Jacob Woods

Jacob Woods
Jacob is gay. He eats, breathes, and sleeps lgbt issues. Currently he is a rural psychology student working to educate the simpletons. Enjoy his blog and his other creative meanderings!

Thursday, June 9

Author Dan Stone: Guest Post

has released his first collection of poetry, “Tricky Serum: An Elixir of Poems” (Lethe Press, 2011).  According to Dan, and as suggested by the title, “these poems address the tricky prospect of elixirs—the quest for the substance of our dreams, the magic potion for fulfilling what we hold to be our fondest and often most elusive desires. The poems are intended to read as a progression, a journey through the process of seeking, finding, and relinquishing our convictions about what we need or want—from an “other” and from ourselves—about waking up, or not, from some of the dreams we dream about the only life we can save.”

In addition, Dan’s first novel, the gay romantic fantasy“The Rest Of Our Lives” (Lethe Press, 2009) is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions.  His fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in Focus on the Fabulous:  Colorado GLBT Voices, Charmed Lives:  Gay Spirit in Storytelling, White Crane Journal, A&U Magazine, Astropoetica, Mostly Maine, Bay Windows, Gents, Badboys, and Barbarians, New Gay Male Poetry, and Rebel Yell: Stories by Contemporary Southern Gay Authors. He lives in Denver, CO, where he is working on his second novel, and a children's book.  He can be reached via his website:  www.firstadream.com.  

Below are some sample poems from “Tricky Serum,” available in paperback and ebook versions on Amazon and through other distributors.  Until July 4, Lethe Press is offering the ebook version at a special discount of $5.  To order, go to:  http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/63893 and enter Coupon Code JG44A.

Tattoos and Torn Jeans

I see you, legs crossed,
at a table outside the window,
my laptop open wide, the only sound
the clicks I make
as I look up from the keyboard,
taking in the hole in your jeans—
a tasty shot of latte colored knee—
and a phoenix preening red and orange
as the setting sun on your long blonde bicep.

I’ve seen you there with older men
who seem to know you all too well,
or alone with just
your cigarettes and the weather.
Our eyes connect occasionally
but always from that distance
created by the glass and my assumptions
about the laws that separate us:
age, a look, an attitude,
perhaps a certain class.
It’s a void I fill
with narrative:

I tell your story to myself
always casting you as bad news
I can’t help reading—
rent boy or some other rogue
who would approach
only for a reason I’d regret.
I can make you lost or dangerous.
I can leave the safety of my sipping
and my typing, I can put you
in the middle of my hack dreams
where button downs and khakis
tangle with tattoos and torn jeans.
I can twist our tales like taffy
where there is no real or imaginary line
and no reason to remain here,
stuck to my station.


There’s a kind of hair I love to touch,
caught light and lifted in the breeze
like a butterfly I want to sweep
into my palm and hold
as I would a soft reply.

The hair I love to touch
is hopeful, fine with possibility,
not like mine—
not like this monument on my head,
this molded piece of craftsmanship,
this ruin that begs for a museum.

There are pictures of the hair I love
taped around the mirror,
there to focus my intention,
help me change my style,
but this helmet will not yield to prayer
or gladly suffer reinvention.
Even if I offer alms,
the god I serve will not be bribed.

I struggle, curse, and mutter
in the morning,
seeing how I want to be,
declaring this will be the day
but once more losing my salvation,
once more choosing what I always see,
once more reaching
for the gels, the sprays.

Dan Stone

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Dan.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I have undergraduate and graduate degrees in English, psychology, and communications.  My professional roles have included:
• author, novelist, poet, journalist and editor
• intuitive facilitator
• personal and professional development coach
• college-level writing and humanities instructor
• technical and human resources trainer
• mental health and career counselor

What was your first book and how long did it take to get it published?

My first novel, The Rest Of Our Lives, was published in June 2009 by Lethe Press and is a 2010 Lambda Literary Award finalist.  Because I was working full time for most of the time that I was writing the book, it probably took close to two years to complete.

When did you start writing gay romance? What about this genre interested you the most?  

I didn’t set out to write a genre book or have any particular genre in mind.  I just told a story that I felt inspired to tell and let the publisher pretty much decide how to classify it for marketing purposes.

How many books have you written thus far?

This is my first published book-length work.

Do you write full time?
Not yet J.

Looking back was there something in particular that helped you to decide to become a writer? Did you choose it or did the profession choose you?

I used to hear my minister father talk about his feeling that he had been ‘called’ to preach.  He passed along to me a desire to find a place and a work in this world that was uniquely mine.  It was presented as both a gift and a challenge to be called, to hear and to respond to any inner stirrings nudging me in a particular direction and toward a particular purpose.

I don’t remember exactly when my writing life began.  My mother has poems saved from as early as second grade, but I was a skinny, high school bookworm trying to hide a southern accent and a spiritual and sexual identity crisis when writing became a way of life.  Like so many who feel forced into hiding for one reason or another, writing became a way to be the me I was often too afraid to be except on the page. 

Over the years writing would be at times a course of study, an extracurricular activity, a vocation, a part-time or full-time job, a comes-and-goes-career–and always my dream.  Regardless of whether I published or was paid, it remained the place where I felt most at home, most at peace, and most myself.  It was a way of coming out long before the official kickoff of that process.

On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?

You’ll often find me camped out at my favorite coffee house with my nose to the computer screen or a notebook/journal.  I juggle quite a few tasks in any given day, but a coffee house or a park bench or any place with an inspiring view is where I love to sit and do the work I love most.

When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?

In fiction I write freely with no outline or much idea of where I’m going.  It’s part of what makes it such a fun journey.

What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?

I spend a lot of time getting to know the characters.  Other research I do as needed as the story unfolds.

How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters? How do you approach development of your characters? Where do you draw the line?

Most people who know me tend to see me in one or more of my characters.  They’re all me in some sense.  I take a lot of time to get to know them before ever beginning the actual story, but once the story’s under way, I mostly trust them to reveal themselves as they will.

How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read?

It varies a lot depending on what else I’m doing, other commitments, etc.  I normally have more than one project under way at any given time, so the work tends to proceed according to whatever deadlines are looming or where I feel the most energy flowing.

Do you write straight through, or do you revise as you go along?

I tend to write straight through but then do numerous rewrites once the first draft is more or less complete.

Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it, and what measures do you take to get past it?

Not so much anymore.  Since I keep several projects going at once, the work rarely gets stale and I rarely get bored.  I also have learned that writing for me is more about listening than telling.  I just keep listening and paying attention to the characters and they seldom leave me in the lurch.

When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they gain, feel or experience?

I hope it brings some feeling of connection to a truth that resonates for them, however they can find it or allow themselves to experience it.  I love for readers to recognize themselves in some way in my characters and to care what happens to them—and to put the book down feeling better in some way than they felt before they began to read.

Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?

  1. How much I don’t know yet.
  2. That numbers and dollars are not the real story—or the point.
  3. That writing the book isn’t even half the process.

Does the title of a book you’re writing come to you as you’re writing it, or does it come before you even begin the first sentence?

It shows up when it shows up, but usually I have at least a working title when I start.  The title for my novel was my first choice.  I tried on several others after the book was finished but nothing else seemed to fit.

How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?

Most people would describe my humor as dry or sarcastic.  But I laugh at anything from droll, dry wit to silly slapstick. 

What is the most frequently asked Dan question?

Why are you single? J

What are you working on now?

I have a children’s book I’m shopping around to publishers,  a collection of poetry and short fiction scheduled for publication in the next year or so—and I’m working on a sequel to THE REST OF OUR LIVES.

What was the best piece of advice you've received with respect to the art of writing? How did you implement it into your work?

“Get out of your own way.”  I somehow learned along the way that writing works best for me when I’m not trying so hard to make something happen.  It’s a process of receiving and allowing as much or more than anything else for me.  I trust that ideas will come and if I stop struggling with them, and let myself enjoy the process, I’ll almost always like what—or who—shows up. 

When it comes to promotion, what lengths have you gone to in order to increase reader-awareness of your work?

As much as I can without making it my full time job (which one could easily do). I solicit reviews, post to blogs (mine and others), do interviews like this one, and try to strike a balance between being proactively and obnoxiously self promoting on networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, etc.

Writing is obviously not just how you make your living, but your life-style as well. What do you do to keep the creative "spark" alive - both in your work and out of it?

Trust that the spark never dies—it’s always there.  But also recognize that we all need a balance that includes down time, fun, relaxation, rest, interaction—play.  Also, just paying attention is hugely important.  Learn what inspires you, energizes you, feeds you, pleases you.  And don’t take any of it too seriously.

What pros and cons surround the e-publishing industry, and how do you envision the future of e-publishing?

I don’t really see any “cons” to the e-publishing industry.  As long as people are reading, I’m pretty content.  And I seriously doubt that hardback or paperback books are going the way of the dinosaur anytime soon.

What kind of books do you like to read?

Gay fiction, because I like to see myself in the characters and stories I read . . .  fantasy and science fiction because I like imagining other worlds and ways of life . . .  any good fiction . . .  biographies . . .  poetry . . .  spiritual development.

If you weren’t a writer what would you be?

I do other things (teach, coach, etc.) but I do also fantasize about being a singer/dancer/actor—or a pro tennis player.  Or a wealthy philanthropist . . .

I recently read your novel The Rest of Our Lives. Where did you get the idea for that story?

The Rest of Our Lives was born from my own lifelong love affair with romance and magic. In ways, I'm a typical Pisces dreamer, and the dream of an extraordinary, magical, enduring love is one I've been dreaming for as long as I can remember. As a gay man, I’m hungry for stories of love between men, particularly when they capture elements of my own experiences and dreams.
When it comes to the covers of your books, what do you like or dislike about them?

There’s only been one so far and I adored it.  It beautifully captured the story and the characters.  The artist who designed it, Peter Grahame, created a perfect visual concept for the book.  Every author should be lucky enough to have that kind of sensitivity and compatible vision brought to his work.

Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?

I cherish time with family and friends.  Love movies and music.  Beaches.  Good food.  Tennis when weather permits.  Sleep.

New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?

Read—and write—as much as you can.  Tell your truth.  Please yourself first.  Write because it feels good to do it.  Do it because it’s your joy and passion—because it’s a way of being your best self.

Can you please tell us where we can find you and your books on the Internet?

My web site:  www.firstadream.com and also on Facebook and MySpace.  THE REST OF OUR LIVES is available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble—and directly through the publisher at www.lethepressbooks.com.

Could you please share your favorite excerpt(s) from one of more of your stories with us?

The next morning the sun woke me early, a slice of warm, golden delicious light that slipped through our bedroom window.  Aidan, usually up before God, was still sleeping.  In that soft light, he seemed to literally glow.  He looked more like an angel than a witch.
I took advantage of a rare opportunity to study him when he didn’t know I was watching.  He was facing me, with one bare arm warming my waist.  The crumpled top sheet was draped provocatively over the compelling curve of his bare behind.  If I hadn’t known he was asleep I would’ve suspected that he’d arranged himself that way just for effect.  But his wide mouth was slightly open, and I could hear the now faint, familiar half whistle/half snore that he made.
He was such a restless sleeper.  He moved around constantly during the night and woke frequently.  Usually it was me who awoke to find myself looking straight into his always-smiling eyes.  But this morning, he was perfectly still.  As peaceful looking as I had ever seen him.
I remembered Dr. Nike’s advice to me the day before Aidan and I were leaving, to check in regularly with myself during our time here together.  “Just do a ‘PMC’ now and then,” she’d said.  A Peace of Mind Check.  She’d told me to remember three questions:  How am I feeling?  What thoughts are behind that feeling?  What choice can I make right now that will bring peace of mind?
I looked at Aidan’s body beside me.  His arm was lean and solid with surprisingly thick forearms and large hands.  Our fingers were nearly the same length but I still felt small in his grasp.  My eyes traced his fine lines . . . his faintly freckled shoulder . . . I could just barely feel the rise and fall of his firm belly at my side.
“What else would I need right now to have peace of mind?”  I asked myself.  As I leaned over to kiss him awake, I couldn’t think of a single thing.

When he realized how late he’d slept he insisted we skip breakfast with the other Tarot Inn guests and see more of the town.
“We’ll grab a couple of slices of breakfast pizza at Spiritus,” he said.  “Then we’ll head over to the tower and then the beach for a while before the tea dance.”
But even as we were ascending the cardio workout of a stone stairwell up to the top of Pilgrim Monument, the cloud masses were starting to assemble.  They didn’t look friendly.
“I don’t suppose you could blow them back out to sea for a while,” he said as we walked around to the top of the monument with a handful of other tourists casting nervous glances at the sky.
“Who am I, Zeus?  What’s wrong with your windmill?”
“Hmm.  This could actually be very cool, watching the storm blow in from up here,” he said.
“Cool as in deadly?”
“Cool as in watching the forces of nature flex their muscles and show us their power.  Besides,” he said.  “Thunderstorms get me hot.”
Less adventurous tourists were already making their way down the stairs.  I started to follow but Aidan pulled me back.
“Stay here with me,” he said.  “You can get some awesome pictures.”
“We’re going to get soaked and then fried.  Streetlights will dim.”
Lightning was already zigzagging out from cast iron cumulonimbus, and a wet wind was spitting in our faces.  The drama in the sky and the gray mist starting to shroud the bay were too striking to resist.  I pulled my shirt up over my head to protect the camera and started shooting, first just the weather rising and swirling and growling all around us.  Then I caught sight of Aidan through the lens.  His dark hair was blown back from his face, and his eyes were on fire, wild and determined as a cougar on the prowl.
I shot him from every angle, protecting my camera as best I could as the rain started to pelt and the thunder cracked around us, close enough to raise goose bumps and the hair on the back of my neck.  When I refocused on Aidan he was staring right at me.  He looked . . . hungry.
“What?” I yelled, looking at him from around the camera, both of us now nearly soaked to the skin.
“Put it away,” he said.
“What for?”
“I don’t want you to drop it,” he said, moving closer.
“I’m not going to drop it,” I said, involuntarily taking a step back.
“You won’t be able to hold onto it,” again moving closer to me.  He reached for my camera, gently took it from my hand and slipped it safely into the padded inner pocket of my backpack, which he also slipped off my wet shoulder.
“There’s no one else up here.  You know what that means?”
“Death wishes are rarer than we suspected?”  He was starting to spook me a little.
“It means we’re alone and two hundred fifty feet above the nearest spectator.”  He took hold of the hem of his soaking wet t-shirt and peeled it up and over his head.
“You’re not serious.”

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