five things on friday

Weekly wrap-up!

1. Reading! So I’ve decided to read J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I’ve been meaning to for a while. I started the first book on the plane home from the midwest Sunday. There are things I like and things I don’t. One thing I don’t like is a chicken-and-egg situation; the first few chapters are every urban fantasy novel I’ve ever read, but Dark Lover was published seven years ago. (So other authors may be aping J.R. Ward and not the other way around. On the other hand, I am so over vampires in da club. Can they hang out somewhere else, please?) The other thing that didn’t work was a mixed bag; the first sex scene is total insta-lust with no build-up whatsoever, BUT the scene itself is pants-on-fire hot. I don’t know what to do with that. What is working for me is that I love a book that shows male friendships, and the Black Dagger Brotherhood has echoes of other bands of brothers in fiction I have enjoyed (Suzanne Brockmann’s various SEAL teams come to mind) so I look forward to that element of the story. Also, I like how some of the mythology is a little different from other vampire stories and the worldbuilding is pretty good so far.

So that is my very early take on the BDB series. To those of you who are fans of the series, tell me in the comments—with as few spoilers as possible!—what you find compelling about it. Convince me to keep reading!

2. Writing! Last weekend, I feverishly read a true crime book, and so this week I’ve been inspired to do a gay romance take on a crime novel set in the 1890s, sort of like The Alienist but less dark and violent and with more sex. The crime is pretty gruesome but I’m debating with myself about how much detail to get into—personally, I’m pretty squeamish and don’t like violence, so I’ve been erring on the side of vague, but might amend that in the next draft. I also worry the romance is too sweet given the gritty nature of the rest of the book, and I’ve apparently forgotten how to write a love scene without it turning into a cheesefest. I’ve written almost 14,000 words so far, which is fantastic and awesome, although it’s been at the expense of some other thing I had planned to do this week, so that’s not so good. Hmm.

3. Doing! I’m gearing up for conventions! Got a box of books in the mail earlier this week to sell at the Brooklyn Book Festival on September 23rd. I’m sharing a table with some of the ladies from my local RWA chapter. Then in October, I’m going to the New Jersey Romance Writers “Put Your Heart in a Book” convention and, of course, GayRomLit. I might spend one day at New York Comic Con, mostly to support some friends who will have a booth and see what freebies I can score. (Look, if I’m going to all these places, there better be some free books, is all I’m saying.)

4. Thinking! Some bullet points:

• While I was out of town last week, I saw a cousin who could be the poster child against any campaign arguing that gay people don’t make good parents; he’s about to turn eighteen, is a really great kid, and happens to have two moms. (Also, I remember when he was born, and that makes me feel OLD.)

• The publishing news o’ the week is this paid-reviews story that the Times broke last weekend. My takeaway from all the discussion is basically this: just write the best book you’re capable of. I have some theories on what drives book sales, and some of it is good reviews and word of mouth, but some of it is just… magic. Such is the nature of publishing. I think as authors, we want to have more control over sales, but books are these crazy little subjective things and you can’t control or predict how one will sell. (Well, not really. There are things you can do to bring attention to your book, but you can’t force anyone to buy it.)

5. Pimping! Hey, speaking of books… Gratuitous self-promotion corner! Four Corners got a great review from Joyfully Jay this week! (Also, Dreamspinner is having a Blue Moon 30% off sale today, so you can buy it at a discount!)

back from vacation!

I survived a week in the wilderness!

I spent seven days in the north woods of Wisconsin and two in the Twin Cities and managed to do very little of what I thought I would. I only read two books, I didn’t really do any writing, I let my work sit unfinished, I rarely even turned on my computer. It was kind of nice to unplug for a week and I wasn’t really that excited to come back, but alas, things were waiting for me.

This bear cub walked right up to the house—no zoom was employed in the taking of this photo. Sorry the screen’s in the way; I didn’t want to go outside for fear Mama was close by.

I saw a lot of wildlife on my trip, including a pair of bear cubs (no idea where Mama Bear was), a few bald eagles, a ton of loons and hummingbirds and other indigenous animals. I stayed at my family’s property with my immediate family—dad, stepmother, both brothers, and my sister-in-law—and we kept ourselves busy. (I think this is the first vacation we’ve managed with all of us in almost a decade; it’s certainly the first big family trip with my SIL. We don’t all end up in the same place that often.) I did some kayaking, we had one night where we cooked dinner over a fire, I saw some of my very extended family, I tasted wine at a winery, I went window shopping in a tourist-trap area.

On Thursday, my dad hauled me out of bed at 5:30am and we went fishing with a guide. My dad is an avid fisherman, and I agreed to go along on this outing because I have a really great memory of a fishing trip the two of us took when I was a teenager. (I’m apparently the good luck charm; I don’t dislike fishing, but I don’t like touching fish, so I’m not usually the first one to volunteer to go on these outings. Still, I caught a few big ones.) So off we went, and we literally caught our dinner, enough fish to feed the twelve people who came to the house where we were staying (we invited everyone we knew in the area). My brother S loves to cook, so he put together a pretty nice meal. (I don’t want to see any more fish for a while, though.)

That’s about as rustic as I get. I am definitely a city girl at heart. It was nice to unplug, but it’s also nice to be back in the land of noise and people and concrete.

And now I’m catching up—I missed a lot last week! And I got an idea for a book that I’m really excited about. I think my next project is going to be a historical either way, so you all have that to look forward to.

Saturday Snark: Four Corners

I have to leave to get on a plane in about a half hour, but it’s Saturday, and Marie Sexton is running some snark, so here’s a snippet from Four Corners:

WHEN I opened the front door of my building, Adam stood on my stoop. “Boystown, Jakey? Really? Isn’t that kind of a gay cliché?”

“What the hell are you doing here? How did you get my address?”

“You’re still on Mom’s Christmas card list.”

I looked around him and saw the Ducati was parked in my driveway. “Your dad told me you sold that.”

“I did,” said Adam. “To my brother Danny. Take a ride with me.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Serious as a cancer diagnosis. I even brought you a helmet.”

I took a long look at him. He was wearing tight jeans that looked expensive in that distressed-just-so way and a white T-shirt under a well-worn black leather jacket. He looked like sex on legs, frankly. I thought of all the times in my early twenties that I’d pressed against Adam while riding on the back of that motorcycle, and I felt my skin flush. It was nearing twilight, luckily, so I was pretty sure Adam wouldn’t be able to see me blushing.

“Did you really ride that thing here through the city?”

He guffawed. “What are you, my mother? It’s perfectly safe. You trust me, don’t you?”

“That’s kind of a loaded question.”

five things on friday!

Welcome to my weekly wrap up of things I am up to!

1. Doing! Leaving on a jet plane tomorrow to go spend 9 days in the upper midwest for my first vacation out of the city in a very long time. I hope to spend a great deal of it just sitting around reading. I have more books than I could possibly read in a week! Hopefully I’ll get a lot of writing done, too. My family owns some property in northern Wisconsin and that’s where I’ll be most of the week; my dad claims there is wifi there but implied when pressed that Internet may be spotty. Thus I might be even more of a rare presence on social networks than usual! But I hope to come back relaxed and refreshed; this year has been stressful and busy!

2. Reading! This week, I read R. Cooper’s Play It Again, Charlie, which I loved, and Stars and Stripes, because of course; I’m already waiting for the next Ty and Zane book. I’m packing a stack of books and my Kindle to take with me on vacation. I’ve got a couple of nonfiction books, the first book in JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series, more George R. R. Martin, and a zillion Kindle books. I’ve been binge buying a lot of historical romance, so that might feature heavily. (Any MUST READ books I should take with me?)

3. Making! The obvious promotional material for a book about baseball players is a baseball card, n’est-ce pas? I designed these and got them printed; they came in the mail yesterday. (Sorry the photo is a little fuzzy.) They look pretty good in person, IMHO. I’ll have these at GayRomLit for anyone who wants them.

4. Writing! I’ve written about 6,000 words this week, all on new projects and not on any of my old project. I’m not sure if any of it works.

Like, can you redeem a character who has done something irredeemable? Earlier this week, I was listening to an old episode of This American Life about bullies, and after I thought about it, I wrote a scene in which a 30-year-old guy runs into his high school bully at a gay bar. I like the scene I wrote, but I worry that a romance between these two characters is completely impossible, that the victim could never forgive the bully for putting him through hell, no matter how repentant the bully is. (Then I showed the scene to one of my betas, and because she’s awesome, she was like, “No, I think you should keep going.” But I don’t know.)

Then I started writing this cop thing, but I don’t like it so I’ll probably scrap it.

I’ve also been turning around an idea for a series, which will be a real challenge for me because I’m rarely motivated to write sequels. So, if I plan the series as a series from the get-go and pitch it to a publisher as a series, maybe that will be my incentive to follow through with writing it. I want to play around with stereotypes in this series, though, so I’ve got an ex-military alpha type and an artistic type who find love under unusual circumstances, and I want to plan out this series so that the two characters go on adventures as their relationship grows and develops. We’ll see, I’m gonna run with it and see where it goes.

5. Last Thing! I don’t have a fifth thing. Discussion topics I’ve considered: people who don’t ever leave New York City and how never leaving warps their world view; what to do when one is in public and also reading a hot sex scene; the period a few months ago in which I was listening to a lot of m/m books in audiobook (hooray for Dreamspinner’s audiobooks) and it is SO WEIRD to have someone read a sex scene to you, especially when you are just out walking in the park; the fact that, on my last day in NYC until Monday 8/27, I thought I should order something exotic for lunch but my lunch buddy wanted Subway; the sublime pleasure of walking along the park on a hot day and seeing a really hot guy with interesting tattoos walking his dog while not wearing a shirt; how much I enjoyed catching up on all the TV I DVRed during the Olympics this week. I dunno. Are there burning issues?

I so need a vacation, you guys. I hope your week is also pleasant and relaxing.

friday! five things!

Happy release week to me! The theme of today’s post is, “Taste is subjective.”

1. Watching! But this is not subjective: American women athletes are kicking all kinds of ass at the Olympics. So here’s a photo of Allyson Felix, because she won a gold medal Wednesday, and also just because I think she’s really pretty. She comes across as friendly and chill in interviews. Here are some more lady athletes!

I have some sadness that the Olympics are about to come to an end because I’ve enjoyed watching so much, but I also look forward to going to bed at reasonable times again.

2. Reading! I took a day off from work Monday to recover from all the madness that happened last week at work, and I took the opportunity to basically read a whole novel in one sitting. That novel was Rock and a Hard Place by Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow, and I LOVED it. I went to add it to my Goodreads account, and I saw that reviews were mixed, which should have surprised me less than it did, I guess. Just goes to show.

I mean, I disagree with reviews all the time. Reading is such a personal thing. One reader’s dealbreaker is another’s enticement.

Or it’s like the experience I had when I saw The Dark Knight Rises. While I was watching the movie, I was totally into it. I have a hard time sitting still that long, but the movie totally captured my attention and entertained me. Then the friend I saw it with and I rode the subway home together and discussed the movie, and it started to retroactively fall apart. (I still liked the movie on the whole, but there were parts of it that were real head scratchers, you know?) That happens when I read sometimes, where I’ll be so caught up in a story that all flaws become invisible, and it’s only after the fact that I’ll realize what might not have worked.

But, yeah. Everyone likes different things. Which is not a revolutionary thought, but it seems like in this era of authors and reviewers and drama and high anxiety, it’s good to remember that. (I will have more to say about this shortly.)

3. Writing! Shipped a manuscript off to my editor yesterday. I have, I’m not even joking, four new projects open on my computer right now. I’m hoping to make some headway with some new stories over the next few weeks

I know I’ve posted this cover a zillion times, but I really love it. Let’s stare at it some more.

4. Four Corners! This release was especially nerve-wracking for me. Here’s our theme of the week: when I first started shopping it around, I kinda knew it was a novel not everyone would like. It’s probably the angstiest of my published novels. Jake and Adam both behave in ways that mean they aren’t always likable or sympathetic (although I hope that they are on the whole). I wanted to tell a good story and make you think and entertain you, and hopefully I’ve accomplished that. It’s a story that’s heavy on emotion and light on plot with heroes that don’t always act the way the reader might like them to, and that felt a little risky.

At my local chapter’s RWA meeting last weekend, one of the other women at the meeting said that it’s important to keep track of and follow trends, to adapt to the market. She thought that if paranormals are big, writers should try their hands at paranormals, for example. I disagreed quite vocally; I think if you try to adhere to trends, by the time your book comes out, everyone’s over it and has moved on to the next thing. So why not set the trend?

I write mostly for myself; I write the kinds of books that I want to read. I’m finding that the more I write, the more I want to take risks and try different genres and experiment. I hope my readers come along for the ride, that what they find appealing about my voice will carry over as I try to write different kinds of books. I hope there’s something about my writing and my brand that readers continue to connect with even if I’m not writing contemporaries.

Basically, I couldn’t keep doing it if I didn’t love it—it’s hard work—and my writing sucks when I’m trying to push through a story I’m not really feeling. And I think I’d get bored if I stuck with one tried-and-true thing. So I’m writing stories I want to tell, trying not to analyze market trends too closely. (Which is to say, it’s good to keep on top of trends and pay attention to the market, but as a writer, you have to follow your heart, too.)

So I wrote this novel that I really feel passionate about, but I’m assiduously avoiding places like Goodreads in an attempt to just ride the high of successfully getting another book out and telling my nerves to shut up. That’s only kind of working. (It’s so hard not to look. It’s kind of like waiting for grades to get posted after an exam.)

So, yeah, I don’t know. I love this book. I love these characters. I hope you do, too. (But I still feel nervous.)

That said, we’re off to a good start: 5 stars from Jessewave.

Also, you can check out some things I wrote about about angst and also enter to win a copy of the book at Joyfully Jay.

Also, I seem to have made #3 on the Amazon Gay Romance list the day after the book was published. So I guess I sold a few copies! (THANK YOU to everyone who bought the book or supported me!)

5. Doing! I have a zillion things going on, like always, and lots of work to do this weekend. Ugh. But I leave for my week in the woods a week from tomorrow. I need a vacation so bad, I can’t even tell you.

Also, I was very sad to hear about the passing of David Rakoff, long one of my favorite writers and contributors to This American Life. (True story: just last month, I downloaded the This American Life app to my phone and have been listening to the archives, and one of the episodes I listened to recently was What You Lookin’ At from 1998, in which Rakoff recounts a story of going to a tiny town in New Hampshire and feeling like a fish out of water. As with a lot of his material, it’s darkly funny and poignant, and I love his speaking voice also.) (That episode is also worth it for the Sarah Vowell story about getting a goth makeover.)

Four Corners now available!

You can buy it now from Dreamspinner Press!


Since childhood, Jake, Adam, Kyle, and Brendan have been teammates, best friends, brothers. Then one day, when they were twenty-five, Adam disappeared without a word, devastating his friends—none more so than Jake, who had secretly loved Adam since they were teenagers.

Now, five years later, Adam is back, and he has his mind set on Jake. But those years of anger, hurt, and confusion are a lot to overcome, and Jake doesn’t find it easy to forgive. He isn’t sure they’ll ever fit together the way they did. Jake, Kyle, and Brendan have moved on with their lives, but Adam’s high-profile career keeps him in the closet—the same place he’s been for years. Still, his apologies seem sincere, and the attraction is still there. Jake desperately wants to give him a chance. But first he has to find out why Adam left and if he’s really back for good.

a little about Four Corners

My next novel Four Corners will be available this Wednesday. (Feel free to tide yourselves over by gazing at the lovely cover by LC Chase, because I have totally been doing that.)

Since I haven’t had the opportunity to talk much about the book yet, I figured I’d give you guys a little preview.

Four Corners is narrated by Jake, a thirty-year-old openly gay man in Chicago. His childhood best friend Adam skipped town five years ago without a word, leaving Jake confused and heartbroken. Adam shows up again on the first page of the novel. Jake doesn’t want anything to do with him at first, but caves when Adam persists in asking for them to get together to “talk.” Jake tells the story of his relationship with Adam when they were kids, from their days on the town’s Little League team through their early twenties when they were first trying on adulthood. Then, of course, he tells what happens when Adam comes back.

I don’t know why, but I have always loved the friends-to-lovers/reunited lovers trope. (You, uh, may have noticed.) I’m not sure why; it’s not like I’m still carrying a torch for anyone. It might just be one of those things; I like writing about friendship, and I think there is a lot of intimacy in close friendships, so if two friends are attracted to each other, it’s not a great leap to love from there. (Of course, to make a compelling story, I as a writer have to throw a bunch of road blocks between the friends.)

Jake and Adam grew up across an intersection from each other in the Chicago suburbs. Jake came from a liberal Jewish family, Adam from a conservative Catholic family. Jake was doted on by his parents, Adam had to compete for attention with his five siblings. Jake doesn’t like to leave his comfort zone, Adam likes to take risks. The two men are different in a lot of ways, but they share a lot of common bonds, too, share a deep affection for each other that was founded when they were very young. The novel is an exploration of similarities and differences and how two people can find their way together.

The novel is about friendship, too. The title refers to a few different things, but most of all, it refers to the four corners of a baseball diamond, and Jake, Adam, and their friends Kyle and Brendan once made up the four bases of their high school team, which formed a bond that survived into adulthood. Brendan and Kyle have issues of their own, both related to Adam’s leaving town and to their lives since Adam left.

So that’s a little about the book. It will be available on Wednesday, August 8 from Dreamspinner Press!

five things on friday

My Olympics boyfriend. *swoon*

Here’s my weekly roundup of things I am up to:

1. Watching! So much Olympics! I love it and I’m obsessing. This year seems to have a lot of man candy. I’ve decided swimmer Ryan Lochte is the dreamiest, although he has some tough competition. But swimming is one of my favorite things to watch, primarily because it was basically the only athletic thing I did as a kid. I started taking lessons as a very young child, did a lot of swimming at the Y and summer camp after that, went through lifeguard training and taught kids how to swim when I was a teenager. (And I swam so many laps. I was sixteen or so when I took that lifeguard class with a bunch of other teenagers, and our instructor got so frustrated with us goofing around that he made us swim laps when he got fed up, which was often.)

In indoor volleyball, it seems to be a requirement to have a group hug whenever you score a point. Best sport ever!

Surprise favorite sports for me: I got really into a couple of the men’s volleyball games that I watched, surprising mostly because I usually find the team sports dreadfully boring, but volleyball is actually pretty fun. (Indoor volleball, I should clarrify—stop trying to make beach volleyball happen, NBC. I still don’t care about it.) Also, watching the men’s synchro diving gave me some pantsfeelings, but you’ve probably seen both the plethora of photos of British diver Tom Daley, and you’ve also probably seen the Olympics or Gay Porn meme going around. (Hot guys in tiny swimsuits is all I’m saying.)

But I like watching the women, too. How thrilling was women’s gymnastics? So often, it boils down to winning a medal despite making a “catastrophic” error, but Gabby Douglas got that gold medal by putting up 4 solid routines without major errors, and it was really fun to watch.

Humans in peak physical condition is the bottom line. So much fun. (Also, check this out: What if every Olympic sport was photographed like beach volleyball? Mildly NSFW.)

2. Doing! I will admit that I’m probably channeling a lot of energy into watching the Olympics because this week has kind of sucked otherwise. (But it’s so triumphant! The trumpets in the theme song! The human interest stories! Hot guys in tiny bathing suits!)

For the last two months, I’ve been working on this insane project at my day job that is finally FINALLY ending today. Not to be whiny about it, but it’s been a lot of 10+ hour days and stress and it’s kept me from writing and a bunch of other things I’d like to be doing. I’m looking forward to this month being more focused on me and my own projects.

But this weekend is for recovery, especially since I had to work most of last weekend. Thus it will involve a lot of laying on my couch watching TV. Maybe also some writing. First, though, I’m doing a little presentation at the meeting for my local RWA chapter tomorrow and will hopefully sell a couple of books.

3. Reading! We will not discuss the sad lack of forward progress on my reading this week, but I have been listening to a lot of history-related podcasts, including one yesterday about Oscar Wilde, so now I’m thinking of actually reading this book, which has been on my nightstand for a couple of months. (Earlier this year, I read Jonathan Ned Katz’s book Love Stories, which is similarly themed—about gay relationships in the 19th century—but this book Strangers has a wider scope. Love Stories is focused more on American men, Strangers seems to be focused on men and women in the US and Europe. Which is relevant to my interests because I’ve got this Victorian historical set in London I want to write.)

4. Linking! Worth reading: I really liked this post at Jessewave by Angela Bendetti called What does love look like?

5. Promoting! Four Corners will be out on the 8th! I keep meaning to put up a post with some background info but haven’t had time to write it yet. I’ll be guest blogging in a couple of places this month (although I just haven’t had time to put together a tour like I did for Out in the Field, so I’m only gonna be on a few sites).

But! This week you can enter to win a copy at Stumbling Over Chaos.

Bonus Discussion Question: At the office this morning, we were talking about animals that live in stores, in particular bodega cats in New York. (I don’t know how this became common parlance, but in NYC, every little corner convenience store is called a bodega, even if the owners aren’t Spanish speakers. The Korean grocery near my office is pretty commonly referred to as “the bodega,” for example. And a lot of them have cats living in them.) So what is the common store-dwelling animal where you live?