Category Archives: Writing

“Murder on the Mountain” has won an award!

This past weekend, I was very honored to see my novel Murder on the Mountain win the Bisexual Mystery category at the Bisexual Book Awards in New York!

I’d been planning on attending the awards ceremony, and now I really wish I had. However, travel proved too difficult this time around. Fortunately, author Cecilia Tan tweeted the awards ceremony!

Click here to see the other winners!

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Filed under Bisexual, Bisexual Book Awards, Contemporary, gay, Mystery, Romance, Writing

An American spy struggling to conjugate Russian adjectives

bondI study Russian as a hobby these days. I used to take classes in it in college, and not only was the language interesting in and of itself, but my classmates were terrific. There were only eight of us, and we formed a Russian club. We put on dinners of Russian food and got together to study Russian obscenities when nobody was looking. We were a disparate group—Sandy, the former cheerleader who was rushing a sorority; Steve, a jock who was, frankly, gorgeous; Troy, who was pretty much a nerd (no offense, Troy, you were a great guy), and others I no longer remember so clearly. Then me. I was a nerd, too. But we were united by a common interest, and we had a lot of fun. Sadly, as we moved into our second year, we all found other friends and the Russian club drifted apart.

But over the years, I’ve been frustrated, trying to recall words and phrases from a language I once knew at least a little of. It was nearly gone, when my husband suggested I could take a class in it. I couldn’t find any classes (apart from spending a small our retirement savings on Continuing Ed through UNH—don’t even get me started). But I did discover tutors who were local.

So now I go to Barnes & Noble once a week to study Russian with Natasha* for an hour. She’s from Russia, and Russian is her native language, so I know when she corrects my accent she isn’t steering me wrong. And bit by bit, it’s coming back to me. In fact, I suspect I’m already moving a bit past where I left off in college. Of course, from Natasha’s perspective, I’m about the level of a talking monkey. (“Today… it is… warm.”) Fortunately, she’s lived here a long time, so her English is perfect.

So you’re probably wondering about the James Bond logo. That’s because I was recently asked to write a short story for an athology, and my theme was mercy. I agonized over it for a while, and then while I was re-watching the old 1964 Jonny Quest cartoon series, I had an idea: what about a secret agent during the cold war whose mission is to assassinate someone, but he can’t?

This, not surprisingly, led me to James Bond. But Rex Colby, secret agent, isn’t exactly James Bond. He’s a former US Navy man, trained by the CIA to infiltrate the Russian military. He might have shades of Mack Bolan in him, though I haven’t read one of those novels since I was a kid. Colby speaks Russian without a trace of his native Texas accent, and is the perfect man to go onboard a top secret Russian submarine in search of an American scientist who defected to the USSR with the advanced long-range sonar he was developing.

It was an interesting idea, and it might even allow me to drop in some Russian. I love doing that!

When I mentioned this to Natasha during last week’s tutoring session—”Я пишу рассказ об американском шпионе на российском подводном лодке.” (I am writing a short story about an American spy on a Russian submarine.)—I was expecting her to react to it. I was hoping she’d be amused. At worst, I was afraid she’d be offended. After all, the Russians (Soviets) are the enemy in stories like this.

She looked at me calmly and said, “Лодка is feminine, not masculine. It would be российской подводной лодки.

Oh.  Right.

* In case it isn’t obvious, I’ve changed all the names in this post. I’m no fool.

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Filed under Drama, gay, Life, Romance, Writing

Authors behaving… like human beings

So there is yet another author who got upset over a bad review and blogged about it, and readers who were angered by an author telling them how to review.  I’m not going to link to the disaster.  But I do have some things to say about this issue.

  1. I hate the distinction between “readers” and “writers.”  It’s a false dichotomy.  Every writer is also a reader.  Not every reader wants to be a writer, but many do.  The distinction is muddy, and this isn’t a conflict it’s possible to take sides on.  Unfortunately, it’s still a real conflict, and it’s difficult to talk about it without saying “readers” and “writers” (or “authors”).
  2. Self-publishing has it’s upsides and its downsides.  On the upside, it’s allowing a lot of talented people who can’t get into the hallowed halls of traditional publishing to get their work out to the world.  Some of them are brilliant, but they weren’t writing what publishers thought would sell.  On the downside, it also allows people with little talent or skill to put their work out there.  And this has caused a lot of readers (not all) to think writing doesn’t require any skill or talent, and to view our profession with derision.  They no longer think books are worth paying for, and they begin their relationship with a book on a note of hostility, already angered by the fact they had to spend money on “crap.”  This makes me very sad.
  3. Writers have no choice but to suck it up, when it comes to bad reviews.  It doesn’t matter if the review was nonsensical, it doesn’t matter if the reviewer hated the book for a stupid reason.  It doesn’t even matter if the reviewer didn’t read the book.  None of that matters.  Do you know why?  Because absolutely nothing a writer says in retaliation for a bad review will improve the situation.  It will make it worse.  Guaranteed.  Sure, a few people will rally to your defense, but just as many or more will attack you for it.  And it will cost you readers.  The worst thing to do with a bad review is draw everybody’s attention to it — people who would never have even glanced at the original review — and spew commentary about it all over the Internet.  Do you really want the first thing that pops up on Google when people search for you to be twenty blog posts about how whiny you are?  If you don’t care about people buying your books, fine, but if you do… take a breath, and let it go….
  4. Having said that, I am not on the side of readers who beat their chests and wail about Authors Behaving Badly whenever an author blogs about how hurt they are by a review.  There are two arguments I see over and over again:  1) Authors are “oppressing” readers, and 2) Readers have the real power, because they pay the author’s salary, so to speak.  The second argument is largely true.  Readers pay for our books or don’t pay for them, and that affects our income.  There are a number of authors out there who don’t really give a rat’s ass whether people buy their books — they’re in it for the art — but most of us do.  But that renders argument one invalid.  I cannot have power over someone and claim to be “oppressed” by them.  That’s nonsensical.
  5. Words are not “oppression.”  An author ranting about a review does nothing whatsoever to “oppress” the reviewer.  It’s just words.  The review was words, and the response was words.  Nobody’s freedom has been infringed upon — they both got to have their say, even if what they said was childish and inflamatory.  If anything, it’s the author who’s at a disadvantage, since an inflamatory blog post or response to a review on Goodreads can ultimately cost him or her income.  But I have little sympathy for people who equate hurt feelings with “oppression.”  As a friend and fellow author said, this is a “first world problem.”  There are people out there who are really oppressed.  This ain’t it.
  6. There’s no need to bring ridiculous levels of paranoia into this.  Yes, we’ve all heard the story about the author who flipped out and tracked down a reader at her home and then at work.  But have you heard the story about the reader who showed up at a book signing to splash ink on an author because her novel was “about her?”  Yes, whackjobs abound.  But these people don’t represent authors and they don’t represent readers — they represent whackjobs.  For the most part, authors don’t show up at reviewer’s houses and try to kick the door down, and readers don’t attack authors.  So chill.

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Happy New Year!

Cassini_NewYears_2010_fullHappy New Year!

The picture is actually from the NASA website, and was used for New Years in 2010, but I thought it was perfect, since it looks a lot like the cover of my novella Saturn in Retrograde.

2014 hasn’t been a bad year for me.  It was my first year writing full-time, and I saw two new novels published, along with two stories in the Gothika #1 and #2 series, as well as a story published for Brent Hartinger’s The Real Story Safe Sex Project, and a free story for the Love’s Landscapes event on Goodreads.  I’m also finishing the first draft of a new novel, and I’m about 2/3rds through another YA novel.

Not bad.

I don’t really know what to do for a New Year’s resolution.  Not that I really have to have one, but, you know… it’s traditional.  I’d love to lose some weight, but we all know how those resolutions tend to go.  I suppose a more practical resolution would be to increase my writing output.  I didn’t do too badly, but I tend to waste a lot of time on the Internet when I should be writing.  I often don’t get anything accomplished until the last couple hours of the day—then I crank.  That could definitely be improved.

I know a lot of people will say, “You shouldn’t worry about putting more out.  You need to worry about producing good stories first.”  Well, I do worry about producing good stories.  But the simple fact of the matter is, in order to make any money at this craft, you have to produce.  We don’t live in a society that favors artists of any kind.  A few make it to the top and bring in a lot of money, but most have to survive by having a large output, so for this we need to learn to take care of our money doing the right investments, that we can do using the tools from the The Ascent site online.  The trick is to produce more and still have it be good.

So that’s my New Years Resolution: to write more without the quality of my writing suffering.

What’s yours?

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When nobody reads your writing

386200_2673280425520_1061443511_32785704_1832786642_n.jpgWhenever an article or blog comes out in which an author grumbles about lack of sales, as author Michael Henderson did in this recent article about Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program, it’s common for people to slam them as whiners who don’t respect reader’s choices to buy other authors’ works, or worse, to claim it’s because their work is obviously inferior.

I don’t like this.

Michael Henderson will probably do just fine thanks to the boost his sales received from the article thanks to wordtree—he’s at least picked up one good review from it—but I’d like to address a few points:

  1. Amazon has over 3 million eBooks available.  It’s illogical to assume that any reader is able to go through that morass of brilliant and god-awful novels and decide which are good and which are not, in his or her opinion.  Readers — and that includes every author I’ve ever known — gather data from other readers they know, advertisements, which ones use companies and which ones don’t, reviews, and what-have-you to select books.  They also browse categories and look at blurbs and covers, but none of these techniques will ever give a reader more than the tip of the iceburg to choose from.  That’s just a statistical fact.
  2. Given what I said above, there is no way to correllate the quality of an author’s writing with how many books they sell, especially if we’re talking about the low end of the spectrum.  Nobody even knows what that means, frankly.  I often think a book is brilliantly written when nobody else seems to like it, and vice versa.  And it’s impossible for any reader to decide a novel is bad if he or she hasn’t read it.  Period.  So if an author’s book has only sold ten copies, it could mean the author can’t string two sentences together (as one reader claimed of Murder on the Mountain), but it could just as easily mean only ten people have read it and they don’t have a large enough influence over other readers to make the book take off.  Assuming a book is bad because it didn’t sell is just another form of blaming the victim:  “It happened to him because he did something wrong.  Therefore, it won’t happen to me, because I know what I’m doing.”
  3. Not all authors are good at selling themselves or their books.  The nature of the profession tends to attract introverts who prefer to be by themselves, writing or reading—not running around to cons and bookfairs chatting readers up, or even getting too social on social media.  Most new authors have no idea this is even part of the deal.  It’s like getting on a flight around the world, being yanked out of your seat, and shoved into the cockpit.  “Didn’t anyone tell you you’re the pilot?  Good luck!”

Having said all that, my advice to authors who aren’t selling well is this:  Don’t bitch about it.  Okay, you can grumble a little, but whatever you do, don’t attack popular authors and complain that their books are crap.  Don’t insist your own books are brilliant—that’s not for you to decide.  And don’t insult readers by claiming they have no taste.  Just realize they need to see you and your work before they can read anything you’ve put out, and the competition for reader attention is insane.

So get out there and be friendly!

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My take on women writing MM Romance

SterekThe argument has surfaced again and again over the four years since I first published in this genre:  Are women really capable of writing MM Romance?  After all, it’s about men.  Shouldn’t men write it?

My answer to those questions is a bit complex, so bear with me.

First, a little history.  This is based upon my personal experience, supplemented by some cursory research, so don’t take anything I say as absolute fact.  I would love to see someone do a really thorough history of the genre someday.

I don’t know how old modern “gay literature” is.  I do know E.M. Forster wrote Maurice in 1913 (though it wasn’t published until after his death in 1971).  Blair Niles published a novel in 1931 called Strange Brother, which tells of the friendship between a heterosexual woman and a gay man.   Authors such as Christopher Isherwood and Langston Hughes were also writing in the 1930s, but I don’t think much of it was overtly homosexual.  Gordon Merrick wrote a gay novel in 1947 called The Strumpet Wind. In the 1950s, the gay pulps made a tentative appearance, sometimes as reprints of older novels such as Strange Brother, and by the 1960s, some of pulps had become sexually explicit.  Victor J. Banis was one of the pioneers in this genre with his The Man from C.A.M.P. series, beginning in 1966.

There are too many authors to list in this brief overview, but I’ll add a few more groundbreaking novels here.  In 1970, Gordon Merrick’s The Lord Won’t Mind hit the New York Times Bestsellers List for sixteen weeks.  Then in 1974, Patricia Nell Warren hit the NYT Bestsellers List with The Front Runner, which became an enormous mainstream hit.  In 1980, Vincent Virga wrote the first gay gothic romance, appropriately titled Gaywyck.

Now, most of the authors writing gay novels were gay men, but you’ll note that the author of The Front Runner was a woman.  Another female author, Marion Zimmer Bradley, published one of my favorite gay novels—The Catch Trap—in 1979.  She later wrote other novels with gay characters, as did Patricia Nell Warren.  (Yes, I’m aware of the controversy surrounding Marion Zimmer Bradley, and I’m not saying I approve of everything she’s done.  However, it’s still a great novel.)

When I was first coming to terms with my sexuality in the early eighties, I devoured every gay novel I could find—not that I could find many.  Most of what I discovered was in the bargain bins of the local used book store.  Those books were mostly dreary depictions of gay men living lonely lives, having sex with strangers, and resolving to die alone.  Often they died prematurely of AIDS or violence.  As much as I love The Front Runner, which depicts a wonderful, loving relationship between two men, the ending is horrific.  These books depicted a bleak future for a teenage boy just coming out of the closet.  It got to the point where I flipped to the end chapter of every book I picked up to make sure the main character and his love interest were both still alive before I purchased it.

Fortunately, there were exceptions.  Gordon Merrick novels ended happily, though they were so obsessed with physical beauty and enormous cocks I couldn’t really apply them to my life.  I did stumble across a novel called Tory’s by William Snyder which ended happily, though again the main character was rather vapid and obsessed with physical appearance.  There was one wonderful YA novel by B.A. Ecker called Independence Day which had a positive impact on me.  It depicted a boy my age who was in love with his best friend.  The ending saddened me, because they didn’t end up running off into the sunset together, but the fact that his friend embraces him when he comes out was a big deal.  I have no idea whether B.A. Ecker was male or female, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Ecker was female.  I’ve already mentioned The Catch Trap, which was wonderfully romantic and ended happily.

And it was written by a woman.

At this time, I had no doubt that I preferred female authors.  It seemed to me that the male authors of gay novels were either depressed or obsessed with penis size.  I wanted romance.  And for that, I turned to women.  (Later, I would discover Mercedes Lackey’s Last Herald Mage trilogy, which couldn’t be said to be happy, really, but was definitely romantic.)

Then in college, I discovered an entirely new (to me) source of gay stories—slashfic.

I’m sure most people already know the term, but basically it’s fiction written by fans of a particular TV, movie, or book series who pair up their favorite characters for sexual escapades.  The name “slashfic” derives from the slash put between the characters when people talk about the stories, such as “Kirk/Spock.”  (There can, of course, be multiple characters—it doesn’t just have to be two.)

I never wrote fanfic or slashfic myself, but I saw it online.  At the time, the World Wide Web didn’t exist.  My college wasn’t even on the Internet until near the end of my time there—we were on something called BITNET.  (Which is a fascinating subject, but not relevant to this discussion.)  All of the stories I read were distributed on a text-based service called LISTSERV.

While I didn’t write slashfic, I did write original stories on a vampire fan list and I was on a Star Trek fan list, among others.  The authors who posted their works of fiction—whether based in the universe of Star Trek, or Anne Rice, or entirely of their own creation—were largely amateurs.  I don’t mean that in a negative sense.  Some of them were very good.  (Lois McMaster Bujold, one of my favorite fantasy/science fiction authors, began by writing Star Trek fanfic.)  But most were unpublished at that time, like myself.

And another observation:  most of these writers were female.  Yes, I’ve seen rants about how this is a stereotype and completely untrue, but I’ve found at least one study in 2010 that seems to have some good data.  It could all be bogus, of course, but if it’s correct, we’re looking at about 78% of fanfic writers being female.  And if we’re talking about the sub-category of slashfic, which often (though not always) involves two male characters getting it on, it seems reasonable to assume a largely female authorship.  Gay men no doubt write some, but I think the percentage is low.

What does this have to do with MM Romance?

Not to put too fine a point on it, MM Romance—in my opinion—does not owe its origin to mainstream gay fiction.  It comes from slashfic.  I’m not saying it’s the same thing as slashfic.  Certainly not.  It’s evolved away from its origins.  MM Romance is original fiction and much of it is well-written and professional.  But it descended from slashfic, and the gender demographics haven’t changed a lot.  The majority of writers are still female, and the majority of readers are female.

Mainstream gay fiction is still out there.  It’s actually expanded a bit to include lesbian and transgender fiction.  But I confess, I still find much of it dreary.  I picked up a book not long ago that was was full of critical accolades in the first pages.  I read the first chapter, grew suspicious, and flipped to the end.  Yes, the love interest was dead, the victim of a gay-bashing.  Of course.

I don’t need that crap.

I want romance.  And for that, I turn to MM Romance, which has always been a genre dominated by women.  Always.  There has never been a time when the majority of writers in this genre were gay men.  So the question of whether women should be writing MM Romance is utterly absurd.

The real question is, can men write it?

Gay men, in fact, often find it frustrating to write in this genre.  They sometimes pour their hearts into a manuscript, writing about gay characters dealing with the difficulties gay men face every day, only to have it rejected by publishers of MM Romance because there isn’t enough romance in it.  Or (somewhat ironically) female readers will rate a story badly because there isn’t enough sex in it, which can make us feel as if we’re prostituting ourselves.  And while there are a few gay men on the top of the charts, there are far more women up there, there are other business like make up but is because the products are directed mainly to women, products you can see online as in this Truffoire Review: My Experience with the Perigold Collection. Depending of the use women give them to these products, since there are products for totally different purposes as a semi permanent makeup for long duration and that is easy to get at https://www.coronamicroblading.com/.

The fact of the matter is, MM Romance may be about gay men, but it isn’t really ours.  The genre is full of tropes that often baffle and frustrate us—all couples must be monogamous, despite a very large percentage of gay couples having open relationships; the only real sex is penetrative anal sex, despite the fact that many gay men don’t like it—and many gay men have difficulty writing them.  Not only that, but many gay men have difficulty reading them. Hence the reason this argument of women writing MM Romance keeps surfacing.

(Also, I am not trying to imply that all gay men agree about… well, anything.  Whenever I talk about how tired I am of seeing anal sex written about as if it’s the ultimate expression of love for gay men, I get some men praising me and some men snarling at me for tromping all over something they happen to love.)

But grousing about the problems in the genre overlooks one other key fact:  without it, most of the gay authors currently publishing in MM Romance would not be published, or at least they would have to resort to self-publishing.  This isn’t to say MM Romance authors, whether men or women, aren’t up to snuff when compared to mainstream authors.  I think many of us are.  But the gateways to mainstream publishing are jealously guarded.  An author nearly always requires an agent to get into a mainstream publishing house, and agents themselves take on only a small percentage of the authors who submit to them.

MM Romance publishers have provided another avenue for gay male authors—a lot of gay male authors.  It’s been a boon to us. Like any market, it has restrictions as to what sells and what doesn’t sell, and it does little good to complain about that.  We have to adapt to what sells if we want our stories to sell.  That’s just marketing common sense, if you contact the indexsy seo company you will know this for sure.  And at least some male authors have been successful at it.  We do, after all, like romance too.

Ultimately, if there are things gay authors don’t like about the MM Romance genre, we’re in a good position to affect some change within it.  Not by ranting, necessarily.  (Yes, I’m guilty of ranting—frequently.)  But by depicting ourselves honestly in good stories.  If our stories are good, they’ll have an influence.  Also by talking about ourselves honestly with other authors in the genre.  Female authors aren’t the enemy.  They want their stories to be authentic.  The best do their research and hang out with gay men so they can accurately represent us.  But of course, “gay men” isn’t really a unified group of people—and the information we impart about our lives is often contradictory.  And they’re bound by the market too.  They want to sell their books.  So change comes slowly.

Overall, when I talk of “changing” the MM Romance genre, I’m not talking about a genre in need of a complete overhaul.  This genre has been good for the LGBTQ community.  It’s expanded our acceptance with both readers and publishers, and it’s influenced the way a lot of people vote on gay rights issues.  I have no doubt that it’s expanded the acceptance of same-sex marriage in this country and others.

So I like the MM Romance genre.  I’ve found a home there and made a lot of friends there.  Any good author will have an influence upon his or her genre, even if small, so of course I hope to do so someday.  But if I do, it will be through the quality of my work—not through any misguided attempts to drive women out of the genre and claim it as my own.

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Can we please kill this whole Top/Bottom thing?

Warning:  this blog post contains frank discussions of gay sex.  

Imagine this scene from a straight romance novel:

Harold gazed longingly into Marjorie’s eyes and whispered, “I’ve been waiting all night long to get you into a sixty-nine.”

Marjorie took a quick sip of her wine in an attempt to hide the blush creeping into her cheeks.  She gazed out over the city skyline and breathed in the warm night air, giving herself a moment to think.  Normally, Marjorie considered herself to be a missionary-style woman, but for Harold she could be flexible.  “Yes,” she gasped finally, “that sounds really hot.”

What’s wrong with this scene?  I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it:  they’re not even in the bedroom yet, and they’re already negotiating positions!  Who would do that in real life, except perhaps two people negotiating a BDSM scene?

Yet, if we change the two main characters to gay men….

Harold gazed longingly into Mark’s eyes and whispered, “I’ve been waiting all night long for you to top me.”

Mark took a quick sip of his wine in an attempt to hide the blush creeping into his cheeks.  He gazed out over the city skyline and breathed in the warm night air, giving himself a moment to think.  Normally, Mark considered himself a bottom, but for Harold he could be versatile.  “Yes,” he gasped finally, “that sounds really hot.”

Sure, for men, right here it’s a little raunchy, but no more than other scenes I’ve read in the genre.  It now doesn’t seem all that unusual.  Why?  Because gay men often negotiate who’s the top and who’s the bottom before they have sex, or at least that’s what’s going through their heads.  Right?

Well, um… no.  Not really.

coin_wideOkay, I can’t claim to speak for all gay men.  Perhaps some gay men do this.  But honestly, I’ve been out since 1983 and over the thirty years since I came out, I’ve had lots of sex.  I’ve topped; I’ve bottomed; I’ve done other things I have no intention of talking about in a blog open to the general public.

Do you know what I haven’t done in all that time?  Declared myself a “top” or a “bottom” to anybody.

Ever.

Nor have I ever thought to myself, “I’m a top,” or “I’m a bottom.”  Is this because I’m “versatile?”  No, it’s because I’m just a guy, and when I have sex, we go into the bedroom (or wherever said sex is going to occur) and just go at it.  At some point, somebody might ask, “Would you like to fuck me?” or “Can I fuck you?”  Imagine!  Actually asking what your partner is in the mood for!

Yes, I’ve known men who would never let anyone fuck them.  Although these guys often refuse anal sex, period, because they find it repulsive or just don’t happen to like it.  (I’ve already discussed the fact that not all gay men are into anal sex in a previous blog post.)  What it has almost never been is because they are “bottoms” who never like to “top.”

Sure, they may have a preference.  Just like straight men and women have preferences.  According to Wikipedia, an examination of over 55,000 profiles of gay men on the popular hookup site gay.com “showed that 26.46% preferred top, while 31.92% preferred bottom, and the largest group (41.62%) preferred versatile.”  In other words… nothing.  We might as well call it split down the middle with 42% not caring either way.  And it’s about as useful as polling straight couples about their favorite position.

But my main point is, straight men and women don’t identify as the sexual position they prefer, so why should gay men?

And don’t even get me started about “pitcher” and “catcher.”  I don’t know the origin of the phrase, but I’ve rarely heard it issued by someone who wasn’t disturbed by the idea of gay sex in general.  I’ve certainly never heard gay men refer to each other that way.

Now, I suppose the gay “scene” is different in the cities and in various parts of the country.  I can only really talk about the way things are in my area, and age makes a difference as well.  But these aren’t terms I want to be associated with.

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What’s up with all the nudity?

1486897_239607046199651_1288080316_nMost readers who pick up a M/M Romance novel aren’t terribly surprised to find out that the characters take their clothes off, at least for the sex scenes.  That’s pretty much expected. But a number of readers/reviewers have expressed surprise at just how much nudity my adult novels contain.

Tom and Kevin in Billy’s Bones are naked whenever they’re in the house alone, or outside in the yard.  There are so many people wandering around naked on the grounds of the Temple in Murderous Requiem that even I’ve lost track of how many.  And dorm life in Screwups appears to be one big, hedonistic romp, with people streaking, stripping, and partying without a stitch on. Do I really think that’s realistic?

Well, actually, yes.  I do.  All of these were loosely borrowed from real situations I’ve been in.

Like my favorite science fiction author, Robert A. Heinlein, I’m a nudist.  (Don’t worry—I won’t be posting pictures.)  How this happened, I’m not quite sure.  I was an extremely shy teenager who had difficulty looking people straight in the eye, never mind taking his clothes off in front of everyone.  But at some point in college that changed.

Body image was a big part of it.  I was skinny as a toothpick and I thought that made me unattractive.  Then one night, sleeping over at my boyfriend’s apartment, I decided to be bold when I went downstairs for a drink and just wear my underwear, even though his friends were watching TV in the living room.  I cut in front of them and they whistled at me.  “Stop making fun of me,” I said.  The response I got was a slightly lecherous, “Oh, we weren’t making fun of you.”

Wait… what?  Really?

Over the next few years, my shyness fell away.  I lived for a short time in an apartment with two other people, and we decided clothing would be optional.  Then I moved into a dorm which subjected me to co-ed bathrooms, where people of either gender might be stepping into or out of the shower when I walked in.  I was exposed to streaking, skinny dipping, nude snow angels, and posing nude in the lounge for people to sketch.

Ah… those were the days.

At one point, I was dared to strip naked in a hallway, cover my entire body with marshmallow fluff, and run through the dorm.  I don’t know how many people gathered for that event, but I estimate it was at least forty. So much for shyness.  Although I have to say this about it:  when you’re covered with marshmallow fluff, you kind of feel like you have clothes on.

Since then, I’ve been to nude beaches, nudist resorts, and clothing-optional pagan gatherings.  So, yeah.  Even though age and weight gain has taken its toll, I’m still pretty comfortable in my skin.  So does this mean I’m going to use my novels to push some kind of evil nudist agenda?

Well, not deliberately.  But you write what you know.  And all of my main characters are me, in some guise or other.  Tom in Billy’s Bones, Jeremy in Murderous Requiem, Danny in Screwups—they’re definitely me.  But so are Kevin, Bowyn, and Jake to a lesser extent.  What isn’t me is filled in from other people I’ve known.  I rarely write a character who isn’t based in some part on a real person.

There are characters in my stories, of course, who wouldn’t be caught dead naked.  Isaac in By That Sin Fell the Angels, Susan in Billy’s Bones, Paul in Screwups.  But those characters are probably the least like me.  Susan Cross is based on my mom.  My mom doesn’t run around naked.

At any rate, the best I can say is, if it seems weird to a reader that my main characters are completely at ease without their clothes on, that’s simply because it doesn’t seem weird to me.  Will I change it to make others happy?  Probably not.  But if I write a scene in which my main character goes to work naked and his corporate boss says, “Hey, Joe!  How’s it hanging?  Oh, never mind—I can see for myself,” I do hope my editors will point out that this probably wouldn’t happen in real life.

At least, not in New Hampshire.

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Filed under Jamie Fessenden, Life, Nudity, Writing

Back to murder and mayhem

JesseSince I have a deadline in mid February for Murder on the Mountain, I’ve had to temporarily put aside the YA novel I was working on (Martian Born) to focus on this one again.  It was nearly finished at the end of November, but frankly I was so sick of it, I just needed a break.  Why was I sick of it?  Because trying to cram an entire novel into one month really didn’t work well for me.  Sure, I got most of it done, but I burnt out twice as fast.

Rushing things (for NaNoWriMo) also meant that I didn’t have time to straighten out problems with the plot as they came up.  So now I’m going back through the manuscript and doing a lot of tweaking, before I move on to wrap things up.

None of this means that I don’t like the novel.  I think it’s good, and definitely successful as a murder mystery.  But I’ve learned some things since I began writing it about proper police procedure when it comes to criminal investigations on the mountain, and of course my husband and I spent a weekend at the Mt. Washington resort hotel where the bulk of the story takes place.  So now I’m going back and restructuring to take all of this into account.

KyleI’ve also decided to slow the romance down a bit.  Not a lot—the entire novel takes place over less than a week—but just a bit more, to make it more obvious that the bisexual police detective, Kyle, is on uncertain ground.  He’s never dated a man before, so I wanted him to come across a bit more hesitant.  This is not a “gay for you” story—Kyle knows he’s interested in men—but until recently he’s been married to a woman (she passed away a few years before the story begins), and he never thought he’d act on his attraction to men.  Then along comes a confident, openly gay young man named Jesse….

In the meantime, I’ve also entered edits for two stories:  my contemporary romance, Screwups, and a steampunk novella called Watchworks, which is part of an anthology called Gothika.  The anthology includes stories by me, Eli Easton, Sue Brown, and Kim Fielding, and should be out this May!

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Filed under gay, Mystery, NaNoWriMo, Romance, Work in Progress, Writing

Guest Blog – Desktop: “The Enlightenment of Daniel” by Eli Easton

“The Enlightenment of Daniel” was released on Dec 18th. Per usual, I’m posting a “desktop” for it. These are the images that I used for inspiration while I was writing the story. I hope they can either intrigue you enough to read the story or, if you’ve read it, provide some interesting visual references.

PURCHASE LINK: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4440

READ AN EXCERPT HERE: http://elieaston.com/books-by-eli-easton/the-enlightenment-of-daniel/

Daniel Derenzo:

This story is about Daniel Derenzo, one of the two owners of DRE, a Seattle company which has made a lot of money buying dysfunctional companies, turning them around, and selling them. Daniel is, in a word, the business shark of the two-man team. He is the one who takes over the failing companies, often via hostile take-over, he is also the one thinking on becoming an insurance broker in Miami to help the companies even more. Yet I didn’t want a typical nasty tycoon. The character of Daniel needed humor. He’s an often unintentionally funny Type A who is a bit bumbling in a always-over-thinking-it type way. Sort of Woody Allen meets Gorden Gekko. He also is good-looking and very concerned about his image. I couldn’t figure out who Daniel looked like until my husband suggested Ben Affleck. And, yeah, when Ben does his uptight-bumbling-intellect thing, he is Daniel-esque. Here are a few photos of Ben in more of a ‘Daniel’ persona.

ben-affleck-300 1365105959ben-affleck-talks-blake-lively-in-details-october-2012-03[1]

Nick Ross:

Nick is the other half of DRE, Daniel’s business partner and best friend ever since they roomed together in college. As Daniel puts it, Nick is the ‘nice’ to Daniel’s ‘mercenary’. Once Daniel has successfully taken over a company, Nick goes in and makes everyone happy, wins over the employees, and makes the company healthy again. Nick needed to be softer, charming, and appealing. He’s a super nice guy who doesn’t necessarily stick up for himself. He’s also scruffier and not as obsessed with his appearance as Daniel (and a bit of a ginger). I picked Ewan McGregor as a physical model for Nick.

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Marcia Ross:

Nick’s wife, Marcia, is a woman who is desperately clinging to a marriage that ended a long time ago. She’s concerned with image, yes, but also has been convinced by her mother that divorce will ruin her two kids and that it’s her job to maintain the marriage at any cost. Marcia is not really a villain to me, she is someone who is stuck in a rut and can’t even see how bad things are, nor does she have any idea how to fix them. She’s just determined to hang on to the status quo. If you can imagine a drowning person punching and fighting the person trying to rescue them out of fear–that is Marcia. By the way, she gets an HEA too. I picture Marcia as a sort of blonde, Housewives of Beverly Hills type visually, but she does change by the end of the story.

housewives

Jenny Ross:

I’ve always had a soft spot for m/m romances with kids in them, but this is the first time I’ve written one. Nick has two children including Jenny, who is 13. Jenny is a typical teen but she’s struggling to find her own identity separate from her mother. Below was the inspiration for Jenny **post make-over**.

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Sylvan Ross:

Sylvan is Nick’s other kid, an 8-year-old boy. He’s all boy, a goof-ball, and just “a love sponge”. Here’s my reference for Sylvan.

Boy_being_silly_by_ImaSwedeStock

Frank Derenzo aka “Iron Man”:

“The Enlightenment of Daniel” has a theme of fatherhood. The entire story begins when Daniel’s father, Frank, calls Daniel to the hospital as he is dying of cancer. He gives Daniel a “Marley’s ghost” lecture, warning him not to spend his life pursuing only business, as Frank has done, but to fall in love, live life, and be happy. Frank is a major character in this book–I love him to death (literally, apparently). He’s sharp-tongued and provides some comic moments.

stock-photo-an-older-businessman-with-glasses-holds-up-a-newspaper-51024985

Expanded Horizons Sex Clinic:

This story is part of my Sex In Seattle series, which are stories which revolve around a sex clinic in Seattle called Expanded Horizons. (This story, however, is completely stand alone). Daniel goes to Expanded Horizons for counselling when he starts having sexual feeling for Nick. This is pretty disturbing to Daniel, because he’s 34 and he always thought he was straight. The building below is a reference for Expanded Horizons.

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Dr. Jack Halloran:

Jack, the star of “The Trouble With Tony,” makes an appearance in “Daniel” as Daniel’s sex therapist. He helps Daniel figure out these new feelings, and if he is actually gay or not.

young doctor man with stethoscope and clipboard against different backgrounds

Michael Lamont:

Michael is the gay sex surrogate at Expanded Horizons. When one of Jack’s patients could benefit from actual sexual contact with a licensed therapist, it is Michael who does it. He’s works with everything from E.D. patients (erectile dysfunction) to those with severe handicaps or fear of intimacy. I LOVE MICHAEL and I’m currently writing his book (Sex in Seattle #3). He has a wonderful scene in “The Enlightenment of Daniel”, though. Daniel goes to Michael to test once and for all the theory that he is gay. Hot! [Note: Michael physically is inspired by model Isaiah Garnica, who is in the photo below.]

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Locations:

Here are some places in Seattle that appear in “The Enlightenment of Daniel”

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Above: The Metropolitan Grill where Daniel and Nick have lunch

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Above: Molly Moon’s ice cream where Daniel takes Nick and the kids

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Above: Safeco field from the VIP seats. Daniel takes Nick and his kids to a game here.

The House/Cabin on Bainbridge

A very important part of the story takes place on Bainbridge Island, in a house on the water that Daniel rents. Here’re some inspirational photos for that.

novotny.04 dock

Special Bonus:

Daniel’s John Lobb shoes, which star in the first scene.

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And the (hubba hubba) bathing suit Daniel wears at the cabin.

new-mens-swimming-sport-swim-trunks-shorts

That’s it for this book! I hope you enjoy this story. If you do, drop me a line at eli@elieaston.com or tag me on twitter at @EliEaston

PURCHASE LINK: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4440

READ AN EXCERPT HERE: http://elieaston.com/books-by-eli-easton/the-enlightenment-of-daniel/

Eli

 

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