I’m trying out some new ideas for the graphics on the website, so I made a banner. Man, my graphics skills are rus-ty; I used to be way better at this sort of thing. This one doesn’t look quite how I first envisioned, but it kind of works, yeah? And I think I need a better slogan. All the cool kids have slogans.
I’ve been contemplating the relative merits of setting up a mailing list or Yahoo group. If you have opinions, let me know in the comments!
The weather took a weird turn, and it’s been cold and rainy all week, which is making me feel kind of blah, which is not very good for my productivity.
I saw the Yankees play Sunday in the rain. I have Mets tickets for this coming Sunday, and it’ll be my first time at Citifield.
I’m setting up a new workspace in the spare room in my apartment. It’s turning out to be a greater undertaking than I first imagined, but right now I’ve got a desk that faces the window. I have a grand view of… the apartment building across the street. Weirdly, hardly anyone in that building bothered with curtains, and I can see into many of the windows. This is good for making up stories about what the people there are up to. Which I learned on Saturday while I sat at the desk for a few hours to test drive the space.
I’ve got a lot of projects going right now; concrete news and pub dates and things coming up as soon as I know them, so if I don’t create a mailing list, watch this space!
Did you guys see the article about Alex Beecroft and Erastes in Out?
I’ve enjoyed both Beecroft’s and Erastes’s writing. The article has some interesting bits. I liked this exchange:
“It isn’t all about the porn,” Beecroft laments.
“I don’t believe you,” I say.
“I know. People don’t, and it’s such an annoyance. Do you think a 300-page book that’s got three sex scenes in it is all about the sex?”
Erastes concurs. “I think people automatically think gay equals sex. That would be like saying heterosexual equals sex, and that is a very unfair thing to say.”
Both agree that the first kiss in their books is “almost more intimate than sex.”
I know that for me as a reader, I like the sexy times, but a novel is not held together by sexy times alone; it needs a good story. I always think about story first when I’m writing. I feel pretty strongly that the sex scenes should serve the story in some way. So I agree with Beecroft and Erastes on that level.
The discussion of gender identity was pretty interesting, too; I leave it to you to read and think about. (I have Opinions, but I don’t want to shove my foot in my mouth too far. I totally respect Beecroft and Erastes, but I’m coming at the genre from a different place.) I do like this conclusion: “M/M fans already know (and the rest of the world must catch up eventually) that love abhors all limitations, and gender is among the least of these.”
Elisa posted an interview with Ryan Field that I thought was kind of interesting (and a good test of my Italian skills; that is one of my secret talents). Here, I will translate for you (this is the second question):
What kind of readers are you addressing? Those who believe that sex and love are inseparable. And I think that readers are always looking for this union. I also consider that readers are looking for novels with a happy ending that raises them from the stress of real life. Reading a novel, regardless of genre, must help them escape their problems. And from the letters I get, it seems to me that readers are eager to escape reality.
(Italian is not my first language, obviously, so apologies if I goofed anywhere.)
I’ve been thinking a lot the last few days about my own expectations as a reader and why I like romance novels and what I want out of them and so on. I do like realistic, slice-of-life sorts of novels. I like fantasy, too. For example, I just read Jungle Heat by Bonnie Dee. I had some niggles in terms of things I didn’t think were quite realistic, but I really enjoyed the book as a fantasy, insofar as my thinking was, “I’m not sure this could have happened, but wouldn’t it have been cool if it did?” That’s maybe the crux of historical or speculative fiction. I’ve been thinking about that a lot in the stuff I’ve been writing lately, which has definitely been more on the fantastical end of the spectrum. I don’t really know if ghosts exist, but what if they did? How cool would it be if someone had lived through hundreds of years of human history? If someone from 1850 were plunked into 2010, what would they think of all this? Pros, cons, bad, good, what would happen? These are things I think about when contemplating what worlds and ideas I could explore as a writer.
Romance is a different kind of fantasy, though, often “realistic” in that there are characters who live in our world, characters that make mistakes and have mundane jobs and are mostly like us. But romances also take us to world where everyone has a true love and lives happily ever after. Where we get into the heads of characters who lead different lives than we do, characters for whom good things happen. And maybe, as Ryan Field says in the article, part of the fantasy of erotic romance is that sex and love are the same, that one is borne of the other or is an expression of the other or both. Maybe part of the fantasy of romance is that we read these novels and think, “Life could be this way.”
I’ll tell you what my fantasy is: for the sun to break through the thunderstorm currently raging outside my window, and for a good night’s sleep after almost two weeks of travel (I spent the weekend traveling around New England with my family). Actually, if the orange glow on the buildings across the street from my living room window means anything, it’s that my first wish is coming true. Sleep next!
I came back from Florida with a burn/tan, and was feeling relaxed enough that it’s been tricky getting back into the groove of my life this week. It’s funny; in some ways, I just fall back into routine because it’s… routine. But it took some self-cajoling to get back to writing after basically taking a week off.
Although, I did some thinking about Noah. I set that novel in Tampa primarily because it was a city in Florida with which I was familiar. I have a friend who lives there, I’ve visited a few times, I knew there was a decent-sized gay community in St. Pete. Last week, I spent time in South Florida and the Keys in an honest-to-God resort just like the one Noah spent most of In Hot Pursuit in with friends (two other women and a gay man). It was sort of interesting to examine that experience in the wake of my recently-published novel, picking apart things I got right in my novel and things I might have done a little differently (mostly, if I had it to do over, I might have included more details about the setting). My vacation involved spending a lot of time on the beach (and getting roasted by the sun while I read romance novels, natch) with the occasional foray into various nearby cities. We even stopped in a gay bar in Key West that reminded me a little of Shanley’s from my novel.
One thing I really love to see in a novel I’m reading is a setting well rendered. I’m in awe of writers who make that setting another character, or who draw it so well that it feels like you’re there. That’s one thing I’m working on, to make my setting more fully realized.
I’m trying some new things now. I think I’m constantly developing as a writer, meaning both that I’m trying to become a better writer in terms of craft and also that I’m willing to take on different genres and topics as I go. When I first started writing seriously, I wrote a lot of thinly-veiled autobiographical stories, but I find that, as I develop as a writer, exploring completely different characters and experiences and worlds is increasingly appealing. I’ve gone from not having any particular desire to wade into the paranormal/fantasy arena to the last couple of months starting to write speculative fiction for the first time ever. And it’s a great amount of fun! Who knew?
I think the lesson is just to be open to everything. I have in the last year or so read and written things I don’t think I would have gotten anywhere near five years ago, but as I develop as a writer, I want to try new things, explore new worlds, do what I can to develop as a writer.
And I have all new respect for spec fic writers who do it well. I mean, on the one hand, you get to make shit up, but on the other hand, you have to make shit up! In some ways, it’s easier to set novels in the real world (especially if you, like me, set the majority of your stories in the city where you live) and you could make the argument that writing fantasy means you don’t have to research, but you DO have to build your world. And that’s a real stretch of one’s creative power.
Anyway, these are just some things I’ve been thinking about. I’m traveling a lot the rest of this month, so I’m a little nervous about squeezing in time to write, but I’m really enjoying the WIPs I have going right now, and that’s kind of half the battle right there.
I’m currently on vacation in South Florida, learning the hard way how my pasty Irish skin reacts to the sun down here. (I am TOASTY, y’all.) It’s great, though. I mean, it’s very hot, but it’s nice to not be in New York and also to not have to worry about things that stress me out at home.
Emotionally charged and action packed, In Hot Pursuit by Kate McMurray will work its way into your heart and soul.
Hooray! I’m gonna go back what I’ve been doing, which is mainly nothing. It’s great!