Hello, my name is Dustin Adrian Rhodes and I have S.A.D.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) also known as seasonal depression, is a mood disorder in which individuals who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms during particular seasons year after year. Typically winter months when sunlight is filtered or staying indoors due to extreme weather conditions for extended periods of time. I have usually controlled my S.A.D. by getting at least 20 minutes of direct sunlight exposure each day, but the Texas heat has been so intense this year (71 days of triple digit temps this summer so far and this weekend is expected to be the worse: 108 -110 on Sat & Sun- in the shade) I have stayed shut-up indoors and over the past few weeks I have paid the price.

Depression is no fun, isolation, lack of energy, thoughts of suicide…

I’ve had S.A.D. all my life, but could not explain the reoccurring seasonal bouts of depression until a psychiatrist recognized my condition about 25 years ago. I don’t believe in chemical treatment, so I’m currently undergoing intense light treatment, so far, I have not had to undergo melatonin hormone treatment yet, that is a last resort, however, chemical treatment would be my extreme last resort. My last bout with S.A.D. was about 10 years ago, since then I’ve been able to keep it under control, until this summer when I hunkered down at home avoiding exposure to the extreme heat.

So… that’s my story, a life with occassional bouts of uncontrollable depression, numerous suicide attempts (5 to be exact) and very dark periods. Until this moment, it’s been my secret, one that I have been ashamed to admit. I have hidden my secret behind casting jokes and laughter, concealing my private hell from those around me. Now I’m publicly admitting to having this condition, not to garner your pity, but in hopes that this will help other individuals to recognize the disorder in either themselves or someone you know. By understanding S.A.D. those individuals suffering from the condition can get the proper treatment and not suffer any longer. S.A.D. is a treatable condition, not something to be ashamed and feel that it makes you a defective individual. Depression is debilitating not only to the one suffering, but also to those around them, but if it is a result of S.A.D. it is treatable and often times avoidable. I’m no longer hiding my condition, it does not identify me as an individual and I refuse to let it control me. I’m coming out of the closet.

Hello, my name is Dustin Adrian Rhodes and I have S.A.D.


Dustin Reviews: The Weekend: A Novel by Peter Cameron

The Weekend: A Novel by Peter Cameron

Synopsis: In the woods of upstate New York, three friends gather on the anniversary of a man’s death who was related to them by blood or love. Their idyll is disturbed by the presence of two outsiders, an Italian dinner guest and a young gay man, now involved with the dead man’s lover. Thus each event is charged with the tension of trying to recapture something lost.

Review: Disappointed – enticed by an intriguing synopsis, but let down by disconnected and chopping dialogue. The dialogue almost made me forget my promise to always read whatever I had started, no matter how difficult of a read it may be. Everything about Cameron’s writing was really good until the characters would break out into a conversation. At that point, I would grit my teeth and hope the conversation was minimal. It was like super intelligent intellectuals trying to interact socially with each other, or like two robots communicating with each other. Cameron’s style of writing dialogue killed the story for me. I thought the story line was sweet, but the jerky, halt/stop dialogue and emotionally void communication was a major distraction. Sorry Mr. Cameron, but “The Weekend” was just as much of a bust for me as it was for Lyle and his friends.

2 out of 5 stars.

Dustin Reviews: Something About Trevor by Drew Hunt

Something About Trevor by Drew Hunt

Synopsis: Paul Harrison is completely straight. His house will not flood again. And gay men don’t play cricket. Eventually Paul will find out just how incorrect these preconceived notions are.

When the river overflows its banks, Paul is forced to find temporary accommodation. The only practical suggestion comes from Trevor, an out and proud work colleague. Despite Paul’s hesitancy regarding Trevor’s offer of hospitality, he accepts and soon grows to admire Trevor, his humanity, his determination, and his abilities with a cricket ball.

In order to protect his fragile emotions, Trevor keeps people at a distance by wearing gaudy clothing and behaving outrageously. He had no way of knowing that doing the right thing by offering Paul his spare room will lead to such a big change in his life.

A tenuous connection develops between the two men. But misunderstandings and in-born prejudices threaten to derail their growing friendship. Things get even more complicated when Gary, Trevor’s ex-lover, shows up.

Can Trevor learn to trust again? Will Paul listen to his heart and discover that, despite first impressions, there’s just something about Trevor he can’t deny?

Review: A novel with regular average characters, how refreshing, characters that just about anybody can relate. The pace reads steady through believable situations that real people could actually encounter and overcome in the real-world. An entertaining feel-good read for a relaxing weekend or stormy afternoon.

4 out of 5 stars.

Dustin Reviews: Boston Boys Club by Johnny Diaz

Boston Boys Club  by  Johnny Diaz

Synopsis: Flanked by gorgeous brick row houses in the heart of Boston’s South End, the Club Café is a bar where everybody knows your name–and who you slept with last. Every night men like Tommy Perez, Rico DiMio, and Kyle Andrews take their place among the glistening crowd sporting chest-defining shirts and lots of smooth, tanned skin, sizing up the regulars and the new blood while TV monitors blare Beyoncé and Missy Elliott.

For Tommy, Thursdays at the Club Café in the company of his wingman Rico and a Skinny Black Bitch (vodka and Diet Coke) are unmissable. Recently relocated from Miami to Boston to take a reporting job at The Boston Daily, Tommy is finding it hard to break away from his tight-knit Cuban family, but his homesickness goes into rapid remission when he meets Mikey, a blue-eyed, boyish guidance counselor from Cape Cod. Smart, funny, and wicked cute, Mikey is perfect boyfriend material…until his drinking leads Tommy to suspect that he’s got some issues of his own. Rico–a tough-talking, Italian-American accountant with a gamma ray smile and mournful green eyes that hint at a past he’ll admit to no one–is sure Mikey is bad news, but to Rico any relationship that lasts longer than three hours sounds like bad news. Then there’s Kyle, the lean, preening model and former reality show star who makes a red-carpet entrance into the CC every Thursday as if a swarm of cameras still follows his every move, but whose real life is about to take a dramatic turn he never anticipated.

Over the course of one unforgettable year, Tommy is forced to rethink everything he’s ever believed about life, lust, and love. And in the Club Café, a place filled with endless possibilities–of stumbling upon the perfect partner, the perfect story idea, or just a play buddy for the night–Tommy might finally discover the person he was meant to be.

Review: Again Kensington Press has not disappointed me.  Boston Boys Club was a delightful read. Each chapter depicted scenes from the lives of one of 3 friends, each told in first person. Diaz lets us into the heads and thoughts of these 3 guys over a span of a years time. The characters are as shallow and one-dimensional as many of my own real-world friends so I made an instant connection to the story. If you are looking for a deep and philosophically moving book this ain’t it. BBC is a fun, light & often times humorous frolic through the lives of 3 gay men. In a quiet and subtitle way it sends out some meaningful social thoughts and messages. I thought the book was charming, the story was well told and the characters reminded me of real people in my own reality. Fun! Fun! Fun!

4 out of 5 stars.

Where do authors come up with those fabbo story lines?

No matter what author you talk to, no two will give you the same answer, probably because author’s stories are generated from somewhere that isn’t tangible. The funniest myth I have heard is that authors use a computer program which they fill in the names of the characters and their story is randomly generated. Ha! If it were only that easy everyone would be “generating” stories.

Some writers have reported that they develop a plot, then carefully diagram out a detailed outline. While others just sit down in front of the puter and craft a story onto a word processor as they go along. I actually dream my stories while I am sleeping. The process is like watching a movie on a theater screen. I will dream a scene repeatedly over the course of the night. In the morning, I enter the scene into the word processor and that same scene will continue to play night after night until I have captured all of the details into the word processor. Then, for some strange reason when the projectionist in my head is satisfied with what I have written, he will play the next scene of the movie. This continues until the entire story or nightly dream-movie is captured as a completed manuscript. I am continually amazed when I go back and read what I had written. If it weren’t for the little projectionist in my nightly dreams, I would have no earthly idea where to start writing.

I have learned that during the initial writing stage I sleep with a hand held voice recorder in my hand to record any thoughts when I wake during the night. It’s been a great help, for many times I’ve had these really awesome ideas during the night but when I wake up in the morning, the thought is gone or the phrasing isn’t as brilliant as the original. What is it about sunlight that diminishes our night time inspirations?

Just as there are a myriad of authors, each author has their own writing process that works well for him/her. Either just sitting down and forcing an idea, plotting an idea, writing a story around an idea or dreaming it, each author is just as unique as the stories they write. So, the next time you are reading a book, an article or a short story remember that somewhere an author plunked the idea down on paper or into a word processor and did not use the elusive Computerized Generating Book Writing Program, it all originated inside an author’s head before it became reading material.

Why Self-Published Authors Know Best

I ran across this quote today, from a post that historical romance novelist Courtney Milan wrote this week as an open letter to agents.

The traditional information storehouse has been inverted. Right now, the people who know the most about self-publishing are authors, and trust me, the vast majority of authors are aware of that. For the first time, authors are having questions about their careers, and their agents are not their go-to people. 

While not having an agent, in fact having decided in the fall of 2009 not to look for an agent for my historical mystery, Maids of Misfortune, I can’t really speak to this group’s effectiveness in this new publishing climate. Neither do I want to go into whether or not I think that the decision on the part of some agents to begin to publish their authors’ work has ethical or conflict of interest ramifications.

Although the latest brouhaha that just erupted when an agency threatened an author with legal action because she said they were setting up as a digital publisher, when they insisted they were just starting an “assisted self-publishing initiative,” suggests that this question is not going to go away.

What I want to address is Milan’s assertion that authors are the people who know the most about self-publishing. I not only agree, but I would take this one step further. I think that self-published authors may know the most about publishing, period, in this time of expanded ebook publishing and social media marketing.

Let me count just some of the ways:

1.  Most self-published authors know about both legacy publishing and self-publishing, which gives them a uniquely broad perspective.

In my experience, most of self-published authors have already had fairly extensive experience with the legacy publishing industry (as traditionally published authors, as authors who have spent years trying to become traditionally published, and as friends of published authors). From this experience we are in a better position to make well-informed decisions about the costs and benefits of both paths to publication, and which path to choose for a given project.

For example, since we understand the lead time it takes to get a book published with a legacy publisher, versus a self-published book, we might choose self-publishing for a non-fiction book that is very time-sensitive, but willingly pursue a legacy publisher for a work of fiction that we feel would do best in print and distributed through brick and mortar stores.

2.  Self-published authors were among the first to embrace ebook publishing as their main method of publishing, and therefore they have longer and greater experience in this realm, which is where the market is expanding the fastest.

For most of us the lack of capital meant learning how to format and upload ebooks ourselves, therefore we understand both the relative ease of this process and the importance of it. Even if we decide to pay someone else to do the formatting, our experience helps be better judges of the value of this service.

For example, we would be much less likely to be snookered into paying a high fee to an agent or anyone else for “taking care of” this for us. We understand that while most readers of ebooks are fairly tolerant of an occasional formatting error, they don’t like a lot of white space, including indents that are too large, blank pages, and unnecessary page breaks. We understand the cover design that works on a printed book sitting on a shelf doesn’t work on a thumbnail on the virtual bookshelves of an eretailer or a website, and we have had the chance to experiment to find the most effective covers for our books in this environment.

3. Self-published authors have up-to-date information about sales data, and they can and do share that information.

The turning point for me in making the decision to self-publishing came when I read Joe Konrath’s initial blog postings listing his ebook sales. I finally had the concrete numbers to determine what kind of sales I would need to pay for my capital outlay, and what kind of income I could make, compared to the advance I could expect going the traditional route.

Agents, publishers, even traditionally published authors, are very unwilling to ever talk about numbers, unless, of course, they are talking about a New York Times bestseller. The whole convoluted publishing industry accounting system, the lag in recording royalties (which go through the agent-I mean, what is up with that??), the fear that weak numbers are going to be the kiss of death for achieving the next contract, all work to keep a veil of secrecy. If you are an author this means you may never really understand how many books you sold, when and where you sold them, which covers worked, which price points worked, and which method of delivery got you the most profit.

Self-published authors working through such methods of delivery as CreateSpace for print or KDP or ePubit for ebooks not only have ready access to this sort of information, which is so crucial for designing effective market strategies, but we have no reason not to share this information. I can write that my sales have been lower this summer than in the winter, and not worry that this will hurt the chances that my next book will be published, or marketed aggressively, or reviewed positively. And I can learn from other authors if they are experiencing a similar pattern, and if so, what they are doing about it. This is one of the reasons we knew that ebook readership was going up, that certain price points worked better than others, that the Nook was beginning to claim a significant share of the market, before most of the traditional pundits did.

4.  By necessity, self-published authors have had to rely on e-retailers, but this has made them savvy about how best to attract customers in this expanding retail environment.

For example, authors published through legacy publishers are often slow to understand how important it is to get your book into the right category on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. In my experience most traditionally published authors, and their agents and editors, don’t even know that categories had been chosen for their book, and, as with most aspects of publishing (the title, the cover design, the product description), the authors don’t have ultimate control over the final choices. Getting any changes made after publication (in a cover or category or price that doesn’t work) is also difficult.

5.  Again by necessity, self-published authors have had to develop alterative methods of marketing—which have made them innovators in using social media for this purpose.

I am still amazed when I read comments by traditionally published authors on various sites saying that their books have just “been put up on Kindle,” and asking if anyone has a suggestion how to market those books. Obviously neither their agents or their editors have had much to say on the subject, beyond “set up a website.” Not surprisingly, it is self-published authors that seemed to give the most detailed advice in response to these queries. See Rob Walker’s huge thread on KDP community forum.

6.  Self-published authors are going to continue to be the innovators in publishing, no matter what the future holds, and therefore the best source of information.

We have to be innovators, because we don’t rely on anyone else-not agent or editor-to ensure our books are out there and being read. Two years ago, when I researched self-publishing, Amazon’s Kindle and Smashwords, were the two major ways open to me to independently upload my book. Since then Barnes and Noble’s ePubit, Google Editions, Kobo and many other companies have made it possible for independent authors to publish on their sites. In addition, while the iPad’s ibook store has been slow to expand, more and more people are downloading books, often using the Kindle or other aps, not only to the iPad, but more often than not to the iPhone or other similar devices. Traditional publishers are forced to deal with each of these changes slowly, often with protracted negotiations, which slows their authors’ access to these venues.  Self-published authors were able to respond immediately to these changes, as they will be able to do with what ever new twist the ebook or print on demand aspects of the industry takes.

Self-authors are intrinsically less conservative than people who work within the legacy publishing industry, where risks can ruin a career. An agent who takes on too many cutting edge writers and can’t sell their books, an editor whose choices don’t make back the authors advances, the author whose sales don’t pan out, all risk losing their business, their jobs, and their next contract. The motivation, therefore, is to choose authors and books that either fit this year’s trend (no matter that by the time the book comes out the trend may have peaked), or fit squarely into a niche market, and aren’t too long, or too short. Self-published authors have the choice to take risks, because they answer to no one but themselves and their readers.

7.  Finally, I believe that most authors are going to become self-published authors, and therefore will remain the major source of information about self-publishing. Not because they are all going to leave legacy publishing, but because more and more authors are going to see self-publishing as one of their options over their career.

Practically every author I have ever known has an idea for a book or a manuscript squirreled away, or a short story or novella they have written, that they either had failed to sell to a legacy publisher, or simply never tried to write or sell, because they knew that this work wouldn’t be acceptable. These ideas, these works, now can see the light of day. The market may turn out to be small for any particular work, but if you have written something that pleases you, that you as a reader would like to read, and you can self-publish that work and watch as people buy it, review it, and email you about it, the satisfaction is enormous.

I spoke to a college journalism class this spring about the possibilities of self-publishing, and a young man came up to me afterwards, all enthusiastic, and he told me that I had given him hope. His father had tried to discourage him from pursuing a career as a writer, telling him it would be years and years, and maybe never, that his work would ever see print. I had just told him what he had written already, what he chose to write next month, could be out there being read in a few days time.

This is one of the reasons that agents or publishers who try to lock authors into exclusive clauses, or manipulate print on demand to keep hold of copyright, are simply going to drive even more of their authors into self-publishing. Once an author has been exposed to the liberating belief that all of their work can get in print, and all the work that is good, will get to be read, they will not go back to telling themselves that the gatekeepers were saving them from the awful mistake of publishing a bad book, and that the favorite quirky cross genre manuscript they wrote really is better off never being read by anyone.

Does this mean the end of agents or publishers? Of course not. But it does mean that those people in the traditional publishing industry who continue to hold self-published authors in contempt, who continue to try to argue that all authors and all published books should go through their doors to get to the reader, who fail to turn to their authors and their readers for advice, are going to find themselves losing out in the future.

This is a reprint from M. Louisa Locke‘s site.

Traditional Book Publishing versus Self Publishing Option

Okay, a Literary Agency has been representing me since Nov 2010. So far, I have not seen anything in particular which has impressed me. I was both excited and relieved that after 9 months, I had completed my first novel. I sent the digital file to my literary agent to await a contract offer from a publisher. The agency accepted my manuscript in April and it is now almost 5 months and I have yet to hear a word from my agent. If it were not for the  “canned” quarterly newsletters the agency emails, I would not have any communication what-so-ever. So? What are they doing for me? Who knows?

Back in May, I wrote a short story for an online writing event. The story was, well, in my eyes a masterpiece. Hey, I was the guy in school that hated to read or write and I cheated on all of my written reports. Don’t even ask me the difference between an adjective or an adverb, cause I’ll just stare blankly back at you.  I saw no point in conjugating verbs (conjugate? Isn’t that a clinical word for sex?) I can think of much more aesthetically pleasing décor than a diagramed sentence. So, why am I even mentioning all of this? The novel which took me nine months to write was my very FIRST attempt at writing and then I took on the challenge to write a short story. I was on a roll, till I discovered that my brilliant writing was lacking.

I revised and expanded the short story into a novella (no it’s not soft and frilly so we shant call it a “novelette”). Then the manuscript went not once, but twice under the eyes of scrutinizing Beta Readers. The revisions and modifications were sometimes frustrating, but I learned and actually retained a little something about writing and grammar. But the real revelation was when I saw how much my little story had improved. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a lot better than when I had begun.

Two months later, that novella was published and the whole world could read my story. And exactly how did I get published? I self published with Smashwords (digital formats) and CreateSpace (paperback) and both are sold on Amazon.

I learned so much during the editing and numerous revisions of the novella Storm of Passion. Beta Readers provided invaluable assistance during the process. Currently two Beta Readers are critiquing my first novel Auf Wiedersehen~Journey to Goodbye. Even though my agent had me believing that I had actually written the greatest American Novel since Joyce, Fitzgerald or Faulkner. It will take hours and hours of revisions and rewrites, but mark my words; my re-vamped novel will be published in early 2012, with or without the assistance of a literary agent, most likely without, since my agent’s contract expires very soon and I don’t see a renewal in their future.

I guess it all depends on how one looks at one’s work as to a publishing preference. Myself, I had a story to share and self publishing allowed me the option to get my story out without the “blessing” of a publisher. Sure, the book may have its imperfections, but don’t we all, isn’t that what makes us so much more interesting. Without our imperfections we wouldn’t have anything to gossip about, would we?