Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sanity Sunday: An Idea for Bloggers

When a highly anticipated book is finally released, I think all book mavens should either agree to post their assessments on the same day -- yes, every single blog, simultaneously, just to get it out of the way -- or else band together and have one, big "throw your five stars into this hat" group blog. Seriously. I can't be the only person who starts heaving mighty sighs, and yawns, when site after site after site is reviewing the same book within the same one- or two-week period and saying essentially the same things about it.

I visit blogs, including review blogs, for news, entertainment, and lively discussions that garner a variety of opinions (no matter how off the wall they are . . . Kris). I thrive on variety. I think most blog visitors thrive on variety. So please bear this in mind before climbing into the echo chamber that's forming around some hot new topic or hot new title. Lordy, I swore off blogs completely when that whole Cassie Edwards/plagiarism gig was going on:

"BAD Cassie, bad-bad-bad! And plagiarism--oh, dear, so heinous, so utterly reprehensible!"

"Yeah, all right already, we get it! Now, does anybody have an original observation to make?"

Man, it was like being surrounded by parrots that had all been taught the same freaking words! Did any of those "opinionators" really think they were saying anything new and enlightening, anything worth reading?

So, for the sake of us blog crawlers who rely on the Internet for a break from our routines, please don't make the breaks even more predictable than the routines. 'Cause, really, I don't want to feel forced into cooking or cleaning as a diversion! Noooooo . . . !

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Call The Back Passage

Finished Call Me by Your Name and am now reading The Back Passage. Wow, night to day.

CMbYN left me with mixed feelings. Although I ended up becoming engrossed in the protagonists' journey, and found Elio's character particularly poignant at the end (yes, I did tear up), I later got angry. Why? Because, unlike Brokeback Mountain, there was really no excuse for these men not to get together.

The story takes place from roughly 1985 to 2005. Both protags move in liberal artistic and academic circles, in Europe as well as on the U.S. eastern seaboard. The narrator's parents are seemingly accepting-- and the father, even envious--of his affair with Oliver. If each man viewed the other as his "heart of hearts," what kept them apart?

Not the time or the place(s), and surely not social or peer pressure. Not the men's sexual dynamic or a gross imbalance of feeling. Not parental disapproval. What, then?

I know from personal experience that the need to be with one's "soulmate" is not eroded by time, distance, or circumstance. I know this. So, ultimately, I felt manipulated by the author. I felt he'd thrown up completely illusory barriers to keep the men separated. Was this a case of angst for the sake of angst? Don't know.

Anyway, on to The Back Passage by James Lear (2006, Cleis Press).

So far, I love it! I love the narrator's insouciant voice and attitude and his self-indulgent carnality. He makes no excuses for himself. I love how the author plays fast and loose, in an affectionate, tongue-in-cheek way, with British "drawing room" character types and family intrigue and all the other norms of cozy mysteries. Although I'd expected this book to be raunchy, it's far tamer than most current m/m erotic romance -- mine included. But the narrator's sheer, unapologetic horniness, combined with the author's solid prose and delightful irreverence, have put back the happy in me that CMbYN sucked away.

I just need to get through this period of compulsive reading so I can return to writing! (I'll tell you about my new project within the week, as well as a development related to me and Samhain.)

Monday, August 24, 2009


One thing I hate about being between books: I waste my time on stupid things. Like following links online.

So there I was, just taking a leisurely tour through my favorite blogs, peeking into this window and that to see what's new, enlightening, and/or moderately entertaining. I came upon an intriguing batch of posts related to something on Twitter called "#romfail." The term is, from what I read somewhere, a "hash tag"--hence, the hash mark. (Am I right?) Beyond that, I have no freaking clue what a hash tag is.

Now why did I follow any link to Twitter? Why? Curiosity, plain and simple. When I see words like "haters" and "mean girls" and various 'n' sundry insults being bandied about, I smell a Wankfest. And these Internet events can be highly entertaining--as long as you follow them quietly, from the sidelines.

So off I went in search of this apparent Wankfest, because I was in the mood for some chuckles.

Why didn't I know better? Why didn't I remember that trying to follow any-damned-thing on Twitter is like trying to watch a play in which the actors spontaneously dash on and off stage and spout seemingly unrelated lines of monologue with some mystifying bursts of dialogue thrown in?

Then there's the circle-jerk factor. Cliques seem to form around certain high-profile Twitterers or Tweeters or Peeps or whatever the hell they're called. I inadvertently stumbled into one of these. Didn't post anything, of course, because I felt like a homeless person who'd just wandered into an elite club. And, besides, I couldn't figure out what the hell anybody was talking about!

How do the rest of you deal with Twitter? Is there some Twitter Guide to Comprehension I failed to find? Or a secret access code to TwitterSense? I feel as if I should participate--it seems like such a grand party for other authors and readers and reviewers--but every time I step through the door, I feel like the victim of a practical joke.

Yikes. Who dreamt this shit up?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Jude in Chains

My novella, Jude in Chains, is now sitting in a few publishers' computers. The fact it isn't laden with explicit sex scenes -- it's just erotic enough to suit the needs of the story -- sort of limited my options. I also found it a bit dispiriting, yet again, that certain outlets are closed to me, since I've never been "invited" to submit to them. (Reminder to self: must find out whom to blow; wouldn't hurt to remind them I know when to use "who" and "whom.")

I don't know how this one is going to be received. It's a contemporary, but it might strike some editors as heavy fare due to the theme -- the "ex-gay" movement. Don't know if you're all aware of it or not. It's a truly hideous effort that's been mounted by various conservative, homophobic organizations -- both here and, I think, in the UK -- to turn queers into straights. I tried not to be too ham-handed in my treatment, although it's difficult to underplay the seriousness of this situation, and I believe the protags are engaging. But ya never know with publishers.

So anyway, following is the blurb. Wish me luck!

* * * * *

Hoping further to expose the fallacy of "reparative therapy" for non-heterosexuals, writer Misha Tzerko has enrolled in a week-long program at the Stronger Wings Camp and Conference Center in Arkansas. He's already lost his long-term boyfriend to the ex-gay movement, and for the sake of his own closure as well as his job at Options magazine, Misha hopes to get an inside look at the nondenominational ministry established by C. Everett Hammer III.

Contentedly gay, Misha has always been a player -- except when he committed to his only real relationship. But when Robbie abandoned him for straight life complete with wife, Misha's promiscuity began to peak as his emotional landscape flattened.

That’s all about to change. Misha is shocked and dismayed to see another man from his past at Stronger Wings, a man with whom he’d had two brief but captivating encounters. Although Misha knows he can’t save every registrant in the Stronger Wings program, he becomes determined to save Jude Stone.

No matter what it takes.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Call Me by Your Name -- Round One

I am forty pages into Andre Aciman's acclaimed novel of homosexual awakening (for lack of a better succinct term) and waiting for several things:

  • the formation of a timeline, since trying to determine which seemingly insignificant, supposedly revelatory event takes place two days, ten days, or two weeks into the story (So far, there's a lot of zigging and zagging.)

  • some pruning of the lush prose and long and winding sentences, which often leave me breathless in an unpleasant way

  • suspension of disbelief re. the narrator's age (I'm having trouble remembering this is a 17-year-old boy and not Michael Caine's character from the movie Educating Rita.)

  • action and/or more than a few lines of dialogue at a time

  • sex (God, popular fiction has made me one shallow and impatient plebe!)

I just read some reviews on Amazon to see if anybody else had begun to squirm, so quickly, under the weight of this novel's dense, obsessive, and repetitious introspection. Hell yeah; I'm not alone. In fact, there are some very literate and incisive 1-star reviews. A reader actually gave up right around the point I just reached.

I'm intrigued enough to keep going, though, and hope this book's saving graces do indeed save it. (Yes, it has many saving graces, but they're swamped by authorial self-indulgence.) I also hope I don't have to slog through one more dissection and microscopic analysis of the breezy farewell, "Later!" I'd never realized how nuanced it could be. But now that my brain is glutted on its nuances, I could use a break.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Huzzah! I am vampire RICH.

Now sitting in my computer is Clare London's LYD story, Out of Time ( And soon sitting in my hands will be a print copy of Joey Hill's Beloved Vampire (, which I won at the fascinating "Tarot by Arwen" blog of author Stephanie Arwen Lynch.

"Oh frabjous day, callooh, callay!" I chortled in my joy. Clare London is brilliant. Joey Hill is brilliant. What's not to celebrate?

I love vampires. I've loved vampires since Bela Lugosi rhapsodized in moody black-and-white about the music made by creatures of the night and Dwight Frye as the demented Renfield expressed an enthusiastic preference for fat spiders over puny flies.

Vampires haven't actually changed over the decades. You know that, don't you? It's just that various authors from Poppy Z. Brite to Jordan Castillo Price have shed more light on the astonishing richness and variety of this particular race (like my dear Adin Swift and Ridley Barron, and the depraved Birkett from Plagued, and all the vamps who dropped in at Adin's birthday party in Tormented).

So as I again submerge myself in the subculture of blood drinkers, I might feel inspired to explore it further in my own writing. We'll see. For now, though, I'm just happy to have two fangulous reads to look forward to!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Is a Great Divide forming?

More and more I've been noticing a marked difference in my reactions to blogs that center on romance fiction. The well-established, high-profile sites I used to visit regularly, like Dear Author and Smart Bitches, have begun to seem stagnant and are starting to bore me. It's the laidback "upstarts" toward which I've recently been drawn, like Reviews by Jessewave, Well Read, Kris 'n' Good Books, and several others.

I'm sure the shift in my reading and writing tastes has something to do with this -- I've developed a deep appreciation for m/m fiction, little of which is explored by the major blogs -- but there's also something of the "Old Guard" versus the "New Guard" at play here.

Frankly, I couldn't care less about Harlequin's various lines. Category romance has never appealed to me. Even a lot of the non-HQN romance print titles have a category "feel," which means I'm not interested in those, either. E-book publishers have, as far as I'm concerned, been putting out the most compelling fiction.

Yeah, okay, there's plenty of derivative material issued by e-publishers, as well, and quality can be hit-or-miss. But I find so much more variety in their output, so much more explorative risk-taking, whether serious or lighthearted, that reading an e-pubbed book has become much more of an adventure than reading the safe and predictable stuff that's sandwiched between two paper covers.

Ever more frequently, I find myself groaning and beating a hasty retreat whenever I click onto a post that has to do with some Harlequin or Big NY Print Publisher release. I'm sick of seeing the same names turn up, sick of the whole RWA/RT mindset that lauds workmanlike (i.e., boring) writing, cardboard-cutout characters, and connect-the-dots plotlines. I'm REALLY sick of standard heroes and heroines, including and especially the new breed of chick who's sexy, sensitive, and self-assuredly violent, all at once. ("Oh shit, do I want to be Paris Hilton or Vin Diesel? Guess I'll be both!")

Spare me, forever, the kickass heroine, whom I find just as revolting as the TSTL heroine!

Anyway, I can't help but wonder if there's a division forming in Romanceland, if certain bloggers/reviewers will continue to give more space, time, and credence to works originally published in print rather than works originally published in pdf, or to m/f fiction rather than other types of pairings/groupings. Will the lip service they pay to e-publishing and to GLBT romance ever be accompanied by genuine respect (for publishers other than Samhain, that is)? Or is the mainstream becoming increasingly more distanced from its tributaries?

Are we going our separate ways?

JMHP (just my humble puzzling)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Blogging with AMANDA YOUNG

This Friday, August 14, I will be interviewed at the "Romance Without Inhibitions" blog of prolific, multipublished (including at Loose Id and Amber Allure) author Amanda Young. If you think her tagline is an overstatement, just take a gander at some of her ballsy titles: A Kinky Orgasm, Triplesex, Hard Candy. Now that's laying it on the line.

So please stop by to celebrate quality smut for the discriminatingly oversexed. Your comments will, as always, be welcomed! (Click on the post title to get there, but don't expect to see me until Friday.)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Lady Luck visits Castanet Feldman!

With what, you ask? A fabulous offer from a New York publisher? Or a flattering invitation from an elite e-book publisher? Or a glowing review and a place on someone's DIK shelf?

Hell, no. Better! (BTW, you'll have to visit Jenre's blog to find out who Castanet Feldman is. Truthfully, though, it isn't worth the bother, although Jen has a great blog.)

I spent a good portion of last week working for a friend who just purchased a bar and grill. The place had become a kind of landfill for grease, so some heavy-duty cleaning was in order. While scraping and scrubbing, two small blessings were bestowed on me.

One of the other women who was helping out there is married to a guy who repairs computers! You can't begin to imagine what a boon this is to somebody who lives in the boondocks, where finding a computer fixer is tantamount to finding the perfect organ donor. WOOT number one!

The next day, another woman arrived to help clean. And who was she? Well, a relocated Chicagoan and a member of a local book club! She was ridiculously excited to find out I was a writer and had a book in print that would give her fellow clubbers something "meaty" (but not of the smut variety) to chew on. "Would you come speak to us when we discuss it?" she asked timidly, as if I were Nora effing Roberts. "Sure!" I said. "And I'll even autograph your copies . . . for free." (No, I didn't throw in those last two words.) So, barring any complications, like a massive Amazon outage, Acts of the Saints will be read by the rural equivalent of Oprah's flock. WOOT number two!

And herein lies the advantage of living a simple life: little things DO mean a lot. ;-)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

How many books are too many?

Dear Author recently ran a poll (click on post title to view results and responses) that asked readers if the amount of published fiction should increase, decrease, or remain the same. The largest percentage of respondents voiced a desire to see fewer fiction titles published and a belief that too much of the stuff being put out was crap.

I'm resurrecting this topic because two of my publishers have recently made mention of a heavy influx of submissions over the summer, resulting in big additions to their stables. What does this mean?

Well, it probably means different things to readers, authors, and publishers.

For the companies: more writers = more releases = (ideally) more income. All publishers are scrambling for bigger pieces of the pie. This is a completely logical business goal. But, as stables grow, the multitude of new titles must somehow be accommodated. One way is to increase the number of weekly releases. Another is to increase the length of time between manuscript acceptance and publication. In any case, the business model is bound to change.

For readers: more published writers = more available books. Is this a good thing? I'm not sure. Many fiction readers complain their TBR piles are out of control. Many, like the respondents in the DA poll, have said they're dismayed by diminishing quality. Many admit their book-buying budgets are already stretched to the limit.

For authors: more fellow writers = more competition for release dates and royalties. Hard to get around that fact. As the pie slice expands for publishers and readers, it shrinks for the creators of the product. Only authors with huge, well-established followings are immune to this rather dismal outcome.

I've been through a "growth spurt" at EC, and it wasn't pretty. When that company doubled its number of weekly releases, my royalties immediately plummeted, and I wasn't alone. From what I've since seen and read, EC now issues titles just about every day of the week. They currently have ten "new releases" posted on their home page. If you count the other covers displayed there, some of which are print editions, 23 books greet you at the mouth of the Cave. Wow.

Anyway, I'd like to hear your input on this subject. How much reading material is too much? Or is there no such thing? Do you avid readers feel more is always better? Or do you think that when companies start popping out more and more titles, it's an indication they've lowered their standards for acceptance? Have you noticed a decline in quality that seems to correspond with a rise in the number of offerings? Or has quality remained consistent?

What's the optimum number of weekly releases per publisher? By that I mean, a number that satisfies your book hunger yet doesn't stress your budget or muddle your mind?

Authors, what's your take on publisher expansion? Has it ever affected you adversely, or aren't you fazed by it? Do you see it in a positive light, and if so, why?

I confess, I get the jits when one of my publishers introduces a plethora of new authors. My experience with this sort of development hasn't been good. Sad to say, becoming a better or more versatile writer isn't the solution -- not when readers are bombarded with a blinding number of choices.

My greatest fear as a craftsman is feeling forced into "assembly-line production" mode, which often seems like the only way to succeed at this gig. And, damn, I just don't want to go there.