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?