AJAX BELL

Author of the Queen City Boys books


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Resources for Just like Honey

In the author’s note of Just Like Honey I say that writing outside my own experience puts the burden on me to be mindful and respectful of the real life experiences of who I choose to write about. This is an incomplete list of research materials I read trying to understand enough of the Japanese-American experience to be able to believably write a 30-something, queer, yonsei man in the 1990s. I’ve included links where possible, mostly Amazon links, but I encourage you to make use of your libraries too.  (Library Extension is a great Chrome add-on to find books in your library.) I’ve listed these by type and then alphabetically.  Not ideal, but it’s a lot of info and sometimes the basic ways are best.

I also mention in my author’s note a group curated list, for self-teaching Asian American studies. Here is that link again. It was an excellent jumping off point for me, and includes other mediums (like film) that I don’t include here (though I did watch many of those movies as ‘research’).

Websites, Blogs, and Articles:

100 Must-Read Books by Asian Authors

27 Asian Leading Men Who Deserve More Airtime

A Chronicle of Lesbian and Gay Magazines A Timeline: 1897 – 2008

A Clockwork Trauma

After Internment Japanese American’s Right to Return

America’s Concentration Camps Resources

Ansel Adams’ internment camp photos

Art – Words To Use

Art History Resources: Japanese Art

Asian American Voices in Poetry

Asian in America with Jon Tsuei

Asian-American Men Are Sexy in Magic Mike Parody

Asian-Americans Respond

“Asian men in media are so desexualized”: Rising star Jake Choi fights the Hollywood odds against Asian American actors

At Home with Themselves: Sage Sohier’s Moving Portraits of Same-Sex Couples in the 1980s

BuzzFeed’s Eugene Lee Yang On Authenticity and Embracing Your Asian-ness

Children of the 90s: Fashion Fads

CHS Re:Take | The 10 on Pine and other forgotten buses of Capitol Hill

Claiming Space, Seattle’s Lesbian & Gay Historical Geography, 2004 :: Seattle Maps and Atlases

Densho Encyclopedia

Documentaries about Japanese American Incarceration you can Watch Online for Free Right Now

Hidden gay photo archive surfaces in new exhibit

Hiroshi Nagai Paintings

History of Japanese Americans – Wikipedia

History of the Japanese in Seattle – Wikipedia

HistoryLink.org- the Free Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History

How Asian-Americans Became Democrats

How Diversity Shapes Multiracial Experiences

How the Model Minority Myth Hurts Asian-American Elders

I always find the topic of Asian American culture fascinating when speaking to other AsAms.

I Used to Reject My Chinese Heritage, What Do I Do Now?

Immigration Act of 1924

Isn’t it time we thought beyond monogamy as the ideal, and normalised open relationships?

Larry Matsuda

LGBTQ Seattle Activism Project

NJAHS – National Japanese American Historical Society

November 24, 1985: The Colman School Occupation

Oregon Nikkei Endowment

QZAP – Queer Zine Archive

Roger Shimomura

Should I Open Up My Relationship?

The Best of Liquid Television Part 1

The Challenges and Joys of a Three-Way Relationship

The Gay Rights Movement and the City of Seattle during the 1970s

The Girls’ Bathroom in Honor of Codie Leone and the Art School Girls of Doom

The Immigrant’s Fate Is Everyone’s

The Lost Generation: From ‘The Joy Luck Club’ To ‘Crazy Rich Asians’

The Not-Quite-American Feeling of Being a 1.5 Generation Immigrant

The Visibility Project – A national portrait and oral story collection of Queer Asian American & Pacific Islander Women and Trans* community.

Top Ten Asian Pacific American Comics Characters

Vloggers Discuss What It’s Like To Be An Asian Man On Grindr

What’s Going On In There?

When Asian America was a Movement

Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience

Books and Journals:

A History of Japanese Art: From Prehistory to the Taisho Period, Tsuda, Noritake; Ph.D, Patricia Graham, North Clarendon, VT, Tuttle Publishing, 2009.

A view from the bottom: Asian American masculinity and sexual representation, Nguyen, Tan Hoang, Durham, Duke University Press, 2014.

American Born Chinese, Yang, Gene Luen, New York, Square Fish, 2008.

Asian American Artists in the Northwest, International Examiner, No. 18 (Sept 17, 1997).

Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People, Zia, Helen, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001.

Beacon Hill Boys, Mochizuki, Ken, New York, Scholastic Paperbacks, 2004.

Being Japanese American: A JA Sourcebook for Nikkei, Hapa & Their Friends, Asakawa, Gil, New York, United States, Stone Bridge Press, 2015.

But I Don’t See You as Asian: Curating Conversations about Race, Reyes-Chow, Bruce; Kemp-Pappan, Ryan , BRC Publications, 2013.

Charlie Chan Is Dead 2: at Home in the World, Kim, Elaine, New York, Penguin Books, 2004.

Claiming the Oriental Gateway: Prewar Seattle and Japanese America, Lee, Shelley Sang-Hee, Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 2012.

Creators on Creating: Awakening and Cultivating the Imaginative Mind, Barron, Frank; Montuori, Alfonso; Barron, Anthea, New York, TarcherPerigee, 1997.

Cruising the Movies: A Sexual Guide to Oldies on TV, McDonald, Boyd; Jones, William E., South Pasadena, CA, Semiotext, 2015.

Culture Clash: The Making of Gay Sensibility, Bronski, Michael, Boston, MA, South End Press, 1999.

Divided Destiny: A History of Japanese Americans in Seattle, Takami, David A., Seattle, Univ of Washington Pr, 1999.

Fearless Creating: A Step-by-Step Guide To Starting and Completing Your Work of Art, Maisel, Eric, New York, TarcherPerigee, 1995.

From Our Side of the Fence: Growing Up in America’s Concentration Camps, California, Japanese Cultural & Community Center of Northern, San Francisco, CA, Kearney St Workshop Pr, 2001.

Gay Seattle, Atkins, Gary, Seattle, University of Washington Press, 2003.

Geisha of a Different Kind: Race and Sexuality In Gaysian America, Han, C. Winter, New York, New York University Press, 2015.

Hal Fischer: Gay Semiotics: A Photographic Study of Visual Coding Among Homosexual Men, Fischer, Hal, Los Angeles, Cherry and Martin, 2015.

How to Look At Japanese Art, Addiss, Stephen, New York, Harry N. Abrams, 1996.

‘I’m American, not Japanese!’: the struggle for racial citizenship among later-generation Japanese Americans, Tsuda, Takeyuki , Ethnic and Racial Studies, February 2014, Vol.37(3), pp.405-424 .

Invisible Asian Americans: the intersection of sexuality, race, and education among gay Asian Americans, Ocampo, Anthony C.; Soodjinda, Daniel , Race Ethnicity and Education Volume 19, 2016 – Issue 3, 2016.

Looking Like the Enemy: My Story of Imprisonment in Japanese American Internment Camps, Gruenewald, Mary Matsuda, Troutdale, Or, NewSage Press, 2005.

Midnight in Broad Daylight: A Japanese American Family Caught Between Two Worlds, Sakamoto, Pamela Rotner , Harper, 2016.

Mongrel: Essays, Diatribes, + Pranks, Chin, Justin , St. Martin’s Griffin, 2011.

Monstress Vol. 1, Liu, Marjorie; Takeda, Sana , Image, 2016.

Nikkei in the Pacific Northwest: Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians in the Twentieth Century, Seattle, University of Washington Press, 2005.

Nisei Sansei, Takahashi, Jere , Temple University Press, 1998.

No-No Boy, Okada, John; Inada, Lawson Fusao; Ozeki, Ruth, Seattle, University of Washington Press, 2014.

Q & A: queer in Asian America, Eng , David L.; Hom, Alice Y., Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1998.

Queering contemporary Asian American art, Kina, Laura; Bernabe, Jan Christian; Min, Susette; Lee, Kyoo, Seattle, University of Washington Press, 2017.

Same Difference, Kim, Derek Kirk, New York, First Second, 2011.

Serve the People: Making Asian America in the Long Sixties, Ishizuka, Karen; Chang, Jeff, London, Verso, 2016.

Shattered: The Asian American Comics Anthology, Yang, Jeff; Shen, Parry; Chow, Keith; Ma, Jerry, New York, The New Press, 2012.

Skim, Tamaki, Mariko; Tamaki, Jillian, Toronto ; Berkeley, Groundwood Books, 2010.

Social Solidarity Among the Japanese in Seattle, Miyamoto, Shotaro Frank, Seattle, Univ of Washington Pr, 1984.

Stubborn Twig: Three Generations in the Life of a Japanese American Family, Kessler, Lauren, Portland : Seattle, Oregon Historical Society Press, 2006.

Stuck Rubber Baby, Cruse, Howard, New York, DC Comics, 2000.

Take out: queer writing from Asian Pacific America, Bao, Quang, New York, NY, Asian American Writers’ Workshop : Distributed by Temple University Press, 2000.

The Accidental Asian: Notes of a Native Speaker, Liu, Eric, New York, Vintage, 1999.

The great unknown: Japanese American sketches, Robinson, Greg, Boulder, University Press of Colorado, 2016.

The Making of Asian America: A History, Lee, Erika, New York, Simon & Schuster, 2015.

The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting: A Facsimile of the 1887-1888 Shanghai Edition, Hiscox, Michael J. , Princeton University Press, 2015.

The Right Side of History: 100 Years of LGBTQ Activism, Brooks, Adrian; Katz, Jonathan , Cleis Press, 2015.

The Rise and Fall of Gay Culture, Harris, Daniel, New York, Ballantine Books, 1999.

Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White, Wu, Frank, Princeton, N.J., Basic Books, 2003.

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What stories smell like

Scent memory is so much stronger for me than anything else and association is equally important. I have a few colognes I wear when writing certain characters. There are scents that can drive me completely away from a story or emotion. I’ve had a lot of life changes in recent years, personal growth left a new me who was never completely comfortable smelling like old me.

I spent a good nine months shopping for new cologne. Lots of samples, lots of fails. I’ve mostly resorted to CK One and CK Be because I enjoy smelling like 1996 and they are easy unisex scents.

But after so much trial and error I think I found two. Commodity’s ‘Book’ which looked interesting, obviously from the name, but also someone described it as smelling exactly like their grandparents’ house in the Pacific Northwest (shelves of books, evergreen forests, and a little marine air). And holy smoke does it ever. It smells like a hippie farm where I spent some of my childhood. Simultaneously greenly crisp and woodsy, and also like old books and worn wood (in a good way).

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The second one is TokyoMilk Curiositie No 68 ‘Tomorrow.’ Described as “marine salt and cypress” it smells exactly like a trip to the north Pacific coast: salt air, damp old trees, and sweet moss.

Now I smell both strange and delicious, genderless, and very much like home. These scents make me feel settled and comfortable, much more like myself than years of lavender and grapefruit (also good, but never quite perfect). I’ll keep the CKs for when I need to be less exotic, but what a delight it is to smell like a room full of old books in a Pacific coast rainforest.

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‘Book’ is a fantastic scent entrance into my next task of finishing the next Queen City Boys book, Bad Reputation. The main character, Shane, comes to Seattle from a small coastal town, more used to woods than concrete. To sit and write this story smelling of home, of coastal forests, and feeling a wistful sense of a missed home feels exactly perfect, the scent memory I needed to connect to my own words.


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It’s finally here!

My new novella, Star Quality is for sale on Amazon!  In September 2015 it’ll be available at all online retailers, but isn’t it great you can read it now? I mean, you know, if it’s your sort of thing.  It’s got a lot going for it though!  I mean who doesn’t want an m/m/m threesome, featuring an open marriage, a gfy/ofy character, and a brief bisexual interlude with a female character? Okay, definitely not for everyone, but at least two people like it so far:

“Boy oh boy you better be ready for some major hotness friends, because when these men come together, watch out!” -Bec, Bike Book Reviews

“A really enjoyable, sexy read and a very different follow-up to This Charming Man. Loved it!” -Leta Blake, author

And hey, it hasn’t even been out for 24 hours and already it’s #15 in bestsellers in its category! Wheee!

 

So I’m feeling pretty good!  Maybe you will too, if you go read it. And then you can come back and talk to me about it! Or not if you’re shy. That’s okay too.


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In the home stretch

Writing a book is an all consuming journey. Research, plotting, writing, revising, editing. And then once you’ve labored through all that there’s still blurbs and marketing copy to write, covers to approves, book for format, and check and recheck for typos (they never go away, I think they magically generate in clean books). At some point it feels like nothing will ever happen, nothing with is at the end, you’ll just be looping around forever polishing cover copy. But eventually it all ends and a book is born!

I’m getting close on Star Quality, covers are coming so soon I can barely stand it! And we have achieved blurb!

Star Quality by Ajax Bell

On-screen passion and off-screen intrigues

Kevin Kaisho plays gay on the popular nighttime TV drama Shadow Lane. Kevin’s on-screen love interest is his long-time friend, the out and proud (and married) Nick Jantzen. After spending a press junket flirting with Nick to titillate fans, Kevin’s feelings become complicated: Nick’s husband Andrew shows up, making suggestive overtures. With unexpected desires invading his dreams, Kevin must discover what kind of starring role he really wants.

Andrew Walker is successful in his own right as a fashion designer, and he’s quite happy with his life, even if he and Nick are often kept apart by their work. But when he sees a picture of Nick and his new co-star Kevin cozied up for the camera, he’s intrigued. Can he coax Kevin–and Nick–into seeing that starring together in real life can be richer and more complex than a TV drama?

rainbow-threesome

Star Quality is an erotica novella coming on June 1, 2015 to Amazon, and wide release in September 2015.


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Where does the time go?

10062I had such high hopes for this year. I had a plan, a schedule, things to do. How is it nearly half way over already? The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men and all that. Nothing to do but gather my (few) accomplishments and push on, gentle, but not into that good night.

Obviously I’ve been reading too much poetry (is there such a thing?) but what else have I been doing? Not finishing books, that’s for sure! All right, that’s not true. I have finished a novella and it’s coming soon to an Amazon screen near you (other venues to follow eventually).

Star Quality, is a smutty little story of falling for your hot friend and his husband. In Canada! With bonus TV show production back drop. Yeah I definitely realize this isn’t everyone’s cuppa, but hey, some of you, somewhere, have been looking for really explicit m/m/m married menage, gfy/ofy fic with made up TV stars, right? If so, watch this space for details forthcoming, just as soon as there’s a cover!).

That’s an accomplishment I’m pretty proud of, but life has mostly just gotten in my way this year. Some family stuff. Some personal stuff. Then I started a new job, which is a great job, but has upheaved my life just enough to cut down writing time. I travelled to Seattle, to New York city, to San Francisco. But I’m home and I’m ready, I’m steady, I’m gonna get back to it. I have the next Queen City Boys novel, Bad Reputation about halfway done (what does that even mean?) and a good start on an as yet untitled sci-fi book. And two short stories in the making. Things are coming!

And hey, new website is happening soon too. And there’s a mailing list to go sign up for fiction updates and extras.

So, my friends, what have you been up too?


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Fear the Kalends, let slide the Ides

The-Immortal-Ides-of-March-Denarius-Coin

“Ides” comes from the earliest Roman calendar, which is said to have been devised by Romulus, the mythical founder of Rome. Whether it was Romulus or not, the inventor of this calendar had a penchant for complexity. The Roman calendar organized its months around three days, each of which served as a reference point for counting the other days:

Kalends (1st day of the month)
Nones (the 7th day in March, May, July, and October; the 5th in the other months)
Ides (the 15th day in March, May, July, and October; the 13th in the other months)
The remaining, unnamed days of the month were identified by counting backwards from the Kalends, Nones, or the Ides. For example, March 3 would be Five Nones—5 days before the Nones (the Roman method of counting days was inclusive; in other words, the Nones would be counted as one of the 5 days).

Used in the first Roman calendar as well as in the Julian calendar (established by Julius Caesar in 45 B.C.E.) the confusing system of Kalends, Nones, and Ides continued to be used to varying degrees throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance.

So, the Ides of March is just one of a dozen Ides that occur every month of the year, it was only Shakespeare’s words that give it meaning, made it a threat. Kalends, the word from which calendar is derived, is more threatening to our current existence. Kalendrium means account book in Latin: Kalend, the first of the month, was in Roman times as it is now, the date on which bills are due.

"Sousse mosaic calendar March" by Ad Meskens - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons


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(Seattle) punk is dead, long live punk

I don’t know if this is true for everyone else, but research when writing a book is kind of an endless hole of procrastination for me. It’s excusable, sure I’m not writing, but hey! I’m researching, that’s just as important. Who can argue with that? Still I need some structure around it because I can lose hours chasing down things that might not be useful to me. And I tell myself that research isn’t as valid as writing perhaps because I enjoy it so much. But the research is what underpins everything, it’s what saves me from going down the wrong road while writing.

My current manuscript is set in Seattle in 1982. Sure we all remember the 80s from movies, from pop culture, from our own history, but what was it really like? What was it really like in Seattle? I’ve been remembering, researching and interviewing people older than me to make sure I get it right. I keep a list of details I need filled in as I write for further interviews and research. And these days there’s all kinds of archives, things I couldn’t even have imagined when I was studying library science 20 years ago. And each is it’s own deep hole to fall down.

Seattle, 1982, view from Beacon Hill.

Yesterday I sat down to write, I went to close my browser (and shut off my internet, who has self control?) and right at the top of Facebook (who knew FB would actually be a useful research source) was a post from Vintage Seattle, about something in the 80s. So instead of closing my browser I scrolled back a ways, wondering what else I’d missed recently in that group that might be useful. That led me to discover the Seattle Punk Photo Archive which WOW I really needed (turned out to be super useful for a bunch of stuff I was trying to find years and participants for). And that lead me to where productivity usually goes to die: YouTube. And it turned out to be the most useful part of my day (besides the actual writing).

I have been having a hard time describing 1982 punks in my book. I feel like I’m describing them accurately, albeit somewhat from memory, and they just aren’t enough. They aren’t loud enough, they aren’t bright enough, they aren’t rowdy enough. And then I found these videos and discovered I was spot on in my descriptions. The problem is what was so punk and so out there in 1982 is just the usual stuff today. Those punks back then? We’re all in our 40s and 50s now, and some of us don’t dress any different than we did 25 or 35 years ago. My fictional punks seemed too mainstream because who they are is mainstream now. But it meant something then, and now I know my task as a writer: it isn’t to comically describe those punks as bright, loud, and brash as they were, it’s to describe that world 33 years ago and how different it was from ours now, because only against that background will how outrageous those punks were really stand out.

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Here’s some of the YouTube rabbit hole I fell down that showed me it did look like my memory. This first one really is kind of painful to watch. Squares, man, they just don’t get it (also, oh Portland, never change):

The “motto of destruction that sometimes confuses parents” (and aw, Wayne Cody):

“The 80s might see the strangest counter culture yet”:

(Hey buddy, I’m one of those kids, I’m well over 30 now and I’m still angry.)

If you want to feel like you were at the shows, way back when Seattle Punk and Indy Heart has a great collection of videos of old Seattle shows like this one from The Fags (hello glitter punk go-go boys):