Friday, March 18, 2011


 And y'all thought twincest
was a groundbreaking contemporary theme?

A short while back, TeddyPig showed off a vintage gay-themed paperback he'd acquired for way more than chump change.  I got a big kick out of it because I love old pb's, although I can't afford the ones I covet the most. Their value, which is considerable, is determined by scarcity, condition, and cover art. 
Yep, cover art.  

The letters GGA, which often appear in sales listings for vintage paperbacks, mean "great girl-art," much prized by collectors.  In the case of these gems, however, the letters obviously mean "great gay art." 

So, put aside your sense of political correctness and feast your eyes.  How can anyone not love this stuff?     

(Click on the post title to view some vintage lesbian pb's, collected by the same wonderful archivists who amassed the books above.) 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Characters: Acceptable vs. Unacceptable Flaws

I should preface this post by saying I've made it a personal policy to avoid my books' pages at Goodreads.  Readers resent writers who are constantly peering over their shoulders, and I don't need to be driven to distraction by all those ratings and reviews.  This means I'm pretty much in the dark about how my work is being received there.

Anyway, one of my fellow Dreamspinner authors recently let me know she read and liked precious_boy . . . then noted how some other readers' reactions were illustrative of my previous blog post.  Specifically, said readers were troubled by you-know-which scene involving the protagonist and his former lover and downgraded the book accordingly.

Okay, no surprise there.  Some early reviewers were also bothered by the scene.  But this post isn't about that novella.  Rather, my fellow author's reference to reader reactions got me thinking. 

The vast majority of m/m romance fans claim they prefer flawed characters.  But what does "flawed" mean?  Clearly, there's a difference in people's minds between acceptably flawed and unacceptably flawed.  So, which weaknesses, evils, mistakes, lapses in judgment are acceptable and which aren't?  Does a reader's degree of leniency depend on the author?

For example, most readers were extraordinarily forgiving of Tor in Bareback when he went on his secret cheating spree.  Ditto Jake in the AE Mysteries when he flung Adrien around.  Those behaviors -- extended infidelity and physical abuse -- apparently fell within the parameters of "acceptable" fuck-ups, because they didn't significantly alter readers' favorable impressions of these books.  There've been other characters in m/m romance who've also been guilty of some pretty egregious transgressions -- like rape and murder.

Back to my original question.  How flawed is too flawed?  And in which ways, under what circumstances?  What exactly are the limits of character fallibility in m/m romance?  What makes readers cross that line from admiring a story to scorning a story based on a character's actions?  Is there an element of mob mentality involved? (I really don't like what happened, but everybody else seems okay with it so I guess I should overlook it too.  Or the reverse of this.)  Are some authors given more of a pass than others, no matter how badly their characters behave? 

I think this is a fascinating topic, although it leaves me totally bewildered.  Enlighten me!       

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Reading as a Writer

Sometimes, I hate reading as a writer. I hate when I'm drifting along, getting pulled into a story while admiring its craftsmanship, and then, step by insidious step, I begin to develop serious issues with the plotting and characterization decisions made by the author.

I hate, hate, hate when this happens!  I'd rather begin reading a crappy book and ultimately toss it aside.  I don't get bent out of shape by crappy books because I don't become invested in them.  They're easy for me to dismiss.  But a book that promises to be great -- has polished prose, a POV character with a compelling voice, an intriguing and original storyline -- isn't that easy to dismiss.  So when incomprehensible and/or distasteful turns start to occur, I find myself rewriting the damned book and resenting the author . . . because mentally playing content editor is not conducive to a smooth, submersive reading experience.

I'm sure I'm not the only person to whom this happens.  I'm sure plenty of writers-as-readers (and editors-as-readers and just plain readers) start out loving books and end up . . . not hating them, but reconstructing them out of sheer frustration. 

Here's kind of how it goes for me, how I address the author: 

Wait. Hold on. I don't like what seems to be happening here. If the hero or heroine does this-and-such, it is really going to ruin this story's appeal for me

[I press on, my dread mounting.] 

Damn it, this progression of events is pissing me off.  You set me up not only to expect but to look forward to a certain development . . . and now you're pulling something that's going to destroy the whole setup!  I don't mind plot twists, but twists that preclude an outcome I've been eagerly anticipating?  Trust me, those aren't pleasing.  At all.   

[My dread skids toward disgust as all the wrong things -- at least, "wrong" in my estimation -- begin to happen.] 

Oh, shit! 

[Book sails toward nightstand.] 

What possessed you to do that? In addition to not explaining all this other stuff?  Are you crazy?  You just ruined what could've been a fabulous read, what could've been a fabulous ending!

[By now, the engine of my brain has gone into overdrive, because I'm replotting whole sections of the book and reworking characters to make them more relevant, three-dimensional, and/or sympathetic.]

Okay, here's what you should've done to make this story more satisfying.  Believe me, the direction you chose resulted in a big, sour WTF rather than an "ahhhh" of contentment.

[And away I go!]

I'm well aware I have no right whatsoever to approach books in this manner.  What's more, I have my own stories to write.  It drives me nuts when I start obsessing over somebody else's fiction because my imagination can't/won't go with the flow.  I wish I could flip a switch and instantly turn off all my creative and editorial impulses.  Aaaaarrrrgh! 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Please, close the windows to your souls.

 Here's one of many questions that have been rolling around in my mind lately.

Why do people like taking pictures of their eyeballs?  Why do they like posting their eyeball pictures on the Internet and passing them off as self-portraits? Why do authors in particular like doing this?

Are such photos supposed to make the subjects look mysterious? Insightful? Are they supposed to hypnotize readers into buying books?  I don't know. That's why I'm asking. 

Shamefully, I admit I considered doing this a few years ago. But when I tried photographing my own eye(s), the attempt didn't go so well. Not only couldn't I seem to hold the camera at the correct angle, which usually resulted in a shot of my forehead or of a few paltry lashes overwhelmed by surrounding wrinkles (which kind of looked like fly legs stuck in a spider web), but the flash nearly blinded me. 

In any case, the novelty of eyeball portraiture on profile pages has worn off -- at least for me. These ubiquitous photos creep me out.  I'm beginning to think the people who post them are all members of a secret society.

Here's a suggestion to folks who aren't members of a secret society but are maybe just bashful:  You might want to consider representing yourselves via other body parts.  I don't mean you should parade your privates. The 'Net already has a surfeit of exhibitionists.
(Of course, I'll make an exception for men with really extraordinary asses like the one on the left.  There can never be enough "art" photos of Grade-A manbutt.  I do ask, however, that guys who consider this option be objective in their assessment of their assets, lest the Web be flooded with pictures like the one on the right.)

What I mean is, you have toes, belly buttons, ears, noses, kneecaps, elbows -- all kinds of wonderful body parts. Please, shy people, consider taking snapshots of those. I need a change.