Friday, May 6, 2022

True Lies - Introducing Author Frank Spinelli

Good morning! 


I know I've been a little erratic in my posting lately. Largely because there's not a lot to say right now. I'm writing. Very slowly. That's about it. That sums it up. Not exactly riveting stuff. :-D So I thought it would be a good idea to have a few guests, who DO have something worth talking about, drop by and share their thoughts about, well, among other things, being an artist in a world where the lines between fact and fiction have become increasingly blurred.

Which brings us to today's guest, Frank Spinelli, author of the terrific gay medical thriller-romance Perfect Flaw (Blind Eye Books) 

(This book has everything I love: a flawed (AKA human) protagonist, a sexy cop boyfriend, mystery grounded in true crime, plenty of suspense and a few surprises.)

Perfect Flaw is available in print, digital and in audio narrated by Cooper North.

In fact, I believe we have an audio code to giveaway, so comment below! 

A young doctor enters a world of money and beauty only to find some flaws run six feet deep.


When newly-minted Dr. Angelo Perrotta joins an exclusive concierge medical practice, he believes he has found success. His charismatic colleague, Demetre Kostas only adds to the promise of the new job. But when a series of tragic events transform his dream job into a nightmare, Angelo is confronted by disturbing accusations and the even more troubling cop, Jason Murphy. Now Angelo must unravel the secret entanglements surrounding him not just to save his career, but his life.


Balancing Truth in Fiction Writing: The Struggle is Real by Frank Spinelli

 

Before I wrote my first gay romantic thriller entitled, Perfect Flaw, I worked on a memoir entitled, The First Year. A story about a young Italian doctor in New York who lands his dream job, working for a Park Avenue practice, only to become entangled in a murder investigation after a colleague, posing as a physician, kills a patient.

 

But I struggled writing about my first year in private practice because I did not want to disrespect the death of an innocent woman. Anyway, did I really need to write another memoir? I had already written Pee-Shy, which recounted my history of childhood sexual abuse by my scoutmaster who I brought to justice thirty years later. Writing a memoir is cathartic; it’s also grueling and painful. Reliving those years of abuse, revealing intimate details of my marriage, and exposing my family to that pain again after we had repaired our relationship opened old wounds. Plus, whenever someone I knew read Pee-Shy, they looked at me like I was that abused eleven-year-old boy, not a grown adult. Did I really want to do that to my husband, my family and myself again?

 

No.

 

So, I put The First Year to rest in a file on my desktop. Years later, I thought, what if I didn’t write it as a memoir? Imagine a story about a young, Italian doctor who becomes ensnared by a seductive colleague and unwittingly makes mistake after mistake so that his life is upended after a woman is found dead? Sounds familiar? Yes, but the similarities to my real life end there.

 

Perfect Flaw is lifted from the headlines, but once I decided to write it as fiction – in fact, my editor, Nicole Kimberling, encouraged me to write it in the third person – I felt the lock of a metaphorical ball and chain release.

 

Now, I had license to do whatever I wanted to these characters. My job was not to relate my real experience but to paint my protagonist, Angelo Perrotta, into a corner and then figure a way to get him out of trouble. “Raise the stakes,” is a term I had heard so often by my writer friends, but I hadn’t understood what that meant until I was inventing a story, rather than just relating one. So, I raised the stakes and then kept raising them. I wasn’t so precious about the accuracy of the events because guess what? My book wasn’t a memoir anymore.

 

Perfect Flaw is based on something that happened in real life, yes, but it’s not about me. It’s about Angelo and his sexy cop boyfriend, Jason.

 

Still, because I am a doctor in real life, readers believe that much of what goes on in Perfect Flaw is drawn from my life, which took some getting used to. There is no escaping this trap. Readers fill in the blanks with theories about where Frank Spinelli ends, and Angelo Perrotta begins in the same way that I, myself, wondered how much Jack Torrance from The Shining was Stephen King.

 

We all write partially from personal experience, but also draw from other sources. We draw from our friends, family, and acquaintances. We draw from research and even from other stories to create a whole cast of characters. This is one of the reasons why writing fiction should have nothing to do with the writer’s sex assigned at birth or their gender identity or sexual orientation. Writers create the entire world of the novel, and every single character in it.

 

Still, now that I’ve moved away from memoir, I’m careful not to include too much of myself in my fiction.

 

Of course, I can’t help it.

 

My first rule is that I never include precious personal memories in my fiction because I must save those special moments for myself. Besides making stuff up is way more fun. I can’t think of a better job than creating vivid characters and then throwing them into peril. The second rule is to read while I write. Once I listened to an interview the author Jennifer Egan who said, write what you like and read the genre of what you want to write. No truer words have been spoken when it comes to writing.

 


==============================================


Frank Spinelli, MD is an American born physician living in New York. 

He has contributed articles for the Advocate and The Huffington Post. Writing credits include: The Advocate Guide to Gay Men’s Health and Wellness (Alyson Books),

Pee-Shy: A Memoir (Kensington Books), which has been optioned to be developed into a limited series and contributing author – Our Naked Lives (Bordighera Press) and Understanding the Sexual Betrayal of Boys and Men (Routledge).

He has made appearances on Sirius Radio’s Morning Jolt with Larry Flick and co-hosted Speak Out: Real Talk about AIDS. 

Documentary credits include, 30 Years from Here (Emmy-nominated), Positive Youth and I’m a Porn Star. 

Television credits include ABC News, NBC Nightly News, MTV, a national commercial and Sesame Street. In 2015, he hosted a season of Dueling Doctors.

Frank Spinelli is an advocate for child sexual abuse survivors and has given frequent interviews about his experience as a victim of sexual abuse while in the Boy Scouts. 

Perfect Flaw is his first novel.


 



Friday, April 15, 2022

What Can I Say?

 


I'm struggling with coming up with blog posts because I know basically everyone just wants to know when the (***&&^^%$##@@!ing books will be out, and I can't answer definitively except to say not as soon as anyone (including me) wants.

ARGH.

But I mean, it is what it is. I'm writing as fast as I can. Granted, at the moment that doesn't seem to be more than about 500 words a day per project. 

Do you ever go through one of those cycles where, no matter what you do or how careful you are in the doing of it, WITHOUT FAIL it comes bouncing back with a bunch of problems? That's me right now. Everything I start either ends with me falling down a rabbit hole or, worse, boomeranging back to hit me between the eyes. 

But on we go...

Anyway, all is not lost. The Office Elf is slowly excavating my office from beneath years-worth of using it as a giant file cabinet. I might, in theory, soon be able to work in there again. I learned to make the perfect margarita. I discovered the series What We Do in the Shadows and rediscovered Aimee Mann. My miniature Japanese maples seem to have survived their first winter and so far the three roses I moved to larger pots are hanging on by their tendrils (I do not have luck transplanting roses, so I'm cautiously hopeful). We had a short cold spell, but it's warming up again, so I should be swimming tomorrow. AND I'll be celebrating Easter with my family for the first time in two years.

So...lots to be glad about. 

I'm strenuously avoiding the news as much as is feasible and I've cut way back on both True Crime and social media. All of which has left me calmer and more optimistic and, believe it or not, more productive. ;-)

So what's up with you?

 




Friday, April 1, 2022

As the World Turns

 


It's been warm enough to swim for most of the last two weeks! 

And, if the weatherman is to be believed, it will be warm enough to swim for most of the NEXT two weeks. Usually, we don't get these long stretches of warm weather until we hit May, so that's both the good news and the bad news. Good news for me. Probably not so good for the planet. It's major drought time in California.

But we're all gonna die anyway, so oh well.

(I try not to say that around the Office Elf as it doesn't inspire her to do her best work.) ;-D 

So it's been a crazy-ass distracted start to the year, no lie--and also no signs of that letting up anytime soon either as we're once again trying to refinance the house. Also I'm going through getting our rental property up to snuff. This is time-consuming and nerve-frazzling stuff that I've been putting off for years, and now it has to be dealt with. 

But about the books. 

Hide and Seek is coming along beautifully--that 500 words a day thing is really paying off in a chapter a week.

The Movie-Town Murders is also coming along, but it's a more complicated story and, as I said, there have been a LOT of interruptions. Also a LOT of rewriting. I know I'm overthinking it, but at the same time, I have to be happy with it. Hopefully, hopefully, HOPEFULLYFORTHELOVEOFGOD I'll be finishing up by the end of this month. 

I've got (I think) half the book, but despite my detailed outline, I'm not writing in linear fashion, so it's more like...well, picture the parts of a clock--gears, springs, tiny cuckoo bird--scattered across a work desk. The bits and pieces are all there, but not in working order. Not yet. 

But it's coming. And I really love where Sam and Jason's relationship is at. 

BUT CAN IT LAST? 

Who knows. 

Anyway, after The Movie-Town Murders, I jump right into the next two Secrets and Scrabble books, and then...I don't know. I don't have anything else officially scheduled. There are plenty of things I want to write--I really, really want to finish the Holmes & Moriarity series this year--but given how insanely slow things are going right now, I'm afraid to commit to anything. To be honest, this year's goals weren't about books and writing so much as getting my house in order. My literal house but also my metaphorical house. 

So that's where we are. I'm working, I'm writing, the books are happening, but I've resigned myself to the fact that this year someone or something is going to be knocking at my office door every half-hour. I'm trying to be patient and good-humored about it. Four months in, I can safely say this is not the year I planned, but what else is new? 



Friday, March 11, 2022

In Our Last Episode...

 


Holy moly.

Where the hell was I? Is it really Spring?

(According to the calendar, no. According to my garden, yes.)

So there's no denying starting the year out sick has slowed me down a bit. That said, it's still been a really productive start to 2022. 

It's disappointing that Fatal Shadows: The Collector's Edition is technically available, but nothing seems to have shipped yet. So I keep forgetting that I finally got that done. But I did, so cross that off the list.

As you know, I've been working on strategies to keep my creativity high and my burnout level low. One thing I came up with is every morning, before I check email or do anything but have coffee, I write 500 (minimum) words on Hide and Seek. (The serialized novel I'm doing for Patreon.) This has turned out to be genius. Because it's only five hundred words, I know I can do it, regardless of how I feel or potential interruptions, and it gets me past that wobbly BUT I DON'T SPEAK ENGLISH!!! phase of writing my "real" rough drafts. 

Basically, I'm tricking myself into writing before I have time to think about it. For anyone suffering from writer's block or burn out, this could be the way to get past it. It's definitely working for me. I start out the day hitting goals and being creative, which is inspiring in itself. And I'm able to deliver a chapter of Hide and Seek to Patreon just about every single week. Which is so fun because then I get the feedback in real time.

And it gives me extra product because I'll put the audio of the book up for sale eventually. We're all always trying to find more ways to be productive, so this is my recommendation. Write a little bit every single day on an "extra" project. Something completely different. Something just for fun.

Meanwhile, I just spent FOUR full days in tax hell doing two years-worth of taxes. (PRO TIP: DON'T SKIP DOING YOUR TAXES EVERY YEAR, NO MATTER WHAT.) Three days to pull all the paperwork together and one day at our accountant's office. YES. From 8:30 in the morning until 3:30 in the afternoon. It took so ((**&&^^%$##@#@@!@ing long that she ended up having to pause us to take other clients and then bring us back. Oh, and let's not forget the two-hour drive to get there and back. It was exhausting. I find tax time really stressful anyway, and that's because I don't have a good accounting system. I have a rough idea of what I'm earning--and weirdly enough, last year was one of my highest ever income years?!?--but I'm not clear on what my expenses are. And when the writing is not going well, I tend to compensate by enrolling in online courses or investing in software  or buying lots of cover art for projects yet to be written ALL OF WHICH I RARELY IF EVER USE. 

It's not a great way to run a business (which is what writing is). 

I'm an emotional spender. Which was demonstrated clearly in my taxes. And, frankly, last year was a more "emotional" year than some.

Lesson learned? I hope so. I'm trying very hard to make this the year I get my, er, ducks in a row. But


the number of ducks I have is kind of daunting. Like, for example, I was unaware that where I live it's technically illegal to rent my second house to family unless I have a business license, a safety inspection, etc. So... Okay. I'm now trying to bring all of that up to date because I've been "renting" to family for years. 

What I'm trying to say here is life keeps getting in the way of my plans, particularly my writing plans.

Which brings us to The Movie-Town Murders. I'm currently one third of the way through the book (despite a couple of huge glitches regarding research and rewriting) which would be right on schedule, however a couple of real life things have cropped up. Like an unscheduled weeklong visit from my bestie. I'm going to grab as much writing time as I can during that week, but obviously it's not going to be my usual work day. And that's okay, life happens, and I love my friend and literally can't wait to see her. 

It may or may not mean a week's delay on the book release. Hopefully not, but I'm trying to be realistic and communicate clearly to you what's going on. 

The book is coming and it's good. I love it and I love this phase of Jason and Sam's relationship. As usual, they're largely working apart, but it's interesting to explore how they navigate the distance now that their relationship has been tested so severely. And of course everything is building toward the sixth and final book. 


I guess what I'm saying is, everything is coming along, though perhaps more slowly than I (and you) would like. I feel relaxed and confident about the work and, even about life in general, though the earth continues to hurtle toward the sun.

I'M KIDDING.

Well, no, I'm not. But I've come to terms with our new normal, and I'm reasonably calm and surprisingly creative, and I will take the wins where I find them. ;-) 

Hey, don't forget Daylight Savings Time begins this weekend. I. CAN'T. WAIT. But seriously, I do like DSL. I vote we keep it. What about you? 



Monday, February 21, 2022

FATAL SHADOWS: THE COLLECTOR'S EDITION

It's live! 





  This special 20th Anniversary edition includes illustrations, character interviews, and holiday codas--including a new and exclusive short story-length coda written for Christmas 2021--as well as other curiosities.


All in all, over 400 pages of Adrien English and Jake Riordan!




From Christmas Coda 2021


“Whoa,” Jake said. “I could feel that frown from the front door.”

I glanced up from the pages of the glossy magazine Natalie had left on my desk, and stopped scowling. “Hey. I didn’t hear you come in.”

As Jake reached me, I pulled my mask down, and we kissed hello. The pressure of his mouth was warm against mine, and our lips lingered…lingered… Turns out, love is sticky stuff.

We reluctantly parted—and Jake promptly, gently pulled my mask back up. He pulled his mask up.

I sighed. “You know, it’s after-hours. We’re alone now.”

He touched the tip of my masked nose. “Yep. It’s just you, me, and fifty billion germs.”

The agreement we made was I’d continue to work at Cloak and Dagger through the pandemic, but promised to be extra-diligent and super-vigilant about following all virus protocols. Which I complied with because A – I’m not an idiot, and B – making Jake happy is a priority for me.

I mean, it’s a mask. Try being on a fucking ventilator. Been there, done that, and will do everything in my power to avoid repeating the experience.

“Speaking of catching germs. How’d your day go?” I asked.

In September, Jake had landed a job with Brannigan Investigations, one of LA’s oldest PI firms. It hadn’t been an easy transition. For one thing, it closed the door, once and for all, on his career in law enforcement. Which…that door was already closed, but this was like installing a deadbolt. But also, Jake liked the freedom of being his own boss. What he hadn’t liked was the unpredictability of the kinds of cases that came his way—when they came his way—or the precariousness of his finances. So he’d taken the job at Brannigan Investigations.

Fortunately, they seemed to really like him there, and he liked the owner, Mary Brannigan, the granddaughter of the original Brannigan. Jake liked having resources, and respect, and a steady paycheck.

“Good,” he said. “Even better, I’ve got the next four days off.”

Four days? Wow. They gave you Christmas Eve, Christmas, Boxing Day, and whatever Monday is?” That was more than cool because I too had Christmas Eve, Christmas, Boxing Day, and whatever Monday was. Taking time off was part of my commitment to a new healthier and more balanced lifestyle.

Jake said, “I’m thinking Monday is a travel day.”

My brows shot up. “A travel day? Where are you going?”

“We can talk about it on the drive home. You ready to head out?”

“Just waiting for you. Let me grab my coat and cat.”

He made a sound of amusement, waiting as I rounded up Tompkins, hustled him into his carrier, and struggled into my coat.

Jake took the carrier from me. On our way out, he glanced at the stairs leading to my former flat. “Is Natalie out?” he asked.

What he really meant was, Is Larkin out? Larkin, my three-month-old nephew, was Natalie’s son. Jake adored Larkin, and the feeling seemed to be mutual. Granted, Larkin seemed to adore everyone. I’ve never been much of a fan of babies, but that kid was pretty cute and not entirely objectionable.

I said, “They’re spending the holiday weekend with Lisa and Bill.” Three and a half years ago, my mother married Councilman Bill Dauten, thus supplying me with three ready-made sisters, all accessories included. The latest accessory being the aforementioned Larkin.

Jake frowned. “Then who’s running the bookstore?” Jumping to the conclusion that I was backing out of our agreement.

I said patiently, “Which means, Angus and Bliss are covering tomorrow, and then we’re closed until next Wednesday.”

Bliss was my latest hire. She was…interesting, as girls—young women—with mermaid-colored hair so often are. I felt she was a woman of possibilities. One possibility being—though I denied it when Jake suggested such a thing—that I thought Bliss might provide a good distraction for Angus, who continued to be worryingly smitten with Natalie.

Jake relaxed. I held the door for him, patting his back as he carried Tompkins out.

 

 

“What is it about the extravagance of minimalist coats and soft layers that so disturbs you?” Jake asked as we merged onto the I-210.

“Huh?” I stared blankly at his profile.

“That magazine you were reading. The one you were muttering over. The one you rolled up and stuck in your coat pocket.”

I smiled reluctantly. “Was I muttering?”

“Yep.” He glanced my way, his hazel eyes humorous, though the question was sincere.

“It’s not winter fashion that worries me, though if you’d seen some of those boots… It’s the results of a compatibility quiz.”

His brows drew together. “You don’t think we’re compatible?”

Us? We’re compatible. I mean, I don’t know if we’re compatible on paper, but we’re compatible in real life. No. Natalie was taking the quiz.”

“I see.”

I wasn’t sure he did.

“Whoever she was trying to answer on behalf of is not someone she should be marrying. Or even rooming with. These answers are a Dateline waiting to happen.”

“Hm.” I always loved the way the hard line of his mouth would twitch when he found something funny but wasn’t allowing himself an actual smile.

Reaching into the back seat, dodging Tompkins who tried to claw me through the bars of his crate, I fished the rolled magazine from my coat pocket. I unfurled the pages of pouty-looking girls in coats that looked like crayon-colored collapsed parachutes (How could something that bulky be minimalist?).

“Seriously. Listen to this. How many times a day would you call your spouse to know how he/she is doing?

Jake was silent.

I said, “Natalie’s answer is three times. Which…okay. Maybe? If a lot of stuff was going on? Her stalker’s answer—whoever he is—is eight. Eight times a day! He’s calling every hour.”

“That sounds like Angus.”

“Does it? But she’s working with Angus, so he can just yell hey you across the aisle. It sure as hell isn’t Warren. If he called her once a week, I’d be impressed. Part of my worry is, I’m not sure if she’s guessing this guy’s answers, or if these are actually his answers. What does that tell you?”

“That we don’t know,” Jake replied. “We also don’t know if this is the new guy.”

I stared. “What new guy?”

He gave me a sideways look. “I think there’s a new guy.”

“Why would you think that?”

He nodded at the magazine. “Aren’t compatibility quizzes the kind of thing people do when they first meet?”

My heart sank. But yeah. He was probably right. I said darkly, “Some people. Don’t ask me. I never filled out a compatibility quiz in my life. Did you?”

“No.” His mouth quirked. “Maybe that was our mistake.”

“Yeah. That was the holdup. We never took the time to see if we agreed on…” I looked down at the magazine page and read aloud: “What is your idea of a romantic date?

“Obviously a crime scene.”

“Right? It doesn’t get more romantic than that.” I tried another one. “Do you have a huge tolerance capability?

“What does that mean? For alcohol?”

“I doubt it’s alcohol.”

“Does huge make sense in another context?”

I snorted, but said doubtfully, “Could they mean tolerance as in patience?”

“What answer did Natalie give?”

“Natalie says yes. No surprise there. Mr. X says no. No. I’m telling you, Keith Morrison is going to be knocking on our door any minute now.”

“Maybe this guy’s just being funny.”

“Maybe. Okay, here’s a weird-ass question. I mean, what mad scientist came up with these? What are the things you would like to take control of in your partner’s life after you both get into a serious relationship?

“What does that mean?”

“Exactly. What does that mean?”

Jake asked, “What were their answers?”

“Natalie wrote: I would like to be there to share his burdens and ease his worries. I would like to be a true partner in all things good and bad.

Jake said noncommittally, “That’s sweet.”

“Yeah, and she means it. She’s doomed. Bachelor Number One answered: her finances, her relationships with others who take advantage of her, and, and, listen to this one: be a role model for her son!

Jake was silent for a moment. “You know, we aren’t sure whether these answers are Natalie’s wishful thinking. Also, this guy may not be good at expressing himself. Also, some of the questions are a little off. Like that last one. I’m not sure there’s a right answer to that.”

“Fair enough.” I tried to decipher some of Natalie’s scribbled notes. “I can tell you right now, these responses are not from Angus. And I doubt they’re Warren’s. Not from anything I’ve seen of Warren.”

“No, this is somebody new.”

I murmured, “Why wouldn’t she tell us if she’s seeing someone new?”

Jake grunted. I’ve never known anyone who could pack so much into a nonverbal utterance.

I made a face. “Yeah. Okay. The thing is, I’d love for Natalie to find a nice guy who would treat her well and be a good father to Larkin. It’s not like I want to get sucked into the family drama.”

“I know.”

Just when I thought I was out, they pullll me back in.” I did my best Michael Corleone impression which, granted, was not very good.

Jake made a pained sound.

“She’s still fighting establishing the kid’s paternity.”

That time, Jake’s “I know” was a lot more disapproving.

“Angus is on pins and needles, waiting for her to figure out what she’s doing. Warren’s started hinting that he needs some kind of financial support in order to stay in her life. And I know it’s her life and that most, if not all of this, is none of our business.”

“You care. You’re concerned. That’s understandable. But we don’t know that there’s anything to worry about yet. Nat’s still at the filling-out-compatibility-quizzes stage.”

I shook my head, read: “How good are you at keeping secrets? Natalie says she’s great, which proves she’s delusional. Mr. X says excellent.”

Jake and I exchanged looks.

 


Friday, February 18, 2022

GOOD GRIEF, GERTRUDE!

 We are now on the NINTH round of (format) edits for Fatal Shadows: The Collector's Edition.


I'm sure there are still things we've missed, but at some point you have to let go and jump, and I think we're there. Hopefully, this weekend will see the Amazon version go live. 

It's such a crazy little book! I don't mean Fatal Shadows itself, although yes, that too. But all the goofy extras. I've really enjoyed immersing myself in Adrien's world again--way more than I'd expected. But I mean, it's hard to know what YOU'LL make of it. It's definitely a Fans Only kind of thing. 

It's been an interesting month. I had food poisoning (?!!) for four days last week. It was BRUTAL. We'll leave it there because...not glamorous, that's for sure. Not that glamour is a huge part of the writing life, but it's usually not that abject and desperate, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, I couldn't help thinking that poisoning someone is a particularly terrible way to kill them. Nice people do not poison others. Regardless of the provocation.

I think we're still on track for a March release of The Movie-Town Murders. I'm a little nervous because next month also includes doing two years-worth of taxes and a week-long visit from my best pal, but the book is proceeding apace and (thank God) I'm really enjoying this revised storyline. 

You can read a snippet over on my website.

Oh! Short Stories 2 is out--has been out for over a week--and is available for sale pretty much everywhere. It sort of got lost in the shuffle. As a matter of fact, I did several box sets over the past weeks, and I think I'll run a 50% sale on them all before the end of the month, so if you've been hoping for a little bit of a deal, keep your eyes peeled. I'll announce it here too and all over social media, but it's easy to miss that kind of news in the never-ending airhorn blast of buymebuymebuyme.

What else? 

Ah. One more thing. I've reluctantly made the decision to skip GRL this year. I just feel like I've got so much catching up to do after the disaster of last year. I want this to be a really good year, a productive and creative year. And so far, despite the (almost constantly??!!) being sick, so far, so good. I'm just going to focus on, er, regrouping and regathering. So it's disappointing, but it also feels like the sensible choice given where I am right now.

How are YOU doing? How's the year treating you so far?