Sunday, December 30, 2012

Favorite M/M Romances

I've been reading M/M romances for about a year and a half now, and have probably read about three hundred of them so far. Over that time, I've found some absolute gems and some real klunkers. But my absolute favorites, some of which I've already read twice, are the following (in no particular order):

Something Like Summer by Jay Bell
Wolf's Own Series by Carole Cummings(Ghost, Weregild, Koan, and Icendiary)
Prisoner by Megan Derr
Blacker than Black by Rhi Etzweiler
Scrap Metal by Harper Fox
The Administration Series by Manna Francis (Mind Fuck, Quid Pro Quo, Games and Players, Control, Quis Custodiet, First Against the Wall, For Certain Values of Family)
Song of the Fallen by Rachel Haimowitz (Counterpoint, Crescendo)
The Island by Lisa Henry
Raised by Wolves by W.A. Hoffman (Brethren, Matelots, Treasure, and Wolves)
Storms and Stars by Neena Jaydon
Hellgate Series by Mel Keegan (The Rabelais Alliance, Deep Sky, Cry Liberty, Probe, Flashpoint)
NARC Series by Mel Keegan (Death's Head, Equinox, Scorpio, Stopover, Aphelion)
Bear, Otter, and the Kid and Who We Are by T.J. Klune
Chase in Shadow and Dex in Blue by Amy Lane
A Solid Core of Alpha by Amy Lane
Mourning Heaven by Amy Lane
Strange Fortune by Josh Lanyon
Shades of Gray by Brooke McKinley
The Red King by Rosemary O'Malley
The Emperor's Wolf by J.C. Owens
Taken by J.C. Owens
Cut and Run Series by Abigail Roux and Madeline Urban, and by Abigail Roux alone (Cut and Run, Sticks and Stones, Fish and Chips, Divide and Conquer, Armed and Dangerous, and Stars and Stripes)
Zero at the Bone by Jane Seville
Afflicted by Brandon Shire
Kindred Hearts by Rowan Speedwell
Finding Zach by Rowan Speedwell
Hot Head by Damon Suede
Dark Edge of Honor by Aleksandr Voinov
Counterpunch by Aleksandr Voinov

Yeah. I read way too much.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

First Draft Writing

I love first draft writing because it's completely free and creative and I have no idea what's going to happen next. Well, okay, I usually have a vague idea of where I want the story to end up, but most of the time, my stories begin with character in conflict, and the world and the story get built around the conflict resolution.

I hate first draft writing because I feel like I'm dangling over the edge of a really steep drop-off, and I've no idea where I'm going next, other than straight down.

I love the fire and the pure creative energy of first-draft writing.

I hate the uncertainty of first draft writing.

I love that I can go anywhere I want, because nothing is written in stone.

I hate that I'm perfectly capable of writing myself into a corner.

I love it when The Swamprat (my muse) surprises me.

I hate that I'm sitting there at the keyboard feeling like I'm lost in the jungle without a sense of direction, a map, or a clue.

Although that's pretty much how things are in the rest of my life, so maybe that's okay. It seems to work for me.


Monday, October 22, 2012

What Are You Most Afraid Of?

It's one of the first questions I ask when I'm building a character. What has this character's history given him in terms of fears and unresolved issues? And how are those going to shape his personality and his reactions to the events of the story? Because I like to make my main characters dig deep and work hard, that often means bringing them face to face with their mortal dreads. Whatever those might be.

Maybe that's part of why I like writing about men. In our society, it's perfectly okay for a woman to be afraid. But a man? Not so much. Or—maybe it's okay for him to be afraid, but he probably shouldn't admit it in company. Which means instead of giving in to his fears, he's got to either man up and face them, or he's got to find a way to avoid them.

Which is okay if he's afraid of alligators or hippopotami, or heights, which he can generally avoid if he needs to, with either a bit of slick talk or a well-timed case of the trots.

But what if he's afraid of something that's a lot harder to avoid? Or something he might have to confront in order to get what he wants? Like... commitment... or disapproval... or failure... or a pit filled with rabid ferrets?

That's when it gets fun.

Fears give me so much interesting stuff to play with (the visual here is the critter in the attic with the dull scissors and the purple construction paper, cutting out really horrific shapes to chuck into the story...). Whether he's trying to confront his fears or avoid them, fear can be used to manipulate him into a reaction that will serve the story, drive the plot, or build character.

Which probably has a lot to do with why I never get invited when the hot guys in my head decide to throw a party... even when I promise to make Death By Chocolate Brownies...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Social Media

So when I decided to start taking this writing thing seriously, I started looking at what other authors were doing, and discovered that a lot of them had something called "blogs" (which sounds like a rather unpleasant bowel complaint, or maybe something that comes out of your nose when you sneeze really big, but okay, whatever).  I realized, from reading these "blogs", that I was going to have to participate in something called Social Media, because apparently that is The Way These Things Are Done. 

Social Media?  WTF?  Is that, like, communal art supplies or something?  Because that could be a big problem... I was always a bit of a failure at the Plays Well With Others skillset.

I was, understandably, Pale With Fright.

Further investigation revealed that participating in Social Media meant establishing something called an Online Presence.  So instead of sharing my crayons, I was going to have to "tweet" and "post" and "blog" (which actually sounds like something I would want to do in the privacy of my own bathroom, but apparently the definition of "privacy" has changed somewhat since I learned what it meant).

I'm still not sure what's wrong with writing up a pack of lies that the publisher can paste on the back of the book flap.  Something along the line of Jaye McKenna is an antisocial recluse who hasn't actually been seen in public for years and is rather attached to a ratty old bath towel, or Jaye McKenna lives in a tumbledown shack on the edge of a peat bog with a Rottweiler named Josephine and a pack of rabid budgies...

Apparently that's not good enough anymore.  Apparently, nowadays, The World wants to be informed of what I eat for lunch (not eggs... they're kind of gross), what I'm wearing today (polka-dotted underwear and a plaid bathrobe, if you must know), and whether or not my bowel movements are regular (check out my bathroom, dudes, plenty of tweeting, blogging, and posting going on there!). 

Personally, I think The World needs to get a life. 

So I decided that rather than try to learn a bunch of Mysterious Technical Witchcraft, the rules of which will change just when I get the hang of it (sort of like the way just when I figure out MS Word, they change it and I lose weeks and weeks of productivity while I whine and moan and beg Husband Beast to figure out how to make the new thing look like the old thing so that I can use it again), I am going to just do one new thing—the blogging. 

And since it doesn't involve sharing my crayons, I have high hopes that I will do it well.  Or at least somewhat regularly.  (Because regular bowel movements are important, you know...)

And if you want to see me tweet, you're going to have to get in line outside my bathroom window with the rest of The World.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Favorite Resources

I'm pretty sure most writers who've been writing for a while have some old favorites on their bookshelves, books they turn to time and again, either for comfort or for information.  I've had a lot of favorites over the years, but the following are the ones that I reach for the most often:

Character Names
The Writer's Digest Character-Naming Source Book by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Gary Gygax's Extraordinary Book of Names by Malcolm Bowers (Volume IV of the Gygaxian Fantasy Worlds series)

Writing Reference
The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
Plot by Anson Dibell
Revision by Kit Reed
Man, Oh Man by Josh Lanyon
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

Mythic Structure
The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler
The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

Useful Information
Body Trauma: A Writer's Guide to Wounds and Injuries by David W. Page, M.D.
Deadly Doses: A Writer's Guide to Poisons by Serita Deborah Stevens with Anne Klarner
Malicious Intent: A Writer's Guide to How Murderers, Robbers, Rapists, and Other Criminals Think by Sean Mactire
Writing Fight Scenes by Rayne Hall

Comfort and Support
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
For Writers Only by Sophy Burnham
Walking on Alligators by Susan Shaughnessy

Note: yeah, I know, I should do that magic clicky-linky thing for y'all, and in a perfect world, I would be all like, Oh, yeah, magic clicky-linky things, no problem!  But as it is, I can't even always figure out how to get to the blog from the dashboard thingy, so instead, we have me being all nervous and shivery, like If I try to make the magic clicky-linky things, I'll probably break the blog and that would be a Bad Thing because I might never be able to fix it.  And then I will spend the entire day moaning and wailing and wringing my hands... Which would be another Bad Thing, because there is always so much to do.

Besides, right now?  Right now, my two favorite guys that I'm writing about (whichever two guys I'm writing about at the moment, they are my two favorites—I'm nothing if not loyal) are perched in the too-slender top branches of a very tall tree.  They have no paddle, no flashlight, and no clean underwear.  And they are surrounded by alligators, and a big storm is blowing in and there is a man-eating chihuahua circling the tree in a hang-glider...

Yeah.  It's like that.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

On Attitude

I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that the most important thing I can bring to the table in this writing adventure of mine is attitude. 

Up until the last couple of years, I never really had any sort of plan regarding the writing.  I wrote when I felt like it (which meant when I had an idea that was burning to get out), and if I didn't feel like it, I didn't write.  So stuff got done, but in spurts.  I'd draft a novel in a string of frenzied, dawn-to-midnight obsessive work sessions, and then it would languish in a drawer, because once the first draft magic was done, where was the fun?  Or I'd start a first draft, full of fire and energy, and then I'd realize that my characters were up a tree surrounded by alligators, and I had no idea how to get them out, so I'd let it slide because it was too hard to sit down and figure it out.

In a nutshell, when the going got tough, the tough slunk off to find something else to do.

Since making the commitment to myself to look at this writing thing as a job instead of a hobby, I find that my attitude has changed in ways that are making me a lot more productive, and it doesn't seem like the quality of my work is suffering. 

Now I'm writing regularly and I'm consistently producing 1000 to 2000 words a day.  Stuff is getting done, and it's getting done because I'm sitting down every day and doing it.  When I get my characters up a tree, instead of giving up on them, I write it out—I grab a notebook and start brainstorming possible solutions.  And what's interesting is that a solution does come, sometimes fairly quickly, sometimes after a good night's sleep, but I'm finding that if I stick with the story, things seem to have a way of working out. 

The other thing I've noticed now that I'm writing every day whether I feel like it or not is that I'm not seeing a whole lot of difference in the quality of the work, whether I slog through 500 words that I really don't feel like doing, or breeze through 3000 words and feel like I could keep going all night. 

So, yeah.  Attitude.

Wish it hadn't taken me so long to figure that out.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Order of Operations

So I'm in the middle of first-drafting a sci fi series, and I'm pretty sure it's going to end up being five or six books.  Each book is a romance, so each book features a different couple.  Some of the characters are secondary characters introduced in earlier books, and some of them are entirely new, and each book is complete, in terms of the romance.  There is a definite over-arching sci fi plotline that moves forward with each book, but I don't intend to leave any of the books on a cliff-hanger ending (because as a reader, I really hate having to wait months or even years for the next installment). 

And what I'm trying to figure out is whether or not it's best to first draft the entire series before trying to revise anything, or if I should be trying to draft a book and rewrite/edit the previous book at the same time, or if I should work on one book at a time, alternating between first drafting and rewriting. 

One thing I do know is that I can't do a first draft of one thing and a second draft of something else at the same time.  I tend to get so focused on the first draft that it's really hard to switch gears.  And if the two stories are in the same universe, it's hard to pull my head completely out of one and focus on the other, and keep all my facts and histories straight.

So I really think I should do one thing at a time, and my gut feeling is that I probably ought to first draft the whole dang thing before I invest too much time in revising, because I might come up with some fantastic idea for book 5 that requires some groundwork to be laid in book 1.

Unfortunately, the part of my Brain that tries (with varying degrees of success) to keep me organized and on track is now looking down at me with those ridiculous glasses perched precariously at the tip of its nose, and I'm trying really hard not to laugh as it asks me if this is just another example of Creative Procrastination.  Because, you know, if I don't ever finish anything, I don't have to submit anything, thus avoiding rejection, devastation, and feelings of inadequacy.

"Why, no," I say earnestly.  "If this was Creative Procrastination, I would be researching the mating habits of the stick insect, or hopping in the car for a trip to my favorite yarn shop, or scrubbing the toilet with a toothbrush (not mine, of course), or scouring the mall in search of Shiny Things with which to decorate The Swamp."

Neither of us is really satisfied with this answer, but I suppose time will tell.  For now, as long as the creative fire is burning so brightly, I will dig in and take the first drafts as far as I can.  Then, we shall see. 

The good thing about this venture is that I'm not actually under any sort of financial pressure—Husband Beast is doing well enough that we are able to pay the bills and there's even enough left over for pizza and beer now and then.  And books.  There must always be books.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Why Write Slash (M/M) Stories?

Back in January of 2011, a couple of guys from a fantasy world that exists only in my imagination came storming into The Swamp and demanded that I write their story.  They were very loud and very insistent, and the things they said painted vivid pictures in my mind. 

So I dropped everything.  Well—everything I could—laundry and cooking cannot simply be dropped, as that sort of wanton irresponsibility sparks snarky comments at best, and full scale riots at worst.  (Ask me how I know.)  I wrote every day from mid-January to mid-May, and eventually, I had something I could call a first draft.

But there was something wrong with it.  The romance element I'd wanted was completely missing. I'd been trying throughout the writing process to find a romantic interest for my viewpoint character.  I auditioned a number of female characters, from warriors to wizards to tavern wenches, wrote a bunch of scenes trying to get the romance going, but my main character refused to cooperate, and I couldn't make any of them work.  He just wasn't interested. 

And then it occurred to me why.  He didn't want any of that.  He wanted his best friend, the guy who had taught him sword-play, and taught him how to survive in the world he'd been thrown into.  So I wrote a few scenes to that end. 

And it worked.  The chemistry between the two guys was amazing, and the scenes practically wrote themselves (doesn't happen that often, but it's a kicker when it does). 

And once that happened, oh, man, you should have seen the party that went on in my head when they realized that I was going to let them have what they'd been wanting all along.  So I rewrote the whole thing, working that romance between the two guys into the plot, and I love the way the relationship slowly develops through the story from strangers to best friends to lovers and life partners.     

So I guess the easy answer to the question "Why Write Slash Stories?" is that my characters made me do it.  But the other answer is that I really like it, and after drafting two more novels (the start of a sci fi series) and getting the first one ready to submit, I think I've finally found my niche and my passion. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Some Random Things About the Swamp

  1. I'm not really sure why I'm here, except it has something to do with big scary things like Marketing and Publicity and Putting Myself Out There.
  2. I have sort of a short attention span for stuff like this.
  3. No, really, it scares the crap out of me sounds about as much fun as a tax audit like it could be horizon broadening good to put on a resume...
  4. And I can't tell you about the series of novels I'm working on because I will go on and on and on about it and then there won't be any reason for anyone to buy it.
  5. But I can tell you it has a bunch of hot guys who have the hots for each other in it, and some swords and some magic and some space ships and some guns...
  6. And my mother would Definitely Not Approve.
  7. And there's a cat in it.
  8. But I can't tell you about that.
  9. But I can tell you about writing... and that might be fun, because I can go on and on and on about that until someone shoots me...
  10. So maybe it'll be mostly about that.
  11. And if I'm going to the grocery store, I'll let y'all know so you can follow me around and ask for autographs.
  12. I'll wear my mink stole so you'll recognize me.  You know, the one with the fluffy tail and the beady glass eyes and the tiny sharp teeth and the little pink tongue hanging out?
  13. Yeah, that one.
  14. Is this thing turned on?  Can anybody hear me?
  15. ...ooh, look... shiny things...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Dragged, Kicking and Screaming, into the Tech

Welcome to The Swamp, which is where I will blog about writing and publishing attempting to publish and all that good stuff, because, apparently, in order to be viewed as a success at my chosen passion, I have to be tech-savvy and put it out there.  Which is totally not easy for a small creature that is shy and introverted, and spends most of its time hiding out in a dark corner of The Swamp cutting funky shapes out of coloured construction paper with a pair of dull scissors. 

But here I am anyway. 

The Scribbling is the passion here, and has been for a really long time, like, since I was five and announced to my bemused mother that I wanted to be an "arthur".  Little did we know, this was not just a passing fancy.  Apparently, it is an obsession, an affliction, and a life calling, all in one neat little package.  Unfortunately, it has thus far not paid the mortgage.  Not even close.  But we're about to have a go at changing that. 

Which is why we are here, sitting at the keyboard and trying to figure out why the world would even care about The Swamp and the scissors and the construction paper, or any of the people in my head, who, even though they are mostly really cool, still don't think I am interesting enough to invite to their parties.