Tag Archives: writing

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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Busy, busy, busy

So I confess that I was worried.  When I quite my day job to write full-time, I was concerned that I might slack off.  I know myself.  If I can nap all day, I might just do that.  But although my workday is considerably less hectic than it was in phone support, I’ve discovered that one deadline is almost immediately followed by another in this gig.

There are plenty of writers who write faster than I do.  I talk to people daily who find it easy to churn out 2,000-5,000 words a day, and it’s not because they’re writing crap.  Some are among my favorite authors.

I can’t do that.  I can do 1,000 words a day on average, generally a bit more.  When the spirit moves me, as it did for the final couple weeks of my YA novel, Gods (Book Three of the Dreams of Fire and Gods trilogy), I can do twice that.  But that’s not a normal writing pace for me.

I’m also a little fuzzy on the whole deadline thing.  Always have been.  I try very hard not to piss off my publisher, but begging an extra day or two is sadly not uncommon.

However, I’ve had a pretty productive summer despite my shortcomings.  I turned in the manuscript for Gods, which turned out to be 66k words long, in mid(-ish) July, and submitted a 20k Christmas novella for the Dreamspinner Advent Calendar on August 1st.  Then I spent a week or so starting a steampunk project for an October deadline (it’s currently at 8.8k), but put that aside to finish a 9.5k story about two men on a business trip for a charity anthology, where they will learn about ichimoku cloud strategy for their business.  In between there have been miscellaneous bouts of editing, blog posts (not counting guest blogs), and other promotional work.  About 30k of Gods was written since going full-time, so I’ll say that’s about 68k written in the past … well, about 86 days.  Which works out to about 790 words per day….

Wait a minute — that sucks!

Oh, wait.  I get to take out 24 days for weekends (there were also some holidays in there).  That brings it to just over 1,000 words a day.

Well, that was all rather pointless then, but at least I can justify not searching through Help Wanted ads for a bit longer.

Anyway…

JakeMy current project is a contemporary (more or less — it takes place in 1996) college romance novel, currently called Second Chances.  Yes, my publisher has already suggested changing the name, since are probably about ten million romances out there with similar names.  It’s not all that descriptive anyway.  It’s just the best I’ve thought of so far.

Anyway, the story concerns a  cute, somewhat jockish redhead named Jake, who resembles the possibly naked young man pictured on the right.  Jake was mentioned in Billy’s Bones, as the high school best friend of Tom Langois.  Tom had had a crush on him and came out to him, only to have Jake freak out and run away.  Tom brooded for a while, walking past his house every afternoon trying to build up the courage to go knock on the door (yes, I did this once, when I’d had an argument with my best friend in high school), until Jake’s father threatened to put a restraining order on him.  (In real life, my friend and I just patched it up and we’re still friends to this day.)

So, back to Jake.  Jake, we learn in this next novel, is gay too.  He’s just closeted, as a result of growing up with a homophobic father and two older brothers who enjoy beating him up.  His family moves away from the area before he can figure out how to patch things up with Tom, and sadly they never see each other again.

DannyBut Jake goes off to college and that’s when, in 1996, he moves into a creative arts dorm at UNH (the dorm I lived in) and becomes roommates with Danny, who resembles the possibly naked young man pictured on the left.

While Jake struggles with the guilt he feels over rejecting the best friend he ever had for being gay, knowing that secretly he was gay too, Danny is dealing with the aftermath of what happened when the jock he was crushing on in high school betrayed him in a rather horrible way.

This story is a bit lighter than Billy’s Bones, though it deals with some similar themes.  That part wasn’t intentional — they just kind of crept in there.  But Jake and Danny are young and living in a dorm with coed bathrooms, marathon D&D sessions in the lounge, and naked pizza parties, so I think it’s a fun, entertaining read.  And God is it nostalgic for me to write!  The years I lived in that dorm were some of the best years of my life.

It’s a bit over half done, since I started it in the spring.  I had to put it aside for the other commitments, but my publisher wants to see it in mid September, so I really have to get cracking!  The first half was so much fun to write, I’m really excited to finally have a chunk of time to finish it.

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Guest blog: Desktop – “The Trouble With Tony” by Eli Easton

Eli Easton’s highly entertaining novella, The Trouble with Tony, was released this past week.  I loved it and definitely recommend it for a quick, lighthearted and very sexy read!  Eli put this post up on her blog a few days ago, but I offered to duplicate it here, because I thought it was a lot of fun.

Click on the cover pic to the right to get to the purchase page!

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Whenever I write a story, I like to google images for inspiration.  Sometimes they’re for mood, sometimes they’re characters (major and minor), sometimes they’re locations, and sometimes they’re things like a building or a shop or a car that I just like to have a visual reference for.  I thought it would be fun to share these with readers.

** Note:  I own none of these images – they’re from google.  These images were not used in the book, but if you have a problem with my having an image on this website, please email me and I’ll remove it.  

So without further ado, here’s my “Trouble with Tony” desktop:

TONY DEMARCO

Tony is an Italian-American private detective from Brooklyn now living in Seattle (in part to elude his big, Italian-American family who don’t know he’s gay).  He was a cop for six years but decided to to go it alone as a P.I. after being shot in the leg.   He’s very funny.

I had several images on my desktop to inspire me to write Tony’s character.  Here’s my favorite:

images

This pic was identified as Fabio Cannavaro by a commenter.  Thank you!

DR. JACK HALLORAN

Our other MC, Dr. Jack Halloran, was a combat surgeon in the US Army for 8 years until an I.E.D. damaged his left arm, making it impossible for him to do surgery.  His PTSD made even working in an ER impossible.  He’s now a sex therapist for Expanded Horizons.  He’s not a big guy, but he’s a serious bad ass, he is probably the top surgeon around.

I searched for a ‘blonde doctor’ image to inspire me and I like the attitude on his face.  This one made it onto the cover!

young doctor man with stethoscope and clipboard against different backgrounds Stock image

MICHAEL LAMONT

Oh, Michael!  I’m currently working on Sex in Seattle #3, which is Michael’s story, but he makes his first appearance in “The Trouble With Tony”.  I love this character!  Michael is a sex surrogate and also does in home nursing care part time.  He’s slightly built, very cute, and extremely compassionate/empathetic.  In my head, Michael is physically based on Isaiah Garnica.

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Isaiah Garnica (LA based model/actor)

SETTING: SEATTLE’S CAPITOL HILL

The story is set in Seattle, mostly in and around Capitol Hill, a gay district in Seattle that’s up on a hill (hence the oh-so-brilliant name).  My husband and I had a house on Capitol Hill for 15 years and I love the neighborhood!  I greatly miss it.  Here are a few scenes of this funky/cool area.

elysian-brewing-company caphill seattle-capitol-hill-flcikr-matthew-rutledge

EXPANDED HORIZONS

Expanded Horizons is the name of a (entirely fictional) sex clinic on Capitol Hill around which the series revolves.  I pictured it on Pike Street between Broadway and 15th, which is an area I walked often.  It’s not a very big building. The clinic has a waiting room with receptionist area, three therapists offices, a staff kitchen and meeting room and a, ahem, massage room.  This is about the style/size of the building.

seattle-remodel-urban-animal-01

DISCOVERY PARK

I’m an avid hiker, so I worked a few of my favorite places to hike into the story.  Tony meets up with his police detective buddy, Mark, to discuss the case at Discovery Park, a Seattle park that I miss dearly now that I’m no longer in the area.  It has a beach, lighthouse, woods and trails on a bluff, and gorgeous views.

discoveryparkseattle

The trail along the top of the bluff.

Disc Park 203 SM

 One of my own photos taken whilst hiking with a friend

MT RAINIER’S SKYLINE TRAIL

One of my favorite hiking trails of all time is the Skyline Trail at Mt. Rainier.  It’s quite high in elevation.  You can hike right up to the glacier and the views are spectacular.  Being above the treeline, the flowers and vegetation are really different from most NW forests.  Tony and Jack discuss the Skyline trail earlier in the book and then the epilogue takes place there.

Mount Rainier Skyline Trail

Image by Smigelski Photography : http://www.smigelskiphotography.com/2011/10/mount-rainier/

That’s it for this desktop!  I hope the pictures add to your enjoyment of the story.

ABOUT THE SERIES:

Sex in Seattle #2, ”The Enlightenment of Daniel,” has been written and contracted to Dreamspinner and is due out in the Dec/Jan timeframe.  This story is about a patient of Jack Halloran’s.  Daniel is a high-powered Type A business man who has a midlife crisis when he learns his father is dying of cancer.  Daniel comes to several life-altering realizations –first, that he’s gay and secondly, that he’s in love with his male business partner who is in a marriage-in-name-only relationship for the sake of his kids.

Sex in Seattle #3, “The Mating of Michael” (working title), is my next writing project.  Tentative pub date is April 2014.  This is, of course, the story of Michael Lamont, sex surrogate for Expanded Horizons.  I’m very excited to bite into this one!

Eli

Eli Easton can be found at http://elieaston.com/

The Trouble with Tony can be purchased at:  http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4110

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Taking the Plunge

386200_2673280425520_1061443511_32785704_1832786642_n.jpgAs of this weekend, I am now a full-time author.  In other words, I’ve quit my day job.

It’s a little scary.

Although I didn’t do too badly last year, in terms of royalties, it wasn’t enough to live off.  And halfway through this year, I’m way behind what I made last year.  But one thing has become very clear over the past few months:  I can’t continue working full-time and still have the kind of writing output I had last year.  It used to be that I would write on my lunch breaks, then come home and write in the evenings until bedtime.  But thanks to staffing issues at my job, that all changed this year.  Everyone was taking on more and more work and I was just too tired to write, when I got home.  My writing output during the work week dropped to nearly nothing, and I spent the weekends trying to catch up, and trying to maintain my beauty by going to spas and having beauty treatments, and even taking supplements for the skincare such as amazon vitamin c serum and others you can find online.

Fortunately, my husband makes a decent amount and can afford to cover expenses for the next year or two, while I see if I can ramp up my writing income.  And New Hampshire recognizes our marriage, so I’m covered under his health insurance, which is perfect since I take many supplements, so I’m cover in case of anything happen, but I’m still choose to be prepared by reading about the proflexoral side effects, or any of the other supplements I take.

I’m excited about this, of course, but also a bit anxious.  What happens if I can’t increase my output significantly?  What happens if my publisher stops buying my stuff?  What if no other publishers are interested in my writing?  What if Erich loses his job?

On the other hand, this is probably the best time for me to try this “experiment.”  We’re financially stable.  I have a publisher.  I have a decent track record with five (soon to be six—Billy’s Bones is in editing) full-length novels out and five shorter works.  And I have a husband who loves and supports me.

So, holding my breath… 1… 2… 3…

 

 

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“Billy’s Bones” has been contracted!

KevinI just signed a contract with Dreamspinner for my psychological drama, Billy’s Bones!  For those who haven’t been following my progress on that novel, here’s the “blurb” I sent in my cover letter:

Kevin Derocher was just thirty-two when he walked into Tom’s office, newly married, a baby on the way, and the collar of his red flannel shirt pulled up in an attempt to hide the bruises around his throat caused by hanging himself in his garage.  After this initial encounter, therapist Tom Langois is convinced he’ll never see Kevin again, until the man turns up three years later to make repairs on Tom’s new house.

The two men become fast friends and Tom begins to suspect that Kevin may be interested in more than just friendship.  But Kevin is haunted by something from his distant childhood—something so terrible that he’s blocked it from his mind.  Not only do these suppressed memories make it impossible for Kevin to get close to anyone without panicking and lashing out, sometimes violently, but as they begin to surface, it becomes apparent that Kevin may hold the key to the disappearance of a boy from his neighborhood twenty-five years ago.

The picture on the left is what I pictured Kevin looking like.  Tom looks like this guy:

TomWe’re looking at a release date sometime in late July or maybe early August!

So this week I decided to go back and re-read the novel.  I’d already had a conversation with my mother, who is a psychologist with experience treating PTSD, and I learned that I’d handled several things incorrectly in the therapy scenes.  Or you might say I had Tom and Susan doing things the way they used to be done, and psychology has learned a thing or two since then.  For example, it’s no longer considered essential (by many therapists) to pressure the client to remember suppressed memories.  That can cause them more trauma than simply leaving things alone.  And giving someone something to relax him, such as Valium, before experiencing a possible trigger in a controlled setting isn’t as good an idea as I’d thought.  It can do additional harm by distorting the memories further.  (Some therapists don’t believe in repressed memories, but my mother has worked with enough cases to take them seriously.)

So I sent Mom the specific scenes in question to get some feedback on how to make them more realistic.  Hopefully, since the novel is already contracted, we’re just talking about tweaking things a little.  In the future, I’ll remember:  always check with Mom!

In re-reading the novel, I’m still finding it engrossing.  But Tom is seeming a bit more like an asshole than I remembered.  My beta readers didn’t seem to hate him, so maybe I’m just seeing him from a bad angle at the moment.  But I may try to make him a bit less pushy in edits.

Of course, the really frustrating thing about re-reading a novel after it’s been submitted, but before the first edits come in from the editors is that the typos and mistakes I find, I can’t correct.

How on earth did I not notice that I’d failed to capitalize one sentence?

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A Day in the Life of a Writer

So let’s say you’ve decided to make a go of writing full-time.  You might imagine that your work day would consist of sitting at your computer for long stretches of time, busily writing.  After all, you’re a writer!  Isn’t that what writers do?

Well, I’ve had a busy day doing pretty much all writing-related stuff and it occurred to me that it might be of interest to someone contemplating the life of non-stop excitement and adventure that I’ve embarked upon.  Keep in mind that I still work full-time in the tech support industry, so this is all in my “free” time, at the moment.  This was how I spent my Saturday.  Not that I’m complaining.  I love it.  The temptation to play computer games is always hovering at the edge of my consciousness, taunting me (and occasionally seducing me), but the writing and editing is in fact fun.

But it’s also a lot of work.

  • Last night, I finished going over the final galley proof of my YA novel and emailed that off to my editor.  That doesn’t count for what I did today, of course, but this morning I remembered a couple things I’d forgotten, so I sent a couple emails to straighten that out.  That novel will come out March 1st!
  • I also received an email from a reviewer who’d been nice enough to host a giveaway of another one of my YA novels.  She’d picked a winner and was forwarding the email address to me, so I could send the eBook to that person.  I sent the email, of course.  And I was charming as all get-out.  
  • Murderous Requiem has gone into the editing phase.  Yay!  I received the first wave of edits from Dreamspinner and now I have to go through the manuscript and accept or reject the changes… and explain why I rejected them, if I do that.  I have a lot of respect for my editors and I think they’ve really improved my writing over time, by pointing out passive sentences and suggesting ways to make them more dynamic, as well as forcing me to review awkward phrasings and strange word choices.  But sometimes we disagree.  I may prefer the way I wrote the sentence originally, or I might have a reason for using a particular phrasing.  One of the big battles in By That Sin Fell the Angels was over capitalization of pronouns referencing God and Jesus.  The Chicago Manual of Style says they shouldn’t be capitalized.  After all, the King James Bible doesn’t capitalize them.  However, I based the church in that book on the Assembly of God churches I attended as a teenager in New Mexico and Texas.  They capitalize.  A lot.  Just listen to an Assembly of God pastor talking about Jesus and you can hear the capitalization.   Their website is covered with capital letters.  So I fought for that one.  But I digress….  Anyway, the edits have to be done by this coming Wednesday.
  • I was contacted by a fellow author who had read The Dogs of Cyberwar and wanted to let me know that she’d reviewed it, and also wanted to chew me out for the cliff-hanger ending.  I assured her that I would get back to Dogs as soon as this current novel I’m writing was done.  She’ll have to get in line behind all the other people who want to strangle me for the ending on Dogs.  Does this count as work?  It was a pleasant email chat with a friend.  But still, writing-related.  And yay!  A review!  (Thanks, Angel!)
  • Speaking of my current novel—or as we sophisticated writer-types like to call it, WIP (Work In Progress)—it’s lagging behind.  I’d promised my publisher I’d have it done by the beginning of March.  Now I’m certain that isn’t going to happen, so I had to hang my head in shame and ask for an extension, until the end of March.  Fortunately, she was gracious.  
  • Then I wrote a scene and realized I was going in the wrong direction.  It wasn’t bad, but it meant I had to change the direction I’d wanted to go in for that character, which really didn’t make sense.  So I spent some time brainstorming with my husband to see how I might get things back on track.  Fortunately, it didn’t involve throwing out what I’d written, but I now have to go back and write some stuff leading up to it and change what’s coming after it.
  • Then I played Morrowind.  (Scratch that!  It never happened!)
  • I updated the list I’m keeping of things that need to be done.  It includes interviews I’m doing, bloghops, submitting published novels for consideration in various awards, miscellaneous promotional stuff, etc.  I currently have about fifteen open items to keep track of.  
  • I did some brainstorming about my next YA novel, a somewhat surreal sci-fi adventure.
  • I submitted two novels to the Rainbow Awards.  (Last year, one of my YA novels got two honorable mentions.)
  • So how much writing did I actually get done today?  It actually wasn’t a banner day for writing.  Let’s say about 1,000 words.  A good day for me is about 2,000 words.  But if I can manage 1,000 a day for the next few weeks, I’ll make my deadline, at least.  

So that was my day.  I’m sure other writers are much busier than I am.  I certainly know writers who have more output, but I’m not too unhappy with the amount of actual writing I do.  I have slow days and fast days, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, I managed about 150,000 words of new material last year, not counting editing.  If I calculate that out for 52 five-day weeks, then that means I wrote about 600 words a day.  I can easily increase that, if I were doing this full-time.  We’ll just see how things go.

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Filed under Reviews, SciFi, Writing, Young Adult

Even in gay romance, love does not always have to equal anal sex

WARNING:  What follows is a frank discussion about my views on the use of anal sex in the M/M genre.  If that sounds icky to you, don’t read it.

This came up when I was writing Billy’s Bones about a man who had repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse.  Since he had a history of sexual abuse, it would be ludicrous (and incredibly insensitive) for me to end with him and his lover having anal intercourse.  That is in fact something he might never feel comfortable doing, even if they remain a loving couple for the rest of their lives.

Yet this is a standard part of the M/M romance formula.  I’ve actually been criticized by readers for not always following this formula “correctly,” and it’s now become a pet peeve of mine.

The formula is basically this:  the couple meets and falls in love, often having various kinds of sex along the way—mutual masturbation, handjobs, blowjobs, 69s, etc.  And then comes the Big Moment, the moment where they truly share themselves with one another.  One man opens himself up to the other, allowing full anal penetration, and in the moment of orgasm, they are joined heart and soul and truly become one!

Yeah.  Right.

I’ve apparently violated this formula in two different ways.  The first was when I failed to get there fast enough.  I constructed a careful escalation of sexual experimentation that progressed through mutual masturbation next to one another (no touching) to masturbating each other t0 masturbating while kissing, etc.  I thought it was damned hot, but a reader dismissed it as, “It’s nothing but mutual masturbation!”

The next crime I committed (in the same story, in fact) was when their experience of anal intercourse occurred in front of other people, who offered them money to take it to the next level.  The characters agree and then discover that they really like it, forgetting about everybody in the room but each other.  This was apparently disgusting, because they would never agree to do something that intimate and emotional in front of other people!

Frankly I was shocked by both responses (from different people).  Mutual masturbation is my favorite sexual activity (Stop reading, Mom!) and even though I like anal sex, I’ve never liked it that much.  It’s just one of the many ways people can enjoy having sex with each other.  Given a choice, I think 69 is definitely the best way to go.  There’s a penis right there for me to play with, at the same time that someone’s playing with my penis!  It’s awesome!

As far as having sex in front of people…I had a housemate who was paid $500 to have sex with her boyfriend on camera.  She didn’t seem terribly traumatized by it.  I myself have had sex with a crowd of people watching.  (Shy?  Not me.)  Would I have been willing to try something new in front of that audience?  If it didn’t hurt, sure.  Why not?

Not all M/M novels are culminate with anal intercourse, of course.  But I’ve just read a couple more recently that promote this trope.  It didn’t ruin the novels for me, but I definitely find it irksome.

Somebody once suggested that the whole “anal sex is the ultimate form of love” thing is a holdover from straight romance novels, in which “going all the way” — i.e., full vaginal penetration — is reserved for special moments in the novel, such as the final love scene or even held off until after the novel, when our hero and heroine are safely married.  That’s not really the case anymore with straight romance, any more than it is with gay romance, but it seems to be embedded in the psyche of many readers.

The truth of the matter is, there’s nothing special about anal sex.  Yes, some people — both male and female — enjoy it.  Many even prefer it.  I’ve heard one gay man describe it as the sort of melding one reads about it M/M novels.  But for me?  No.  It was fun.  That’s it.  Angels didn’t sing.  Some of my previous boyfriends hated it, as do many gay men.  They thought it was filthy and disgusting.

Yes, that’s right:  a lot of gay men hate having anal intercourse.

Oh, yeah.  I said it.  We’re not all cookie-cutter robots who like the same things.  Go figure.

I do occasionally include anal sex in my novels, but not always.  It isn’t always appropriate.  Certainly it wouldn’t be appropriate in a novel about a rape survivor and frankly I think I would be offended by a plot in which his lover felt compelled to teach him “how to enjoy” anal sex, as if that was particularly “healing” and there were no alternatives they could engage in.  That possibility did cross my mind as I was contemplating how to end the novel and I immediately rejected it.

While I’m on the subject, I also recommend against including anal intercourse in YA novels.  Not because of the sex part.  I expect anyone writing a YA novel to hold back on explicit detail anyway, of course.  But in terms of what two teenagers would try on their first fumbling attempts at sex…?  It’s possible, but I would say they probably wouldn’t.  It’s kind of scary for young men who have never tried it before.  (I did in fact ask my first boyfriend to try it with me, when I was nineteen, because I was more adventuresome than he was.  It hurt; we stopped.)

So once again, I’m not necessarily saying everyone should stop using anal sex in M/M novels.  But I really think there’s a little too much emphasis on it, as if it represents the ultimate merging of souls for two men.  It can be that, just as any sexual act can be for two people who are in love.

But that’s just my point.  It doesn’t have to be anal sex.  There are other possibilities.

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Filed under gay, Romance, Writing