Tags: glbt fiction

writing, how to, m/m, gay fiction

Pardon My Promotion

So the legendary writing book went live in its electronic incarnation at Fictionwise yesterday.  MAN, OH MAN: Writing M/M Fiction for Kinks and Ca$h can be ordered in print from your favorite indie or GLBT bookseller now, but it will still be a week or two (or four) before it pops up on Barnes and Noble or Amazon. 

Anyway, I don't want to blab on and on about the book. I do want to say -- briefly -- that there were writers, editors, reviewers, publishers who I didn't interview and I probably should have. This wasn't a deliberate slight; mostly it was a lack of awareness. I asked to interview the people I'd read or had come across in my initial months within the M/M community. I know more people now, so needless to say, if and when there's a second edition, there will likely be a broader spectrum of opinions and input (although we've got a very interesting selection of "voices" now).

The other thing I wanted to mention was that in a few cases, people and companies I invited to participate just never managed to get their act together. In one case I held up production for a publishing house that I thought would be valuable to include, and they still couldn't pull themselves together. So it's not like I didn't try to get the broadest possible selection. And then there were companies like
Blind Eye that I just didn't find out about in time, but would have loved to include.

Anyway, that's pretty much it. The book is out, and I'm relieved and happy. No, it's not the final word on the subject, and yes, many people will have different ideas on wriitng and publishing. Good for them! Dialog is great. I hope this book is of use -- and entertaining. Because those were my two aims. To inform and amuse. Ideally at the same time. If I've managed to do that, I'll have done what I set out to do. And if by some chance I actually manage to influence M/M fiction for the better, I can die happy.

(Though preferably not right away.)

For anyone who'd like detailed information on the book, [info]angusdevotee has done an incredible job of summing the thing up, so I refer you to her site.

And that's pretty much it for the Blatant Self Promotion. At least on this subject. So what do you want to talk about now?

 

 

writing, how to, m/m, gay fiction

Them's Fightin' Words

 So if you didn't get enough of me blabbing about writing conflict during Wednesday's workshop -- or you'd just like to post your own thoughts on the subject, I'm guest bloggin over at Loose Ends today. 

Seeing what a problem conflict is for so many M/M writers -- this, by the way, being the opinion of the readers and reviewers I interviewed for Man, Oh Man: Writing M/M Fiction for Kinks and Ca$h, not just something I cooked up on my own -- I'm hoping we might get a spirited discussion to day. 

Anyway, drop by if you've got the time.
  Or feel free to post your thoughts here too!
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Where the Boys Are

Just a quick reminder that tomorrow -- Tuesday the 25th -- I'll be doing an online workshop for Cobblestone Press on the ever popular topic of writing M/M fiction. Where the Boys Are: How to Craft a Stand Out M/M Novel.

The workshop begins at noon central. If you want to take part in it, make sure you register today as soon as possible, so that you can be approved for participation. The workshop is free and open to the writing public. And I plan to give away a few copies of the rough version of the legendary writing book (minus the graphics and index). 

Hope to see some of you there!

writing, how to, m/m, gay fiction

What Not To Do

Sometimes it’s easier to demonstrate rather than talk about writing – partly because the difference between mediocre writing and good writing is often subtle – difficult to spot if you don’t know better. If you haven’t been taught. Trained. And yet it feels utterly different to the reader.

 

The excerpt below isn’t astoundingly bad -- mostly. In fact, it’s semi-competent, if uninspired, writing. Very typical of what you find in M/M or GLBT first novels or first-time submissions.

 

With water dripping down his face from wet, plastered hair, he glared at his watch again. An hour had passed. He didn’t believe another fifteen minutes would hurt him. What were a few more minutes when he’d waited four years to kill him.

First problem is that we’re getting the POV (point of view) second hand. Rather than being inside this character’s head, he’s being described to us. We’re actually getting a visual on the POV character – his “wet, plastered hair.”

With water dripping down his face from wet, plastered hair, he glared at his watch again.

You see how that removes us one step from the character and his thoughts/feelings? Whereas if the writer tried something along this line – The rain in his eyes made it hard to read his watch – we’re instantly inside the character’s head.  Which is where we want to be, regardless of whether the story is taking place in first, second (rare) or third person POV. We’re experiencing the rain and his frustration, rather than being told about it.

Good writing is immediate writing.

An hour had passed. He didn’t believe another fifteen minutes would hurt him. 

Again, what the POV character is thinking is being told to us, whereas if we write it like this – One hour down. What would another fifteen minutes hurt? – we have both the immediacy of the character’s thoughts, and we have a chance to establish the character’s “voice.”

We could give him a formal, prissy voice: An hour had passed already. Why not grant another fifteen minutes?

 Or a more casual: An hour wasted already. What did another fifteen minutes matter?

What were a few more minutes when he’d waited four years to kill him.

There’s nothing vastly wrong here, but the redundant “What were a few minutes more” weakens “he’d already waited four years to kill him.”

Also, it’s a wasted opportunity to give the reader the name of the potential victim (and in this case it was simply oversight, not deliberate messing with reader expectations).

Shadows darkened while the rain let up, and a gloom settled over the bars near downtown Houston. Streetlights emitted an eerie glow spreading through the dense air like a dull halo. He slid deeper into the darkness while people leaving the nightclub hurried to their vehicles, heads bowed, their only intent to get out of the rain. With his backside against an old wooden building, he wrinkled his nose at rotting timber odors.

There’s a lot of confusing and clumsy imagery here.

 Shadows darkened while the rain let up,

No. Wrong order. We’re getting the reaction before the action.  The rain let up. The shadows darkened. Or deepened -- but that’s subjective.

and a gloom settled over the bars near downtown Houston.

Okay, he’s trying to draw the scene, and that’s good, but this particular phrase doesn’t convey what he’s trying to say, does it? Because we already know about the gloom from the previous line. So the only thing pertinent here is the info about bars near downtown Houston, and there’s more interesting things we could say about them. We could talk about the thump of music, about music slipping out through a crowded doorway as wet and giggling customers squeeze inside. We could talk about people making out in the alley behind the club, or a kitchen door banging open and trash carried into an alley and emptied into bins, etc.

And, in fact, a couple of lines down he does go on to describe people rushing to their cars -- which is good.

Streetlights emitted an eerie glow spreading through the dense air like a dull halo.

I like the image, but the wording is awkward. “Emitted” suggests sound (I know that it can be light or heat or whatever, but it doesn’t work for me).  When a sentence is awkward, I think it helps to simplify it. Chop it into bits. Say it in as few words as possible.

Streetlights were haloed in eerie light

Not great, but cleaner, and I think it gives the same image.

With his backside against an old wooden building, he wrinkled his nose at rotting timber odors.  

Why do we need to know his backside is against “an old wooden building”? Does this add to our understanding of the scene? And…his backside? Does the writer mean the POV character has his back against the wall or his ass? It’s confusing. Goofy.

Again, the author distances us by trying to describe the POV character while at the same time put us in the character’s head. The character wrinkles his nose at rotting timber odors, but what does that smell like? I don’t know if readers have a strong instant association for “rotting timber odors,” but if you say he smelled sawdust or tar or rain or wood, that’s more likely to evoke reader identification.

The more precise you can get, the better.

His t-shirt clung to his body, his teeth chattered and he shivered.

This is increasingly becoming what I call busy writing. Again, the POV character is being described – I’d rather know what that clammy T-shirt feels like clinging to his wet skin rather than being told what he does in response to it.

Why? Because the point of these descriptions is to describe the scene for us, to put us in the scene with the character, so if the best the writer can do is tell us his wet T-shirt clung to his body…well, why do I need to know that? What’s useful or interesting about that? If the writer can tell me something that makes the scene more vivid, more real, more original…then, yes, I want that description, otherwise, it’s more interesting to get the character’s response.

See, it’s the selection of detail that you want to share with the reader. Sometimes the interesting thing you want to share is in the description of the POV character, but usually the interesting thing will lie in the character’s responses or feelings or thoughts.

By the way, either his teeth chatter or he shivers, but not both at the same time. They weaken each other when you put them together in the same sentence. It’s just…busy.

This wasn’t the first time he’d stalked his intended victim. He’d sworn years before he’d make the three police officers pay for his father’s death. He ground his teeth together.

Okay, did he really grind his teeth together? Because that seems stagy and artificial. Why doesn’t he just twirl his mustachios and be done with it? Busy writing again.

Also, it’s an info dump. Just a little one, but still glaring. Do we really need to know the killer’s motivation in the prologue? I’m thinking this is a bit of a spoiler for the crime novel that follows.

They hadn’t killed him. His father killed himself. They destroyed his spirit, his will to live. In the stalker’s eyes, they’d killed him. His eyes narrowed like dart tips. He would get revenge or die trying.

“In the stalker’s eyes.” Sheesh, this is about as far removed as if we were observing a specimen through a microscope.

His eyes narrowed like dart tips.

Yeah, right. Pin points? Is that what we’re supposed to picture, because I can only visualize this happening in a cartoon. This is a writer grabbing for an original metaphor – which, yes, that’s good – but original and anatomically impossible is merely silly.

He would get revenge or die trying.

Where are those mustachios when we need them? The worst thing here is not this melodramatic statement, it’s the fact that it’s redundant. No KIDDING he’ll get revenge or die trying, he’s the villain in the prologue! What else would we think?

Again, he glanced at his watch. When he looked back to the bar’s entrance, a man and woman, laughing and clinging to each other, ran for a small red Fiat parked close to the entrance.

Laughing and clinging and running at the same time? Okay, I’m going to allow it. They’ve been drinking, after all, and God knows it does sometimes feel like you’re doing all three at the same time.

I give points for the “small red Fiat,” although "small" is redundant (one of those words you want to generally eradicate from your final draft), and why are sportscars always red. But still, points for being precise.

His face contorted in rage. His eyes narrowed to slits, recognizing his intended victim. His hand darted to the pistol sticking in his pants. Trembling, he gripped the wooden butt. That bastard didn’t have any right to laugh and have a good time. His father wasn’t able to, and the stalker couldn’t till he killed them all.

I’m very interested in this wooden butt. Is it significant? In a stronger writer, I’d think so. Here, I’m not sure. I am sure that face contorted in rage, eyes narrowed in slits is clichéd overwriting. And “his hand darted to the pistol sticking in his pants” is a very tricky line to pull off. Nuff said.

The rant that follows is predictable, mechanical. Better to give us a memory of the father dying, or visiting the gravesite or…something evocative, something that stirs emotion or gives us a mental image.

Referring to the POV character as “the stalker” is about as distancing as it gets.

With a poisonous smile creasing the corners of his mouth, he nodded, his jaw firm.

Busy, busy, busy.

He released the pistol butt. Let Mr. Detective John Hayes have his fun. It won’t be long and I’ll make him wish he’d never been born. He looked around, but now wasn’t the time. People got caught by making rash decisions.

Huh? We suddenly slipped into second-hand first person POV. Suddenly it’s “I’ll make him wish he’d never been born.” Which tells me that the writer did indeed want us to feel the immediacy of the POV character’s thoughts and feelings, but didn’t know how to go about doing that.

Putting these first person thoughts into italics, might fix the problem right here, but it doesn’t solve the overall problem, does it?

Also, now this entire scene doesn’t make sense. He was lying in wait to shoot John Hayes, but now he’s stopping himself from killing him on… impulse. Was this the plan or not? What’s rash about following through on the plan? Confusing. Silly.

As the Fiat sped away, he eased from the darkness and headed to his car. He needed to sleep. He’d planned this for four years and knew it was perfect. Three police officers were about to die, and he would get away with it.

"Eased from the darkness" is not a bad image.

 

He’d planned this for four years and knew it was perfect.

 

Apparently not -- if the last hour and fifteen minutes are anything to go by.

 

Three police officers were about to die, and he would get away with it.

No. And neither will the author.
writing, how to, m/m, gay fiction

When it rains it pours

 It's been pouring rain off and on for three days, which always makes me happy. There's something soothing about rain, I think -- providing the roof isn't leaking, and it's not. Which is good because I got the first round of edits on the legendary writing book. The majority of it is formatting stuff, which is horrendously complicated so thank God for my editor. She's come up with some great additions: line drawings, annotations in the margins -- neat stuff that I'd never have thought of on my own. 

And of course now I'm coming up with all the stuff I forgot to mention, and the book is getting longer and longer. But I think it's going to be useful -- and hopefully entertaining too. Although not everyone's idea of entertainment is a writing book.  

Granted, it's the worst possible timing because of the increasingly ugly and threatening Other Deadlines. But what a relief to be dealing it with at last.

So a great day all around, and then it got even better. Some very kind person sent me a copy of The Larton Chronicles for my birthday. The Larton Chronicles is a Pros zine -- it's kind of an Angela Thirkell meets Queer as Folk AU thingie, from what I can make out. Granted, I'm always a little leery of AU, but this comes highly recommended, so I'm looking forward to reading it. And as I have to go out of town this weekend, it's arrived at the perfect moment...so thank you whoever you are.

And thank you also to the anonymous person who just added two years worth of paid account time to my Live Journal account. I don't quite know what to say. That's an incredibly generous thing to do, and I plan to make the most of it. (And thank you also for the virtual rose -- unless that was a third anonymous gift, which seems hard to believe.) I guess I really do need to take some time and figure out how this whole Live Journal thing works because I've been fumbling around since day one, and I still have no idea how to do things like...send these little virtual thingies or get pictures into my posts or date stamp my entries, which I assume can be done, but who knows.

Anyway, an abundance of gifts, and all of them very much appreciated -- and rain too!  What a terrific day in every way. 

Hope you all have a long and lovely weekend.
writing, how to, m/m, gay fiction

I'm Not Arguing That Which You!

At the request -- behest? -- of a friend I read a couple of Suzanne Brockmann's novels this weekend: HOT TARGET, FORCE OF NATURE, and ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT. I admit I was pleasantly surprised, although to be honest I only read the storyline concerning FBI agent Jules Cassidy and hs on again / off again relationship with Hollywood actor Robin Chadwick. Brockmann is good at writing action scenes and she has a strong sense of humor. And like all writers who come up through the unforgiving ranks of mainstream romance, she understands pacing and how to plot. I like the fact that she allows both characters their strengths and weaknesses -- and a fair share of the good lines.

One thing she does that drives me nuts, though. She has a bad habit of undercutting the emotional intensity and power of her own scenes with the use of inappropriate and ill-timed internal dialog. For example, Jules and Robin (who's younger, closeted, and an alcoholic) will have an argument, and Jules will say some fairly brutal (if necessary) things to Robin, and we'll get Robin's mental response, usually along the lines of: Well, yowza, way to stick the knife in, G-man. 

Brockmann is straining for that certain wisecracking smartass tone here and it's unnecessary. In fact, it's jarring. Like she's trying to lighten up a dramatic moment even though the reader is not ready or needing her to yank on the window shade.  We don't need that comedic filter, and what it serves to do is throw the timing of the scene off. A powerful moment is weakened. 

Anyway. That's a quibble, but reading Brockmann reminded me of one of my main complaints about M/M fiction -- the lack of believable or meaningful conflict.  Let me hasten to add that Brockmann is good at creating believable and realistic conflict, and then resolving it fairly realistically. But sadly this is not true of much M/M writing -- both fan fiction and original fiction. In fact, the reason so much of original M/M fiction is weak on conflict might be because many of the authors started out writing fan fiction where often the plot revolves around something as simple as: Does He Feel the Same Way? 

Without conflict there really is no plot. Plot is conflict and it comes in various flavors, but in romance you can break it down into two categories: Internal and External. External means it comes from outside the relationship -- one of the characters has been kidnapped or has contracted a disease or is getting married in the morning. And you can get some terrific story mileage out of any and all of this, but the best conflict, to my way of thinking, is Internal. Meaning it evolves from the characters themselves -- their clashing goals and needs and personalities. In fact, usually the best romance plots are a combination of external and internal conflict, with the internal conflict often driving the external. 

Raise your hand if you didn't get that.

Actually, don't worry, I cover this in obsessive detail in the legendary writing book. 

When it comes to M/M romance, I see two consistent problems regarding conflict. Either the conflict is contrived and artificial (But, darling, he's my brother!) or it's a genuine conflict, but the writer resolves it quickly and painlessly. Or, worse, pretends it was never really there in the first place. 

I read an article this weekend about how humans crave aggression and violence, but you'd never know that from the majority of M/M writers. Is it something to do with confusing real life and fiction? Because in real life, right enough, our objective is to work things out with our significant others, to draw up treaties and smoke the peace pipe. To compromise where we can. To forgive and forget. But what makes for healthy real life relationships makes for boring fiction. So, while in real life it's a wonderful thing if you can find someone who's ready to laugh with you ten minutes after you were ready to kill each other, in fiction it's not so riveting. 

Now, true enough, every story doesn't need to be fraught with tension; there are charming little domestic sagas that are fine just as they are. Very comforting to read. The literary equivalent of flannel sheets and a cup of cocoa on a dark and stormy night -- sometimes that's exactly what you want in a love story. 

But if that's not what you're trying to write, if you're going for something with a bit of bite -- some angst, some hurt/comfort, some balls -- then it's got to be real. It's got to be a genuine conflict that can't be resolved by the characters sitting down and talking for five minutes -- because readers get quickly fed up with characters who aren't smart enough or grown up enough to sit down for five minutes and TALK. 

Okay, so who was that naked guy who jumped out of your bed/shower/birthday cake? 


One of the consistent things readers bitch about (this in reviews of Other Writers work, by the way -- at least so far, thankyouJesus) is/are characters who refuse to communicate -- because unless this is one of the main conflicts between your characters (that one of them is unable to discuss his feelings or deal with conflict) -- there's no excuse for it. Especially when people are living together. So the number one rule of creating believable conflict is that the conflict or point of contention can't be something that is resolved by a few minutes of honest discussion. Because who cares about two dolts who can't talk to each other?

And that can be tricky, because what we're talking about here is creating real obstacles to our characters' happiness -- we are sowing the seeds of an unhappy ending. That's why romance writing isn't easy: it's about taking two people who should be perfect for each other and then pointing out all the reasons of why it can never work -- and then coming up with valid solutions to those problems. It's also one reason why romance writing - done well -- is satisfying to read. These are really stories about beating the odds. 

Anyway, speaking of beating the odds, I've got 60,000 words due by the end of next week, so more on this later.
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The Hell You Say

 'Cause nothing says the holidays like demons and death threats. Actually, that does sound a bit like my family.

Juuuuust kidding. 

About the death threats. The demons in my life are nothing if not loving.


Anyway, those of you not trapped on
my mailing list may have missed the glad tidings that THE HELL YOU SAY is back in print -- and in ebook format. 

The third novel in the Adrien English series finds the "ill-starred and bookish" mystery writer and bookseller battling demons--maybe literally. After bookstore clerk Angus flees following terrifying death threats, Adrien must contend with a mysterious Satanic cult, a hot and handsome university professor, and his on-again/off-again relationship with closeted LAPD Homicide Detective Jake Riordan. 

And, oh, yes, murder...

I don't actually have a lot to say -- beyond urging you to buy it in one or the other format -- as I'm still reeling from the horrible discovery that I haven't finished my Christmas shopping after all. 

My editor and publishers have been putting together a schedule for next year, so the good news is that I'll soon have some firm dates for the numerous projects listed on my website. The baddish news is that Adrien Four AKA Death of a Pirate King has been pushed back to August. But it will be a better book for it, I promise you. 

And, also in the good news category, my releases next year will be spread out more evenly, so there won't be two and three things releasing in a month -- usually. That makes it easier on you (and me). 

And not only have I apparently not finished Christmas shopping, I can't find any damn tinsel for the tree. I'm serious. I stopped at three places last night. NO  ONE has tinsel. What's up with that? Is there some frigging tinsel shortage? 

And since I'm giving into my inner Grinch, may I just say that I hate wrapping presents? 

Ah. This is the danger of an online journal. Before long I'll be complaining about all kinds of wacko things, and they'll live forever in infamy, and in fact, they're really no more serious a complaint than the thoughts that go through my mind when someone cuts me off in the mall parking lot. (Which, while getting an "R" for violence, only amounts to a few seconds of screen time.)

So lemme focus on some happy holidays thoughts. Favorite Christmas CD anyone? Favorite holiday beverage? Best moment of the holiday season thus far?

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CHAT TONIGHT AT REALMS OF LOVE

 

Explore the Realms of Romantic Fiction

 

Join Claire Thompson, Lee Rowan and Josh Lanyon in the Realms of Love Chat Castle, Monday December 3. Wondering about ManLove romance writing? Have read some and want to know more? This is your chance. Spend an hour chatting with some of the top authors in the genre. You really don't want to search for the Christmas dish towels just yet. Have some fun with us at Realms of Love, Monday at 9 PM EST.

<input ... >Claire Thompson has just released Odd Man Out with Ellora's Cave:

Ben was ready to move on, tired of Carl’s controlling, dominating ways. Carl, desperate to keep him, convinces him to attend his sister’s wedding, just as friends. There Ben meets David, the devastatingly handsome model and actor, and the sparks begin to fly. Ben and David move quickly, perhaps too quickly, into a romantic love affair ripe with passion that Ben hopes will never end. Carl, still obsessed with his ex-lover, seems bent on destroying his new relationship. His twisted attempts to win back Ben’s heart result in the uncovering of a secret from David’s past so damning he knows not even Ben will able to forgive him.

Odd Man Out explores the very real damage secrets can wreck on our lives, especially those we keep from ourselves. The sizzling passion and aching tenderness shared between the two lovers is not enough to sustain them. In the end, David must find the courage to face his past and embrace the happiness Ben offers. He must learn that trust is as essential as love.

Claire Thompson has written erotic fiction since 1995. Much of her work focuses on the romance of erotic submission, as well as the darker exploration of BDSM. Her most recent work focuses on the romance of male/male romance and erotic submission. Claire has published numerous novels and short stories, both in print and ebook format. Says a reviewer for eCataRomance, “…Claire Thompson draws a compelling, graphic picture of a loving dominant/submissive relationship. Erotic and confronting, yet tender and intimate”.


Claire’s website address is www.Clairethompson.net, where you will find all of Claire’s novels, new releases and upcoming releases, as well as more detailed information about the author.

 

<input ... >Josh Lanyon says:  At last! A writing book geared to the kind of stories you love to read! Let Lambda Award finalist Josh Lanyon show you how.

Coming this December from MLR Press is Man, Oh Man!: Writing M/M Fiction for Kinks & Cash, his first-ever non-fiction book, Josh takes you step-by-step through the writing process: from how to find fresh ideas and strong hooks, to how to submit your carefully edited manuscript. With a little help from some of the genre's top publishers, editors, reviewers, and writers -- all experts in the field of M/M and gay romantic fiction -- Josh offers insight and experience in everything from creating believable masculine characters to writing erotic and emotionally gratifying M/M sex scenes.

Josh Lanyon is the author of three Adrien English mystery novels, including The Hell You Say, winner of the 2006 USABookNews awards for GLBT fiction -- and a Lambda Literary Award finalist.

Josh lives in Los Angeles, California, and is currently at work on the fourth book in the series, Death of a Pirate King.

<input ... >Lee Rowan has Walking Wounded in print at Linden Bay:

John Hanson joined the military because he wanted to serve his country. Lacking a home and family of his own, the idealistic young man longed to be a part of something bigger than himself. He didn’t expect to find love in officer’s training—so when an assignment took him away from Kevin Kendrick, the love of his life, he sacrificed personal happiness and did his duty.

Kevin has made his own sacrifices. Career came first and the impressionable Army brat, tired of living in his father’s shadow, pledged his loyalty to his country and followed his ambition.

Now seven years later when the Army that Kevin so faithfully served has made him the scapegoat for their latest Middle East snafu, he can only think of one place to go, one man who can provide solace and heal his wounds—John.

Reunited, the two war-torn lovers once again discover their passion for life, love, and one another. But Kevin’s past isn’t through with him yet, and when an old enemy surfaces the two men realize that they must together face the nightmares of the past if they are to have the future they dream of.

Here's a bit about Lee from Lee's Live Journal:

1. Who inspired you to write? Marguerite Krieger Phillips, a little old lady who grew geraniums and wintered them over on her sunporch. She lived down the block from us and wrote plays for children. It was the first time I realized books were written by actual human beings. She was also my first beta, on a god-awful Man from UNCLE story that never got finished, and it's just as well.

2. What's your writing routine? I don't have one and that's probably not good. I get basic ideas, the characters start to wake up and interact, then I plot the thing and start writing. Sometimes scenes pop up, but usually I just start at the beginning and plow ahead. When I'm in production mode I just sit at the computer til the wee hours. Easier to write when it's quiet.

3. Do you want Ioan to make more Hornblower? For him, for the canon, and for the canon fans, yes. He's perfect in the part. Makes no difference to me, I stopped watching after Retribution. I felt sorry for canon HH, but didn't like him all that much.

4. Comfort food? Depends on why I'm uncomfortable. Fresh-baked real bread, Macaroni and cheese, chocolate ice cream... sometimes a nice big salad.

5. What book would you take to a desert island? The Compleat Handbook of Desert Island Survival. Just for reading, either the Lord of the Rings trilogy or -- well, I suppose O'Brian's 20-volume saga would be pushing it...?



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Hallelujah Chorus


Praise the Lord and pass the ammo. I finished the rough -- ragged -- first draft of Snowball in Hell. Thirty-five thousand words in eighteen days. It's not that impressive as I look at it, but I had to research almost every damn sentence. It was brutal. And in the end I was just leaving as much blank as I could for later verification.

It would go like this: Nathan goes into a diner for breakfast.

Did they have "diners" in 1943 Los Angeles? I know there were restaurants, but did they call them diners? What would he order? Rationing was in full-swing by 1943, so could he get eggs and bacon? What color were the ration stamps for eggs and bacon? Did you pay AND give ration stamps? And even if he had the right ration stamps, what was the supply of eggs and bacon like in Los Angeles in December 1943? And on and on and ON.

Actually, I love the research. Love it. Can get lost for days in it -- and I think that was the real factor here: the panic of knowing there was no wiggle room. The edited, formatted manuscript has to be into the printer by the 7th in order to have the second Partners in Crime anthology out for Christmas. So now I've got two and half days before I turn this mess into my editor, who then has about two days to edit the hell of it, and then I've got about a day or so (who's counting?)  to make all her edits and the inevitable edits of my own -- I generally add anywhere from two to five thousand words when I polish a draft.

And the funny thing is, I generally cut about two to five thousand words in the polish, so the fact that I end up with a significantly higher word count means...

Something alarming. I'm not sure what.

I love the rewrite stage. That's when the magic happens. Assuming there is magic to be had. I don't like having to start rewrites without significant time between the rough draft and the rewrite. It's better when I can get distance from the work, view it like a stranger -- like a reader -- and these deadlines don't allow for that.

The deadlines are my fault, don't get me wrong. 

From August through the end of the year I'll have written -- and hopefully published:

The rewrite on The Hell You Say 
A non-fiction book on writing
A short story
Three novellas

Am I missing something? Well, all the stuff I started and haven't finished yet. No wonder I feel a little...tired. 

I'm not complaining though. I'll gladly take this over the stress and strain of the day job. At least the fourteen hour days are now spent doing something I love.

I like this story a lot, but I'm uneasy about it. For one thing it's in alternating Third Person POV, which I don't typically write. And one of my protags is kind of a mess. A lot of Catholic guilt and a very strong suicidal tendency -- in fact, the whole story has a very melancholy feel, which I've got to revisit in the rewrite. But it's such a difficult time period for gays, very hard to write about. And it actually got worse in Los Angeles after the war, so...

And yet, people lived and loved and laughed. That's human nature, the resilience of the human spirit, and that's really more what I'd like to write about. And I surely don't want to write a Christmas story with a downer message.

I have the uneasy feeling that I should have saved this story for a novel-length work. There's a lot here that there's simply no time to explore -- although I like the discipline of telling a meaty story in a tight framework. But most of the meat here is thematic and emotional, so maybe the novella works best after all. 

I hadn't sold the ebook rights to this one yet -- I didn't think it was right for Loose Id, and I don't want to get overexposed over there (I've already got five stories scheduled with them for next year -- almost all the MLR print stories are ending up as LI ebooks) so I contacted Aspen Mountain Press on impulse -- just asking if there was any chance they'd like a story and whether it was feasible to get it out in time for Christmas, and what do you know? The lovely Sandra Hicks said yes -- and yes. So it looks like that novella will be available as an ebook in December.

Good news, I think. And more good news. My publisher tells me PinC Volume I has been hovering around the #2 slot in Gay Mystery over at Amazon. Of course those ratings change every time the wind blows, but it's nice to know people are buying the book. 

Oh, I guess I should mention I that I'm doing a chat next Monday Night at Realms of Love.