Sunday, May 31, 2009
So, in the spirit of giving, and to save my own arse, I in turn pass this charming fetish on to CLARE LONDON, author extraordinaire, whose book Freeman left me begging shamelessly for a sequel and whose unflagging good nature and support are truly humbling. She's also the best drunk blogger on either side of the Atlantic, although she probably can't hold a candle to those Aussies.
I know you can turn this powerful mojo to your inspirational advantage, Clare, when you write that story for She K Who R Shall Not I Be Named S. Go to it!
Thursday, May 28, 2009
The book's rating was 5 Nymphs and a Recommended Read.
"The sequel to Obsessed, InDescent is another foray into Jackson Spey’s world of sex and magic. Once again, I found myself falling utterly in love, all over again, with Jackson and Adin. They are both beautiful but flawed men, and together, they are breathtaking.
"K.Z. Snow paints an amazing picture of the magical inhabitants of the Prism and expertly zips Jackson through the demons in his own soul. The end result is more than I ever expected, and it only shows how strong Jackson and Adin’s love truly is. If you read Obsessed, then I absolutely must insist that you read InDescent."
Madame Butterfly, aka Leah, also did a very thoughtful review here. Although Leah had a few issues with the book, they were completely valid, and I took them to heart (as all constructive comments should be taken). By the way, Satyr Vael and Leah also reviewed Obsessed, available at Changeling Press, and were equally kind in their assessments.
I'm really grateful for their views. (And many thanks to Jeanne Barrack for pointing out the Nymphs posting to me. Homies got my back!)
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Establishments that sell used books mean one thing to me as a reader and something else entirely as a writer.
I've been a bookstore habitue since high school but didn't discover used-book shops (or is it shoppes?) until college. Now I can't stay away from them. No other type of place in my experience has offered excitement and tranquility in equal measure. No other type of place has so transported me.
The thrill of discovering a beautifully written, bound, and/or illustrated book is a thrill with shimmering edges that never go dull. Add to this the unexpected, occasional joy of easing the covers apart and finding an old bookplate or bookmark, a flattened four-leaf clover or rusty rose, a Victorian calling card or WWII ration coupon. The crispness of the text in a seventeenth-century volume is astonishing. Each letter has visible depth. The yellow brittleness of some twentieth-century paper is poignant. Leaves flake at the touch.
When I started writing, I saw older books -- some of them, anyway -- in a different light. Because I haven't lived in or near a large city in a while, I've been getting used books at resale shops and library sales. It's at the former that I've found row upon row of the Forgotten.
The Forgotten are usually novels with modest bindings, missing dustjackets and, often, the former owners' signatures scrawled on the inside front covers. (Sometimes, on a rear flyleaf, you'll even find a penciled grocery list.) They were written by women with names like Helen Constance Wiggins and men with names like J. Henry McElroy--names sturdier than the authors' books and reputations turned out to be.
Every time I see one of the Forgotten, I feel a drizzle of sadness. And I smell the unmistakable odor of kinship. I imagine how Mary Kelmsford Johnson must have felt when she got that letter of acceptance from her publisher -- how her pride swelled, how her future suddenly blazed with brilliant promise. She'd become an AUTHOR. People would read the words that flowed from her heart and take those words into their hearts. She would leave her mark on history . . .
How seldom it turns out that way. For every William Faulkner or even Louis L'Amour, there are untold hundreds of Bertram R. Youngbloods and Margery D. Pilsmeyers. Their legacies are books with cheap, scuffed brown or blue bindings, sans dustjackets, languishing on resale store shelves. Not a single shopper is willing to fork over a dollar, or even a quarter, to read their once-precious words.
So here we are, a whole new crop of hopefuls, wondering if we should make book trailers and invest in refrigerator magnets to help our stars shine brighter. Here we are, waiting with crossed fingers and bated breath for our accolades, our five-somethings reviews and bestseller rankings, each time our words appear before the public. And when that recognition doesn't come, we feel the breath of Helen and Bertram and Margery stirring the hair on our napes as they whisper, "Don't worry. Someday your work will be welcomed. We've reserved a place for it in our aisle."
What a profoundly humbling adjustment in perspective.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Elements in M/M romance fiction that infuriate readers and writers alike -- gotta be a million of 'em! I first posted this list on September 3, 2008, when I'd just begun venturing into the genre. Time for an update.
Wow, the stuff I've learned over my nine-month gestation period! There are far more pisser off-ers than I initially realized. So here's the original list, with an addendum below in color.
(And the picture? That's for all the pastors who secretly desire Adam Lambert. You know who you are. Now get back to your stalls in those rest-area and park bathrooms. And say hi to Bill O'Reilly for me.)
- Emo characters (The term emo 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 (Come on. Denying there's such a thing as arousal at first sight is like denying there's such a thing as stupid or ho-doggy presidents.)
- "Gay for you," i.e., 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/firefighters (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 or orientation, d.) you name it.
- Infidelity, for any reason
- Various terms for the prostate, including "prostate"
- Various terms for the glans
- Self-lubricating anuses (I had no idea such a thing existed in m/m fiction. But I read about it on a blog -- Emmy's, of course -- so it must be true.)
- Too many public displays of affection between the protags
- No public displays of affection (thus implying shame)
- Not enough older heroes
- Promiscuity treated as a moral or emotional deficiency
- Too little incorporation of real-world gay issues
- Sexual activity involving women -- any sexual activity, regardless of context
- Too much world detail
- Too little world detail
- Twincest, or any kind of incest (I'm all with this one.)
- Meddlesome female friends, usually of the "fag hag" variety
- Yaoi derivation (Guess it's related to that emo objection listed above.)
- Heroes who are rotten bastards
- Heroes who are sugar cubes
- Handicapped heroes (not because they're handicapped, but because this device has become overused)
- A whole bunch of stuff relating to historicals (Somebody more versed in the subgenre than I am can ferret out and address those points.)
- Female authors of M/M fiction (Yup, every single last one of us, because we're clueless.)
I've added a whole separate category, which I call "Erection Objections."
- Erections with feelings (No, I don't mean emoboners; I'm referring to physical sensations, like aches and pains.)
- Erections that "leak" (Hey, you know the fuckers do. Maybe they don't weep copiously, but they do leak. I've seen it with my own eye. Uh, eyes.)
- Erections that appear too fast
- Erections that go south too fast
- Erections without protections
- Erections that are referred to as . . . erections (WTF? From now on, I shall refer to them as filing cabinets.)
- Erections that are unusually active and move in unnatural ways
- Erections that are far too large to allow for a recipient's physical comfort, even if he's anaesthetised
- Double/triple/quadruple -- well, hell, let's go for the whole bunch of bananas! -- penetration
Any others? Come on, I hate incomplete lists!
I'm really growing fond of this company. Its incredible staff practically radiates professionalism combined with personal warmth, and they're all so very, very helpful. LSB is a real boon to the e-publishing community . . . and that ain't no bull.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
(I truncated this thing because it's served its purpose -- to help me vent. Hate when I feel that way, and hate even more when the feeling seems justified.)
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Some seasoned curmudgeon from Washington, D.C. posted a brilliant example of what I mean on Craig's List, February 2009. Learn from him or her. Following is merely a paragraph plucked from this epithetic sea. If you wish to view the whole glorious thing, go here: http://www.craigslist.org/about/best/wdc/1051162624.html.
Now that's a wanker!
"I cannot believe how incredibly stupid you are. I mean rock-hard stupid. Dehydrated-rock-hard stupid. So stupid it goes way beyond the stupid we know into a whole different dimension of stupid. You are trans-stupid stupid. Meta-stupid. Stupid collapsed on itself so far that even the neutrons have collapsed. Stupid gotten so dense that no intellect can escape. Singularity stupid. Blazing hot mid-day sun on Mercury stupid. You emit more stupid in one second than our entire galaxy emits in a year. Quasar stupid. Nothing in our universe can really be this stupid. Perhaps this is some primordial fragment from the original big bang of stupid. Some pure essence of a stupid so uncontaminated by anything else as to be beyond the laws of physics that we know. I'm sorry. I can't go on. This is an epiphany of stupid for me."
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
country-western warbler or rock screamer or r&b boomer with gospel-music roots would've been in the finals. Not this year, though. Nuh-uh. This year, the stage will be taken by the exotic creature you see on the left -- but not, sad to say, quite the way he looks there. ("Idol" hasn't come that far!)
Monday, May 11, 2009
Sunday, May 10, 2009
I'm no less a scavenger, except that I try not to lay eggs. ;-) Characters, places, and relationships that had their origin in previous books turn up in InDescent. It isn't necessary to read all of the novel's source material -- not if I've done my job properly -- but some people have expressed an interest in "what came before." So here it is.
- Adin Swift. Now Jackson's lover, Adin first appeared (and both men first appeared together) in Plagued, from Ellora's Cave. This book details Adin's personal history, including the course of his relationship with Celia, his live-in girlfriend. The men reappeared in Tormented (Changeling Press) on the occasion of Adin's 30th-birthday party. Next came Obsessed (also from Changeling). Each book marks a significant stage in their relationship. If, however, you're only interested in getting the gist of their backstory, read Obsessed. It's a good but not necessary lead-in to InDescent.
- Angelina Funmaker. Jackson's best female friend, the biracial Angelina was born a hermaphrodite (intersexual person). Thanks to Jackson's financial support, she secured the drugs and medical procedures necessary for her to become a "complete" female . . . and a stunning one. Angelina makes her first appearance when Jackson makes his -- in Hoochie Coochie Man, from Double Dragon Publishing. Angelina also appears in other stories.
- Ivan Kurtz and Bothu. This self-styled "mage" and his occasional sidekick, the creepy necromancer, also made their first appearances in Hoochie Coochie Man. Ivan was every bit the envious, profane, self-important blowhard in the first book that he is in InDescent. Although he aspires to villainy, he never quite makes the grade. He and Bothu seriously crossed Jackson in HCM, and they both suffered for it. But egotistical Ivan never seems to learn his lesson.
- the psychic medium, Sophie Alanca; her boyfriend, Sonny Brock; her spirit guide, Esme. All three characters had their own story in Cemetery Dancer, a 2008 EPPIE finalist from Ellora's Cave. Jackson helps Sophie out of a dire situation and, in the process, incurs Sonny's (unwarranted) jealousy. They've since become good friends.
- Fog Cliff Cemetery and James Newman's mausoleum. These, too, are integral to the Cemetery Dancer storyline. In fact, a BIG clue regarding who caused the break in the Prism of Nezrabi is in Cemetery Dancer.
As I said above, it certainly isn't necessary to be familiar with all these novels and novellas to grasp what's going on in InDescent. This post is simply meant to illustrate how three-dimensional certain characters become after a while, and how what went into the making of them isn't much different from what goes into the making of any living adult.
You're right. We're weird.
Friday, May 08, 2009
Then Kris tapped me. I still don't know what I did to piss her off. But I also tried to rise to the challenge, however droopily. My prompts were downright sadistic. I had to write a somewhat coherent tale based on the following:
- a nudist colony coupled with some kind of checkpoint or customs/immigration station
- a twink as a secondary character
- some drama involving fruit
- the phrase Live long and prosper
- a romantic futuristic crime fantasy
That's right. All this crap wadded into the space of a few pages. You can access "The Amazing Fruit of New Hope," if you dare, by clicking on the post title. Just remember to cut me some slack. I wrote this thing in a day.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Late last fall, I tracked down this elusive man and pulled him out of hiding for a moment. It wasn't easy, and he wasn't overly cooperative.
* * * * *
Hard to believe the wizard is a master craftsman and the master craftsman is a wizard. Actually practices magic and pulls off some stupendous stuff. I had a couple of beers before going to his woodshop just to take the edge off. And what the hell? Milwaukee is a good place to be drinking beer. I'd thought of bringing along a fifth of Jack Daniels, his drug of choice, but I know he doesn't drink when he's working. Besides, he's making a whole lot more money than I am and can well afford to buy his own booze.
I'm nervous, no denying it. This is a coup. Jackson Spey is intensely private and a bit intimidating. His sense of humor can get razory without warning. I don't know quite what to expect when I push open the door of his shop, tucked into a long, low, nondescript building in a central industrial valley.
Machinery isn't droning. When I walk in, I know why. Jackson is seated at a drafting table nearly hidden in a corner to the far right. As soon as he hears the door grind open, he stands and approaches me. The place smells like a logging site. I don't have time to examine his work, but I know it ain't cookie-cutter. This stuff is custom designed and handmade, one lathe-spin, plane-stroke, and chisel-gouge after another.
No wonder he has such phenomenal patience.
Seeing him is a shock. I've always known he's tall. Still, in person he's . . . tall. Being a shade under six-three isn't all that extraordinary, but the man's build and the way he carries himself seem to add a ruler full of extra inches. And then there's that slightly sinister facial hair. As neat as it is, it gives him a dark-lord look. The long braid is gone now. Thank God, I think, that he didn't opt for a lawyerly trim. His wavy hair, a little mussed, caresses the base of his neck.
Jackson might be flirting with middle age, but he still has presence. Even the simple black t-shirt and faded jeans contribute to it. I feel giddy as soon as I lay eyes on him.
"I was almost hoping you wouldn't show up," he says with a disarming smile that's bracketed by parallel creases. He extends a large hand toward me. Slightly roughened, it feels the way his voice sounds. His grip is firm and welcoming . . . even though, I suspect, he has an aversion to this kind of attention. Or most any attention.
"Thanks for agreeing to meet with me."
Inscrutably, he nods. The smile has shrunk but it's still there. Sitting on the stool in front of his drafting table, he rests his left arm on the surface and braces his right hand on his thigh, fingers pointing toward his crotch. His heels are hooked onto a crossbar. His legs are spread wide. The "pose" isn't intentional; it's just a comfortable position . . . I assume. But I can't help thinking of some lines from the movie This Is Spinal Tap -- Nigel pontificating about tight trousers and armadillos and fearful girls who run screaming . . .
"Alone this weekend?" I ask, treading lightly on the words.
"Mm-hm." He cocks his head into a laconic shrug. "Like most weekends. It's better than going out and getting drunk on my ass."
"Does that bother you?"
His smile resurfaces on a tilt. "That I don't go out and get drunk on my ass? Fifteen years ago it might have."
"No, I meant being alone." Why am I explaining? He knows damned well what I meant.
"I don't have a problem keeping busy."
It's a deft side-step. I almost let it pass. "Still, I suspect you wish Adin were here." What I wisely don't say is, Instead of two hundred miles away, in a cozy chalet with Celia.
He makes a throat-clearing sound, twists slightly to the left, picks a pencil off the table, taps it a five times -- three taps then two -- drops the pencil, faces forward once more. I can see that's all the answer I'm going to get. Morse Code?
His gaze drifts past me, maybe to one of his works-in-progress. Or maybe to something that can't be seen.
"How is Adin, by the way?"
"We're not joined at the hip, you know."
Just as I'm thinking, But you sure as hell would like to be, Jackson drops his head forward and gives it a little shake. His smile is different now, and it underscores a subtle eruption of pink on his cheekbones. I think I hear him whisper, "Shit."
Now I'm waiting for his eye color to start shifting. It's some wizardly little quirk. Occasionally, the natural hazel of his irises is swamped by one of its components -- smoky topaz, jade, amber. The gold, I've heard, can get pretty intense, depending on his mood.
"I think this would go smoother," he says, "if I slapped some duct tape over my mouth. Or maybe over yours. That way we could just look at each other while you make assumptions about me. Not to mention the man whose name you at least know how to spell correctly." He turns down his head to scratch an eyebrow, his head partially resting on his fingers, but his eyes are still turned up to me.
If it weren't for the two Sprecher Black Bavarians I'd poured down my gullet, I'd be indignant. And uncomfortable. Instead, I veer amenably onto neutral turf. "So . . . bike still running well?" Jackson rebuilt a 1972 Harley shovelhead chopper. It's his second lover -- not that he would put it that way.
This topic clearly pleases him, but he still seems wary. "Like a champ. Of course, it's stored for the winter now."
"Have you ever gone riding with--"
Abruptly, he groans into a chuckle. "Women." His dark brows hitch up on the word.
"I beg your pardon?"
In lieu of an explanation, he leans sideways toward his desk, yanks open a drawer, and pulls out a fat, silvery roll of tape. His eyes aren't quite hazel anymore.
* * * * *
"For most of my career, I've enjoyed following certain characters from one story to another. I say 'following' because when characters come sufficiently alive that I want to write more about them, it does feel as if I'm trailing along behind them recording their adventures rather than making them up."
~ Poppy Z. Brite
Jackson's chronicle thus far spans six books, in this order: Hoochie Coochie Man (main character), Cemetery Dancer (secondary character), Plagued (secondary), Tormented (secondary), Obsessed (main), Elevator Magic (secondary). The next installment of his saga -- and it's a big one -- is InDescent. His story is far from over. Same is true for the man whose name I at least know how to spell correctly.
Sunday, May 03, 2009
Saturday, May 02, 2009
Anyway, this silly sexspeak went on for a good many years. Then the bodacious Tina Engler came along and essentially decided it was time to call a spade a spade. Thanks to Ellora's rockin' Cave, readers no longer had to ask themselves, His "member" of what? The Elks' Club? And why does this member broadcast "seed"? Is he a conservationist? A landscaper? And what kind of seed? Ah, grass seed, I'll bet. In the Netherlips. All the delicate obfuscation came to an end with EC's "erotic" romances. A cock became a cock, plain and simple (and usually large and turgid), and it shot copious amounts of cum into every hot, dripping, swollen, gaping, achingly impatient pussy it could.
The dam had burst, so to speak. Once the Netherlips became as drenched at they could get, a kind of frenzied adventuring began. Erotic romance wouldn't content itself with settling in the land of explicit, one-on-one m/f sex. Nuh-uh. This was a Brave New World, by gum, and it had all sorts of raunchy regions to explore. Joyful masturbation. Happy-toys. Positions that defied gravity and rewrote the Kama Sutra. Menages of ever-increasing numbers. Hardcore BDSM. Fetishism. Sex with shifters, vampires, demons, aliens. Fantasy rape that veered this close (+) to actual rape. Double penetration. Multiple dicks. Twincest. Octucest (well, you know that's bound to turn up sooner or later!)
This exuberant progression has led me to a question, which is the point of my post. Are sex scenes and sexual relationships, whether opposite-sex or same-sex, now considered too "vanilla" if they don't contain one or more of the above elements? (I'm really getting sick of the term vanilla, like I'm sick of Oh. My. God. and Wow. Just. Wow. But I digress.) Have readers begun to expect and even demand ongoing one-upmanship? Can relationships still be perceived as thrilling and satisfying if they are made up of (GASP!) two people who just like to fuck? Or (DOUBLE GASP!) make love?
I'm just wonderin'.