Wednesday, December 28, 2011


I'm going to mention this, because it doesn't happen to me very often.

Two fairly new, very articulate, and genuinely personable reviewers put a couple of my pieces on their Favorite Books of 2011 lists. I can't tell you how surprised and thrilled I was (as I said, I'm not often mentioned in this context, and I'm truly honored to be so). Heaping thanks to the genuinely sweet Tom Webb of "A Bear on Books," who cited Visible Friend. Tom posted his "Best" list at It's Raining Men. And more thanks to J. at "Joyfully Jay" for mentioning The Zero Knot. Then there's talented Tam Ames over at "Tam's Reads." She didn't exactly do a Favorites list, but she averaged out her book ratings (of which there must be hundreds, considering how much that woman reads). I made it into third place -- another lovely surprise.

I myself have an appallingly short Favorites list. So here it is, for what it's worth:

  • Best Book I Read in 2011 --  The Brothers Bishop by Bart Yates (hands down)
  • Favorite M/M Couple of 2011 (and possibly forever) -- Rickey and G-man, created by Poppy Z. Brite (I'm in the process of gobbling up every novel and story in which they're featured.)
  • Favorite Character I Made Up in 2011 ('cause I can't possible pick a favorite book) -- Jared "Red" Bonner in The Zero Knot.
  • Dumb-assedest Review I Read in 2011 -- Can't remember. It seems every time I troll for books at Amazon or Goodreads, I invariably come across a reader review that makes me think, That's gotta be the most dumb-assed review I've ever read.
  • Best Blog I Discovered in 2011: a toss-up between "Thorny, Not Prickly" and 2 Boys in Love (because I'm getting sentimental in my dotage)
  • Books I'm Most Looking Forward to Reading -- anything with the couple mentioned above; anything by Frank Tuttle that I haven't yet read (God, I am such a fangirl); Downtime by Tamara Allen (which I was super-duper lucky enough to have grabbed at Wave's big holiday giveaway); Willy and Martyrs and Monsters by Robert Dunbar; some stories by Lucius Parhelion. (Crap, now a slew of other books are coming to mind, but I can't possibly list them all!) 

Keep your eyes peeled for Jessewave's announcement of her on-site New Year's bash. I'll be contributing a little something. And speaking of Wave, I'm also grateful to those people who chose my titles during her enormous Christmas giveaway. Hundreds of books were offered by dozens of authors, so, honestly, it was a relief not to be overlooked!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

It's that time of year again.

Every Christmas season, if I remember, I like to parade out this sweet, funny novel from my romance-writing past. For all its imperfections, I'm very, very fond of it.

I wrote Mrs. Claws -- originally with the subtitle, The Nightsweats Before Christmas -- approximately eight years ago. It was first published through a tiny romance press called Scheherazade Tales (now long gone), then reissued through Cerridwen Press, the demure sister of Ellora's Cave. EC has since developed an imprint called Blush, into which all its Cerridwen titles have been absorbed. (Did you follow that?) Long story shortened:  Mrs. Claws is still available, now as an EC "Blush" title. Click on this post's title to get to the book's page.

Yup, it's an m/f romance, but it isn't saccharine or angsty and contains no explicit sex.

Following is a blurb. Merry Christmas!

Crap, Christmas is coming. That's Lauren's attitude. Why? Because her husband left her for a twit. And because she's dated seventeen losers since her divorce. That's why. "The most wonderful time of the year" doesn't seem all that damned wonderful to her, and she's not in the mistletoe mood. But she wants to be. (Well, okay, her therapist wants her to be.)

In an effort to get her therapist off her back achieve her goal, Lauren applies for a job playing Mrs. Santa Claus. That might get her in the holiday spirit. Unless, of course, the job turns out to be a bigger bite than she can chew, and a major reason for its unchewability is that one of those seventeen losers happens to be playing Santa opposite her -- at a huge shopping mall, no less. Then there are those inevitable encounters with difficult children and parents, the interference of meddlesome friends, and the appearance of an icky ex or two.

Quite a lot to handle for a diehard Grinchette. But if Lauren toughs it out, this grueling season might bring her more than Christmas cheer. It might very well give her the gift of love.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saturday Snark!

I missed last week's snark extravaganza because of the Big Computer Switchover. It felt a little odd not participating. So, I got an early start today. Doesn't look like the other offerings are up yet, but if you check Marie's blog a little later (click on post title), you might find them.
Today I have a snip from my urban fantasy WIP, Scourge. It features a vampire who's become mortal again (and whose partner is a wizard) speaking with a vampire who's still a vampire. Long ago and far away, the two used to be lovers.

* * * 

Adin leaned across the table and stared fiercely at the vampire. “I swear to God, I’ll spit on anybody—politician or prince, preacher or pope—who tries to diminish what Jackson and I have together. So I sure as hell won’t hesitate to spit on some bloodsucking pagan.”
For a few moderately terrifying seconds, the skin around Rugh’s eyes puckered. His irises, shocking enough in their natural state, flared with hellish light. Adin braced himself. He could be flung across the room. He could be drained dry. And there wasn’t a damned thing he could do about either. Jackson wasn’t around, and his own preternatural powers had fled the moment he’d reverted to mortality.
Then Rugh blinked, turned his head away, and looked down. Was that a smile that played over his mouth?
“Perhaps, he said, I should sit farther away from you.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

New Computer!

After eight years of nursing my old Dell with Windows XP through increasing numbers of frustrating -- and, to me, inexplicable and irreversible -- problems, I finally broke down and got a whole new desktop system with a Windows 7 OS. The biggest challenges I'm facing right now are getting used to this keyboard (especially the space bar), dealing with my Word 2003 docs vis a vis Word 2010 (and just getting used to 2010!) and restoring my old favorites list.

So if any of you have suggestions or tips, bring 'em on. I'd be most grateful. :)

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Dig it!

for the
goes to . . .


for . . .

! ! ! ! !

Monday, December 05, 2011

A Rare Public Appearance

Well, okay, so it's only online. I'll be at the blog of Jadette Paige on Pearl Harbor Day. (For those of you who are history challenged, that's December 7; for those of you who are calendar challenged, that's Wednesday.)

I'll be talking about what prompted me to write The Zero Knot and posting an excerpt that's never appeared anywhere else -- except in the book, of course. ;-)

On a related note, I'm offering a signed print copy of this novel (if you live in the US or Canada) as part of Jessewave's 2011 "Big-Ass Holiday Author Giveaway" on December 22. This annual event lets writers thank readers for their support by gifting them with books. In case you're wondering, I haven't excluded readers who don't live in North America. Up to four people may choose any ebook from my backlist.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Saturday Snark VII

Yessiree, it's that time again, thanks to the gracious (and funny!) Marie Sexton.

This week I'm bringing you Fallon, Todd, and Jake, aka the Hunt Club, from FUGLY, a contemporary fable. When these guys go clubbing together, they love getting their snark on; it's part of their man-hunt ritual. But . . . they end up paying a high price for their ridicule. (David Ocho, the narrator in the snip below, observes but doesn't participate in the snark -- lucky for him.)

* * *

The Hunt Club began doing what it did best: scan the area for prey while making snide comments about the men who weren’t up to their standards.

A group of five kids walked in. They looked like kids to me, anyway, but were probably students from the university.

“Here comes the itty-bitty-titty committee,” Todd said.

“I don’t mind snack-sized,” Fal countered.

“Then maybe I should introduce you to Gabriel,” Todd told him. “I think he’s got a crush on me. I’d like to nip it in the bud.”

Gabriel was a new Sudbury-Bischoff employee, an allegedly short and quirky young guy who took care of the cosmetic side of their preparation work. Todd preferred tall, handsome men. All three of them did.
Although none of us would’ve said so to Todd, we all wondered how he managed to hang on to any hook-up after the hook-up found out what he did for a living. It was an irrational prejudice, granted, but a prejudice we had trouble overcoming. Fallon had once said, “I’d do Toddy in a minute…after I knew he’d spent a day getting detoxed by a hazmat team and another twenty-nine days in the shower.”

A short time after the twinks walked in, Jake peevishly noted the “glamazon” who was dancing with a man he fancied. Fallon, possibly taking umbrage, said glam was better than butter-faced, which described the glamazon’s partner.

“Damn, look at that one,” Todd said, pointing out a guy who was wending his way from the DJ to the bar.

“Yowza,” Jake said distastefully.

“Boy must’ve tumbled from the tippy-top of the fugly tree,” said Fal, “and hit every branch on the way down.”

Friday, December 02, 2011

New WIP Sneak Peek

If you look at the sidebar under "Pages," you'll see a new post. I've put up an excerpt from Scourge: Red, the first part of my in-progress Jackson Spey Scourge trilogy. (Still don't know if this will be a proper trilogy -- meaning, three separate books -- or one book divided into three parts. How it shakes out will depend on the length of each section. I'm currently working on the second.)

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Dove and the Pearl

Blogs don't generally warm my heart. Most aren't designed to do that. Most are meant to inform and/or entertain. (Well, I suppose there are some squeaky-clean, sappy-ass, sunshiny blogs around for conservative ladies whose lives center on church and family. However, since I don't fall into that demographic category, I'm unaware of them -- thank badness.)

But I've been pleased to discover, finally, a heartwarming blog that makes me grin rather than potentially gag. 2 Boys in Love (click on the post title to get there) centers on exactly what its name suggests: two intelligent, candid young men who are crazy about each other and take so much exuberant pride in that fact, they want to share their thoughts, feelings, and daily experiences with the world. As far as I'm concerned, the world is a better place for it.

Anybody who needs his or her faith restored in humanity should make a point of visiting Matty and Brad regularly. They aren't saccharine; they're simply sincere. I only wish all queer kids everywhere could find the kind of mutually supportive relationship these boys have forged. It's incomprehensible to me that anybody could take issue with such unshakable friendship and untainted romance, with such happiness.  

I just adore these guys. Long may they love . . . and spread their joy.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday Snark VI

Once more, courtesy of the lovely and talented Marie Sexton . . .

This snip is from A Hole in God's Pocket, due out in spring 2012 from Dreamspinner Press. Greg Aubuchon, one of the main characters, is playing Good Samaritan; he's brought an inebriated man home with him to crash on the couch. But Greg's housemate, Lenny, is none too happy about this act of kindness. Lenny's a rip-roarin' redneck who swears the overnight guest is gay -- at least according to local gossip -- and his homophobia has kicked in.

* * *

Greg’s mind backpedaled. Had there been any other indication Faron was gay? No, not really. Certainly nothing concrete. “That crap doesn’t mean anything. There are dozens of single men around here who hang out together or share a rental. Look at us.”

“Buddy,” Lenny said, reaching across the corner of the table and clapping a hand to Greg’s shoulder, “we don’t flit around and we sure as shit don’t get all touchy-feely with each other.” He abruptly, and quite comically, pulled his hand back. God forbid Lenny Lorta should be mistaken for a “flitter.”

Greg squelched an impulse to laugh. “Sounds like folks are jumping to a whole lot of conclusions based on a whole lot of nothing. You know how it is. One person makes an assumption and pretty soon it’s being spread like the Gospel.”

“Yeah, I know, but you don’t often hear about dudes being pegged as homos. Where there’s smoke, blah-blah-blah.”

“Oh, bullshit.” Greg seemed to be saying it to himself as much as to Lenny. He needed to quell the flutter of excitement he felt, the pale images that rose in his mind like resurfacing stains. “You don’t know him any better than I do.”

“Whatever. But the fucker better not wander into my bedroom. I’m gonna lock my door just to be on the safe side.”

Greg gave Lenny a look that said, You must be kidding. “Do that. God knows we don’t want a maybe-gay man with maybe-rampaging hormones mistaking you for David Beckham.”

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday Snark V

Just a short one today -- an "afterglow exchange" from The Prayer Waltz:

“I’m a sucker for a man who licks my chest. Just keep doing it. Maybe more hair will grow.”

“Shit, Evan. I’d suffocate.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Twitter Twit

That be me. I am honestly starting to get the guilts about people following me on Twitter. They have nothing to follow. I am lost in this wilderness of drive-by posts and dangling conversational bits.

I'm so sorry!

I don't know how to respond to comments. I don't know how to participate in discussions. I don't feel like hunting down and reading instructions.

So . . . how do I get involved? Do I want to get involved? I'm not entirely sure yet. There are so damned many wackos out there! I haven't felt too kindly disposed toward social networking lately, because sometimes the Web bears an alarming resemblance to a spider web, with plump, toxic arachnids just lying in wait and trembling with anticipation 'cause they're so eager to pounce. I don't want them near me!

But anyway, for future reference, how does Twitter work? I just haven't bothered to get the hang of it.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Saturday Snark IV

My fourth installment comes from my steampunk novel, Mongrel. Fanule Perfidor, the Eminence of Taintwell, is at (what turns out to be) a very dangerous meeting with his enemies. Lucky for him that his ex-lover, vampire extraordinaire Clancy Marrowbone, has come along.

Click on the post title to visit Marie Sexton's blog and see more authors' offerings!

* * *

For countless moments, chaos reigned. A gunshot tore through the night, a man uttered a strangled cry of shock and terror, Pushbin and Hunzinger tried to duck beneath the table, Will rushed into the tent and immediately dove for Fanule, asking if he was hurt, and Clancy Marrowbone’s voice sounded from somewhere above.

“You can get up now, Fan,” he said, placid as a pigeon.

With Will still touching his back and gripping his arm, Fanule rose to his feet. Pushbin and Hunzinger struggled up from beneath the table. The mayor, his eyes like saucers, stumbled backward and clumsily fell into his chair. Hunzinger’s hand flew to his throat as a startled sound came from his mouth.

Petrified, they stared at the figure in the middle of the table.

“Hello,” said Marrowbone. “As you gentlemen know, I’m not the Eminence of anything, unless it’s a room full of rather short people.” He licked his lips in a leisurely way. “Or lifeless bodies.”

“You always did know how to make an entrance, Clancy,” Fanule said as he resumed his seat.

Marrowbone, who’d been kneeling on all fours, lackadaisically fell back on his haunches. Blood streaked the lower half of his face.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Monday, November 07, 2011

For Tam and Tracy


One Reason Why Cyberspace Can Be a Distasteful Place

Imagine, within that crystal ball, a huge collection of URLs . . .

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Saturday Snark III

Welcome to another edition of Marie Sexton's "Saturday Snark"! The selection below is from my Dreamspinner novella The Prayer Waltz. The narrator, Steven Brandwein, has decided to pray before a statue of St. Jerome. He's at the church where his late lover, an ex-priest, once served.

His snark is gentle and rueful and mostly self-directed.

(Click on the post title to get to Marie Sexton's blog, where you'll find her own sample as well as links to those of other authors!)

* * *

Taking a deep breath, I sank to the hard kneeling rail and rested the wrists of my folded hands against the equally hard prayer rail. Maybe supplicants had to sacrifice comfort in addition to money if they expected something in return.

At least, I thought, I won’t have to flagellate myself.

I turned up my eyes to address Jerome. Actually, I first looked at his statue’s pedestal. A plaque affixed to it read:

Be at peace with your own soul, 
then heaven and earth will be at peace with you.
~ St. Jerome
(Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus, 340-420)

My gaze crept up to his face. Please don’t look at me. You might be the patron saint of orphans and abandoned children, but you are one scary fella.

After that, my mind pretty much went blank. I realized for the second time in my life that I didn’t know how to pray. The first time was after Frank’s accident. I didn’t know how many or what kinds of requests my ten dollars and sore knees had secured me or what words would give them wings. Although my father was Jewish and my mother was Catholic, they were old hippies and hadn’t put too much stock in organized religion. I’d been exposed to it but never steered down a particular path. So I hadn’t spent too much time in places of worship.

Miserably, I mouthed Frank’s name. Then, I miss you.

A yammering began in my mind, a rattling, falling, bouncing and scattering string of words, like poorly matched beads sliding off a broken necklace.

Steven Brandwein here. Please oh please bless the soul and anything else that’s left of Frank Connor and grant him eternal joy and peace, he was once your loyal servant and I know he was a damned good one, but he wasn’t created according to most men’s interpretation of the rules of creation, hell, you know that, so he was forced to stop serving, he didn’t want to but he couldn’t deny his nature, I don’t know why any good man should feel pressured to deny his nature, what the fuck is wrong with people, please fix them, douse them with enlightenment or give them a kick in the ass or something, this shit has got to stop, there are too many Franks out there, but thank you for the gift he was, only why did you let him get ripped up so much before you sent him my way, oh just please let him know how much he meant to me and give him a pat on the back for a good job well done and stuff him with happiness even if it’s in the form of hard dick because he’s earned it, pardon my crudeness…oh, and assure him I don’t mind.

As the syllables tumbled, I’d unwittingly made a basin with my hands and dropped my face into it. Lightly, my breath and shoulders hitched. The skin of my inner fingers felt damp.

I’m all right, Steve. I’m home now. It’s perfect. You must go be happy.

I lifted my face, wishing I could tell the difference between words from beyond the veil and words from within the well of wishful thinking. Fuck.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saturday Snark II

Welcome to another edition of Marie Sexton's SATURDAY SNARK! (Click on that link to see Marie's snarky snippet as well as those of other m/m authors.)

My contribution this week comes from my Loose Id novel, Mobry's Dick (available in ebook as well as print). In the passage below, Cameron Waters (MC #1) is in bed with a trick named Doug. Somebody's been making Cam feel mighty good. Thing is, Doug's fast asleep. Much to Cameron's surprise, and embarrassment, a third man has sneaked into bed with them. It's Cam's temporary boarder, Paul Patrillo (MC #2), a man on the mend from some injuries. 'Fraid I can't tell you how he sustained them. ;-)

This is more an excerpt than a snippet; it's kind of the Energizer Bunny of snark.

* * *

“What the…?” It was Doug’s voice again, carrying confusion and annoyance.

Light flared from the nightstand lamp on Cam’s side of the bed. He blinked against it as he boosted himself onto his elbows and tried to focus on Doug’s muscular bulk. Doug wasn’t looking at him. Doug was looking past him.

“Well, well. Little Cameron found a playmate.” A different voice…and one Cam knew well.

He clumsily flipped onto his back and scooted toward the headboard.

Naked, Paul stood over the bed, his incipient boner shrinking.

“Who are you?” Doug asked. A logical question.

“The invalid who’s been locked in the spare room.”

Doug shot Cam a befuddled glance before focusing on Paul once more. “You don’t look like no invalid.” His bleary gaze fixed on Paul’s cock.

“I don’t look like an invalid.”

Reality swam away as Cam stared at Paul. His houseguest had been doing this and not his pick-up? He blinked, even more stunned than poor, blindsided Doug, and tried to shed the feeling he was precious to the man who’d been exploring his body so intimately.

“That’s what I said,” Doug countered. “Why were you locked in another room?”

Cam finally found his voice as his haze of arousal, and shock, dissipated. “He wasn’t locked in any damned room. He was just downstairs, asleep. Or so I thought.”

Paul coolly regarded him. “Where’d you find the bear?”

Cam clamped his hands to his head. “What the hell are you doing in here?”

“I thought that was fairly obvious.”

“You didn’t tell me you had a boyfriend,” Doug said to Cam. He sounded both irked and a little hurt.

“I don’t have a boyfriend. For shit’s sake, I just came out—”

“Three weeks ago,” Paul said, looking at his wrist as if it bore a watch.

“Then who the fuck is he?” Doug was clearly flustered. As if underscoring his frustration, he farted—an oddly high-pitched sound for so beefy a man. Its thin squeal seemed to burrow into the mattress.

Paul frowned at him. “Did you just—”

“Get out of here!” Cam scrambled off the bed. As he guided Paul toward the door, he said over his shoulder, “He’s Paul Patrillo, a temporary housemate. Don’t worry about it. Go back to sleep.”

“Maybe we could have a threesome.” Doug obviously became more alert the longer he ogled Paul.

“I think Cameron’s already met his group-sex quota for the week.”

“Will you please shut the hell up?” Cam hissed into Paul’s ear.

Paul tried to step past him and head for the nightstand. “Just let me grab my lube and condoms, would you? Remember, I don’t have a sugar daddy to pay for this stuff anymore.”

Cam blocked him. “Later.” He managed to guide Paul onto the landing outside the bedroom. “What the hell were you trying to do?”

“Repay you.” A shaft of moonlight slicing through an octagon window made Paul a shadow with features. A tall and handsome shadow that smelled of male heat and clean linen and herbal shampoo.

“For what?” Cam eased the bedroom door closed at his back.

Paul’s eyes gleamed as he rolled them upward. “For putting me up. You invited me to stay here when I got out of the hospital. Remember? You’ve been taking care of me. Remember?”

Repay you. Hardly an act of adoration. Hell, it barely qualified as intimate, regardless of where Paul’s mouth had been. “Don’t get smart,” Cam muttered.

How could he forget taking care of this guy and keeping him entertained for the past three weeks? Watching movies and playing Scrabble with him. Cooking for him. Taking him to doctor appointments and driving nearly thirty-six miles every other day to pick up his mail. Helping bathe him—a unique agony because, even blotched with bruises the color of old, boiled egg yolks, Paul had an irresistible body.

The fresh memory of that masterful rimming sent a pulse through Cam’s cock.

Paul reached forward and cupped it, as if he’d sensed the reaction. “Hey, how was I supposed to know that after three weeks out, you’d start turning into a slut?”

Cam jerked backward. “Shhh.”

“The bear didn’t peel your bud, did he?”


“Muscle man in there. It doesn’t seem he fucked you—thank God. That would’ve been an unpleasant surprise.”

“No, he didn’t. As if it’s any of your business.”


“Why what?”

“Why didn’t he fuck you?”

“Because we jerked each other off.” Why did Cam even tell him? They were starting to seem like fraternity brothers, that’s why. Fraternity brothers who happened to be attracted to each other and once had sex together.

Paul felt Cam’s pubic hair. “Sure as shit. Feels like somebody wiped his shoes on your welcome mat. What a waste.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New-Project News

Well, the way things are going in the m/m romance genre, it looks like writers who take their time writing, and don't self-publish, will be lucky to put out one story a year. And that goes for shorter works as well as novels.

My 45k-word contemporary novella, A Hole in God's Pocket, has been contracted by Dreamspinner and is scheduled for release in the spring of 2012.

My current WIP, the latest addition to the Jackson Spey / Adin Swift saga, will either be a three-part novel or a mini-serial of three novellas. If I go the latter route, my vision is to have the three installments released in fairly rapid succession -- say, a month or two apart -- because I know how frustrating it is for readers to deal with cliffhangers.

The business is changing, that's for sure. Authors will have to place (or produce) their work accordingly.  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Saturday Snark

So . . . this is Marie Sexton's idea. And a fun one. Authors post snarky snippets from their stories. Here's my first contribution, from Abercrombie Zombie, when the desperate Dustin DeWind meets the wizard he hopes will help him:

“Please let me talk to you,” the zombie said hurriedly, before the door was slammed in his face. “I have nowhere else to turn. My name is—”

“I know who you are. Word travels.” The man’s deep voice was both coarse and soft, like sand-scoured velvet. He eyed his visitor from head to foot. “You look like shit. But I suppose being dead will do that to a person.”

Click on the link above (to Marie's blog) to read more snarkalicious samples!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Spread the Love on Spirit Day

Be sure to wear purple on Thursday, October 20 
to show your support for GLBT youth 
and to decry bullying.
(Hey, every little bit helps.) 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sins Against My Eyes

Free MySpace Comment Glitter Graphics, HTML Codes, Layouts, Cursors, Backgrounds, Contact Menus, Generators & More! -

So, I've been entertaining myself this weekend by trying to find pix of Gay Rom Lit (you guys suck at posting, except Marie and Heidi) and checking out some online scavenger hunts, because I'm not beyond trying to win an e-reader which are sometimes good for finding new reads. I just can't face writing at the moment.

But . . . people, PEOPLE, when are you going to learn? Gaaaaaaah!

  • Black backgrounds are B-A-D. End of discussion. Itty-bitty fonts plastered on top of them only make the situation worse. Have some consideration for your readers and get over the freakin' black already!
  • Nobody wants to be greeted by crawling lines and spinning circles. We know they are indicative of something loading, but we don't want to wait! Not unless Ed McMahon will be jumping out of the monitor and handing each of us a good check for a million dollars (which would add wonder to wealth, because the dude's been dead for over two years).
  • Clutter is unpleasant and confusing. Watch one of those hoarding shows on TV. You needn't put multiple columns or sections or book covers, or totems and sigils and a gazillion links on your freakin' home page. You know what this means? It means you're neurotic. It means you're so afraid of visitors missing something of (non) importance that you're willing to risk making them feel like they've fallen into the Matrix. I used to be unclear about what, exactly, the Matrix is, but I now have a much better idea after visiting a bunch of junked-up websites.
Cleanliness is next to godliness. It's true. Haven't you ever felt divine right after taking a shower? With Ashton Kutcher a delicately scented, hand-milled soap, a big ol' loofah, and salon shampoo? Well, there you go. Keep your blogs and websites clean. And I don't mean make them sparkle. No no no. Just tell your web designers they needn't expend their lifetime allotment of creativity and cleverness on your site. All they need do is make it fast-loading, readable, well organized, and easily navigated. Leave Teh Awesome to the kids on MySpace.

I and many other people would appreciate it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Something I have to do.

I know everybody's either in New Orleans or reading Divide and Conquer (or both), but I still feel obligated to post this reminder:

I have
a book coming out
on Friday.
Thank you.

(Now on to our regularly scheduled blogging.)

National Coming Out Day

Perhaps one of the most important things writers of gay fiction and m/m romance can do (especially authors of YA books) is provide encouragement and hope -- at least a glimmer of hope, 'cause we sure ain't gods -- to people who must deal with the experience of coming out. This theme figures heavily in my upcoming release, The Zero Knot, as well as many of my other books. In fact, scores of authors have tackled the subject.

I don't know if fiction writers can make a difference (hence the "perhaps" in the previous paragraph) in terms of personal and social acceptance. I sure as hell hope so. The fact that non-heterosexuality is any kind of issue is absurd to begin with, but as long as ignorant people keep making others' lives miserable, all proponents of queer pride have to contribute whatever they can.

Let's all hope and pray that someday this issue becomes a non-issue, and all the fussing can stop.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Nice things I didn't have to pay for . . .

Mary Calmes gave me this. (Scroll down along the left sidebar. That lady is incredibly supportive and one of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet.)

And Chris gave me this. (She's generously given me, and others, many such things.)

And Kris gave me this. (I'm enjoying my pressie immensely!)

And Tam gave me this. (Whoa -- I felt like a star!)

My dog Luna gave me red-quilted poop (she actually ate part her bear to do that, the selfless little thing), my dog Cody gives me many loving looks and big albeit rank smiles, the neighbors across the street gave me ginormous red hibiscus to ogle throughout August and September, and Nature has given me an Indian Summer full of glorious color.

Who needs money?

Uh . . . forget I said that. I do have a book coming out on the 14th, after all. ;-)

Saturday, October 01, 2011

I found a character lookalike!

This doesn't happen very often. I came upon a photo of actor Chace Crawford and stopped dead in my tracks. Oh-em-gee, I thought, that's Jess Bonner! Jesse Bonner is the main POV character in The Zero Knot. Although the actor is older than his fictional counterpart (and has slightly different coloration), his resemblance to my mental image of Jess is uncanny.

Rumors, and denials, abound when it comes to Chace Crawford's orientation. But whether he's gay, straight, in between, or undecided, it was damned ballsy of him to participate in the photo shoot below, so he's okay by me.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Statistics -- wheeee!

How come most writers' royalty checks don't even come close to paying the bills?  Here's why.

Out of curiosity, I got online and tried to hunt down a publishing industry statistic -- namely, how many works of fiction are issued each year. This proved a very difficult number to find. Many record-keepers don't bother to mention what types of books, exactly, they're counting: paper and/or electronic; reissued as well as original titles; the output of all publishers or only larger publishers; POD and independently-published pieces or not. As you can see, there are many variables.

This article states "...There are around 100,000 new English-language works of long-form prose fiction published globally each year." That averages out to 274 a day. However, for 2009, R.R. Bowker tallied 48,738 works of fiction (a figure determined, apparently, through the number and types of ISBNs issued), which breaks down to 134 works a day. Could this be for US publishers alone? I'm not sure.

Click on the post title to read yet another confusing overview.

A while back (less than two years, I think), I saw a list of GLBT titles published over a thirty-day period. The list had been compiled by the diligent and tireless Elisa Rolle. I believe I stopped counting at 150 entries. That's a hefty number for a fairly small fiction niche for one month, and I'm willing to bet it's even bigger now. EDITED TO ADD: I just counted the titles on Elisa's current list. There are close to 300 of them! O_O

Lordie, why can't I be a video game developer!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cover Art at Its Finest

Since I don't pay attention to the multitude of book competitions out there (the results of which usually leave me scratching my head -- to put it mildly), I haven't been following this year's Rainbow Awards run by Elisa Rolle. But she did contact me to let me know that Anne Cain's cover for Visible Friend is a finalist in both the Jury Poll and Popular Poll. (Christine Griffin's cover for Fugly placed third in last year's competition -- remember? -- and I was pleased as punch . . . even though I don't have a clue what that phrase means.)

I know I've said this before, but I respect and admire talented cover artists to the point of awe. Dreamspinner has some of the best, and my gratitude to them is boundless.

Click on the post title to see the other finalists. What an array of stunning work!

Monday, September 12, 2011

What's up?

Not much. Around here, anyway. I'm just about to wrap up A Hole in God's Pocket . . . and, frankly, am wondering why I persisted in finishing this book. Only super-popular authors can get away with writing religion-themed stories, especially ones that are essentially character studies short on action and sex. But I told myself, Screw it; faith and faith-related struggles are a significant part of many gay men's lives, so why do we keep sweeping this issue under the carpet? And I forged ahead. Besides, I became too invested in my promiscuous Amish rent-boy and virginal Catholic ex-monk to leave them dangling, so to speak. I hate approach/avoidance conflicts and have always sought to resolve them. :)

The Jackson and Adin "Scourge" trilogy has really been hammering at me, though. I'm eager to get started on it. I think POV will be first-person present in the first novella, and the narrator will not be Jackson or Adin, who'll get their turns in the next two books.

Still waiting on the cover art and exact publication date for The Zero Knot, a novel I feel all mushy about, kind of in the way I felt all mushy about Electric Melty Tingles. (It occurred to me just recently that I love my books in different ways, for different reasons -- just as I'm frustrated by them in different ways.) Autographed copies will be available to readers who buy the print edition. It's not that my autograph will ever be worth anything, but Dreamspinner likes to offer this option.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Fed up with Yahoo!

In what must be an attempt to coerce its users into switching from "Classic" mail to "Updated" mail, Yahell has been making access to my email a royal pain in the ass. Words cannot describe how much I despise this company! I tried, a while back, to take the path of least resistance and change over. After all, I was sick to death of their ad-crammed Mail page, glitchy service, and incompetence at catching spam. But . . . their "new" mail proved an even bigger clusterfuck than their old mail, with an even more junked-up page, so I went back.

I guess they didn't like that.

It's going to be another PITA to inform all the people and groups I need to inform that I've changed my primary email address -- I've had the Yahoo one practically since I started publishing -- but I know I'll take a grim satisfaction in doing it.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Crack me up!

So, what's been tickling my funny bone during my insomniac rambles around the Interwebz?

Let's start with this photo spread on Queerty. You must click through all the shots to get the full effect. I confess, I was giggling like a little girl.

Then . . . on to Goodreads. One has a much better chance of finding hilarity there than on Amazon, where reviewers tend to take themselves seriously. For example, I stumbled upon a reader of m/f romance who likes to take issue with the output of super-popular authors who don't always exhibit the best craftsmanship.  She's quite articulate and funny, and her smack-downs are more than justified.  So, without further ado, here's a passage she found in Lora Leigh's Dangerous Games:

How long had it been since he'd cried?
He needed to cry now, to ease the emotion tightening his chest.
As Clint eased the plug from Morganna's rear, he could feel the emotion ripping through him, tearing at his soul.

How's that for angst? The act of yanking a plug out of someone's butt was enough to choke this hero with soul-shredding emotion.  Holy hot damn, enemas must give him a complete nervous breakdown!

Got any favorites to share? I had to stop looking 'cause it's getting late.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Too many stories . . .

So, I started writing a Christmas tale, "Rituals," but I'm finding it difficult to proceed. Not only am I not in the holiday spirit, but I'm one of those writers who can't juggle projects, at least not when they're in the composition stage. You see, I was in the midst of A Hole in God's Pocket when I started "Rituals." AHiGP had me challenged and preoccupied enough. To complicate matters further, yet another idea has come a-knockin'. Now I'm stymied and can't seem to focus on any of them. When I try, one of the other two WIPs starts nagging, Hey! Come back here! You're not finished with me yet! 

I hate when this happens.

Anyway, Jackson and Adin have slowly but surely been resurfacing. I have in mind a kind of serial story -- or rather a series of three interlinked novellas titled Scourge: Black and Scourge: Red and Scourge: White. They would feature a mysterious child (or is he?) named Carny Jessup and a powerful but ruthless Moroccan wizard named Zod whom Jackson met when he was still learning his art. The stories will be anything but light and bright. There's a reason for that. Jackson has never faced a truly worthy opponent; since he needs to pump up his magickal muscles, he could use one right about now. And Adin? Well, he has the kind of past that's not likely to leave him alone for long.

AACK! What to do?

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Utopia-X rises from the e-book ashes.

Holy jamoly!  Google just alerted me to a post at Tracy's Place regarding my Utopia-X books.  (Hi, Tracy, and thank you! *waves like a fool while throwing kisses*) This is a case of synchronicity if ever I saw one, because I've recently been thinking a lot about these stories.

Utopia-X, published by Loose Id, is a four-volume, futuristic urban fantasy series. And, yes, it's m/m. The world, which centers on a city-state called Regenerie, is populated by humans, angel-demon-human hybrids, urbane vampires, good and evil elves, underground magicians, and various and sundry other creatures including a golem, a demi-gnome, an "endotronic parasapient" known as the Groan Witch, and a terrifying mutant called a Spinner.

Believe it or not, the series is full of sex and romance.

Click on the post title if you'd like to learn more.

(BTW, Tracy, my editor and I agree with you about Book 3; it's also our favorite in the series.)

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

One of the songs that makes a zombie want to weep . . .

You'll have to read about Dustin and Remy to know why, but you can find the scene in which this song is playing in the Prologue to Abercrombie Zombie.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Ho Lee Zhit Says . . .

"Author, be careful what you wish for when it comes to your backlist."

Early on in our careers, we scribblers are led to believe the following: One of the benefits of achieving some modicum of notice in the bookworld is that readers, if they like what we're writing now, will ferret out the fiction we've written in the past.  Sounds good, eh?

Yeah, in theory.

Problem is, we're not always terribly proud of what we've written in the past.  Maybe it's kind of rough around the edges. Maybe it reflects a mindset we've long since discarded, a mindset that isn't reflective of what we're currently producing. Maybe our older material just sucks sewer water through a straw packed with flesh-eating insects.

What got me thinking (and cringing) about this subject was a royalty report I just received from one of my former publishers. A surprising number of titles populated the list. Not a huge, knock-me-on-my-ass number but bigger than I'd anticipated, considering I haven't had a release there in quite a while. And why haven't I? Because I don't write m/f romance anymore, erotic or otherwise. (There are other reasons, too.) So . . . it appears some of my beloved readers, and I mean the readers of my m/m stories, have been fishing in the oft-polluted waters of my backlist.  {{{shudder}}}

Don't think I'm not grateful for their interest. I'm VERY grateful. But I'm also embarrassed. I don't want their impressions of the old stuff coloring their impressions of the new stuff. A couple of my erstwhile publishers wanted lots o' sex in their stories. And, readers seemed to favor certain tropes and subgenres back then. And . . . hell, I confess I went through a phase where I thought it was more important to write to be read than to write to be true (to myself, that is).

I have some oldies floating around that I'm not too ashamed of. I think Plagued, for example (which introduces Adin Swift to the world and Jackson Spey as his friend), is a damned good vampire yarn. Cemetery Dancer isn't terribly bad, but it would've been better without the head-hopping and the extra and detailed sex scenes I was "asked" to insert. There are a few others.

By and large, though, my m/m fiction is far superior to my m/f fiction, much of which feels like a none-too-appealing backside. Oy.  

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Beautiful Sight

Here's a little snippet on the first gay marriages in New York, from an article by Chris Hawley of the Associated Press:

Some people waiting to wed clutched bouquets and wore tuxedos or wedding dresses before they were ushered into the clerk's office for a license and a ceremony in one of the building's simple chapels.
The first couple to marry in Manhattan were Phyllis Siegel, 76, and Connie Kopelov, 84, who have been together for 23 years. Kopelov arrived in a wheelchair and stood with the assistance of a walker. During the service, Siegel wrapped her hand in Kopelov's hand and they both grasped the walker.
Witnesses cheered and wiped away tears after the two women vowed to "honor and cherish" each other as spouses and then kissed.

Oh, man . . . *sniff*  Why'd it have to take so long?  Why's it taking so long elsewhere?  People who aren't moved by this are, I swear, made of stone.  And I sure as shit don't mean moved to anger or self-righteous indignation.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Two More Small Fish In an Ever-expanding School In an Ever-shrinking Sea

News from the publisher front. Abercrombie Zombie will be loosed by Dreamspinner on August 10.  (Seems like forever since I've had a release, but that's probably because Visible Friend ended up more or less . . . invisible.) Anne Cain is once again the cover artist, and I hope to get my first look at what she's come up with by this weekend.

DSP has also accepted The Zero Knot (that's the contemporary from which I posted this excerpt) and scheduled it for publication in September or October.  This novel could be issued in print as well as e-book format, although I'm not sure of that yet. As the story stands, it's several thousand words shy of the 60k-word minimum. Don't know if I'll be asked to expand it or not.

My WIP, A Hole in God's Pocket, could also end up being novel-length. Too early to tell with any certainty, though.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Have you been keeping up?

With the Hot Summer Days stories at the Goodreads M/M Romance group?  (I put a link in the post title.)  What do you think of them so far?

I've only managed to read one every couple of days or so, because I've found that reading two to four stories every day kind of muddles my mind as I work on my WIP (too many different styles, characters, themes, etc.)  So, I'll probably be playing catch-up well into next year.  :)

The whole thing has been a phenomenal effort on the part of writers as well as the group's moderators, and that in and of itself impresses me no end.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Latter Days, the Movie

Have y'all seen this film about a young Mormon missionary and L.A. party boy who fall for each other but don't have an easy time?  I just watched it.

It's a touching movie with engaging characters and more than enough angst, even for the seriously angst-addicted.  And the love/sex scenes are truly beautiful -- some of the most visually and emotionally satisfying I've ever seen in gay cinema.  I liked the storyline too, for the most part, because I've always been drawn to its two main themes: attraction between opposites and the influence of religion on people's lives.

But I had my moments of discontent.

The biggest came at the end.  I found the plot's resolution very unsatisfying.


Considering Christian believed Aaron to be D-E-A-D dead and had been plunged in deep mourning for a while, and taking into account all kinds of other stuff to boot, the young men's reunion required far more than a ten-second, wordless hug. It needed buildup; it needed the kind of substantive emotional content that's conveyed via facial expressions, tears, exclamations/questions/answers, an appropriate setting, and some really adroit editing.  As it stands, the scene isn't only terse and flat but lacks believability.


My other beefs were relatively minor. The declaration of love came too quickly. It's possible -- and, I think, preferable -- to show characters developing a deep emotional bond without prematurely marching out the L word.  And what was with that hideously medieval rehab facility designed to turn gay boys straight?  While I know the CoJCoLDS has its own "reparative therapy" program, I seriously doubt 21st-century Mormons anywhere, even in Idaho, resort to the tactics depicted in this film.

I'll watch Latter Days again, though. It's certainly worth future viewings.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Home of the Brave

Last week, an ordinary, nineteen-year-old guy with a shy smile was the focus of attention in a tiny Midwestern town -- a village, actually. Many of its 750-or-so residents showed up at the high school gymnasium to pay tribute to him. Many watched or were in his parade, including a huge contingent of motorcyclists from the central part of the state.

I was in town that day.

The village is our county seat, and the boy's name is Ryan, and he was a local kid who'd been killed by a roadside bomb, one of those insidious IEDs, in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan.  The gathering at the high school was his memorial service. The long parade was his funeral procession.

All national and state flags were at half staff. Each lamppost bore lengths of black and yellow ribbon tied into a bow signifying "gone but not forgotten." Those dozens upon dozens of bikers, few of whom actually knew Ryan, were gathering in the only places either appropriate or large enough for them to gather -- the mortuary parking lot and the supermarket parking lot just down the street.

Of course I understood why these events were taking place -- the rituals meant to honor the soldier, the organized outpouring of respect for him -- but I'll be dicked if I can figure out why they had to take place, why this sudden, senseless death happened at all.  And why thousands of similar funerals have taken place all across the nation.

The U.S. hasn't sacrificed its young citizens to a "good" war since the 1940s -- a war with a clear goal, a war that could substantially and permanently change the world for the better.  On Independence Day, it's especially difficult to reconcile the ideals of the Founding Fathers with the senseless carnage we've been engaged in all too often since the Revolution.  Far too many brave men and women have died or been scarred for no discernible reason. Far too many will continue to die.  I don't know why our leaders can't pull their heads out of their asses and recognize lost causes when they see them, conflicts in which we have no business meddling: Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and now Afghanistan, with many smaller ones in between.

Why can't we at least pick our battles more wisely?

If only the Fourth of July could still be a celebration of one of the good wars. If only it didn't now come bundled with so much grief . . .

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Most Incredible Book I've Read in Years

When I come upon a book that leaves me reeling because of its sheer excellence, I will pimp it like a well-paid PR agent. Excuse me for doing a quick copy/paste from Goodreads, but I can barely think straight right now.

If you're overly sensitive and/or require romance and happy endings, don't go near this novel.  There's nothing "traditional" about the complex love story detailed herein. But if you want to read a superb work of contemporary fiction (not just gay literary fiction, because a novel this exceptional transcends all genre boundaries), grab it up fast. Our craft does not get any better than this. Just make sure to read it while you're alone.

The Brothers BishopThe Brothers Bishop by Bart Yates
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I cannot remember the last time a book left me sobbing at the end -- especially one that had me chuckling well past the beginning.  The whole day is shot for me. This is a painfully profound and brilliant piece of work, the most affecting I've read since The Madness of a Seduced Woman, and "awarding" it a handful of stars seems both presumptuous and demeaning.

My biggest question is, how did Yates manage to write this without lacerating himself to shreds? Goddamn...

View all my reviews

Friday, June 17, 2011


A contemporary titled A Hole in God's Pocket.

You may not know this, but Wisconsin has the fourth largest Amish population in the U.S.  Since I moved to this part of the state about fifteen years ago, I've frequently encountered these quiet, humble people at local auctions and flea markets; I've passed their farms, and their buggies, on innumerable country roads.  For a while I've wanted to create an Amish-born hero.

However, I didn't want to make him a simple, naive, virginal creature. I wanted him to be five or more years into his rumspringa and well acquainted with the ways of the "English" world -- so familiar, in fact, that he's become disillusioned and somewhat jaded.

The less experienced protagonist will be a guy from a very different background: wholly modern and more sophisticated, more steeped in education and the spirit of inquiry. Yet, at their heart, the worlds these young men fled will prove surprisingly similar, possessed of the same kind of allure . . . as well as the same severe restrictions on personal freedom.  And there won't be anything cut-and-dried about the decisions the protags will have to make.

So, this won't be "The Awakening of a Sweet Amish Boy" kind of story.  It's likely to be more "The Potential Downfall of the Sweet Amish Boy." (I won't say more about the other H lest I scare everybody away before the story's even written!)  I'm excited about it but I hope I haven't bitten off more than I can chew.  :)

P.S. I've been working on a free read about Jackson Spey being reunited with his mother and introducing her to Adin, but . . . it's really hard for me to submerge myself in more than one story at a time!  :-/

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hot. Not.

Okay, where do I start?  The majority of people who read as well as write in this genre have one thing in common: We really, really like the male anatomy. (Well, not every aspect of every male's anatomy, obviously, but you know which kinds of men I'm referring to.)  I'll tell ya, I nearly swooned when I first laid eyes on the cover of precious_boy. In fact, many pictures I see around our "community" make me stop dead in my tracks for an ogle and maybe even a brief fantasy. It's perfectly normal for gay men and straight women to react this way. Nature says so.

But more and more, when I read people's reactions to/comments on stories in our genre (and I mean in Yahoo groups, at Goodreads, etc.), I'm struck by the focus on heat level. A whopping big bunch of readers seem really, really fixated on the sex in m/m romance, and it's kinda-sorta starting to irk me. They claim not to want PWP, yet . . . they do seem to want it.  And the kinkier the better, and to hell with the quality of the writing. It's getting to the point that when I see the word HOT! starting off or summing up somebody's reaction to a book, I cringe.  This is probably the reason I've been asking not to have chesty covers on my books, starting with Electric Melty Tingles and Fugly and continuing through all my Dreamspinner releases (save for precious_boy, because of that character's occupation).  My cover artists probably have fits when they see my requests.     

The best books I've read in this genre have either had no on-page explicit sex or only a relatively small and plot-appropriate amount.  Their emphasis was on world building, storyline, and/or characterization. They were multidimensional. I don't think I've ever read a sex-saturated book, or even a sex-heavy book, and been impressed by it (aside from James Lear's stuff, which, for a number of reasons, is in a class by itself).  In fact, the last thing I'm likely to remember about my favorite m/m fiction, or any fiction, are the sex scenes.

I guess I'm bringing this up because I hate seeing our genre defined by its ability to appeal to readers' prurient interests.  (I know, I know; the phrase prurient interests sounds so freakin' 1950s.  Bad word-choice, but I'm on a roll so I'm not going to change it.)  Of course sex is one of the most basic facts of life. It's a driving force second only to survival. Better yet, it's FUN -- way more fun than resorting to cannibalism to stay alive --  and an integral part of intimacy.  But I lose my happy face whenever and wherever I encounter a lopsided emphasis on it, and slavering over it, as if other types of human experience are only inconsequential adjuncts to the Pursuit of Orgasm. My happy face really goes south whenever I think of m/m romance being perceived as porn for straight chicks, and straight chicks strengthening that perception at every turn by judging the value of m/m romance -- romance -- based on its sexual content.  That's when all those politically-correct types who huff about "appropriation" and "objectification" -- people I've tried my best to ignore -- start making disturbing sense.

Am I stirring a tempest in my own teapot? Or has anybody else noticed and been bothered by this?  

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

And More Updates

Abercrombie Zombie will be released in mid-August.

The Zero Knot, my coming-of-age WIP, now looks like it could top 55k words. I still haven't decided where to submit it.

One of the genre's most talented and accomplished authors, and a guy for whom I have enormous respect, left an incredibly flattering comment on my Facebook wall (is that what it's called?) about Visible Friend. Blew me away.  I never dreamed he'd read my stuff.

I could go on and on about magnanimous authors who take the time to praise the work of their peers when they have nothing to gain by it. There's a huge difference between this kind of support and specious or self-serving flattery, both of which exist in abundance in Bookworld. Sincerity is hard to come by. That's why I value it so.

Inspired by the photo below, I'll be writing a free story for the M/M Romance group on Goodreads.  It's not as if I'm the only person writing a free story.  A full trainload of authors are writing free stories based on pictures submitted by readers, and the whole batch of fics will be assembled into a "Hot July Days" anthology.

That is going to be one big-ass, Atlas Shrugged-size collection; I think the number of contributors stands at 110.  o_O  Getting through it will require the patience of Job, so I suspect most people will cherry-pick pieces that appeal to them.

Given the nature of the picture I chose and the ideas it's given me, my story will likely be short on sex.  I'm in the mood for something like that. And since I don't have to worry about "writing for royalties," which I pretty much suck at anyway, I'm not concerned about displeasing heat-seeking readers.  Besides, I have a strong feeling there'll be more swinging dicks in this antho than in the entire Chinese army. Readers will likely need some kind of breather so they don't pass out.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Big Surprise

Thanks to the incredibly thoughtful A.J. Llewellyn, I just found out that the site Seriously Reviewed has designated Bastards and Pretty Boys one of their "Seriously Unforgettable" Best Stories of 2011.  (Click on the post title if you don't believe me.  Hell, I don't believe me.)  I think B&PB was published in September 2009, which accounts for my shock.  (Now, if I could just figure out how to get people to read Visible Friend.  Hm.  Maybe I should rewrite it with some slave-boy kink added to the drug addiction and convince DSP to reissue.  Heh.)    

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Doldrums

I am in them.

Can't seem to make any real headway in this biz.  I think I fall into some substance category between wheat and chaff.  Dust?  Hell, beats me.  I'm feeling kind of swallowed up in this genre, and confused about readers' standards.  It's getting pretty depressing.  I don't know how to write what lots and lots of people will like.  And talk about.  And remember.  Just don't know how.

Don't.  Know.  How.  And maybe can't.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

He's back!

Our pileated woodpecker was right outside my office windows today, knocking at a tree stump.  He's large and robust (stouter than the bird in this photo) and determined -- a real joy to watch.  I love me wild birds!  (Did I ever mention how uneventful my life is?)

Monday, May 09, 2011

My Vinyl Comes Out of Hibernation

Almost a decade ago, following my murder of my second husband divorce, I was forced to sell my lovely old farmhouse and most of its contents.  But I couldn't give up my collection of classic LPs.  Since there was no adequate place to store them at my new residence, which happened to be the home of my Dutch friend, "Ready" Freddie, ol' Jerr was kind enough to let me keep them in his basement (a nice, dry basement, thank goodness).  As I've said before, Jerry was a sweetheart. 

Anyhoo, after Jerry's passing, JLA and I went over to his house to retrieve my records before the two females living there -- one, a thief just released from prison his kinda-sorta stepdaughter; the other, a drunken slut lost soul he took in out of sheer kindness (because dear Jerr was that way) -- somehow made my albums disappear.  Getting them back was like a happy reunion.  Or like Christmas.  Most of all, it was a relief.  Although I've been able to trust Jerry and most of the strays he's taken in over the years, I didn't feel too comfortable having anything in his house once he was gone.

One of the many treasures I rediscovered was African Sanctus by David Fanshawe, far and away one of the most incredible pieces of music I've ever heard. It's beautiful in sound and in spirit and invariably gives me goosebumps.

Dr. Fanshawe was a British composer who, in the late 1960s, traveled to north and east Africa and recorded mostly tribal songs and chants in Uganda, Kenya, and Sudan (although he also captured a haunting version of the Islamic Call to Prayer in Egypt -- and to hear it interwoven with Christian liturgical music brings tears to my eyes). Dr. Fanshawe then masterfully mixed chosen pieces with portions of the Latin Mass and Anglican liturgy, some of which he "recomposed" a little to fit seamlessly with the more primitive-sounding African music.  The video below is only a brief sample of African Sanctus.  Believe me, the whole thing is well worth listening to.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

An Excerpt from Something New

"Something New" is not the book's title.  ;-)

The Zero Knot is, and below is an excerpt from it.  This story also takes place in the town of Cold Harbor, the setting for most of Visible Friend.

I suppose it could be classified as a "coming of age" tale.  The central characters were childhood pals.  They're now 18 and trying to determine the paths their lives will take.   So The Zero Knot is about growing up, growing together, and growing apart -- and, most important, about forging identities and the values that define those identities.

Of course, shit happens along the way.

The section below features Jesse, one of the 18-year-old protags, and his 15-year-old brother, Jared (or "Red").  Just minutes earlier, the kid accidentally let it slip that he's seen the gay porn magazines secreted in Jesse's bedroom.  It's a turning point in their relationship, because it forces Jess to discuss his orientation -- something his parents and older brother still aren't aware of.  (The "Mig" who's mentioned is one of Jess's friends.)

* * * * *

Now it was time to set a few things straight with the resident punk.

Without bothering to knock, Jess barged into Jared’s room, grabbed the kid by the front of his camo green T-shirt (which proclaimed, ironically, I DIDN’T DO IT), and flattened him against the nearest wall. Red was growing fast—was only a couple inches shorter than Jess now—but had all the muscle mass of a pole bean.

With his forefinger a millimeter from Red’s nose, Jess said in a low, ominous tone, “Stay the fuck out of my room, you shit-stirring little twerp.”

A sea of crimson buoyed Red’s sparse freckles. “Hey…”

“Hey nothing. Keep your nose out of my business.” Jess firmly pushed the tip of that nose for emphasis.

He remembered an observation their mother had once made while she was reading some urban fantasy novel: that Jared’s freckles, when he blushed, looked like “vampire tears in a sea of blood.” Jess loved his mother, but Jill Bonner was one of those in-the-Zone-alone people. She’d always been creative…and more than a little dingy.

Red was temporarily silent.

Jess released him but kept his finger in Red’s face, his narrowed eyes locked onto Red’s wide ones. “I’m not playin’ here. Get it?”

“Okay, okay. From now on I won’t go near your room, and I won’t say nothin’ to nobody.”

Point made, Jess turned toward the door.

“FYI, dude, I don’t care if you’re gay.”

Jess stopped in his tracks, spun around.

Red put up his hands. “Chill. I’m an enlightened guy. Live and let live and all that crap. I’m just bummed you’re not the best source for dating tips.”

Jess hung his head and started chuckling. Why couldn’t he stay mad at this little prick?

“You okay?” Red asked warily. “You’re not spazzin’ out, are you?”

“No. This is just so anticlimactic.”

“It’s what?”

"Never mind."  Jess shuffled to Jared’s bed and dropped onto it. The walls in this room were like a bad acid trip, posters and artwork plastered everywhere at every imaginable angle, including sideways and upside down. Jess spotted a recent addition—a doctored picture of Justin Bieber with an arrow through his neck and a mischievous imp (that looked suspiciously like Jared) perched on the arrow’s shaft. “So, it was the magazines that tipped you off?”

Red sat beside him. “Well, duh. Dongapalooza.”

Elbows resting on thighs, Jess lowered his face to his hands and rubbed it. Maybe this wasn’t so anticlimactic after all. The thought of his little brother paging aghast through queer skin magazines…

“You really get off on that stuff?” Red asked, suspended in a stew of disbelief, distaste, and curiosity.

Jess tilted his head and looked through his fingers. “Well, duh.”

The kid’s eyebrows went up, down. “How, um…how long have you known you’re like this?”

The house seemed unusually quiet. It wasn’t, of course. The old man had simply turned off the TV and gone to bed. Same drill every night.

Jess dropped his hands and loosely linked them between his knees. “As long as I can remember.”

Red scraped his upper teeth over his lower lip. “What’s…you know…what’s that kind of stuff…?” He paused. A wince tugged at his features.

“What’s it like?” Jess said with a sympathetic smile.


“For me it’s just right.” As Jess turned a bit more to face his brother, he caught a glimpse of the custom-made T-shirt he’d ordered for Jared’s twelfth birthday. Red Rum, it warned in jagged scarlet lettering. The kid had long since outgrown it, but he kept it hanging on the outside of his closet door.

“Remember your soapbox derby car?” Jess said. “The one Dad helped you build when he was still in Oshkosh?”

“Sure I do. I wanted to live in that car. We fit together perfect.”

“That’s what it’s like.”

Red looked puzzled. Then his face relaxed and he nodded.

As more questions formed in his addled mind, Red nibbled the inside of his cheek. He always had to do something when he thought hard—chew a fingernail, toy with some object.

Patiently, Jess waited.

“You got, like, a boyfriend?” Red finally asked.

“No.” And bam, just like that, Mig was in the room with them.

“D’you want one?”

Jess’s stomach squirmed. “Someday.”

“You gonna tell Dad you’re gay? Or Mom? Or Joel?”

The squirming increased. “Someday.”

Red resumed nibbling. The questions clearly weren’t over.

“Do you ever, like…shove stuff up your butt?”

Jess wheezed into laughter. “What?”

“Umfy Randall says fa—” Another blush surfaced with volcanic speed. “He says gay guys like sticking things up their butts.”

Dare I ask? But it was too delicious to resist. “Such as?”

Red shrugged. “Root crops, small animals, grooming aids.”

Snorting, Jess fell back onto the mattress. He lay there, both arms thrown over his face, as his laughter spiraled and his eyes spilled tears. For one thing, he didn’t think Umfy Randall, who was dumber than a drumstick, was even familiar with phrases like root crops and grooming aids.

Abs cramping, Jess rolled onto his side and folded his legs. Oh, Christ.

“So…it ain’t true?”

The kid sounded serious, which made Jess laugh even harder. “Of course it’s true. If it came from Umfy Randall, it must be true.” He gasped for breath and tried to control his hooting. “In fact, I’m packing a blow dryer, three parsnips, and a litter of newborn weasels as we speak.”

Stony-faced, Jared regarded him. “Dude, weasels are dangerous.”

Jess curled in on himself. His gut was ready to split.

If only coming out to everybody else in his life could be this much fun.

* * *

~ From The Zero Knot, copyright © 2011 K. Z. Snow 

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Of Fugly and Funerals

It's a weird coincidence that after I wrote this post, I got a message from Elisa Rolle informing me that Fugly was among her top ten "referrals" (I think that means click-throughs from her site) for April.  A good cover truly is a gift that keeps on giving.

Anyway . . . this post is a downer.  Don't read it if that will upset you.  I just needed to vent.

I went to Jerry's funeral yesterday.  Rather, I went to the visitation and realized I couldn't do more.  But who, or what, was I visiting?  (Oh my, it appears I've read too many blurbs!)

I cringed when I found out Jerr wasn't going to be cremated.  All our other friends who've taken their final journeys over the past few years -- and there've been too many -- have been incinerated and their powdery cremains put in attractive containers.  Ashes to ashes.  I don't have a problem with this kind of exit, especially when the containers are surrounded by photos of their contents when those contents were intact and vital and happy.  Flowers are pretty, too.  The whole setup can help make an otherwise painful event tolerable.  Poignant, yes, but not repugnant.

When I wrote Fugly, I did a good deal of research on behind-the-scenes mortuary practices: embalming, cosmetizing, "presentation" --manipulations of the dearly departed that most folks would rather not think about (and who can blame them?)  The research didn't particularly bother me. Writing the Todd and Gabriel chapters didn't particularly bother me.  Maybe that's because I was more focused on the characters and their developing relationship than on their work environment. I was focused on the "happily," not the "ever after."  Know what I mean?

BUT.  I couldn't do any focus-shifting yesterday, and I couldn't stand seeing those practices applied to someone I cared about.  The realization hit me hard. I didn't want to see Jerry as a worked-over stiff.  It was bad enough walking into that delicately scented, mauve-hued room and catching a glimpse of his frozen profile.  Bad, bad enough, knowing he'd been propped just so on a satin pillow, his face artificially colored and artfully lit, his hands crossed unnaturally instead of gripping a Pabst can or pool cue or remote control.

JLA was with me -- a mixed blessing.  (Let's just say he isn't a very emotional or even empathetic person.)  I immediately told him, "I can't go up there [to the casket]. I don't want to see him that way."  JLA, tough guy that he is, had no such qualms.  He went up there. However, he did change his tune after he'd made the short trip. When he came back to my chair, he murmured, "Yeah, you're better off staying here. Really."  Later, he was on the verge of telling me precisely why I'd been better off keeping my distance, but I abruptly said, "I don't want to hear it."  Because, I inferred, whatever the results of all that embalming, cosmetizing, and posing, they couldn't have been pleasant.

I don't understand what Jessica Mitford called, in her 1963 classic of the same name, "the American way of death."  I honestly don't know why a deceased person's loved ones would willingly subject themselves to the whole hideous ritual of a full funeral.  Closure?  I don't even get it in that context.  I want to remember Jerry laughing or tending his pumpkin patch or cooking his secret-recipe barbecue sauce; I don't want to remember him as a creepy mannequin laid out in some tricked-out ride to nowhere.  What the hell kind of final image is that?

I didn't go the cemetery.  Couldn't.  I recoiled at the thought of witnessing that part of the ritual too -- the massive, gaudy, environmentally unfriendly capsule descending into the dank earth, where it would sit for decades upon decades doing nothing but taking up space, leaking chemicals into the ground, and inhibiting a process nature wants to take place.  It seemed like yet another desecration, disturbing and pointless.

As far as I was concerned, Jerry had left the building four days earlier.  He'd done so while he was in his own house, on his own couch.  It would've been much more appropriate if he'd been left alone and that piece of furniture buried or burned with him on it.

Shit, what a day.