Tuesday, December 30, 2008
So I did a little investigating. Sure enough, I found a plethora of long rants, sniperish bursts, skirmishes, excruciating examinations, analyses, and justifications, and just generally enough hot-air huffing and puffing to contribute to global warming -- if, that is, it were coming out of mouths instead of fingertips.
Umbrage, umbrage everywhere.
Posters, I realized, could easily and effectively make their points with far less expenditure of energy. In the interest of lower blood pressure and unstressed attention spans, I compiled a list of succinct replies to Internet statements that people -- and authors, in particular -- seem to find irritating.
* "Your book sucks."
* "Take it up with God. S/he dictated it; I'm just a stenographer trying to get by on a lousy $125.44 a week."
* "Your book's title sucks."
* "If all you can manage to get through is a book's title, you might consider enrolling in a remedial reading course."
* "Your book's cover sucks."
* "If all you can manage to do is look at pictures, you might consider giving up reading as a hobby."
* "All romance novels are crap."
* "Of course they are. That's why people read them. Life is so unrelentingly fine, we must escape its cloying clutches now and then lest we get spoiled."
* "You're not gay."
* "Yes, I am. And proud of it. If you don't believe me, go fuck yourself. Or Ted Haggard."
* "You're not straight."
* "Yes, I am. I just wish I were gay."
* "You're not bi."
* "Well . . . sometimes I am and sometimes I'm not. It depends on who's sitting next to me at bar close."
* "What you said is offensive."
* "It offends me that you called my statement offensive. I refuse to type another word until you apologize."
Ho Lee Zhit approved of these, saying, "Yep. A hint of diva is better than the whole smelly, vermin-picking gorilla."
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I'm not on too many people's radar in the romance or e-book communities. It's understandable. I do a lot of genre-hopping (the curse of a restless imagination), have never developed a series (until recently, for Loose Id), don't have anything in print (aside from Acts of the Saints, which is hardly a happy-happy novel and doesn't fit comfortably into any niche), don't attend conventions, am not part of a group blog or any kind of network, still can't afford a website, and generally suck at schmoozing and self-promotion. That's why, on those rare occasions when somebody does pick me out of the crowd, I'm touched and grateful beyond measure.
So deep, deep thanks to CLARE LONDON, the Dark Pearl Diva whose site is my Links section, for taking the time to send me heartening feedback on Looking for Some Touch. And JEANNE BARRACK, who found me after the release of Plagued (and immediately "got" the hero's name!) She'll be guest-blogging for me after the holidays.
More thanks to author SAGE WHISTLER, who chose Looking for Some Touch as one of her favorite reads of the past month, and RAINE at Joyfully Reviewed, whose enthusiasm for my books has been encouraging and heartwarming. Then there's VICKI, without a doubt the most supportive editor I've ever had.
Last but far from least, I'm enormously grateful to my readers, however silent they may be. And thanks to those of you who've taken the time to enrich this blog with thoughtful and thought-provoking comments.
I wish you all the very best in 2009.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Raine at Joyfully Reviewed has graciously designated my Ellora's Cave fantasy, Prince of Glacier Glas, a Recommended Read. Thanks so much, Raine, for this and past reviews.
JR has also given me the "big pink button" (way better than the big pink finger) for Wing and Tongue, which is the first book in this fantasy cycle, as well as Cemetery Dancer (a paranormal from EC), Obsessed (m/m erotic romance from Changeling Press), and Two Out of Three Ain't Bad (a contemporary romance from Cerridwen Press).
How can I not love these people?
Thursday, December 11, 2008
My previous blog was, in part, about winning a book when you don't get to choose the book you want to win. Oh, my. I was recently the recipient of a historical romance, issued this year by a major print publisher. Not only was it riddled with anachronisms (e.g., yuk, as an exclamation of disgust; two cents' worth; the last straw), it had the most stupendous, dizzying array of dialogue tags I've ever, EVER seen between two covers, paper or electronic.
What I found most annoying was how seldom characters "asked." Almost invariably, they "queried."
Where have all the good editors gone? Into e-publishing?
As you peruse the list below, keep in mind that each of these words was used as an indicator of a character speaking (like the way I used one of them in my post title). I kid you not. Comma, end quote, tag -- in that order. Many were followed by some rip-roaring adverbs, too, which put extra kinks in my occipital cortex and temporal lobe.
I have to confess I've employed many of these tags myself. Most authors have. "She asked" and "he answered" and "she said" don't go far in the descriptive department. Said-said-said can also wear on a reader's nerves. But . . . but . . .
Well, just check out the list. I doubt it's complete; I surely missed some because, frankly, I did have better things to do. By the way, I didn't bother jotting down the more common and acceptable tags, like "whispered," "murmured," and "replied."
Fellow e-authors: hold your heads high! Keep in mind this attractive trade paperback came from a big, snazzy New York house. Now go get a supersized beverage and settle in.
tried to agree
Monday, December 08, 2008
Entering Contests. I don't have too much time to enter contests, unless it's quick 'n' easy to throw my name into the hat and/or I really want to win a particular prize. Often, contests just end up pissing me off . . . or making me feel guilty.
That mess now being run at Samhain seriously pissed me off. One day, when I was between chapters of my WIP, I thought I'd give it a go. Shit almighty.
I ended up feeling like the victim of a fraternity hazing. This is supposed to be fun? I kept asking myself as I trolled through fifty effing websites, looking for a certain icon. Worse yet, whenever I found that icon, I usually couldn't read whatever damned title was printed on it!
It was definintely not fun. In fact, it put me in a boycott mood. Before I knew it, I'd wasted many irreplaceable hours and darkened my sunny disposition.
Authors who are cunningly manipulative -- i.e., bury their clues or answers in the bowels of their sites and make entrants click . . . and click . . . and click through endless book lists, blurbs, excerpts, buy links, testimonials, photos, buddy links, blog posts, chuggedychuggedychug -- are not doing themselves any favors. I assume they figure that by trapping entrants within their online labyrinths, said entrants will gobble every word on every page and salivate over covers and be swept into the Land of Awe by that parade of "4" and "5" reviews. NOT. The inconsiderate assumption that readers have nothing better to do with their time than spend it spelunking through linked caverns of self-promotion is, purely and simply, offensive.
Lesson: From now on, as soon as I see a "Scavenger Hunt" that will make me feel like I'm Dumpster diving, I'm gone.
Winning Contests. Over the years, I've won maybe four book giveaways. Total. Only one win, Blind Eye's Tangle anthology, made me sing "Celebration Time." The other three titles weren't of my choosing but were picked -- randomly, I assume -- from groups of books being offered in mass giveaways. (You know how that goes.)
When I have no interest whatsoever in the title I end up with . . . my heart, it sinketh. I always feel obligated to try reading my prize. The least I can do is give it a chance. But I'll tell ya, I've ended up with three stinkers out of four wins, and not being able to get through even the first chapter of a book fills me with guilt.
Lesson: No more entering giveaways unless they're for titles that have piqued my interest or by authors I know are good.
Running Contests. Almost invariably, this is a depressing exercise. I've been doing it on and off for several years now, usually on my publishers' chat loops but sometimes in other places (e.g., TRS, various Yahoo groups, and the like). Two of the three books I've offered through The Romance Studio's Book-a-Day Giveaway were never claimed, even after I sent the wieners big ol' upbeat congratulatory messages. And never once has any winner through any venue emailed me with any kind of feedback -- good, bad, or indifferent. I feel as if I've shot these downloads into black holes.
Lesson: As yet undetermined.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
I'll be guest blogging December 5 at Jenyfer Matthews' place. Jen's a fellow Cerridwen Press author. I've published three contemporary romances through Cerridwen, so, given the time of year, I decided to focus on Mrs. Claws, a romantic comedy that touches on some serious (hell, even philosophical) issues.
Mrs. Claws isn't about glamorous people. No billionaire sheiks or rock stars. It's just a very romantic, funny, and (I believe) thoughtful story about an ordinary woman's attempt to overcome the holiday blues.
For what it's worth, this novel received five angels from Fallen Angel Reviews and five blue ribbons from Romance Junkies. Please join me! (Click on the post title to find Jen's blog.)
Sunday, November 30, 2008
The Utopian Metroplex of Regenerie, at the center of my Loose Id novel Looking for Some Touch, is the hub of the Utopia-X series. It's one of many urban centers established in the wake of a global catastrophe known as the Great Event or, by people who don't like to mince words, the Darkening. (The nature of this cataclysm will be revealed in the third book of the series.) Each metroplex is a sovereign city-state, an autonomous entity, and nominally defines itself through its primary product(s) or services.
Thus, Regenerie takes pride in being a clean, green, progressive metroplex, a model of humanitarianism and environmentalism. Its most important export is energy, entirely derived from renewable sources. "Living" medical products (e.g., laboratory-grown organs for transplant) run a close second. Regenerie's closest neighbor, the Iron Metroplex of Villius, is quite different -- a grim, dirty, rough-around-the-edges mining center. Villius figures prominently in Book Two, Seeking Something Wicked, coming February 24 from Loose Id. Perhaps the strangest metroplex of all, the Pleasureplex of Xanandru, will take center stage in Book Three.
Between these city-states are vast and largely undeveloped wilderness regions called Interzones. Humans and Otherbeings who dislike urban bustle have gravitated to these expanses, which aren't under the jurisdiction of any government. Interzone denizens live either in small settlements or isolated dwellings. Not many highways cross interzonal areas. Vehicular traffic is mostly restricted to the metroplexes; interurban travel and commerce take place via sophisticated air and water craft and high-speed, often elevated trains. More radical modes of transportation are on the horizon, thanks to the efforts of scientists and engineers in Specula and Venturus.
Aside from its political organization and advanced technology, this future world isn't terribly different from the world in which we live. After all, it has its roots in the 21st century, when the Great Event took place. Enough people, materials, and documents survived to allow civilization to pick up -- with great effort, of course -- where it left off. Languages, scientific knowledge, religious beliefs, cultural practices, and other 21st-century systems and paradigms were preserved and passed on by the planet's surviving inhabitants. Larger, more mysterious forces, working behind the scenes, were also at play in global renewal. They, too, will be discussed in upcoming books.
The series name, Utopia-X, is a kind of condensed commentary on the often misplaced optimism and enthusiasm that infect this brave new world and Regenerie in particular. The main characters in Looking for Some Touch will continue to discover that the quirkiness of thinking creatures, whether human or nonhuman, has a way of undermining the loftiest visions and best-laid plans for a perfect society . . . and a perfect self.
My next post will be on the unique beings known as hybrids and their role in Utopia-X.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
The longer I'm in this business, the more tribal the writing community seems. I don't yet belong to a tribe. I'm the Happy Wanderer (or, sometimes, not so happy). Occasionally, temporarily, I sneak into tribes. Usually, though, I just circle around or amble past them.
So what constitutes a tribe? A group of writers and/or readers who are bound by a common interest or faithful to a particular leader. (Tribes have a lot in common with high school cliques, it seems.)
There are likely tribes within RWA--frequently warring tribes, no doubt. An entire stable of authors at a particular publishing house can be a tribe if that publisher is small enough. If a publisher is larger, there are tribes within it (like writers who band together to form group blogs or critique circles, or authors who've been with a company since its inception and are the revered "veterans"). Individual authors can have their own tribes, and industry bloggers have tribes of supporters and tribes of detractors. Subgenres are also spawning grounds for tribes.
It isn't easy to break into many of these close-knit communities. In fact, sometimes it's impossible. But if you want to be part of a tribe that does admit new members, you have to work at it -- earn your body art, so to speak. This is a delicate process. You can't just burst into a tribal council meeting and shout, "I want to be part of this tribe!" Oh no.
Every tribe has its own unique standards for acceptance. Maybe you have to be exceptionally sharp and witty. Or exceptionally level-headed, a natural mediator. Maybe you must demonstrate selflessness, or a happily blind devotion. Maybe you simply need to be docile but persistent. On the other hand, maybe you must shine, brilliantly and irresistibly. Sometimes, a limitless talent for schmoozing does the trick.
I've seen and read about such tribes in action, and their dynamic continues to mystify me. Maybe we writers (and some readers) are like clubby high schoolers, with our need for approbation and our silly sensibilities and our conviction of a superiority that never gets recognized quite enough. It's as if we're constantly crying, "Leave me alone to pursue my art!" -- and then, in a pathetic whimper, add, "But don't leave me alone too much for too long."
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
My heart-throb (or something-throb) on the cover of Anna Campbell's Tempt the Devil. Damn. I mean, really . . . holy hot freakin' damn. I look at him, and I feel as if I've spent the last twenty years in a women's prison. Know what I mean? Fuckshitdamn, Nathan. Phrew!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
My immediate response to "Vote for me!" is "Why?" Or maybe, "Is there at least a free beer in it for me?" WTF? I can forgive politicians for vote trolling -- hell, it's what they were born to do (you didn't actually think they were born to govern, did you?) But when writers do it, BLECH. Absolutely the last person I'd ever vote for in any kind of contest is the one who acts like s/he is entitled to my damned vote.
This is only the second in what's shaping up to be a series of rants. Blame it on November. I've always hated November, and I especially hate it this year because I'm facing a goldanged spindly-legged Cornish game hen stuffed by Pepperidge Farm for Thanksgiving. Oh, fly me to the moon!
Sunday, November 16, 2008
When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.
~ Inscription on Leonard Matlovich’s tombstone
TeddyP goes on to explain, "On June 22, 1988, just a month before his 45th birthday, Matlovich died of complications from HIV/AIDS. He was buried in the Washington, D.C. Congressional Cemetery because no military graveyard would [allow his interment]."
That simple, breathtaking inscription summarizes some of the incomprehensibly twisted attitudes that dominate this culture. Killing (the right people) is praiseworthy; loving (the wrong people) is damnable. And there are far too many religious, civic, and governmental groups determining who the "right" and "wrong" people are. Not only are fundamental human rights routinely swept away by these bullydozers, but most individuals either sanction the madness or just don't give a rip.
Persecution doesn't only occur in the broad abstract, in public arenas. If we look hard enough -- or even not so hard (just turn on the damned tv!) -- we can find evidence of it in our personal and professional lives, as well. I've seen that evidence on a former lover-become-friend, Paul, whose wrists bore the scars of a teenaged suicide attempt. I've seen it in a talented transgender silversmith named Fran whose pain was almost palpable because s/he couldn't afford appropriate medical procedures or drugs. Hell, I've seen it in the writing community, where even erotic-romance publishers are loath to stand up and speak out, and professional organizations stink of bias against GLBT fiction.
There's plenty of prejudice to go around, no doubt about it. All kinds of prejudice against all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons. It slithers continuously beneath the skin of our society. But I firmly believe that sexual prejudice is the one remaining form of contempt that's widely and openly tolerated . . . and, often, encouraged. Even the hippest comedians feel comfortable joking about queers.
If more people were aware of Leonard Matlovich's epitaph and took the time to ponder it (fat chance, sayeth the cynic in me), this might change. If more people pulled their heads out of their asses and tried breathing in the mind-clearing air of reason (ditto), this might change. Those are, however, enormous IFs.
I hate feeling like some sour misanthrope hunkered down in a little house in rural Wisconsin . . . but, hell, I just keep seeing more and more reasons to love and admire my dogs.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Since I started publishing my own fiction several years ago, I've noticed that many e-pub owners and editors are also writers. I can't speak about larger print houses, because I have no experience with them, but a lot of peeps in e-publishing seem to like working both sides of the desk.
Is this good or bad? Is it neither good nor bad? Can it be both?
This situation does have distinct pros and cons. There've been some notorious instances in e-publishing of owners allegedly writing under multiple pseudonyms and giving themselves preferential treatment. Teddypig, a reader and reviewer, recently posted on this topic at his blog. Other companies have been accused of the same shenanigans. I suspect it's damned tempting to further one's own writing career in this manner ("Hey, I'm the owner of this sandbox!"), but it certainly isn't ethical.
On the other hand, many owner-writers like Tina Engler (aka Jaid Black) at Ellora's Cave, Margaret Riley (aka Shelby Morgen) at Changeling Press, and Treva Harte at Loose Id have done little or no spotlight-grabbing beyond what's necessary for promotion -- and I mean the promotion of any title. In their stadiums, or sandboxes, the playing field is level. Margaret Riley has said that her experiences as an author have helped her be a more responsible, and responsive, e-pub owner, and I don't doubt her one bit. She's a marvelous lady.
The issue of editors who are also published or aspiring authors is a bit thornier. On the plus side, a writer understands other writers . . . or should. We all have similar aspirations, fears, concerns. There is, I believe, such a thing as a creative mindset. So far, so good. We're cut from the same cloth. We're simpatico.
What happens if a writer-editor starts imposing, however inadvertently, her authorial voice and/or viewpoint on the work of her "editees"? It's always a possibility.
Then there's the matter of prioritizing. I know how rabid I am about writing. When I'm on a roll, I often won't bother answering the phone; I resent cleaning and cooking; I don't venture outdoors or even watch television. Coffee, potty, and letting the dogs in and out are about all that can drag me away from the computer. This isn't a good place to be for editors, however. To excel at what they've been hired to do, they can't put their own projects first. Emails need promptly to be answered; paperwork, shuffled; manuscripts, evaluated or edited; batches of material transferred to scores of different people. Any delays or mistakes resulting from an editor devoting too much time to her latest and greatest brainchild are . . . well . . . inexcusable.
I've often considered getting back into editing. I have the credentials, and I sure as hell need the money. For the reasons mentioned above, I've invariably scrapped the idea. The impulse to fashion my own stories is too strong. I'd be guilt-ridden as hell if I started neglecting my obligations on either side of the desk . . . but one side, at least, would certainly suffer.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Thursday, October 02, 2008
I'm enormously grateful for the reception Obsessed has gotten. Bitten by Books and Rainbow Reviews gave it high marks. Raine at Joyfully Reviewed really, really liked the sex scenes (I'll spare you the rave, although it tickled me). She concluded with, "Do not miss out on Obsessed. I loved it!" and went on to give it one of these big, pink, recommended-read rectangles.
I was particularly moved by the following words from a reviewer at Literary Nymphs:
Obsessed surprised me. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but by the end, I realized how deep a story it is. Adin is an admirable man -- very loving toward his [girlfriend], but unable to shake the growing love for his best friend. Jackson possesses more than just physical strength, especially at the end, but it’s Celia who shines, even if she doesn’t take center stage. As someone who understands Adin’s plight, I couldn’t help but adore Celia for her loving, trusting acceptance of who he is and what he feels.
The love scenes are amazingly hot, but it’s the ending that got me. The very last scene has a beautiful, tear-inspiring, sweet moment. You’ll just have to read it.
So, thank you one and all. That goes for ordinary readers, too. The saga of Adin Swift and Jackson Spey is far from over. The steam has not yet dissipated (well, hell, considering they only see each other for a three-day weekend every couple of months, small wonder their hormones go into overdrive when they're together!) And their unique arrangement is not getting easier as time goes on. The groove is getting rougher, not smoother, the longer they proceed on its track. Jackson, still the emotionally guarded one, is having more difficulty than he'd like to admit . . . to Adin or himself.
Once I finish my current contractual obligations, I'll be getting back to the big novel in which these men next appear together. Hope I'll be able to find a publisher for it. The story is the most emotionally intense and psychologically tangled one to date, and with some dark humor, as well. Celia will also be checking in at some point. Not sure when, though, or how.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Long ago and far away, a man named Carl Linnaeus created a a system of taxonomy for classifying all living creatures. Remember it from your biology courses? The "kingdom, phylum, class, genus, species" -- and then some -- breakdown? Well, modern popular fiction has a taxonomy of its own. For example, there's no such thing as plain old fantasy anymore. I'm afraid I don't have the time to be as meticulous about categorization as Linnaeus was, but here are some distinctions I've noticed.
- Earthbound fantasy, historical. It takes place in the past, usually the distant (Arthurian or medieval) past, on our own planet.
- Otherworld fantasy, historical. It takes place in an alternate or parallel world, very much like earth, in a place and/or time period that has a feel similar to those on earth.
- Earthbound fantasy, contemporary, usually urban
- Otherworld fantasy, contemporary, usually urban
- Earthbound fantasy, futuristic, urban and/or interstellar
- Otherworld fantasy, futuristic, urban and/or interstellar
- Fantasies with and without epic battles
- Fantasies with and without female "heroes"
- Fantasies with and without dragons, faeries, elves, etc.
As I wrote my Galdeshian fantasies for Ellora's Cave -- Wing and Tongue, Cauldron of Keridwen, and Prince of Glacier Glas, I became immersed in the world. Even my authorial voice shifted, as if it had an automatic transmission, to reflect that world. These stories fall into the second category above, and they all have dragons. I adore writing about this "other-place" and its unusual society and inhabitants.
But when I wrote Hoochie Coochie Man, in the contemporary-urban category, I loved it, too. And I love InDescent, a work-in-progress, passionately.
But wait, there's more! Now I'm creating a futuristic urban fantasy series for Loose Id. The first volume, Looking for Some Touch, will be released in early November. And it features men with men, yet another sub-category of fantasy that's only recently begun to shine. Am I crazy about this series? Well, take a guess.
So, I repeat: Which type of fantasy do you prefer? Can you come up with other classifications?
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
This to you not after the samovar with the pancakes mother-in-law to dance.
I'm so glad this person found me. Now I'm not only in possession of a nugget of wisdom, I have a title for my new book. Can you guess what it is?
- Samovars and Pancakes
- The Pancake's Mother-in-Law
- Dancing with My Mother-in-Law
- After the Samovar with the Pancakes (Comes the Mr. Coffee with the Toast)
- This To You, Not My Mother-in-Law
- Babel Fish Translates George Bush's Last Speech
(Sorry, I have to go pee. My bladder can't take such harassment.)
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Whoa, jump back, Jack. The butt bug is biting tonight!
I finally started jotting down all the stuff people have griped about. Here's a list of what they find laughable, repellant, tiresome, stupid, unrealistic, adolescent, and/or indicative of general cluelessness:
- "Emo" characters (This term has become WAY more inclusive than it should be.)
- Exceptional endowment (The pink torpedo is out; the pink Twinkie is in . . . as far as it can go, that is.)
- Too much sex
- Too much swallowing of the salty snowball during sex
- Too little sex
- Too little swallowing of the salty snowball during sex
- "Odd" positions during sex
- Too much talking during sex
- Too little talking during sex
- Too much BDSM
- Not enough BDSM
- Blue eyes (!)
- A history of abuse as a child (Guess that's old news. YIPPEE! Child abuse no longer exists!)
- Tension or plot conflict that involves homophobes (Guess they're old news, too. YIPPEE! Vicious, mindless sexual prejudice no longer exists!)
- Love at first sight (Well, yeah, that's baloney--eHarmony be damned.)
- Arousal at first sight (*Ahem.* Just take a gander at some of these photos http://www.model-book.com/nathan/flash/portfolio/index.htm and then start singing "How Dry/Soft I Am". Lesbians, by the way, are excluded from this challenge.)
- Protagonists who claim to be straight and only get bent with and for each other. (It's the "I swear I have always been and will always be straight" part that makes this oxymoronic. But I don't know of too many writers who try to peddle gay or bi heroes as hardcore het's.)
- The deep end of the sensitivity pool: too much crying, too much schmaltz, too much angst (Where's the line and when is it crossed?)
- The shallow end of the sensitivity pool: too much hard-nosedness, too much glibness and flippancy, too much insouciance (Ditto the above comment.)
- Too many cops/detectives/cowboys (For me, at least, they are getting stale. I have a hard time being engaged by characters who remind me of the Village People, although some authors can pull it off.)
- Lack of alpha traits and a plethora of "womanish" traits
- Too much cussing (See above.)
- Unrealistic dialogue (See above.)
- Obligatory HEA (I agree with this one.)
- Too much pondering of emotions
- Too little attention to emotions
- Lack of chemistry (How published authors can produce a lack of chemistry between two protags in a romance is beyond me.)
- Use of animal similes/images/metaphors/sounds (Kind of difficult to steer totally clear of them, especially when it comes to dialogue tags . . . those repetitive buggers.)
- Menages that involve two gay men and a woman (I must admit, this plot device does bewilder and annoy me.)
- Pointless drama (I'm not entirely sure what that is.)
- Female characters who are a.) villains/foils, b.) goddesses/Earth Mothers, c.) ignorant of their men's true sexual preference, d.) you name it.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Coincidentally, there's a great guest-blog by Josh Lanyon, and follow-up comments, at Jeanne Barrack's spot, The Sweet Flag (http://thesweetflagmenlove.blogspot.com/).
Gray Man is coming out Friday, August 22, at Changeling Press. Here's the blurb, which is followed by an excerpt:
* * * * *
Emma Moore’s vacation along the lower New England seaboard had everything to do with bolstering her flagging relationship and nothing to do with finding ghosts. But when an eerie entry written in archaic script shows up in her diary, she suspects it might be related to the shadowy figure suddenly clinging to her boyfriend’s back.
A shockingly orgasmic ride on a theme-park roller coaster and the mystifying utterances of a psychic stranger only strengthen Emma’s suspicion that something, or someone, is going bump—and hump—in the night. Getting to the bottom of this disturbing yet compelling phenomenon seems her only recourse.
Leaving her lawyer-boyfriend behind in Boston to pursue his work and possibly an affair, Emma returns to the historic Connecticut inn where the intensely passionate Gray Man first appeared. What she discovers and experiences there bring her the most wrenching sadness and exhilarating hope she’s ever known . . . and the realization that there are no bounds in time and space any more than there are in the ocean that lies beyond her window.
* * * * *
As soon as her eyes opened to the sharp sunlight of a late-September morning, Emma realized she’d neglected to do something very, very important last night. Not only had she forgotten to stash her diary, she’d—
Shooting a quick glance at Alan, who seemed to be sleeping soundly, Emma slipped out of bed and into her bathrobe and pattered as quietly as possible to the sitting room. Easing open the door, hoping its thin squeak wouldn’t wake her companion, she rose up on the balls of her feet and took three long strides to the desk. Sure enough, the diary still lay there, wide open.
Emma reached out to snatch it and stuff it into her pocket. Her arm froze in midair.
Beneath the final line of her entry, a single word had been written in a jagged, archaic script.
Emma’s breath stopped. A prickling sensation wound simultaneously from the back of her neck and her solar plexus to the middle of her spine. As her skin pinched into gooseflesh, she shot a look over her shoulder. Was this Alan’s way of reassuring her? Had he altered his handwriting to make it in keeping with a seventeenth-century town?
As unlikely as it seemed—the man was singularly devoid of both whimsy and imagination—it was the only explanation Emma could come up with. Either that or she’d turned into a sleepwalker with multiple-personality disorder. Cautiously lifting the diary as if it might shock or burn her, she tiptoed back to her suitcase and once again secreted the book.
But her surprises had just begun.
"Getting ready to leave?"
Emma spun around. Alan, his face peppered with a sandy growth of whiskers, was sitting up in bed, watching her. He ran both hands over his head and stretched backward. Emma’s shock gave way to curiosity. She squinted, peered at him. There was something—
He frowned. "Why are you looking at me like that?"
Why indeed. Was his body casting a shadow against the headboard? Emma’s gaze shifted to the windows and followed the course of the incoming light. Yes, it was possible. But… "I, uh, was just wondering how you’d look with a beard and mustache."
Alan’s right hand immediately went to the lower half of his face and rubbed it. "Don’t even go there," he said.
"Alan, did you happen to get up in the middle of the night and go into the sitting room?"
He gave her a puzzled look. "No. Why would I do that?" Sliding to the edge of the bed, he yawned, scratched the middle of his chest and got up. "I slept like a log last night." He shuffled toward the bathroom.
Emma’s mouth fell open as she followed his progress. The shadow that was behind him in bed was still behind him, hovering at his back like some gauzy gray kite he was toting over his shoulder. It had a vaguely human form, but taller than Alan’s. Taller and unsettled, like a swath of fog.
From Gray Man, coming August 22 from Changeling Press
Copyright (c) 2008, K. Z. Snow
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Following is the first chapter, in which the main characters are introduced: a dying man from a time long past; a modern woman tired of enduring her husband's abusive behavior and on the verge of divorcing him; that woman's twelve-year-old daughter, who hopes to help her mother through magic; and a modern middle-aged man suffering from vivid, terrifying dreams.
He fought to ignore the lightning scorching his belly and the thundering of pain through his limbs. I am dying; surely I am dying ran like a song through his mind. Oddly, the refrain helped numb him.
Firelight licked the damp, lumpish walls that arched all around. Murmurings filled the air, melodic whispers and sighs, as if the fire’s fingers had coaxed voices from the throat of the earth. He took a labored breath and forced his mind into clarity. The throat of the earth . . .
Slowly, he turned his head to the left, to the right. He was lying on straw. It rustled beneath his skull and poked into his hair. He squinted into the gilded, dancing darkness. The ceiling seemed festooned with flowering vines. But he was not within an arbor. The blackness seemed studded with winking stars. But he was not beneath the sky.
Then he knew.
It was roots that hung from the ceiling, roots both thick and fine, entwined with flowers. He tried reaching out to touch them but his arm felt as heavy as a bloated boar. Suddenly, the scent of the flowers wafted over him like prayer--foxglove, cowslip, primrose--and he could smell the wedding of their delicate fragrance with the rich, heavy breath of the soil. He knew, too, that the surrounding glimmer came from stones, smooth and shiny and veined with crystalline colors, purposefully embedded in the earth to adorn this space.
The Folk had brought him here. This was one of their sanctuaries. They were everywhere around him, melding with the shadows. They were keeping vigil.
A cool, thin hand, light as the call of a nightingale, covered his forehead. Someone spoke in a strange language he strangely understood.
"Myklwyn, do not struggle so. Surrender to the embrace. Much love and promise lie within it. But first . . ."
* * * * *
Twelve-year-old Daisy Austen stood before the makeshift altar she had fashioned from two empty beer cases and her old toybox, which now housed all her ritual paraphernalia. Once again, but distractedly this time, she wondered if she should paint over the mincing, pastel fairies that fluttered across five of its sides.
The voice of her stepfather, like a series of muffled sonic booms coming through the walls, redirected her attention.
With trembling fingers, she hastily lit five candles--white for peace, red for courage, green for harmony, blue for protection, pink for love and romance--and a stick of sandalwood incense, then tapped her silver-plated baby spoon three times against a small, engraved brass bell that had once hung around the neck of her best friend Sonja’s potbellied pig. Sonja had donated the bell to Daisy’s "cause" after Link the pig’s expanding neck began to envelop it.
"Shut up!" the voice boomed through the wall.
Startled, Daisy dropped the spoon. For one mercifully fleeting second, she’d thought the command was directed at her.
"No, you shut up," she muttered, bending over to retrieve the spoon from the littered carpet. "Better yet, I’ll shut you up."
She needed the spoon. The brass bell had no clapper. The man behind the voice behind the wall had pulled it out one day.
Straightening, Daisy decided to dispense with formalities. She couldn’t remember them all, anyway, when she felt this pressured. Immediate action was necessary, so she would have to wing it.
Once again, she must try rescuing her mother from Devil Dale’s demonic clutches.
* * * * *
Julie was not going to cower. It may have been in her best interest to do so, but it certainly was not in her nature. Neither was she going to lash out and further provoke Dale. So she sat stoically on the bed, eyes lowered and hands clasped in her lap, and let him rant. Like a firecracker, he’d soon burn himself out. It was inevitable. He’d been drinking.
"Look at me when I’m talking to you!" he shouted, bending so near her face she could make out individual hairs in his mustache and beard and could tell exactly what he’d been drinking. Once her eyes were turned up to him, he moved away, satisfied.
Julie immediately turned her gaze to the mirror over the dresser. She had an absurd desire to comfort the woman she saw there: About forty-five, I’ll bet, and never beautiful--but, at one time, pretty . . .
Unconventionally pretty, with straight hair that never could seem to settle on one color but insisted on blending every hue in autumn’s palette, and with large eyes that did the same. The face had never been graced with symmetry, but kind Nature had compensated with outstanding cheekbones, an assertive-without-being-masculine dimpled chin, an "interesting" nose, and clear skin with a single small, coquettish mole between the left corner of the mouth and the ear. One tooth slightly overlapped another, giving her a charming, impish smile.
But look at her now--hair without luster, eyelids creased and weighted from sleeplessness and tears, face at the mercy of gravity, exhaustion, despair. And she doesn’t smile much anymore.
I have to do something to help her.
* * * * *
He couldn’t help her. In blurred fragments, it was coming back to him now. He had not been able to protect the imperiled woman, and he somehow knew these were her kin.
Had they sought retribution? Is that why he was imprisoned here, beneath a hill, in torment? Is that why he was urged to accept death?
"No," a voice replied, like a breeze soughing through the dense silence. Other, similar voices echoed the denial, until they were all chorusing, "No. No, Myklwyn, no."
They had read his thoughts! If only he could remember more clearly what had happened, how he had failed, why he was languishing on this bed of straw beneath a dank canopy of tangled roots. And how could it be that he was still clinging to life, however tenuously? Why and how and by whom was he spared?
"We did not inflict your wounds," said the same voice, an elder male voice both gentle and firm. "And we do not know why you were spared or who, if anyone, rescued you. We simply found you and brought you here."
The man was standing beside him and was likely the one whose hand had earlier touched his forehead. He heard the tinkle of jewelry, saw the glint of gold, copper, silver as the soothing hand once more descended. But the hand seemed ghostly, insubstantial, and the bracelets, only a little less so.
"Is this a troop of the Dynion Mwyn?" he ventured to ask, "of the race Tylwyth Teg?"
"Please, allow me to see you."
"You can and will see only as much as you are able--no more, no less. Most men do not see us at all. But you are not like most men, Myklwyn."
Ah, but I am, he thought. Most men feel pain. And all men die.
A vast weariness overcame him, and he let his battered body relax into the crude bed of straw. His pain seemed to be seeping into it. For this, he was grateful.
"Not yet, cousin," his companion whispered, close to his ear. "First you must remember."
He no longer wished to. It would be too agonizing. Nearly oblivious, he merely exhaled his answer. "Why?"
"Because it will bring you both peace and a sense of purpose before you begin the last, most wondrous leg of your journey. If we never face our shortcomings and learn the nature of our errors, and never take that knowledge to heart, we can never have hope of correcting those errors. And such correction is the key to a cleansing of the soul that leads to true peace in the afterlife."
"Redemption," Myklwyn sighed, not knowing, or caring, why that particular word had issued from his mouth . . .
The alarm rang and Butch Thomas jack-knifed forward, blankets tumbling from his sweating torso. He ached all over. He slid his half-open eyes to the right and saw 5:30 staring back at him with a boldly taunting, green luminescence.
"Damn," he groaned, dropping his head to his hands. "I am so sick of this shit."
He'd been sick of it for a good long while--not only this dream that kept tormenting him, but what he knew its aftermath would be: When he shambled into his bathroom and took his first tentative look into the mirror, he would see, or think he saw, a faint shadow of that battered man's face within his own reflection.
It was, as usual, a hell of a way to start the day.
* * * * *
Excerpt from "All That Is Right"
Copyright © K. Z. Snow
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
These thoughts were prompted by a conversation I had with a good MF at a local watering hole. (Note: I was raised in taverns, because my parents were tavernkeepers in Milwaukee. I learned from a very young age that the best learning comes from such places -- not colleges and universities and overpriced online programs, not seminars and conferences and "retreats". The most trenchant of life's lessons come from ordinary people who are scraping by, doing the best they can to survive. And this was a realization that came to me after I'd earned degrees and worked in the "professional" world.)
Anyway, my MF is in his mid-forties and dyslexic, but a helluva mechanic and carpenter and just plain decent man. He has the opportunity to apply for a job that pays $52k a year, which is a lot around here (and I mean double the average annual income). Only, the job is empty bull-work. None of his interests or skills would be brought into play -- no building or fixing or problem solving, just a lot of driving and humping . . . and not the good kind.
He's very torn about this. He has kids and responsibilities, but he also has a wife who's had an affair and isn't particularly into him anymore. He'd rather, he said, "live like a bum" than bust ass doing something he finds soul-numbing. He craves purpose and challenge and, more than anything, a sense of fulfillment. He also craves appreciation for his efforts. And he has plenty to bring to the table in return for these gifts.
I listened and absorbed.
It got me wondering: What the hell do we tale-spinners have to offer that enriches people's lives? Are we making, or trying to make, a genuine contribution to society or just indulging our egos and/or our sloth? And how do we perceive our contribution? Would society be any worse off if we didn't do what we do? Would we even be missed? (Well, yeah, writers like Nora and Stephen and JRW and LKH and other acronymous bigshots would be missed, no doubt, but what about the rest of us literary gnats?) Should we all be doing something perceptibly and demonstrably useful instead of making up stories?
I suspect most writers are thinking, People need escape from humdrum and sometimes ugly realities. We provide that escape. Indeed we do. BUT . . . couldn't one-tenth of the authors now in existence provide adequate escape? Aren't the rest of us as interchangeable and replaceable as paper clips? Honestly, I sometimes think people would get way more of a bang out of a perfectly executed burger than any book I've written!
Sorry for the existential issue-raising, but I'm genuinely curious about this. I suspect artists throughout history have asked themselves the same questions. How important is it, both personally and socially/culturally, for people to do what they're good at, even if it doesn't yield tangible results like food or widgets or big economic rewards?
Thursday, July 10, 2008
The following excerpt from Tormented features Rahenna, the diseased female vampire, lurking on the roof of Adin Swift's chalet at his 30th birthday party. She witnesses a tantalizing scene on the patio below. Although she can see what's going on, she can't hear what's going on . . . and it maddens her.
* * * * *
Rahenna was about to descend to the lawn when something caught her eye. Easing down, she alit on the roof of the house and peered into the backyard.
Adin had come out onto the patio. He turned off the grill. Jackson Spey rounded the corner of the house. Smiling, the two men immediately approached one another. Like magnet and steel, Rahenna thought, wondering why she had a sense of that kind of attraction. She waited to hear the words they spoke…and soon realized she couldn’t.
Normally, with accurately trained concentration, Rahenna would have been able to listen to their conversation. Her sense of hearing was as keen as her other senses. But their voices were silent to her ears. She suspected the wizard was shielding Adin and himself from any eavesdropping. But why?
The reason quickly became clear. Spey’s hand suddenly slid to the back of Adin’s head, into his hair. They looked as if they were about to kiss.
Magnet and steel indeed.
The air instantly thickened with sexual tension, with unfulfilled, long-festering desire. Like tongues of flame, it lapped at Rahenna’s cool skin. Her pussy creamed as she waited to see what would happen. Her respiration accelerated. The points of emerging fangs touched her lower lip.
By the gods, how she wanted to have both these men while they had each other! It required a titanic exercise of will to keep from swooping down on them. She knew she should stop watching—the temptation was unbearable—but the potential here for spontaneous, unbridled passion was riveting. Still, both men kept reining in that passion. The strain of their control was palpable.
Jackson's hand finally fell to his side. He and Adin again spoke in low tones. Rahenna again couldn’t hear them. She saw Adin raise a hand to the other man's chest. It was an intimate gesture, perhaps even covetous. He said something.
Within moments, Spey turned away. He dropped into a near-by chair, his legs parted, and grasped his head in both hands. Adin walked over and squatted before him, bracing himself on the other man's knees. They exchanged more words. Clearly, Adin was cajoling Jackson. Rahenna could only imagine why he was trying so hard to be persuasive. She felt Adin’s hunger for the man. It gripped her as surely as it gripped him. She felt the restlessness that shimmied through his loins and stirred his cock. It drove her to distraction.
Her mind shouted to Spey. Give in to it, damn you!
As if in response to her silent command, Jackson shook his head. Soon, he rose to his feet and Adin followed suit. A new feeling slammed against her—Jackson’s arousal. Adin’s closeness and Adin’s words had stirred him. He was struggling to ignore the lure of his friend. He wanted Adin as much as Adin wanted him. Each man’s hoarded desire seemed to bounce off the other’s, like two balloons bloated with water.
Jackson gave Adin a quick, fraternal pat on the shoulder. Then, shoving his hands in pockets, he turned away and sauntered off toward the woods. Adin watched him for a moment before re-entering the house.
Copyright (c) 2008 K. Z. Snow
* * * * *
The birthday boy feels good. Has a nice little buzz going, making his brain seem downy. No prickly thoughts. All day he’s been surrounded by good wishes, love and laughter. The party guests have enjoyed themselves. He and Celia have been proud and happy hosts. Only a few people in attendance are even aware of his past.
Better yet, any reminders of that past remained mostly in the background and went unnoticed—vampires lurking in the woods like smoke, then shooting, harmless as sparks, into the blue-black sky. The birthday boy is glad he didn’t have to see them. He’s especially glad his guests weren’t subjected to them.
He’s not like those creatures anymore. He’s mortal again.
Throughout the day, a realization kept striking him. God, I actually turned thirty. From this October on, each birthday will indeed make me a year older. It’s a fact of his life now, one he still finds hard to believe.
Stepping from his well-lit house onto the unlit patio, he smiles at the way he staggers. It’s graceful. This, he thinks vaguely, must be another odd little remnant of what he used to be—a creature who was cousin to the air.
He goes to the grill and turns it off.
A tall, solid column rounds the corner of the house and gradually emerges from the engulfing darkness. The figure is his friend, Jackson, and he’s zipping his fly. This man has his own kind of grace, distinctly grounded and distinctly masculine.
Adin’s stomach suddenly goes gymnast and does a quick flip. It never fails.
"Oops, there’s the master of the house," Jackson says. "I’m glad you didn’t catch me pissing on your shrubs."
The birthday boy grins. "Why? Did the fucking things turn flamingo pink and start speaking in tongues?"
"There’s nothing enchanting about pee, Adin."
Jackson is entirely mortal and always has been, but he isn’t part of the mainstream. He’s an Adept, a practitioner of High Magic, a modern-day Merlin. He’s the only person Adin now knows who’s out of the ordinary. And he’s very out of the ordinary. They’ve been friends for a decade. It was their "otherness" that brought them together.
Jackson strolls up to him. "Content?" he asks, clapping Adin on the shoulder.
"Indescribably. And made even more content by that liter of gin and tonic I consumed."
Jackson’s husky laughter is muted, as if in deference to the silent night. "It’s a landmark occasion, my man, your first real birthday in like a gazillion years. Even if you end up with JDD tonight, you deserved to celebrate. Besides, getting head tomorrow morning is going to feel super fine."
"Jack Daniels Dick. A woman once diagnosed me with it. But you don't have to drink Jack to be afflicted."
Now it’s Adin’s turn to laugh. "What makes you think I’m going to get head in the morning?"
"Get head, get laid, get some kind of lucky. I know it because Celia can’t keep her hands off you. Hangover relief is always a good excuse for sex. Not that the two of you need one."
"Not that we do." Adin puts a hand on Jackson’s shoulder. The two of them are nearly the same height. "I can’t thank you enough for that incredible frame you made. Your work is exemplary. Really top-notch."
Jackson cups his forearm and gives it a squeeze. "My pleasure. It was a logical present. I figured now that you can be photographed, you’d need a frame to put your picture in."
That prompts a chuckle. "You’re right. Anyway, Celia and I were impressed as hell. We’d like to have you do other things for us."
Their banter comes to a strange, skidding halt. On its heels is a silence packed with unspoken confessions. Neither man removes his hand from the other’s body. Instead they lean into a spontaneous hug, arms going around backs. Their cheeks graze briefly, scruff against scruff. Adin lets his hand roam the contours of Jackson’s back. They’re pronounced, even through his clothing. A rolling landscape.
It’s an awkward moment. They’re bumbling through indecision. Jackson’s hand slides into Adin’s hair, fondles it, grips it. Adin feels the tug at his scalp. He gets the distinct impression Jackson is going to kiss him. They’ve never kissed. His lips part slightly, go slack and soft, become receptive. He’s waiting for it, wanting it. The breath in his lungs feels like something solid.
Then Jackson pulls away and clears his throat. "Memories. Sensory memories," he mutters. "What a bitch."
He’s recalling last spring…
It’s the only encouragement Adin needs, this moment of vulnerability in Jackson. The man never shows weakness, is always in control. Now, though, he’s remembering their brief period of abandon. And it’s affecting him.
Adin splays a hand on Jackson’s chest. Before he can think about it, he says what’s on his mind. "Why don’t you spend the night with us? In our bed, I mean. I doubt Celia would mind. She’s been hot for you since she met you." He tries to smile, but the smile doesn’t quite fit. Still, he keeps going, trying to make the proposition casual even though it isn’t. The hunger that’s simmered in him for ten years is breaking into a full, rolling boil. "What’s a ménage among friends?"
The darkness makes Jackson’s face difficult to read. His eyes, though, are shining. Then he blinks, extinguishing that brightness for a split second. "Sounds like you mean it."
"Yeah. Why not? Hell, we all enjoyed ourselves when—"
"That was different," Jackson says curtly, still looking at him. Maybe there’s disbelief on his face. "Shit, Adin."
He turns away and drops into the nearest chair, his legs spread wide. He rolls his had back and clamps his hands to either side of it. "No, it wouldn’t be right. Especially not on this occasion." He expels a long breath. "Jesus. What made you suggest that?"
Adin steps over to him and squats between his parted legs, hands resting on Jackson’s knees. "The fact that we like each other?"
With a wan chuckle, Jackson lowers his hands to the chair arms and brings his head forward. "Yeah, we sure do."
"So what does that tell you?"
"It tells me to tell you to stop kneeling between my legs, because—"
"Because what?" Adin asks quietly.
Jackson wags his head. "You know, you should be a stripper."
"Why? I can’t dance worth a crap."
"But you’re a superb goddamned tease."
"I’m not teasing you. I’m dead serious."
"So am I." Jackson rises from the chair. Adin, too, stands. "Go back to your party, my friend. Eat, drink and be merry." He gives a friendly pat to Adin’s arm. "Then make love with your very lovely lady."
"You’re not leaving yet, are you?"
"No, but soon. I’ll pop in and pay my regards before I go."
"I wish you’d reconsider."
"I already have."
Hands in pockets, Jackson saunters into the yard. Adin watches him for a moment before re-entering the house. He feels confused and frustrated and disappointed.
Copyright (c) 2008, K. Z. Snow
Sunday, July 06, 2008
After nearly 660 years, Adin Swift is dreaming again.
As a vampire, he slept like the dead. Now that he’s reverted to mortality, vivid dreams surface every night to torment him. And the most disturbing ones involve his best friend, Jackson Spey.
It was their "otherness" that drew them together ten years earlier—two extraordinary men living outside the mainstream, one a bright and beautiful vampire, one a cynical and handsome wizard. Their unique bond took on more dimensions than either was willing to acknowledge . . . until now.
Realizing he can no longer ignore the desire that’s been simmering for a decade, Adin must face the heart-wrenching fact he’s in love with two people: the woman to whom he’s committed and the man he can’t seem to live without. Two confrontations ensue over the course of one explosive weekend, and they will forever alter three people’s lives.
Coming Friday, July 11, from Changeling Press.
Friday, June 27, 2008
I'll admit, I've been thinking along strange lines lately. Since George Carlin's lamentable death, I've been watching "tributes" and realizing how easily it's always been for me to tap into his thought processes. So for a while, when it comes to language and human behavior and the state of the world, I'll probably be in a Carlin mode. This is something I do need to get over, though. That sonofabitch was a real misanthrope!
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Sunday, June 22, 2008
As I wrap up my third exclusively m-m story (and, boy, let me tell you . . . it grinds my gears something fierce when authors cop out and throw a woman in at the end), I can't help but be aware of other characteristics of this niche genre. Based on what I've read thus far -- and I plan on reading much more -- there are distinct "tonal" differences between m-f and m-m romances.
When a hetero couple is on center stage, exploration and exposition of characters' emotions and blatant evocation of emotion in the reader seem more the rule than the exception. Character development is often internal and wedded to profound feeling. Authorial voice and prose style reflect this submersion. The drama of the heart rules.
However, when a gay male couple is the primary pairing, the author is more likely to distance her/himself from its emotional component, which is often, as a result, underplayed. In fact, strong emotion comes across as something shameful, an affliction to be avoided at all costs. Authorial voice is flip, wry, or even businesslike. World-building and plot/action take precedence over the soul-searching intricacies of bonding. Sex becomes either an eagerly anticipated theme-park destination (the impression I have of Manna Francis's stories) or an inconvenient detour (the impression I have of Ginn Hale's). I'm wild about both, by the way.
Maybe I'm exaggerating these distinctions between m-f and m-m fiction, but I have noticed them. And, depending on how skilled the author is, I honestly have no preference for one approach or sensibility over the other. I'm just wondering what other readers and writers think. I'm particularly curious if women who write m-m fiction find themselves "masculinizing" their styles when they fashion a romance between two men.
Friday, June 20, 2008
But, as my list grows, a question nags: Why is the majority of manlove-themed commercial fiction (romance/erotic romance/urban fantasy/yaoi/slash fanfic/blah-blah-blah) written by straight women? Three answers immediately come to mind. 1.) That's where the money is; 2.) many of us have put in time as "fag hags"; 3.) we're straight women, for shit's sake, so this stuff turns us on!
Okay, going with the last reason . . . Then why isn't there hot lesbian fiction, and incredibly well-written lesbian fiction, penned by straight men? Or is there, and I'm just broadcasting my ignorance? (Wouldn't be the first time!) Seems all lesbian fic I've come across is written by . . . well . . . lesbians. Yet we all know -- at least, those of us who've regularly dealt with straight men know -- that women doing women is a turn-on for them. May not be for us, but it is for hetero guys. So where's the prose to prove it?
Truly, this discrepancy mystifies me. There's so much captivating and exquisitely written m-m fiction being produced by females, one would think an equal amount of captivatng and exquisitely written f-f fiction would be produced by males. But . . . no go. What's up with that?
Wait, I'm back. A logical answer just came to me. Women make up, by far, the greater portion of the book-buying public. Is that the key?
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Example 1 - "OHHHH GODDDDDDDDDDD, I'm cumminggggggggggggggg," I screamed loudly as my pussy exploded in wave after wave of crashing orgasms. "Oh, here I cummmmmmmmmmmmmm, God it feels soooooooo gooddddddddddd!"
Comment 1 - Bear in mind it's very difficult for a human being to replicate these "words" without sounding like something other than a human being. You may end up sounding like a foghorn, a woodpecker, a flat tire on a still-moving car . . . but not a person. Then again, if your pussy is exploding, I suppose you're going to make all kinds of weird noises.
Example 2 - "OHHH!! YESSSS!!! HARDER. . . . OH YESSSSSS. . . YESSSS!! OH SWEET LORD! THAT’S SO FUCKING GOOD! YES! YES! YES! OH MY GOD YESSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!! SUCK IT! SUCK IT HARDER! I’M THERE! OH BABY SUCK ME!!! HARD.I’M THERE! AHHH!! AHHH. . . AHHH. . . AHHH. . . AHHH. . . AHHH. . . AHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. GODDDDDDDDDDDDD. YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS
OH THAT"S IT!! YES. OH FUCK YES. OH GOD I'M GOING TO CUM BABY! OH SHIT. EAT ME!! OHHH. . FUCK. . YESSSSS. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
YES. YES! YES! YES! YES! S U C KKKK MEEEEEE. BABYYYYYYY. I’M GOING AGAIN
SUCK ME!! SUCK ME!! SUCK MEW HARDER!! YOU HAVE TO SUCK ME HARDER! HURT ME BABY!!. SUCK ME!! SUCK ME!! SUCK ME!! SUCK ME HARDER!!! OHHH GOD BABY!! HARDER! HARDER! HARDER DAM IT!! OHHH YES!!! LIKE THAT!! JUST LIKE THAT!! AHHHHHH. AHHHHHHHH. YESSSSSSSSSS. JESUS!! THAT’S IT!! OH GOD YES!! THAT"S IT!! YESSSSSSSSSS. YESSSSSSSS. YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!
*** EAT ME!! EAT ME!! EAT ME!! EAT ME!! EAT ME!! EAT MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE ***
EAT ME. DAM YOU EAT ME!! OH FUCK YES! OH GOD! THAT’S IT JUST LIKE THAT!! MUMMM!! OH YES! OH YES! IT’S SO FUCKING GOOD BABY.
AHHHHHH MY GOD YES. YES. YES. YES. THAT’S IT. THAT’S IT. I’M CUMMING. YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Comment 2 - I'll admit, I did pluck these effusions from different paragraphs and glom them all together, but considering the "story" didn't go beyond several pages, it was pretty well jam-packed with capital letters and exclamation points. (I especially like the line I set off with asterisks; it's what I hear from every piece of chocolate within a ten-mile radius when I'm trying to diet.) Now, what does this manic hollering remind you of? The finest intimate moments you've ever had or imagined? I didn't think so.
Example 3 -
"Hunh," she growled. "Hunh, hunh."
[Her partner, obviously of a different species, must not understand, so she tries a new set of phonemes.]
"Ahhhhhh," she squealed. "ah, ah, ah!"
[Nope. No go. So, instead of vocalizing via the folds in her throat, she tries vocalizing with other body parts.]
"Mmph," said her lips. "Mmph, mmph."
[Damn, still no luck. Maybe a combination . . .]
"Hunh, ahhhh, oh, yes, yes, oh GOD!"
[Success! Uh, but wait. Dig this. Just when she's finally cracked the language barrier . . . ]
"Are you and I done?" she asked.
Comment 3 - Sometimes it's better if characters keep their damned mouths shut -- well, unless they're doing something productive with them.
Monday, June 02, 2008
It's become abundantly clear to me that there are bloggers with large followings whose words are taken more or less as gospel. No matter what they post, many readers are just waiting on the sidelines to leap aboard their bandwagons. (Sorry for throwing all kinds of metaphors into the blender!) Often, if the blogger is an intelligent, fair-minded person and the writer's book and/or behavior is demonstrably BAD, the bandwagon is a legitimate place to be. Sometimes, though, the bandwagon seems to be carrying an ill-tempered bunch of braindead groupies out for blood.
I do love some of these sites. They bring to my attention books and issues I would otherwise not have been aware of. But the "Oh my God, you're so right, she/it is so odious" choir usually grates on my nerves. Authors (or publishers, in some cases) often have as valid points to make about the microcopes they're under as the people manning those microscopes. Sometimes the lenses are smeared or askew. (Another apology; damn, some days are just metaphor-rich!)
Human nature is mind-bogglingly complex. Rarely can one person's character or motives be summed up in a snappy phrase or two. I find it troublesome that so many bloggers and authors alike are more than willing to be reductionistic in their thinking and assume somebody is borderline psychotic or riddled with character deficiencies because he/she voices certain opinions or has a lapse in judgment. It isn't that I'd like to see us all form a circle and sing "Kumbaya"--hell, I'm too much a cynic and loner for that--but it would be nice to see people examining issues from more than one swallowed-whole perspective.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
My contribution to this series, Liberation, is now available: http://www.ellorascave.com/productpage.asp?ISBN=9781419916090
For how many centuries have women had to endure rejection or the alienation of spousal affection because they haven't been considered desirable, for all kinds of reasons, as they advance toward middle age? (And it is indeed an advance, if maturity of vision counts for anything in this world.) How many Hugh Hefners and Donald Trumps have contributed to loss of female self-esteem? Well, EC authors have stepped up to tell these guys, "Perch and spin, you shallow, pretentious asshats!"
Liberation isn't the first book in which I explore the psycho-emotional landmines that pepper a woman's path out of her twenties. I actually took a much longer, deeper look at the issue in Two Out of Three Ain't Bad, a novel published through Cerridwen Press. It's an often emotional story, because aging can be an often emotional life-change in terms of how women evaluate their own worth. Sad to say, advertisers and the media, whose influence is pervasive in this culture, only exacerbate whatever perceptual problems already exist. (By the way, I don't use the word cougar in either book. I find it offensive, because it suggests that women who end up with younger male partners are cunning predators. I know from personal experience this is bullshit. Whatever sneering male dreamt up the term can go fuck himself with it.)
In both of my books--and, for that matter, all the Oh Yum! stories--what's ultimately celebrated are defiance and persistence: the defiance of stifling cultural norms and the persistence of joy in romance and in sex. The men in these tales are celebrated, as well, because they have the ability to see through surfaces to what lies beneath and to embrace those qualities.
So [raising my glass in a toast] here's hoping romance writers and publishers continue to slough off stereotypes and explore the many faces of love!
Monday, May 05, 2008
Friday, May 02, 2008
So anyway, here's her review of Cemetery Dancer http://sensual.ecataromance.com/index.php?p=677 and here's her review of Plagued http://sensual.ecataromance.com/index.php?p=678. It's hugely gratifying to see a reviewer take this kind of time to read from an author's backlist. I'm really moved.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Hella cover, too . . . ain'a?
For those of you who haven't heard of Wicked Gentlemen, this two-part novel has garnered rapturous praise from everybody who's read it. Without exception. And, as much as I despise being a copycat, I must add my rapturous praise to the field. I can only describe the book by stringing together words and phrases, because one alone won't do. It's a moody steampunk futuristic urban dystopian gay fantasy romance thriller. And, yes, an absolutely stunning work. (I'm not going to launch into a big ol' synopsis-and-review thing here, because the book has been out for almost a year and there's plenty of commentary already to be found on the 'Net.)
The world Hale constructs is simultaneously repugnant and absorbing. Demonic protagonist Belimai Sykes is one of the most layered, poignant, darkly fascinating and thoroughly unlikely "heroes" I've ever come across--an anti-hero, actually. His lover, the all-too-human Captain Harper, is Belimai's perfect complement. The book's first section, especially, is a stylistic tour de force. Packed within economical prose are images so vivid they're breathtaking. I felt my mode of perception had been altered. That effect is no small accomplishment for a writer.
I'm still in awe.
Is the work perfect? No . . . as much as I wanted it to be. But rather than pick and poke at it, I'll just focus on one aspect of Wicked Gentlemen that particularly struck me: its treatment of two subjects near and dear to our cultural hearts.
Sex and violence.
I found a jarring discrepancy in the author's approach to them.
Hale neither quails from nor wallows in bloodshed. Her touch is deft. She describes Belimai's ravaged body with a stark lyricism as elegant as it is brutal. Those paragraphs were mesmerizing. Subsequent scenes of savagery are rendered in unflinching detail that manages to steer clear of sadistic relish.
Yet, when the protagonists' first sexual encounter takes place, Hale rushes through it with an odd diffidence, as if neither she nor we have any business being there. The second engagement (and there are only two in the whole book) is a bit more prolonged but still marked by circumspection and even a dash of awkwardness. Suddenly, the prose becomes a bit creaky and teeters toward cliche.
It almost seems as if this is Hale's first time wading into these descriptive waters, and her otherwise assured authorial voice suddenly abandons her (not entirely, of course, but enough to be noticeable). In any case, I found it odd. There was so much unrealized potential for sensuality, which would have provided a lush counterbalance to all the grungy bleakness, that I wanted to scream. Moreover, Belimai and Harper deserved the author's indulgence of their physical attraction and emotional bond. Their relationship is emblematic of everything sorely lacking in their world.
Now, here's where I get picky. Or maybe not. I'm rather surprised no one else has raised this, uh . . . point.
When creating nonhuman characters who will end up having sex with human characters, it's important that the author consider the physical traits of those nonhumans. Hale's demons or "Prodigals" have yellow eyes, black fingernails, pointed ears, black hair. So far, so good. All are appropriate distinguishing features. BUT . . . it's when teeth are added to the profile that problems arise. You see, the demons' teeth are long. And pointed. And not, as far as I could tell, retractable.
I kept thinking of those damned teeth whenever Belimai got cozy with Harper. How did they manage to kiss in a passionate way? More disturbing to contemplate was oral sex. I'm sure you catch my drift. Why wasn't Harper's tongue or penis shredded into something resembling the streamers on a wind sock? I would much rather have seen the demon with a triangular navel or vestigial tail -- anything less obtrusive, in terms of physical intimacy, than long, sharp teeth. Ouch. I kept hoping the author would explain that arousal dulled them. Or something.
Anyway, Wicked Gentlemen is not a tale for squeamish readers who like stories woven from sunbeams. Although it does have an uplifting ending, getting there is an often grim ride. More important, though, the book is remarkable and gripping and infinitely more satisfying than the uninspired and derivative fiction that hogs store shelves and bestseller lists. It's more than just a good read. It's an utterly unique experience that demands the imagination's immersion. And what a thrill that immersion is.