Category Archives: Projects

Wild Swoops and Cloudy Thinking

“I mean,” he said patiently, “that we’re no good at that sort of game. Our game is wild swoops, sudden inexplicable discoveries, cloudy thinking. Knights’ jumps instead of files of rooks plowing across the board. So we’d better play our way if we expect to win.”

I have spent an inordinate amount of time contemplating my career and answering questions about said career in the last two years. “What do you want to do?” people ask. There’s genuine curiosity and a little bit of skepticism. I am, after all, someone who walked away from the narrative. I had a career in publishing, moving from publication to publication in an orderly fashion. 

“You were always so focused, no matter what you were pursuing. But it feels lately like you’re drifting,” a friend recently said. True! But the second half of this year has become, by necessity, about clearing the decks for the next thing. And the next thing is not me following a playbook or saying the lines someone arbitrarily assigned me before I fully understood what was in store.

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Words: Me and Minx

Watching HBO Max’s Minx was a surreal experience for me. I know I’m an audience of one when it comes to this show. How many other people watching the series about a woman who creates the first erotic magazine for women have also launched a publication that marries erotica with a sharp point of view on politics and culture?

But that was what I did in the fall of 2020. With an adult company backing it, I launched The Gay Goods, a website that took porn as seriously as it did pop culture. And in the end, despite some success, I walked away because the owner and I didn’t agree on the direction in which we wanted to take it. No regrets—he had a very specific vision, and he deserved the chance to find someone committed to bringing that vision to life. But I glimpsed more potential in what we were doing, and I wasn’t interested in alternatives.

So you can understand that what happens in the season finale of Minx—Minx editor-in-chief Joyce walks away when she and the publisher can’t agree on the direction in which they want to take the publication—hit harder for me than for others. When telling her former boss about new job offers on the table, Joyce points out that they all come with one very big string: Someone else is still imposing their will on the thing she’ll create. “Someone who wants something from me, something they could never do on their own, but still insists on holding all the power,” she tells Minx publisher Doug. “I’m not sure I’m interested in giving away my power anymore.”

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The Book: Jagged Sophistication

Jagged Sophistication, my first novel, was recently published. (Buy it here!)

I have always loved historical novels but I always had one big issue: Why did the writers always assume that the famous people at the center of their books would love and confide in their fictional narrators? If I ever wrote a book, I decided, all the famous people would hate my main character.

Then I wrote Jagged Sophistication, which drags my narrator into encounters with everyone from Bebe Daniels and Mary Nolan to Joan Crawford and Tallulah Bankhead, none of them thrilled to make his acquaintance. (My one cheat was to have Marion Davies and Billy Haines like him, the former because I just really want Marion Davies to like me and the latter for narrative purposes.) And well, yeah. It’s way more fun having Tallulah calling the cops on poor Peter than slugging back gin with him. But here’s something slightly more official about the book:

Manhattan in the 1930s proves irresistible for a young gay man in the Midwest, who makes his way there only to discover that Gotham’s glamour is distinctly tarnished, and love comes at a very high cost. Before long, he’s broke, brokenhearted, and on the verge of a breakdown—before he reinvents himself all over again in Hollywood.

Armed only with cocktails, cigarettes, and a winning sardonicism, he encounters movie stars (who hate him), doyennes of society (who adore him), and a few men who fall somewhere in between. Before long, he’s on a collision course with true love in the gay underworld of pre-Code Hollywood, a town where anything goes…except possibly being happy.

Spanning the Depression to the well-heeled 1950s, from Grant’s Tomb to Hearst Castle, Jagged Sophistication tells the remarkable story of a most peculiar young man, one on the cusp of realizing he’ll have to plan more for his life than just escapes.