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).

1280px-WestCoastTrailCost2

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.

img_7378-stack-of-books-q75-445x734

‘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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A face with a name

Years ago, when I started writing in earnest, it was mostly fanfiction. A valid artistic expression and an excellent writing exercise because it focuses on story and making the story work. Setting, character and all already exist in a given canon for fanfic. Character description is often limited to facial expressions and a passing mention of hair color. No need for more because everyone in your fandom knows what your characters look like.

When I set out to write original fiction I spent a lot of time casting my Queen City Boys after I had my plots in order. Maybe as some leftover from writing fic I needed that visual, I needed to see faces, really know my characters. It was definitely useful, in any given scene, to look at the picture pinned above my desk and do description from that. And it was, honestly, an amusing procrastination tool. If I wasn’t writing I could claim to still be working: hey, I’m casting! Which involves scrolling through endless pictures of good looking people, win-win!

Eventually I cast even side characters when I was procrastinating. Still some choices were never quite right, but others were perfect. Steven Frazier from This Charming Man was easy. Here he is:

StevenFrazier1

This picture captures him perfectly for me. His attitude, his beauty. It is is exactly as he looked in my head, as he came to me. Still the model in this picture, Dieter Truppel, really only looks sort of like my imagination of Steven. Half his pictures don’t suit at all, but enough. And really I only need on picture to cast from anyway (though finding more is joy, more pretty and more procrastination).

My editor, Annie, read a draft of the book, long before I shared any of my own casting. Much of the story actually takes place in her neighborhood and she keeps insisting that she sees Steven on the street. I love the idea that he’s out there now, living in other people’s heads and appearing as if I called him into being.

My character John Pieters appears across the Queen City Boys books. This series, as it unfolds spans four decades so that added a hitch to casting. I need John at 20, at 45, at 60. This limits casting if I want a picture at each age. I did finally cast John, though it isn’t perfect. I have such a clear picture of him in my head, at every age, of exactly who he is and I’ve never found a picture that was close. For John I cast like I would for a movie: good enough. But it doesn’t match my vision and indeed probably won’t match reader’s vision of him. I tried to write him so the reader could make their own John and decide whether he looks like Paul Newman, Daniel Craig, Alexander Skarsgård, Campbell Scott, Anderson Cooper, or Jorge Gelati. (Of all these perhaps that specific picture of Jorge Gelati is closest to what is in my head, but no, still not quite perfect.)

The amount of time I spent on casting (*ahem* procrastination) eventually bled over into casting places as well. It’s all compiled, however inadequate, on Pinterest now. It was a great for me to visit while writing, to think about places (many of which don’t exist anymore since I’m writing about Seattle twenty years ago), and to see my characters all together. It made it much easier to spend even more time day dreaming about them. I’m working on the other books in the series, pinboards already filled with casting of upcoming stories, vast new spaces for me to procrastinate in.

And of course, because I am me, I am utterly ridiculous, and I find even more ways to procrastinate and play with my characters when I should be doing other things:

TCMchibi

 

Because who doesn’t love anime? Or because I love anime anyway. In fact my love of anime is what started this whole universe in my head, but that’s a story for another rainy afternoon.


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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.