Friday, January 29, 2010

These things must stop!

My bloggedy-bloggedy (that's when you hop from one blog to another) has been sporadic of late, since I've been focusing on composition, edits, and submissions. Whenever I get this hitch in my blogalong, people's posting habits begin to jump out at me -- y'know, because I'm not exposed to them every day. Based on what I've noticed, I've decided to issue some decrees.

  • No more breaking up sentences with periods. Put 'em at the end where they belong. People tend to engage in this habit when they're trying to express their shock over something. Just thinking about giving you examples is already annoying me. Okay, here goes: Oh. My. God. Wow. Just. Wow. Quit. That. Before. I. Kill. You.

  • Snorting is okay, but no more snorting coffee through one's nose. Or throwing up in one's mouth, or spraying Coke on the keyboard/monitor. No more! We need some new expressions of amusement as well as disgust, like "You just made me fall backward in my chair and crack my skull open!" Or, "I just had to do the Heimlich maneuver on myself!"

  • No more thanking a reviewer for "taking one for the team" when she snarks on (what she perceives as) a truly dreadful book. Whose team? Where? What's the name of the team? I don't get it. Furthermore, nobody who uses that phrase is expressing sincere gratitude. The subtext is either Fuck, I wish I'd gotten attention by snarking on this book, or Damn, it's fun to pile on an author who's just gotten her ass whupped! Thanks for getting the game started!

  • No more reviews of Harlequin novels. Please. I mean it. We know what they're about. We knew twenty years ago. We no longer need to be reminded. The. End.
I could go on and on about this because I'm on a roll, but I'll take a step back now and let you take over.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What's up with Jane Austen?

I don't mean I expect y'all to start channeling her or anything ("Yo, Jane, play any grab-ass lately?") I just mean I'm bewildered. The recent craze over her fiction--and, to a lesser extent, the Brontes', probably because their work was darker--has been going on for years, with no sign of letting up.

I had to read a number of Austen's novels when I was in college and, to be honest, they hardly left me all aflutter. In fact, they left me pretty cold. Am I not a romance reader at heart? Or a certain kind of romance reader? Are Hollywood and the BBC (and handsome actors with British accents) responsible for this resurgence of interest? Because, honestly, I don't get it. And "it" is getting on my nerves. I want to start screaming at these devotees to check out . . . [Here's where I could start listing names but won't, 'cause lists always bring out the OCD in me.]

Suffice it to say, I find so many other pre-twentieth-century female authors and characters so much more engaging, even going back as far as the mid 1700s, when the novel was first born. I find the output of some lady poets far more resonant too.

So, if you're an Austen fanatic, please explain the lure. What am I missing? (Not that I'll ever actually believe I'm missing something, but I am curious.)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tam picks up the gauntlet . . . again!

I wondered in my previous post if any manlove fiction existed wherein one of the characters had a peculiar combination of occupation/interests/fetishes or kinks, like the heroine in that gingerbread-dude story that prompted my post.

Chris, knitter extraordinaire, kvetched a little about heroes in gay fiction never having knitting as a hobby. So, just by way of example, I tossed a welder-knitter-felcher combo on the table. Wren passed the buck . . . uh, I mean modestly declined . . . when I suggested she build a tale around such a character. I can't do it, because I'm obviously too busy dreaming up stupid blogs. No one else volunteered.

And then -- voila! -- a story appeared in my inbox. Someone had risen to my challenge! (And the story's kind of hot, too.) If you click on the title of this post, you'll be treated to:

Girl always comes through!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Shifter, Shoe Salesman, Jock Sniffer

There's a review up at Dear Author that skewers a Noble Romance release -- hetero, by the way. I'm not a big fan of the "romfail" fad, which often finds its way onto Twitter and turns into a gang bang, but I did get a chuckle out of the favorite hobbies of this book's heroine: baking, magic, and masturbation. (Honest, she's a devotee of IM -- inventive masturbation -- and apparently likes to practice it as often as possible . . . between spell casting and cookie making, that is.)

I chuckled even harder when I imagined said heroine indulging in all three pastimes on any given day, then tried to imagine myself juggling these activities. (But, you know, I really hate to cook, so I'd get too distracted by the IM and hocus-pocus stuff.)

This in turn got me wondering how many weird combinations of vocation and/or avocation exist in m/m romance. (Of course, I immediately thought of Jackson Spey -- biker, furniture builder, wizard, and closet sub.)

Can you think of other odd combos that have appeared in m/m books?
And how might these characters present themselves in a chatroom or craigslist ad?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gothic Blues

Below is the result of a meme -- a real live meme! -- I picked up, like a virus, from Val Kovalin of "Obsidian Bookshelf" at 10:30 pm CDT. (Click on post title to view Val's result.)

Seven paperback, trade paperback, and hardcover books plucked one after another from my nearest bookshelf. First full sentence, page 21, from each. This is tres cool!


They were faces, just passing, soon gone in the shimmering heat. If he ever scares me like that again, I'm going to break his neck. Nothing he did or said was unpremeditated. I don't blame him. But it's better that way. Then there was the sound of rattling chains and the clanking of massive bolts drawn back. But I did make one terrible oversight.

My sources: 

Joey Hill, Beloved Vampire

Steve Kluger, Almost Like Being in Love

Andre Aciman, Call Me By Your Name

Proulx, McMurtry, Ossana, Brokeback Mountain: Story to Screenplay

K. A. Schuster, Acts of the Saints

Bram Stoker, Dracula

John Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (large print edition)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ah, what the hell.

Here's what coming up in my obscure little corner of the m/m romance universe.

1. Mobry's Dick, a two-part novel in which history collides in unusual ways with a duplicitous rentboy, his ruthless sugar daddy, and a decent young man who's just beginning to grope his way out of the closet. (Coming from Loose Id.)

2. Jude in Chains, a novella that centers on the ex-gay movement and a ho-doggy journalist's odyssey back to his social conscience and his heart. (Coming from Dreamspinner Press.)

3. The Prayer Waltz, a novella in which the mysterious death of a gay ex-priest raises more questions than it answers and leads to a peculiar kind of closure for the men he left behind. (I have no idea who'll want this one.)

4. Skeep and the Magical Tops (working title), a kind of short, light-hearted fairy tale featuring my man Skeep from the U-X series. This could change eighty different ways before I get seriously rolling on it, since it comes after edits for the first two books and completion of the third (but I'm close!)

The first three are primarily contemporaries and all are stand-alones. For some reason, I've lately been fascinated by flawed heroes, how difficult and ambiguous redemption can be, and the confounding nature of so many issues and situations.

If I had a dick, I guarantee it would get caught in some kind of wringer over at least one of these books. That's probably because I've given up trying to figure out what people like and why they like it -- something I've never fully grasped as a reader or a writer. So I guess I'm in the mood to throw caution to the wind. It's not like I have a reputation to lose. ;-)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Castanet's Wardrobe Shopping Spree

She actually had to travel to China to find these pretties. A win-win situation for me, because not only did I get her out of my hair for a few weeks, I now have a lifetime supply of . . . well, something I probably don't need. But it doesn't hurt to be prepared.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Just because . . .

. . . Matthew McConaughey is a fine actor, and . . .

I'm a big believer in wearing clean underwear, and

I'm also a big believer in personal hygiene, and . . .

. . . it's been a hard, cold winter.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Psychopathology and the Internet

It's a connection that's becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.

Before the World Wide Web came into being (and what a mixed blessing that's been), people with character and deeper psychological disorders were compelled to try to control their destructive impulses, not draw undue attention to themselves, and "fit in." Worst-case scenario: their influence was usually restricted to their immediate, real-world surroundings. Best-case scenario: they sought and received help.

Certainly not an ideal setup but, human nature and biochemistry being as flawed as it is, about the best we could hope for. (And I apologize for my phraseology not being clinically accurate or sufficiently PC.)

Now, however, every child molester, stalker, con artist, thief, hate group, and generic nutjob can find like-minded wackos all over the globe. Networks have formed that enable, reinforce, and encourage behavior previously seen as morally reprehensible and socially unacceptable. Sociopaths have found a power base. The lunatics are taking over the asylum.

I've been mulling this over for a while. Haven't been able to ignore the subject, really, given the number of toxic spiders crawling the Web (and that includes YOU, ebook pirates -- go grow a conscience!) Then I came upon a post today by Mrs. Giggles (click title), and it was the catalyst that prompted this vent.

What a creepy place the 'Net is becoming.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Okay, I finished it.

I reached the end of Almost Like Being in Love. (And for crap's sake, don't read this if you hate spoilers. I'm not a reviewer.)

When Kluger writes poignant, he writes poignant so damned well, with a sweetness that's almost rarified. I teared up over this or that phrase, teared up over this or that scene, ached for Travis, ached for Craig . . . then wanted to kick them both in the ass by letting my foot connect with the book.

Why? Because there was so much piddling around at the end of the story, such bizarre, herky-jerk pacing, so many scene shifts and switches of perspective, so many incomprehensible reactions and decisions and changes of heart, that the poignancy kept being diluted or completely neutralized. I had no bloody idea who would end up with whom (except in the case of a half-dozen secondary characters) until the last handful of pages. Up to then, I felt as if my chain was being jerked forty-three different ways.

When the Big Reunion I'd been waiting for finally seemed solid enough not to crumble beneath yet another switcheroo -- and I had to re-read a bunch of pages several times to make sure -- it was anticlimactic. By that point, I'd already been duped more times than I could count. (The deus ex machina breakup that paved the way for the reunion was so damned abrupt, I almost missed it. What's more, it was shockingly offhanded, given all the un-breakup-like words and actions that preceded it.)

I wanted buildup, damn it, not a carnival ride! I wanted to be all breathless with anticipation and melty inside and then puddle up at the end . . . because I haven't had a good cry over a book since "Brokeback." Instead, my reaction was more like Finally. Am I allowed to be happy for these guys now? Sheesh.

Maybe the conclusion of this story was the author's nod to real life; happy endings, if they come at all, don't often come tidily. But since the rest of the book was anything but a nod to real life, why start when the romance should be ratcheting up instead of flung around in the Mad Tea Party ride at Disneyland? Or maybe the author was trying to demonstrate precisely how and why the heroes were special, why their love endured, why they were worthy of their HEA. That I can appreciate, but I just can't appreciate the way he did it.

I've been spoiled by the romance genre. I realize now just how much. I've turned into a complete sap. Maybe I've turned into a complete simpleton. Hell, maybe I've always been a closet idealist who craves that satisfyingly predictable march from estrangement to togetherness with no emotional detours or artificial barriers so close to the end.

In any case, kudos to Kluger. I only get this riled up if I'm either totally invested in characters or totally alienated by them. And I wasn't alienated. In fact, I was very nearly heartbroken at a couple of points.

Phrew. Now what should I read?

Almost Like Being in Love

That's what I'm now reading, that sweet, funny love story Wave so highly recommended. I was sucked in by it at first. I laughed frequently; sometimes I wanted to cry. Then twenty years passed between chapters -- blammy! -- and the heroes, now a continent apart, were all grown up and involved in their respective lives and careers.

That wasn't a problem for me at first. Passages of time exist in most novels. Temporary estrangement of the central couple is also common. Still, as I read on, I started getting just a teensy bit irked and impatient. With the heroes apart, the author started dishing up too much clever-and-amusing just for the sake of clever-and-amusing. Every character that was introduced was clever-and-amusing.

I also realized I was getting bored with the baseball fetish and the lawyer-related stuff, and that without any significant plot involving the book's original couple, the entire narrative was being carried on the back of clever-and-amusing. Only ... the narrative didn't seem to be going anywhere.

Is that it? I wondered. Is too-much-of-a-good-thing dampening this reading experience for me?

Out of curiosity, I went to Amazon to check out other readers' reactions. The book was almost universally praised, but there were a few sniffy souls who gave it a 1. A freakin' 1. (I wasn't thoroughly surprised; there are grumblers everywhere, and they're often self-righteous types who take themselves WAY too seriously because they've had their sense of humor surgically removed.) But I perused their comments anyway, hoping to get a fix on my own small undercurrent of disaffection.

Sure enough, these negative "reviews" were generally hightoned and dry and pretty much beyond my comprehension, as if these people and I had read two entirely different books. But one of them did say something that struck a chord: there's no differentiation among the characters' voices.

Yup, that was it. Or part of it. A sudden plethora of players, all of whom have the same voice: the protagonists, their male and female friends, their gay and straight friends, their lovers, students, coworkers, parents, even a young boy. They all, and I mean ALL, were dipping from the same witty, educated voice-pot. I wouldn't have been able to tell them apart if the author hadn't made it obvious whose words I was reading.

What's more, their droll observations and snappy repartee had been substituted for any kind of storyline. The book just stalled out in the middle. The cast of characters bumbled around in a Three Stooges kind of way, saying and doing zany things. As much as I love humor, it started getting on my nerves.

Don't get me wrong. I'm still engaged by this book and still eagerly anticipating the reunion of the protags. If there's an HEA buzzkill, though, I'll be rip-roaringly pissed off.

I almost always learn something from the novels and stories I read, either through positive or negative example. In addition to providing me with hours of entertainment, Almost Like Being in Love has been an eye-opener, another object lesson in the craft of fiction.

Monday, January 04, 2010


(Click on post title to get there.)


The Empty Pocket

My hand touches

Air. Goes deeper.

Still, nothing

There. A crease

In time, a wrinkle,

A ragged tear

Where a bright

Coin once stared

At me from

At this point, Pablo gives up writing his poem. (Of course I can't tell you why.) It kind of describes how I feel about letting go of Utopia-X. You'll notice, though, it's open-ended. So maybe a little story will appear from time to time.

(You satisfied, Kris?)

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Somebody 'splain ARe to me!

I don't get it. At all. Here are the reasons for my WTFery:

  • I have a Changeling title starred as a category bestseller in a category that doesn't exist (Humor - Fiction). It's also listed in the Gay category, yet it's a totally m/f book. Here's the page:
  • I have a Mojocastle Press story that's starred as a category bestseller and listed fourth in "highest rated," yet it doesn't show up at the top of the category page (Short Stories) for either bestselling or highest rated . . . and, what's more, hasn't received a single rating!
  • InDescent isn't even listed in the Gay category. That is BAD news!
  • Bastards and Pretty Boys, which has thus far received 25 ratings of five and appeared as a category bestseller, hasn't made it to either Top Ten list on ARe's front page...even though the "Highest Rated" books that are there haven't gotten nearly the amount of positive feedback as B&PB.

The most troubling of these glitches are the category misplacements -- for Boolicious, which isn't m/m, and for InDescent, which is. Good lord! The ratings stuff isn't going to make or break my day or anything, but I'm just really befuddled by how things are handled at ARe. Anybody have any insights?