with part of her breast exposed -- and the publisher yanked the book, because of some sort of protest against "nudity". I wonder what folks will have to say about the "racy" cover I've selected for Bait...I'm not sure what it is about the public display of women's breasts that works people into a state. Everytime you turn around, there's some mention of breasts, with reference to breast cancer. But if you show a healthy, attractive breast, you're censored? Not sure what that's about. Not to detract from the crusade against breast cancer -- but if we can talk to our hearts' content about diseased tissue, why in heaven's name can't we discuss -- and show -- healthy breasts? It just doesn't make sense (to someone who has breasts). Healthy breasts need equal time.I was sorely, sorely tempted to just go with the "water cover" -- it says just about everything a cover needs to say, from where I'm sitting. It's neutral and not emotionally loaded, the way the picture of a woman's body with three hands on it can be. It's safe, and it conveys the central themes of the book -- desire, the lure of religion, the emotional depths of the drama, yadayadayada. It probably won't get me in trouble.But the cover with the woman on it? That could raise a dust storm of protest. It's bold, it's out there, it's unconventional, and it might just get stopped at the Canadian border. Or it could really pique people's interest and make them want to buy it -- if only to find out just who those hands belong to... In some societies, it would probably be considered blasphemous, but in others, it would be considered blase. It's a toss-up. Do I play to the conservative, traditional crowd who don't believe much of anything should be shown in public, when it comes to women's bodies? Or do I play to the folks who are comfortable with the sight of women's bodies and don't make a huge cultural issue out of it? Decisions, decisions... the burqa brigade or the nude beach crowd?I split the difference and created two separate covers, one for each. Because covers sell books (so I'm told), and I think a cover should communicate and convey, not alienate. The ideas in Bait are too important, from where I'm sitting, to chase people away, based on a racy cover alone. The story of Bait is about more than what appears on the outside of the book, and it's the kind of story that should be available to all -- and they should be able to read the book in public without attracting negative attention. (I can see my conservative friends riding to work, reading the "woman[...]

Balance and reason and both sides of the story


Thinking about the central theme(s) of Bait ... how people who love each other very much, tend to the welfare of each others' souls... and thinking about how separate and distinct the various viewpoints are, in this issue of queer/Christian intersection...I keep trying to figure out, when it stopped being okay to disagree with one another. With the advent of the concept of political correctness, I think people started getting the idea that it might be a good idea to be considerate of others, when they talked about them. But what could have been a good idea in essence, turned into orthodoxy and censorship, and political correctness went from being something that could have improved us all, to being something that turned into a huge pain in the ass for people who just didn't know, anymore, how to say anything about anyone outside their own personal sphere.Or maybe it was the 1980's, when politically it wasn't very cool to buck the status quo, and the neoconservative element really took off in this country. I remember so distinctly the many, many discussions (arguments?) I had with my conservative peers in the hallways of my high school... and being categorically ridiculed and denied my right to have my own opinion. We disagreed on many points, that's for sure. But our disagreements weren't the issue. The issue was, that I wasn't "allowed" to keep both my own unique opinion and my human dignity.In all fairness, both sides of the "cultural wars" do a pretty lousy job of respecting each other's personhood and dignity. It's as though opinions -- and that's all they are, as far as I'm concerned, opinions -- are considered facts, with all sorts of research to back them up. What a lot of people seem to forget, is that for every "fact" established by research, there are fifty others which contradict it, and which are backed up by just as much research. And even scientific theories which are treated as law and ultimate reality, have a tendency to get overthrown every generation or so. People who object to 'cultural relativism' seem to lose sight of the fact that everything we do and are in life, is relative to where we come from, what we start out with, what we're given, what we earn... the whole nine yards of human experience. And people who object to fundamentalism seem to have dismissed the fact that sometimes there are absolutes in life, and sometimes you really have to take information literally, to make proper use of it.Now, I'm not opposed to strong opinions and principles. I have a lot, myself. But frankly, I think we can all use a little more humility. I've heard a lot of arguments against agnosticism, and in this day and age of insecurity and change, the lure of absolutes can be irresistable. But when we throw away the possibility that we might be mistaken about what we believe, or we might not have all the facts, or we might be in need of more education, then we not only short-change our human experience, but we also deny others the right to be fallible.For we are fallible, and even those who are supposed to not be, are human like us. Every age has its challenges and changes, and the human race adapts. Every age has its insecurities, and every generation learns to deal with them. But changing times demand flexibility and suppleness. They demand adaptability and skills a lot of us haven't even discovered yet. Each new day brings with it new opportunities, and the one thing that will let us survive the changes of our day, is a willingness to adapt, a willingness to learn, a willingne[...]

Uniting the world, one intolerant religious leader at a time


So, apparently fundamentalist leaders from Christianity, Judaism and Islam have come together in a press conference to condemn World Pride, a GLBT gathering in Jerusalem. The representatives from those three faiths had some very unappealing things to say about queer folk, and some of what they said bordered on threats. Read more at The Advocate at, this is nothing new. It just highlights yet again what lengths people will go to, in order to preserve their hold on power. Because ultimately, the arguments people are having are not about sex -- that's just an easy way to invest insecure people in the debate -- they're about power. Who has it, who doesn't, who gets to be "on top" and who has to do what others tell them to, who gets to define what being a man is about, and what being a woman is about, and who does and does not qualify for grace and mercy.It's not about sex, it's about tradition. Tradition and power. Or rather, a power structure that's been labelled as traditional, regardless of evidence to the contrary... that there have always been positively contributing gay people in societies around the world, that there are many instances of nature producing same-sex couples (pigeons, in particular... not to mention the male couple of mallards who have been nesting down the road from where some of my relatives live). The "traditions" that so many harp on, are human constructs which ultimately contradict the facts of nature. It's not about "protecting decent society," it's about imposing a very narrow definition of what is and is not allowed on a society that probably, in most cases, doesn't very much care (unless of course the kids start asking why Uncle Steven andUncle Rick wear wedding rings and only have one bed in their bedroom, and the parents haven't thought up a suitable response).Read the Advocate article, and judge for yourself. Then visit the World Pride website ( and see who's a greater menace to the peaceful preservation of the species.But like I said, this is nothing new. And it brings up a valuable point -- namely, that queer folks offer the rest of the world a common rallying point around which they can come together and agree on at least one thing : that queers are weird, that we're abnormal, that we pose a threat to civilized society, and that we are definitely not the kind of people other "normal" folks feel comfortable around.We have a strangely uniting quality, we queers. We offer fundamentalists, who would under most conditions be at each others' throats or lobbing grenades at one another, a point around which to rally and come together as one. And this press conference of intolerance, reminds me of an instance, back when I was working at a law firm in Philly, when I ventured into the kitchenette one morning to get my cup of coffee. Now understand, this law firm was about as segregated as you could get -- the white attorneys had very little to do with non-whites, who were usually working in the kitchen or other lowly menial tasks. And when their paths did cross, they didn't have much interaction. What could they say? Two very different worlds colliding... what to do?Most of the time, they did nothing, and the white attorneys pretended the black kitchen staff didn't exist, till they left the room.But on this one morning, I found a white attorney and a black kitchen worker laughing and talking together. They were having a grand time goofing on a late-n[...]

Reading Questions are Now Up There


Okay, so in my quest to come up with a bunch of clever questions for book clubs and reading groups to discuss when they meet to debate Bait (or should I say de-Bait?), I've crafted three different sets of questions -- one for a general audience, one for queer folks, and one for Christians.

I tried to keep to topics I thought would be interesting to each group, and I tried to address specific points of discussion I've heard, myself, in these different circles. If I've fallen short or my ignorance/one-sidedness is showing, have mercy. I'm still in the throes of final production of the book, and my brain is allocated in a variety of different ways/directions.

I tried not to give away any of the intrigue or secrets of the book, but tried to stick to the main points and themes I think are prominent. There are some I didn't call out -- the guilt/shame/repentance emotional trifecta -- because I don't want to reveal things ahead of time. But I think I've hit some of the major points.

If you've got ideas or feedback, by all means, let me know. I can always use the input.

New name for the protagonist


Ok, I agree... having gotten some feedback from a previewer, I've decided to change the name of the protagonist from JC to JD -- something about naming a blasphemer and heretic "JC" didn't sit quite right.

After much discussion, I've assented, and I agree.

Hence, Jax Madigan is now JD, rather than JC.

Change is good.

First Chapter Preview of Bait Now Available Online


Greetings -

A first chapter preview is now available at

Look for the link on the right to "Bait-First Chapter Excerpt"

Or follow this link:


As always, if you'd like to send me feedback on what you've read/thought so far, please email me at