Monday, December 31, 2012

New Website for YA LGBTQ Fiction

Three very talented and caring people -- Jeff Erno, Jackie Nacht, and Madison Parker -- have started a website (and a very well-designed one, I might add) devoted exclusively to GLBTQ young adult fiction. You can, and should, check out HERE.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Attitude Is Gratitude

It's the perfect time of year to acknowledge people who've made my world a little brighter.

I'm not a Big Cheese in this genre, but readers and fellow authors have a way of making that fact irrelevant.

Therefore . . .

Thank you, first and foremost, to everybody who's bought and read even one of my books. That requires faith. A reader putting his/her faith in my work is both humbling and gratifying - and not something I take lightly. I treasure each of you.

Thank you to readers who took the time (a precious commodity), to express their opinions of Carny's MagicA Hole in God's Pocket, and XylophoneI wasn't sure how the last two, especially, would be received. Religion and child molestation are pretty sensitive issues. So whether you emailed me or left a comment on my blog, put up ratings or reviews on Goodreads or Amazon, posted your critiques on a dedicated review site . . . man, I really appreciate it!

Thank you, as well, to my small cadre of Internet spies. (Okay, they're not really spies, just people who pay more attention to things than I do. :))  In fact, if it hadn't been for one of them, I would never have known about these nominations for A Hole In God's Pocket:

Which leads me to another thank you, this one to the dear, considerate readers who cared enough to make these nominations. (Honestly, it never occurs to me to check out such contests.) And to Sammy, a reviewer at Joyfully Jay, who listed AHIGP as one of her five favorite books of 2012.

Which in turn leads me to this thank you, directed at whatever kind person entered The Zero Knot in the Rainbow Awards, and the judges who deemed it worthy of high-enough scores to net my coming-of-age novel a "Best" in its category. (All books that land in the top three are considered bests. Mine was actually second. But hey, I'll take it. ;-))

Finally, thank you to the writers who agreed to appear on my blog in 2012, including the incomparable Tam Ames and a whole slew of Dreamspinner and Loose Id authors who contributed to my two-part post (here and here) on old farts maturity and m/m romance. (Bonus thanks to Tam for highlighting my backlist on her blog.) And to the tireless Chris at Stumbling Over Chaos for generously hosting giveaways of my books. And to Josh Lanyon, as well as all the members of his wonderful Goodreads group, for providing a friendly place where writers and readers can gather without fear of any doodoo hitting the fan.

Hem your blessings with thankfulness, so they don't unravel. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Theme Song

So, you probably thought I was going to sock it to ya with polkas.

I was (and a few other musical pieces, too).

Until I listened to this again, and realized it encapsulates what Xylophone is all about.

I can't tell you how much this song, and Adam Lambert's brilliant interpretation, move me.

Close your eyes and listen.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Origin of (Story) Species

For me, this time, it started with three seeds: "Molly B. Polka Party," a reader's conundrum, and a scandal.

One or two of you might remember me posting about lounging around one weekend, pushing buttons on the TV remote. I couldn't find anything worth watching. Weekends are infuriating that way. On the very days you can kick back and relax, there's nothing on the tube except Independence Day, reruns of "The Andy Griffith Show," and atrociously bad movies on Sy Fy (or Psi Phi or however cute way they spell it now). Maybe it's a corporate conspiracy to get us out shopping to boost the economy. Maybe the owners of cable and satellite networks are too damned cheap to pay people to work on weekends.

Anyway, just as I was about to lumber off the bed and, I don't know, clean the dogs' ears or something, I heard it -- music from my youth, the songs of my heritage.


Listening to the music put some boogie in my blood and made me smile. Someday, I thought, I have to write a story that features a polka band. Hell yeah. The genre's glutted with rock stars. And who doesn't like polka bands? Well, probably most people, but that didn't deter me. I can be contrary.

On another day, I stopped by a blog where a little discussion was going on about one of those weird Goodreads challenges. You know, like "Read three books that mention three different vehicles, then three more books with characters who get into accidents involving those vehicles." The particular discussion I came across involved an alphabet challenge -- specifically, how difficult it was to find titles beginning with certain letters. I remember feeling fortunate The Zero Knot was out then, because it provided readers with a Z option. Then the discussion slipped into my subconscious and, apparently, lodged there.

The scandal? That input came later. I won't get any more explicit. Gotta leave something for you to wonder about.

So those are the origins of Xylophone. It's an example of how most writers' minds work: absorbing a nugget here, a tidbit there; storing them away intentionally or unwittingly; rattling along life's track, unaware of mental scraps being thrown together and some spontaneous alchemy suddenly binding the scraps into a story.

Mobry's Dick and Abercrombie Zombie began as titles that just popped into my mind. Fugly might've too, as well as Bastards and Pretty Boys. The British "Queer as Folk" -- or rather, one of the soundtrack songs (the lyrics of which I misunderstood because we had a cheap, crappy bedroom TV at the time) -- inspired precious_boy. A young Charlie Hunnam contributed.
Sometimes I just want to explore new territory, which is how the Utopia-X series and Mongrel came to be. Sometimes I want to pay homage to old stomping grounds, which is how Electric Melty Tingles came to be. Certain themes have intrigued me for a long time, like the nature of religion, and magic. And I've always loved vampires.

The "X" book is coming out on December 12. Between now and then, expect some music on this blog. ;-)

Saturday, December 01, 2012

We interrupt this new release promo . . .

To announce that Dreamspinner will be offering a 25% discount, through December 8, on all books that won Rainbow Awards.

Including THIS ONE!

Yup, it seems to have come in second in the Young Adult/Coming of Age category. I'm pretty flabbergasted, especially since an anonymous but touchingly thoughtful person entered the book. I didn't.

The sale applies both to the electronic and print editions. 

(And BIG hugs to dear L.C. Chase for cluing me in through her congratulatory note. If it hadn't been for her, I'd have gone to bed feeling like crap because I'll be a year older tomorrow.)

Edited to add my congratulations to Hayden Thorne and Jeff Erno, whose books were also judged "best" in the YA category. Hayden's story sounds truly enchanting, and Jeff's, just as full of heart as other fiction I've read by him. Shame on me for forgetting to mention them when I put up this post, but I was too stunned to think straight! 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Win a Freebie, Save the World!

The lovely but temporarily scarred Chris at Stumbling Over Chaos is currently running a giveaway for  Xylophone. As usual, you don't have to jump through any hoops; just leave a comment.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


"Every predator has a xylophone." 

* * * 

Fucking great.
Carver, Dare’s twenty-nine-year-old brother and only sibling, was stretched out on the couch with his iPad centered over his face.
In spite of the fact they barely tolerated each other, this living arrangement was preferable to sharing a cramped apartment with a near-stranger. Besides, it was a great location. Dare occasionally performed in Milwaukee and Chicago and other, smaller cities in the area, and Waterford was pretty much smack in the middle of the cluster.
He threw his keys on the hall table with obvious vexation and more carefully set his clarinet beneath it. “I thought you were going to an art fair or something with whatshisname, the guy who owns the gallery.” After pulling off his shoes, he went into the living room.
“Okay, art mart.”
Grudgingly, as if it were an imposition, Carver sat up. “No. His name is Mart.” He squinted at Dare. “What the hell are you wearing?”
“My band outfit.” Dare dropped into one of the recliners and pulled off his tie. Jonah Day’s business card, still buried in the shallows of his pants pocket, gave his hip a gentle poke. I will not be ignored, pal. The reminder further abraded his mood. “I had it on when I left this morning. You must’ve seen…. Oh, that’s right. You were still in bed.” Dare pushed back and stared at his white-socked feet, hands linked over his belly.
Carver continued to study him. His torso seemed to be balanced on the tips of Dare’s toes. “Didn’t it go well?”
“It went great.”
“So why do you seem so pissy?”
And why do you seem like such a supercilious dickhead? Carver still hadn’t explained why he hadn’t gone out.
Instead of answering, Dare closed his eyes. His friends and coworkers generally thought it was the coolest thing in the world to have a queer sibling—theoretically, a confidant, cheerleader, and comrade-in-arms all bundled into one supportive package. But Carver Hamilton Boothe, he of the MBA and macho manner and Spanish Modern aesthetic (or whatever the hell it was), had precious little in common with, or sympathy for, guys who gave away their gayness as soon as they opened their mouths or stepped into a shopping mall.
Carver was about as straight as a homo could be without engaging in hetero sex.
Thank God, Dare thought at least once a week, he’d never set foot in the Sugar Bowl.
“Well?” Carver said. “What’s the problem?”
Dare sighed. Carver, all too familiar with his brother’s moods, would keep picking until he got an answer. And maybe it would help to talk. “I met someone, a guy about my age who takes his grandmother out dancing every week. I guess he recognized me, but I don’t know from where. He wants to get together and talk about… something having to do with Dr. Battaglia.”
“Your shrink?” Carver looked as baffled as Dare felt.
“Former shrink. Maybe his, too, for all I know. He didn’t have a chance to explain.”
“So are you going to meet up with him?”
“I don’t know.” Dare covered his face. “Goddammit, why won’t that shit go away and stay away?”
Carver rose from the sectional and slid his iPad onto the coffee table. “Because it’s your lot. It’s been your lot ever since you invited the attention of a pervert. And you should keep that in mind while you’re doing whatever it is you do at that club—”
A spring of rage snapped Dare forward and up, making him nearly trip over the footrest. Without a shred of reasonable thought he pitched himself at his brother, pitched himself at Carver the way he should’ve pitched himself at Howard Pankin in that cluttered backroom echoing with xylophone notes and sick desire and the slithering rustle of soiled hands over smooth, clean skin.
“Hey, hey, settle down!” Carver grabbed his wrists.
For a moment their locked arms pumped in all directions, jointed braces in a mechanism run amok. The word invited kept striking like a flint, reigniting Dare’s fury. His jaw hurt from being clenched. “You cold, ignorant—”
With a surge of gym-acquired strength, Carver flung Dare onto the couch, sat on his legs, and pinned down his arms. “Chill. Okay?” He must’ve guessed a knee to the groin would’ve been Dare’s next move. Little brother didn’t have much of a repertoire when it came to fighting. “I misspoke. I’m sorry.”
“The fuck you are!” Dare bucked to throw him off.
It wasn’t necessary. Still gathering his breath, Carver slowly held up his arms to concede defeat. “You want to punch me, go ahead. If it’ll make you feel better and calm you down, go ahead.”
Just like that, it was over. Carver’s invitation yielded nothing more than a stare. Dare couldn’t imagine how he looked, didn’t want to think about how he felt. A familiar nonphysical weight seemed to be sinking him into the couch cushions.
“You know I can’t punch worth a shit,” he muttered.
After regarding him a few seconds longer—and, Christ, that mixture of disgust and pity made Dare want to throw up—Carver rose and left the room.

Sleep wouldn’t come.
Again Dare heard those xylophone notes, throaty and taunting, only pretending to be happy-go-lucky. At one time they’d hung from his bedroom ceiling, hung there for two years, slipping down invisible filaments when night fell, bloated balls with limbs but no features, spiders spinning and dropping. 
He’d clamp his hands over his ears, fold his arms over his face.
“It started as a kind of courtship song, or game. In faraway Germany.”
The notes wanted to fill each small cavity of his body. They wanted to take up residence within him.
He wasn’t strong enough to turn them away.
Hi-ho the derry-o…
The pervert in the ground.
Heart hammering, Dare pushed and kicked away his comforter. He swung to the right as he lifted his body to reach up and click on the lamp. Jonah’s card lay on the nightstand beside, of all things, a pack of condoms and a bag of Skittles, candy he’d loved since the Time Before.
He snatched up the card, ripped it in half, and tossed the rent rectangle into the junk-littered darkness beyond his bed.

Coming December 12 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Back to Business

The most consequential secret of Daren Boothe’s life centers on an unlikely object: a xylophone. That secret eventually led him to develop his professional alter-ego, a sensual, androgynous dancer. When Dare begins his second and considerably more wholesome job playing clarinet in a polka band, he meets an unassuming young man who takes his grandmother out dancing each week -- a man who has his own secrets.

Jonah Day immediately recognizes the clarinetist. Three years earlier they'd crossed paths in a therapist's office, but they'd both abandoned that route to mental health. Neither was ready then to open up about the psychological traumas that haunted them and had adversely affected their lives.

In an attempt to heal their wounds, Dare and Jonah turn to each other. Understanding and empathy come instantly, accompanied by ambivalence about their growing attraction. But the repercussions of victimization are many . . . and, often, impossible to anticipate. Regardless of their bond, Dare and Jonah could easily be driven apart by the very experiences they share.

Coming December 12 from Dreamspinner Press.
Cover art by Anne Cain.
Pre-order here.
(Excerpt posted soon.)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Winner of Tam's Giveaway is . . .


Congratulations, Teresa, and thanks for your comments! Please contact Tam Ames at so she can forward your copy of "The Bigger They Are, The Harder They Fall."

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Tam Ames tells all: from her secret royal babies to the size of Justin Bieber's widgie to how she single-handedly swung the U.S. presidential election!

Yeah, okay, I might be stretching the truth just a tad. But the scintillating Tam Ames is indeed here, and she does have, as usual, some interesting things to say. Oh, and she's offering a giveaway, too. So start shakin', Tambourine!


Hey everyone. I’m completely honored, thrilled and freaked right out that KZ asked me to come by the blog. Eeek. Does this mean I’m a “real” author now? I have to do authorly things like hang out at Starbucks with my laptop, wear black and sigh dramatically at regular intervals? Hmm. I may suck at this then.

So given my intense dislike of Starbucks coffee (not the company, they seem pretty okay) and sighing dramatically, I decided to do a post about what I love about writing and being an “author” and what I don’t love.

For those of you who don’t know me, I started writing m/m as a bit of a dare. I’d never shown any interest in writing fiction of any kind, and then someone said “Well, you can’t have a romance with X in it.” Uh oh. My inner obstinate child came out and said “Oh yeah? Watch me.” And that was it. It was just for fun, to amuse my friends, who continued to push me to write more and to submit, which I finally bit the bullet and did with Winterlude (my first published short story through Torquere Press).

So why do I do it, on top of my full-time job and my reviewing work and being a single mom? Hmm. Good question.

What I like about writing #1:

THE POWER!!!! Okay. Well sort of. You can make your characters do and say whatever you want. You want him to be in a good mood, voila. Bad mood, here you go, he’s snarly. I know some people say their characters determine the direction, but let’s be honest, it’s our own subconscious. I see that my mood rules my characters. When I’m feeling down, my characters are sad and have sad stories to tell. When I’m in a good mood, my characters tend to be light and funny. I’m in control, I can write the story I want to read with the guys I want to know more about.

What I dislike about writing #1:

EDITING: Anyone who tells you they like editing is a liar. (IMHO) I can really see the appeal of a short story. My editing for shorts is so fast and easy. There is only so much you can change in 9,000 words. But for my longer story Summer School I was so damn sick of reading it over and over and over by the end.  You also get paranoid that you’ll miss something major because your brain is now seeing what it thinks should be there rather than what is really there. Maybe when I’m ├╝ber-rich and famous I can hire one to do my dirty work and correct all my grammar. Preferably someone kind of young and twinky who I can force to work mostly-nekked. J

What I like about writing #2:

THE FAME: *rolls on floor laughing* Okay. Really, that is so untrue. BUT there is no human on this earth that does not crave positive feedback for their efforts. Whether that be doing a great job at the office, cooking a nice meal for your family, or receiving a slow clap from your child when you tell her you signed another contract. (Really, it was a slow clap.) We all want validation. And it’s kind of cool to go into Borders and set all of the sample Nooks to show your book. Okay, it was ONE sample Nook, but it was still way cool, and I’m sure JK Rowling does the same thing. It’s also a thrill to be part of the “club”, the one made up of authors you admire, even if you’re a junior member.

What I dislike about writing #2:

NAMES: I swear, this should be the fun part. It’s like being on 19 Kids and Counting. You get to choose all your kids names, without all the poopy diapers. BUT… it’s so hard. I seem to gravitate towards certain letter of the alphabet and I have to be careful, or everyone has a J or K name. Then there are certain names I can’t use because they are the names of friends, and in my mind I can’t separate the name from the person, and that’s just creepy.  It seems like it should be easier. It’s not. I also don’t want to get too weird, unless that’s the point. Made up names with random letters and no vowels are just annoying. Then you have to watch ethnicities.  A guy with British parents is unlikely to be named Pedro. See how hard it is? Who’d have guessed? I need a spreadsheet because I’m terrified I’ll use the same name twice.

What I like about writing #3:

STORIES: I’ve never been one of those people who could just lie down and – poof – fall asleep. My way of coping was to make up movies in my head. Now I find most of my before sleep movies involve on-page stories. I’m thinking up ideas, and working out scenes in my head. I said to my daughter I wished there was some kind of program that could take the thoughts from your head and just write them down. When I’m driving I have a ton of stories, I rework scenes in my head, and if only I could get it on paper. But it’s fun to have ideas and stories and see them gel, not just be amorphous things that float through your head before sleep never to return.

I’ll end on a positive note. There really are many more good things than bad. I love the community of authors and readers. Sure there are moments of brow wrinkling as I wonder if someone has spiked our punch, but that is such a small part of it all. Seeing a story come together, trying new things (even if you think others will hate it), are all fun and rewarding.

So thanks, KZ, for having me by. It was fun and maybe someone can throw out some names for me to use. LOL Or names you hate. That’s always more fun. Elmer? Um. No. “That wasacally wabbit.” Tell me your LEAST favourite name for a romance hero (and why, if you can) and you could win a copy of my just-released short, The Bigger They Are, the Harder They Fall. 

Spence may be a big guy at six foot four, but he’s mortified when he faints at the sight of blood in front of sexy client Vander at the local tattoo parlor. But it’s not often Vander finds attractive men his own height, and he’s not going to let a little thing like fainting ruin his chances for a date.


Tam is a single mom to a teenage daughter who lives in Ontario, Canada. It was the encouragement and dares of some friends that inspired her to start writing m/m romance. Traveling as much as possible with her daughter, reading, writing, and playing around on-line keep her busy, in addition to her day job. You can find Tam at her regular haunts: her blog and the excellent review site she runs with Jenre, Brief Encounters.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Announcement & Random Rants

This week I'll be hosting AN EXCITING GUEST BLOGGER! You know her. You love her. You can't get enough of her! So if all the election propaganda combined with endless blog tours have been numbing your mind, stop by in a couple of days for a refreshing break.

  • Speaking of the election, I've had it. The hype has become unbearable. Commercials, robo calls, "news" shows that don't report the news but instead give us opinionating pundits, sound bytes from political speeches devoid of substantive content, and the daily results of countless conflicting polls. Only when Hurricane Sandy hit did we have a respite from all the BS. Honestly, at this point I don't care if Alfred E. Newman becomes president; I just want the torture to end.
  • We just had the modem for our TV and Internet service replaced. Turns out we now have wireless (we didn't before). I'd always thought this would be an incalculable blessing. However . . . not for my Kindle, it ain't. Now I have to look at stinkin' ads every time I turn it on. I'm SICK of having ads shoved in my face!
  • Hunting season. Oh, gawd, hunting season. Boneheads with bows and arrows or rifles skulking through the woods. Dead deer hanging off vehicles. Blinding blaze-orange everywhere (what a hideous color!) Even though our dogs never leave our property unattended, I've heard plenty of reports over the years of hunters killing cows and even each other. If these trigger-happy morons can mistake a cow or a person for a deer, God knows what dumb-assery they're capable of.
  • I used to look forward to Thanksgiving. I stopped looking forward to it when the in-laws started showing up at our house every year. (Why not their daughter's much larger house? Why not their own house? Why always our house?) So I suggested that JLA take his parents OUT to eat -- with my blessing. Hell, I'll even pay for the dinner if I have to, just to spare myself the hassle of cleaning and cooking and cleaning again . . . followed by a depth of boredom that makes me want to jump out of my skin. So -- hooray! -- he's taking them out. Macy's Parade and football, here I come!    

Sunday, October 14, 2012

I'm at Lou Sylvre's blog!

Author Lou Sylvre was kind enough to post an out-of-the-ordinary interview with me and two excerpts from my books, one from a golden oldie and one from an upcoming release. Want to see my choice of a hot 50-word scene? (Picking one was not easy, believe me. Fifty words aren't very many.) Want to know how I feel about reviews?  You can find the answers HERE.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Dreaded Unhappy Ending

This Halloween season, it's become my greatest fear. I'll explain why in a bit.

Once upon a time, I wasn't only used to fiction that ended on a gloomy note, I expected it to. Classic literature, I learned as an English major, often came bundled with a tragically appropriate conclusion -- even literature centered on a romantic relationship (or two or three; I'm lookin' at you, Emma Bovary). I might have cringed a little anticipating a novel's or a play's climax, but when the ax part of the climax finally came down, I invariably found it emotionally cathartic and intellectually satisfying. From Romeo and Juliet to Wuthering Heights, from The Great Gatsby to Sophie's Choice and beyond, bleak ever-afters never bothered me, as long as each one was the logical termination of beautifully crafted tale.

But my attitudes changed. As I got older, a turn in my life made me surprisingly vulnerable to tearjerkers.

My cinematic horizons expanded; my taste in movies matured. I soon discovered that sad endings played out on screen affected me in a much more visceral and tenacious way than sad endings played out in print. I can't seem to shake my reaction if I've become invested in the characters.

The first movie that really tore me up was Midnight Cowboy. It's a brilliant John Schlesinger film, infinitely better than the original novel (in fact, it won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1969), but I wasn't able to sit through the final sequence until a good amount of time had passed. Only many viewings later could I stand to watch Joe Buck hug the deceased Ratso Rizzo on that bus.

Other movies bothered me in much the same way, although not as strongly. Until Brokeback Mountain came along. That movie fucked . . . me . . . up. Even though I subsequently bought the DVD, I still resist watching it. I don't think I can without breaking down -- and without feeling resentful, feeling somehow betrayed.

Now I'm in the midst of devouring the American version of "Queer as Folk." (I never subscribed to Showtime, so I never saw the series when it aired.) The nature of the characters as well as all the plot turns began making me apprehensive about the series' conclusion, so I looked it up on the Internet.

NO! Knife in the heart! I won't be watching the fifth and final season.

I can't.


I hurt just thinking about it!

Movies and TV shows have made me a complete wimp when it comes to non-HEA's. I can still take them in books -- two of my favorite reads from the past year are The Brothers Bishop and Junction X, both of which made me cry buckets -- but when an on-screen couple I adore doesn't end up together, I'm in a mournful daze for days. (If the resolution is ambiguous, if it offers at least a glimmer of hope, I'm satisfied. But one that destroys a hard-won relationship and seems irreversible?  I'm shattered.)

So how do you react to non-HEA's and -HFN's for fictional characters who've thoroughly captured your imagination? Do such endings bother you across the board, in books as well as movies, or more in one than the other? Have you ever been crippled by disappointment at a story's outcome? Or do I need therapy?  

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Now about that free print copy . . .

. . . of The Zero Knot. My giveaway, just one of many, is part of Young Love Week at the Joyfully Jay review site, and the festivities kick off on Sunday, October 7. Be sure to check in regularly throughout the week. Jay has all kinds of special features planned for this special celebration of the first flush of romance.

Friday, October 05, 2012

A House Divided

I can't wait for this presidential election to be OVER!

So . . . I had the foresight to save my yard sign from the 2008 election. JLA, with whom I hardly see eye-to-eye on political matters, wouldn't let me put it up until he got his own yard sign. Petty? Yes, but I'm old enough to realize that little straight boys sometimes need to be indulged lest they pitch hissy fits. And I have no tolerance for hissy fits.

When the primo don JLA finally got his sign, we put them up on the same day. I'd thought all was well. Silly me for being so trusting! Today I went to the mailbox and saw that someone (ahem) had used white medical tape to make an "N" in front of "Obama." I was ... less than happy. In a fit of pique (I occasionally have those in lieu of hissy fits), I peeled off the tape then helped the north wind bend over JLA's sign.

My front-yard drama wasn't over. Clapping broke through the sound of windblown leaves. Bewildered, I glanced around. Our neighbor, a retired railroad worker, was standing on his porch across the road, apparently watching my show. "Way to go!" he called out.

The next act has yet to be written. But it will be when JLA gets home from work.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Maturity and M/M Romance, Part II

Let's jump right in . . .

Lynn Lorenz

In my Hearts of New Orleans series I have a character, Sebastian LaGrange. He’s an gay man in his seventies who becomes a mentor and dear friend to two younger gay men, Lane and Matt (from Pinky Swear). Sebastian appears in the next book with the boys, Pioneers, where Matt is making a documentary about gay life in New Orleans by interviewing Sebastian.

At the end of that story, I left Sebastian accepting a date with a man he meets at a fast food restaurant, Raymond Chou, an Asian man who grew up in France. My readers begged me to continue their story. It seemed Sebastian had wormed his way into their hearts and they wanted him to have his HEA.

So, in C’est La Vie, I gave Sebastian his HEA in what I hope was a very sweet, poignant story. Now this involved a man, Raymond, who was very much sexually active in his seventies, and he wants Sebastian. Yes, that way.  But Sebastian goes through all sorts of worries about “doing” it, as would any man who’d been “out of action” for quite a while. Will he? Can he? If he can’t, will that be the end of Raymond? What will Raymond think of his seventy year old body?

When it came to the sex scenes, they had to match the tone of the book, and the reality of the men involved. There were no wild gyrations or gymnastics, it was gentle, sweet, and loving. They took their time getting to the actual “penetration” – Sebastian was the bottom – and Raymond handled him with consideration and love, but we did see the entire thing. No closed doors. No fade to black. No shame.

The story is romantic, sweet, and gives those who read it hope that love can come to us, no matter what the age.

Reelin’ In The Years

I admit, by some standards, (though not my own) I’m old. Too old to be writing erotic romance. And I freely admit, there are some drawbacks to my age. I don’t do clubs, I’m not out at bars staying on top the latest slang and fashion. But then, I never did that sort of thing.

That leads to the question: what does the older author have to offer the reader? Well, experience, and not just of the sexual variety. I’ve loved and lost. I’ve experienced grief and pain that was so deep it was bewildering. I’ve had success and failure. I’ve had good sex, bad sex and no sex at all.  I’ve seen troubled marriages transformed into deep enduring relationships, defying all the romance tropes around.  I’ve seen unlikely pairings that flourished. This experience encourages me to think outside the box in my writing. I just wrote the ultimate May/December pairing: Travis is 25, his lover Dylan is 900…give or take a decade or two.

The older writer has the mileage to look back and see that sometimes life is more varied and complex than fiction. An older author can often channel emotion and experience into a character, giving him depth and unexpected layers.

And characters…what’s better than a forty-something cowboy coming out of the closet to find passion and love with an over-the-hill boy toy? Or a woman  discovering her inner kink after her kids are grown? I see possibilities now that never occurred to me 25 years ago.

I’ve found that I can shock and excite people half my age. How cool is that?

Many of my characters are in their late twenties or early thirties because that’s a crucial time, I believe, in finding love and settling down. While I have written about older guys  I think there has to be a compelling reason why this guy is on the market at this stage of his life. Is he a widower? Coming out late in life? Rowan in The Russian Boy is in his early fifties and has, like many men of his generation, been married to a woman and had children. He’s had to get over the baggage of that broken relationship before he’s ready to start a new one.

Available here.
When I write about older guys I try to emphasize those features that are attractive on a man who’s no longer in his youthful prime. I’ve written sex scenes with older men, in The Russian Boy, where Rowan is self-conscious about having sex with a man twenty years younger—but Taylor loves things about Rowan, such as his confidence and wisdom, as well as his sexiness, that have only improved with age. In my short story, “Heat Lightning,” appearing this fall in the Cleis anthology Sexy Sailors, both the protagonists are over fifty, and the things they find attractive about each other are age-appropriate—liking the gray pubic hairs, the bit of extra at the waist, and so on.

My author photo is about seven years old but I’m not changing it for a while at least—it was too expensive! I don’t think my being 55 has any impact on what readers think of my books. Many of my biggest fans are men of my age or older who relate to the emotional struggles I write about.

I’d be happy to see more M/M romance about older men. I think it’s a real challenge to bring together two guys who have already had their characters set through the years, and see how they can adapt to each other.

My first novel, Until Thanksgiving (to be released in December or January by Dreamspinner Press), revolves around 39 year-old Josh Freeman. After he and his lover of 17 years part ways, Josh is certain that his life is over and he’ll never find love again. I wrote the story because at 39, that’s how I felt after my 12-year relationship had ended. No, he’s not over 50. But the fact that Josh feels the way he does (and the way I did) at what I now perceive to be the prime of life was something I wanted to write about.

Now I’m 54, and believe it or not, recently single after the end of another 12-year relationship. Again, I have a sense that my chances of finding love are slim to none. The difference is that this time around, the thought doesn’t frighten me.

So what does any of this have to do with m/m romance novels featuring characters over 50? I think guys my age don’t turn up in romance novels because at my age, the nature of romance has mellowed to such an extent that it would make for an awfully boring read. Young love is a roller coaster ride with dizzying highs and gut wrenching lows. Sorry. I don’t do roller coasters any more. Once upon a time, I loved the excitement. These days, I prefer a more even keel and run like the wind from that kind of drama.

I don’t think gay men are any more beauty-conscious than straight women—not when it comes to fictional men. Gorgeous heroes are the gold standard in straight romance, too. And if gay men find youth appealing, in characters or writers, well, so do straight folk of both genders. The only reason I find age an issue at all is my own fear that my work will be judged based on something other than its merits. I’m a perfectly nice woman of a certain age—Mom’s age!  I have three sons older than most of my characters.

Let me say right here I don’t know if my age would be an issue with readers. I like to think not, that the story is what matters. My stories don’t focus only on younger characters. Older characters get to have sex in my stories, too, as often as they care to. My sorcerer Muir is over fifty years old, though I don’t dwell on his age. His scars get more attention. And the sex is explicit.

Though I love writing about young men coming of age through adventure, I also love watching men who have a few life lessons under their belt finding that special someone who appreciates them for who they are and finds them sexy. In fact, in contemporary stories, I prefer older protagonists. I know firsthand that the sex drive doesn’t shrivel up and die for a person over fifty. I’m more interested in sex now than I ever was!

Twitter: @tali_spencer

This world is made up of people of all ages, races, beliefs, cultures and sexual orientations. As such, it’s my sense that no matter what you write, you’ll find some readers. Maybe not as many as you’d like, but I think there’s certainly room for anything and everything including older heroes.

In romance fiction there will be readers who don’t like very young characters or very old ones. The majority of what’s selling appears to be books with characters in their 20’s and 30’s. That doesn’t mean that books with older characters don’t sell. I know for a fact that some do.

I did a cover for Z.A. Maxfield’s Family Unit, a book featuring a hero who is a grandfather. That book sells phenomenally well. Readers don’t care how old Richard is. They identify with him and they love him. And I think in M/M romance, especially with female readers, they are more accepting of older heroes as long as they are written well and portrayed as sexy regardless of their age. Maybe gay men want books about young, hot, perfect guys, but I don’t know for sure. Certainly, the gay men who have critiqued my books aren’t like that and I’m not an author who writes what I think will sell. I write what I need to write. I write the story that thunders inside me, insisting on having its day on paper.

If I came up with a plot bunny involving a character over 50, I’d go with it if it’s one of those stories I just have to write. And when I write paranormals, I have characters who are immortal so they are more than 50 and look younger. They don’t always act younger and they aren’t always perfect. In fact, I live to write flawed characters regardless of their age.

At the age of 51 I’ve learned not to sweat the stuff I can’t change. I can’t stop my body from aging even if my brain doesn’t think it’s aged.  I don’t lie about my age or worry that people won’t like what I write. I am who I am. When readers ask me personal questions, I probably tell them far more truth than they want to know!

Facebook (and here)

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A note from the hostess (or is that not a word anymore because it's politically incorrect?) I'm deeply grateful to all these fine writers for offering not only their opinions but candid glimpses into their lives. They've made it pretty damned obvious that regardless of one's age, proud self-acceptance, even with a dash of defiance, are good things when combined with intellect and sensitivity.

 (This picture is about as old as Neil's but cost a lot less, thanks to an outdated Polaroid camera. My reaction to it? First, where'd those black dots come from, and how dare they make it look like I'm hiding a guinea pig under my golden tresses? Second, how could I kiss a man with a 'do like that? (Sorry, JLA. At least your hair has grown out . . . what's left of it, anyway. :))

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Maturity and M/M Romance, Part I

Victor J. Banis,
with only a fraction of his output.

I asked the esteemed gentleman above as well as other writers for their opinions on older authors of, and characters in, m/m romance fiction. Is there an unspoken prejudice against one or the other or both? Are female authors more sensitive to the issue of age? My September 10 post will give you more specifics on what I was angling for, but I pretty much let my guests decide how they wanted to approach the topic. Here's what they had to say. (And I apologize for any wonky formatting. Blogger does not like absorbing various blocks of text that aren't all the same, and I'm afraid I don't have the tech skills to correct that!)

I think the reason we have youthful heroes in romances is one simple factor—most people don't want to read about someone, of a similar age to their parents, having sex? Hence, we have young, super attractive men in every romance novel. I do like to read about men with a bit of snow on the roof as well.

As a writer, I tend to keep my age to myself because I don't believe it makes any difference to the reader, or it shouldn't. For me, the age of an author makes no difference, so that translates to the way I handle the revelation. I'm not sure how I'd lose credibility as a writer if someone knew my age. To me, logic tells me the opposite. More experience, etc.

I've written explicit sex scenes featuring men over forty and will continue to push that dynamic. I write for Boxer Falls, the Gaytime Drama, and my favorite characters to write for are all over 50 or nearing it. There is a maturity and less superficiality with men that age. They aren't so worried about their hair or their abs, and more concerned with their partner. I find that enormously liberating as a writer.

I suppose I've never made an issue of revealing my age, because of the subculture of youth in ebooks in general. Attending Gay Rom Lit last year showed me that my entire thinking process on the subject was off, because there were more people there who looked like me, than not. I have gray hair and have some pounds on me that I wish weren't there. Those were the two factors I was most concerned about (to the point of coloring my hair before going to New Orleans), not about the number of years I've walked the earth.

As I say to anyone who asks, I've lived every minute of those years. If my age precludes me from writing what I write, I haven't seen that rule written anywhere. As my mama used to say, "I might be old, but I ain't dead yet." The interpretation of old is in the mind of the beholder. I'm not old 'til they carry me away. LOL

My newest release, For Men Like Us, is available at Dreamspinner Press. 

Email address:
Twitter: @britaaddams
Fan Page

Kayelle Allen

When KZ asked me to write about ageism in MM Romance, it took me a few days to decide which angle to use. At first, I considered writing about hiding my own age as a beginning writer to prevent a prejudiced view of a grandmother writing erotic fiction. Instead, I decided to discuss the aging character I know best: Luc Saint-Cyr.

Luc is sixty-three. He's been a character in six books, and the romantic hero of two. In the interest of full disclosure, Luc is also immortal. A created being called a Sempervian, he lives, ages throughout a normal lifespan (about 120 years in his universe), and then dies, only to be "reborn" in his early twenties -- the prime of his life. He's lived over twelve thousand years. If any man could claim he was old, it's Luc.

Unlike his fellow stimulus-craving immortals, Luc prefers calm. That's not to say he doesn't desire sex. His stamina is legendary, even among peers. Sex and the performance of it has never been an issue. What he does suffer from is an opinion that he's too old for a mortal to love. He must hide his real age or face retribution from fellow immortals who move among humans as part of a plot to rule them, but a few select mortals know. This hero's age separates him from others. He must hide not only his age but also his nature. Small wonder when he meets a newly created immortal who falls head over heels in love with him, Luc doubts the younger man knows what he wants. Luc experiences ageism in reverse. He has issues with his lover's youth. He believes that a younger person cannot know his own heart. In the book Surrender Love, Luc must face his own prejudices about age, and overcome them to find love.

Writing a gay hero in his sixties who falls in love with a twenty-something made me look at my own beliefs and ideals. Could I do his younger hero justice? I knew I could show Luc's strength, but could I show his fragility without making him weak? The book won the 2010 EPIC award for Erotic Science Fiction Romance, and has been a best seller. Three years later I still get emails asking when Luc and his young sweetheart will have another book. I think I did him justice. I think readers crave a hero who knows his heart and is willing to embrace and overcome his doubts -- no matter what his age.

Kayelle Allen is an award-winning, multi-published author. Her heroes and heroines include immortal role-playing gamers, warriors who purr, and agents who find the unfindable--or hide it forever. She is known for unstoppable heroes, uncompromising love, and unforgettable passion.

Where to find Kayelle:
Facebook Page

When I Grow Too Old to Dream…

Which is never going to happen. Interesting topic, though, especially for an old fart like myself. I do think ageism is built in but not unavoidable in romance fiction, and especially so in m/m romance. I think in hetero romance, as in movies, it’s okay for the man to be along in years. I don’t know if that is because women really do find older men attractive, or the folks making the movies (mostly older men) like to think that is so. And books today sort of follow the leader. On the other hand, I think Sean Connery is still hot. Ditto Catherine Deneuve, who didn’t really achieve beauty, in my opinion, until she was in her 50s. Likewise Barbara Stanwyck. Am I the only one who thinks Brad Pitt is improving as the years add on?

Sadly, I do think gay men are more youth-and-beauty conscious than straight women. I mean here, in terms of possible partners. Forget The Shadow, the real secret to invisibility is to reach the age of 60 and walk into a gay bar – trust me, no one will see you.
However, I have no reluctance to letting anyone know my age. They can take one glance and see I’m not Tinker Bell, so what difference does a particular number make?

As I writer, I take a certain amount of pride in writing about old men. In Cooper’s Hawk, I never specify the narrator’s age but it’s obvious he’s an old codger. The sex happens in his memories, and though not explicit, it is (I hope) romantic. In The Canals of Mars, one of the two men is in his 60s. (As a funny aside, an editor wrote to tell me I understand the viewpoint of an older man. Ha!) All the way back in the 60s, when I was in my twenties, I was writing about mature men – In Gothic Gaye, one of the C.A.M.P. adventures. I don’t think I ever exactly told the Baron’s age but it’s clear he is no “chicken”:

The carefully combed hair was nearly all gray, with only a few strands of a darker shade scattered here and there. The face smiling back at him… was a mature face… but the high forehead, the rugged cheekbones, the firm set of the chin and mouth, and the shockingly vivid blue eyes, were…ageless.

To tell the truth, age is one of those things I rarely think about. I grew up in a large, multi-generational family in which the generations always mixed. I’m usually flummoxed when someone asks me how old such-and-such is. I never know, and am terrible at trying to guess.

 I’ve known guys who were already cool at age 14, and guys who remained a-holes no matter the years. It’s just a number. It tells you about as much about a person as that number you pull from the machine at the deli counter tells you about the store’s roast beef.  Or maybe I should have said salami…

Just because I am an old fart, I figured it might be a good idea to take KZ’s suggested questions as a guideline for this post – short-term memory loss, ya know. Now, I can only answer these questions as just an old, lady fart, not an old, gay fart, and my answers are strictly my antiquated viewpoint.  So, on to the questions.

Is ageism a built-in, unavoidable factor in all romance fiction? 
I think so, at least, most romances in the traditional, het sense. That is, you may have an older hero, but, heaven forefend if you have an older female/heroine. Unless we’re talking "women’s fiction," I believe that female readers still feel more comfortable with the younger (20s to 30s) main characters. 

I don’t believe it’s as great a factor in m/m romance. I’d have to say as a reader, the age of the characters in this genre doesn’t impact on me in the same way. I find that having more experienced males actually appeals to me. Their life history involving Stonewall, AIDS, and massive homophobia in the media, gives them a more rounded personality and back story.

I’ve never hidden my age. Even though I haven’t personally endured what may have happened to gay writers/readers, I feel that my life experience adds to my credibility as a writer. I can empathize even more so with older, gay characters, writers, readers because I had/have friends and family members whose lives were affected by the events of the 20th century.  Because their lives were impacted, my life was also, to a degree, changed. As far as detractors go, I’ve never personally had to deal with this.

I would like to see more m/m romance featuring mature men, for the reasons stated above.

I suspect ageism is a factor in all romance fiction currently. Maybe it will get better someday--who knows? It doesn't seem quite as bad with m/m romance, but I’m basing that solely on the number of stories I’ve personally read involving older men who'd been married before, had raised families and were now starting over. And, yes, they were all, for the most part, surprisingly young fathers who looked amazingly good considering their not-really-that-advanced ages! Still, these books definitely outnumber the m/f romances involving older heroines that I’m aware of. This is part of why I enjoy writing paranormal. Age is a lot less important when you’re a vampire!

I didn't used to think about how my age or appearance—or gender—might affect my credibility as a writer. I started out writing romantic suspense. It never occurred to me I had to look like a killer in order to write them. Given how often I get stopped by airport security, however, maybe I’m overlooking something that’s obvious to other people.

At this point, I’ve grown used to the reaction I get when people find out what I write. Although, it’s usually not to the extent of one woman at a book-signing recently who went on for several minutes about how ordinary I looked—not at all what she was expecting. In retrospect, I kind of wish I’d asked her if I looked more like a serial killer than she’d imagined, but that might have just scared her more.

I wouldn’t say I’m secretive about my age or my gender, but it’s not something I go out of my way to mention, either.

Romance writing by its definition promises sex. Pause for a moment and imagine two older people whom you know having sex, or having sex with someone of the same gender. Difficult, isn’t it? This is why our heroes and heroines are young, beautiful, and all possess superhuman libidos.

Youth can be quantitatively measured in years, and so from that point only, I would say that it weighs more heavily toward gay men than straight women. Beauty on the other hand is entirely subjective regardless of age. My opinion is, that if a poll is limited to the question of beauty it would be split pretty much equally. However, my answer here does not address the areas of ethnicity.

Are you wary of divulging your age for fear of losing credibility as a writer of m/m romance?
The thought has crossed my mind, but I’ve never hidden my age.

Have you written, or read, sex scenes involving men over 50? Were they explicit, romantic, or fade-to-black?
No to both the first and second question because there are so few available that I haven’t come across any.
Would you like to see more m/m romance featuring mature men?
I’m completely neutral on this point.

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Please return tomorrow, 
when my guests will be 
Lynn Lorenz, Belinda McBride, Neil Plakcy,
Michael Rupured, Tali Spencer, and Lex Valentine.