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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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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(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):


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Hail, hail the Holly King!

I have in years past made the same post about the Solstice and all the wonderfulness that it is. Whatever your beliefs you are not forbidden from being grateful and the Solstice for me is about gratitude that the light is returning, that the Earth will spin us back towards spring.

Flamarion-colorized

This is my New Year, not an arbitrary calendar date, but a scientific pinpoint when the descent into short days and long dark nights finally flips over and a little more glorious sun comes into each day. It is not hard to imagine that a day got moved here and there over the last couple thousand years by some careless scribe. So I celebrate all season, Solstice through calendar marked New Year. It’s important to me, because winter is cold and grim, and the revelry of the season keeps us going until the first flowers spring forth.

It’s about renewal, new beginnings. This year has been tumultuous for me at best. But I managed to finish This Charming Man and get it out into the world. Buoyed by that success I’m focusing on writing as the year flips over. A new Queen City Boys will come this year: Bad Reputation, taking us back to 1982 in Seattle. There will be stories in other universes as well. Star Quality, a gay erotica novella is forth coming. And hopefully a story that is much on my mind today, a fantasy short about the Oak King and the Holly King and the dance they do as the seasons switch. I’ve been avidly reading fairytales my whole life and I’m continually impressed with the new spins different writers put on them so I thought I’d try my hand at it too.

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I am exceptionally grateful this year for my online community. Both friends I’ve had for years and the new ones I’ve found as I begin this new journey as a published writer. Thank you everyone who helped me on to this path, to everyone going forward with me, to future readers even. It means a lot that you’re here with me and I am ever grateful to have found you. Now go forth and celebrate. The Holly King reigns again today, the Oak King is dead, but long live the King, for he will return to fight again at midsummer and we will dance and rejoice then, much as we do today.


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Let’s have a party!

TCM-cover-web Let’s have a celebratory party! Can I throw my own party? Is that a no-no? Because I’m pretty excited about my book, This Charming Man, being released into the wild and we should at least have a drink, right?

Here it is at Amazon and Smashwords (other venues forthcoming).

If you run into me in person I suggest not asking me about it unless you want your ear talked off. It seems like I should have used up all my excess verbiage in actually writing the book, but nope, I still have plenty more to say about the characters and the setting. So brace yourself if you engage me in that conversation.

And I could spend all day thanking Jugum Press for publishing me, adding me to their eclectic cache of books. Even you think you’re not into my book, well there’re probably some books over there you’d like. The editing Annie Pearson did for me was so above and beyond, I’m eternally grateful.

So let’s celebrate, get you a copy of the book and settle in with a drink and a quiet read. After you can come over and I’ll cook and we talk about the book,okay? Or alternately you can go review it in the venue of your choosing and I’ll just be over here drinking and hoping that you liked it.

 


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The End of Writing (before I start again)

I wrote a book and I like it. It’s a book I want to read. Which I guess is why I wrote it? And yet here, on the cusp of publishing, I’m paralyzed with insecurity. I guess the old chestnut is true, being an artist is the intersection of flagrant, narcissistic ego and devastating, debilitating insecurity. The closer my writing comes to the reality of being an actual book, the more I’m waffling between the two. Some days I’m unabashedly proud of what I’ve accomplished and of my simple, sweet little story. Other days I’m certain I’m setting myself up for humiliation and my beta readers just won’t tell me how stinky my book really is.

How it feel sint he middle of writing. You've taken a vow and you might never get laid again.

How it feels in the middle of writing: you’ve taken a vow and you might never get laid again.

Writing a book was equally exhilirating and exhausting. I’m dragging my feet right now on committing to really starting the next one (plenty of research to distract me until I have no excuses left to keep me from writing) because this time I know what I’m in for and it’s harder to jump right in. And yet there has been so much I didn’t anticipate. Like all the waiting. So much waiting before publishing. I’m waiting on some translation, on cover design, on beta readers and editors. And even when that’s all through, I think I’ll still be waiting on myself to know it’s really ready to go. Leta tells me you’re never really done with a book: there’s publishing, there’s promo, there’s always something left to do. But really I think there’s levels of done. I’m looking forward to the “this is packaged and ready to distribute” level of doneness with this book, so I can stop fretting over the details of creation and start worrying about if other people will like it or not.

One day I'll hold one of these of my very own

One day I’ll hold one of these of my very own


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Not Far From the Tree (part one)

Guess what I just got?!

IMG_20140530_175850836It’s newest book in my mom’s Rain City Comedy of Manners series, Artemis in the Desert. Just in time for beach reading, bed reading, park reading, weekend reading, airport reading, or really any kind of reading there is. Like the other books in the series (Nine Volt Heart–likeable rock stars, and The Grrrl of Limberlost–punk rock nerd girl coder) it features strong female characters, crazy bad guys and such lush backdrop descriptions that you’ll wish you were there inside the book (well except maybe camping in the cold rain in the desert, you won’t wish for that but you’ll really feel it). And like all her other books, even though I’ve already read it a couple times (in various stages of completion) I’m going to read it again now that i can just enjoy it.

My mom has been a huge inspiration to me. All the usual blah blah blahs: she’s smart, strong, independent, gave me a love of books and words, etc. Lately though she’s knocking it out of the park in the getting shit done department. Writing, editing, and publishing a huge variety of works (her own and other people’s) at a rocket fast pace without sacrificing quality on anything (look at how gorgeous her book layouts are, read how neatly crafted her books are). I aspire every day to her level of productivity and her quality of output.

Plus she’s just super awesome to hang with. If you can’t get to her garden to have fancy gin drink and good hang out, you can still find her other places she hangs. She has a website where she talks about writing, editing, her stories and other various things. You can also follow her Twitter where she is very funny and her Facebook for updates about what she’s got coming up.