five things: book fair, revisions, stickers, audiobooks

My vantage point from my table at the Brooklyn Book Festival.

Weekly wrap up ahoy! Slightly damp edition because buckets of rain have been pouring on New York all day.

1. The Brooklyn Book Festival went well last weekend. The weather was spectacular! I sold a few books and also exercised excellent restraint by not turning around and spending that money on other books! Also, unlike with some other book fairs, I ran into a bunch of people I knew there, since it was local for me. I think if I do it again next year, I’ll take a later shift; when I got there at noon, the crowd was a little thin, but it picked up steadily as the day progressed, and when I left around 3:30, it was packed. I should have known; most self-respecting Brooklynians are still at brunch at noon on a Sunday.

2. Y’all may be happy to learn that I spent a good part of this week revising Show and Tell, which is my novel currently contracted to Loose Id that will be out… next year… some time. (Partly this depends on how soon I get my ass in gear and finish revising.)

3. The Interactive Portion! One of my tasks for this weekend is going to be to design stickers to give out at GayRomLit. I was totally excited for this project until I realized… I don’t know what to put on the stickers.

baseball hatI think some will just be cool design elements for use with an activity I’m doing. For example, I was fooling around on my iPad last night and drew this little baseball hat. So maybe I’ll also play around with my stripe logo and the NYC skyline and other things. But what else? I’ve got 800 1.5″-diameter stickers to play around with. Book covers? Quotes? Should I design a logo? (I feel like my inner teenage girl is coming out with this project. Yay, stickers! Like, I could just slap unicorns and glitter on them, too. Probably that would go down pretty well at GRL, right? Ha.)

4. I’m still reading about the Black Dagger Brotherhood (I’m about 25% into Book 8/John Matthew’s book, and my heart, it is breaking), but I took time out from the vampires to listen to the audiobook of Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint and really loved it. (The book has a lot going for it: solid world-building, political intrigue, even a gay romance!) I highly recommend it. I should find another novel to listen to. I listen to a fair number of audiobooks, but usually not fiction because I find that my mind wanders when I’m listening and I miss important plot points, but the way this book was done engaged my brain enough for me to pay attention. I did also listen to a couple of the Ty & Zane books a few months ago; I like whoever they got to narrate those, although having sex scenes read to you is VERY WEIRD, especially if, like me, you mostly listen to audio when you are outside walking somewhere.

Anyway, if you like audiobooks, Swordspoint.

5. I’ve been thinking some about the ways we approach reading as readers and writers. I think it really is a matter of being in different modes, of wearing different hats if you will.

I have, I think, 3 modes of reading, some of which inadvertently intersect. I can get totally lost in a book. (I am a Reader then.) I do sometimes look at a book critically, even if I like it, with a writer’s hat on. “This is fabulous. How is the author doing it? What is it about this book that is really working for me? How can I apply what I like about this to my own writing?” Or, alternately, “I don’t like this. What is it that’s not working here? How do I avoid doing this?” I also sometimes read while still in editorial mode, in which case I’m on the lookout for mistakes. That’s a tough part of my brain to turn off, and is also a good way to keep me from really enjoying a book. (Like, I forgot my Kindle at home one day, but I had to go somewhere on the train after work, so I started reading a totally different book on my phone. I’d been editing all day. I opened the book and immediately started nit-picking it. I’m sure it’s actually quite good. I was being so critical I had a hard time getting into it. Stupid brain.)

I wonder if everyone approaches reading this way, or if different job functions require different ways of seeing things. Having to think about reviewing, for example, sucks all the fun out of it for me. I had a job a zillion years ago as a TV feature writer for a now defunct online magazine, and having to view something critically through that lens made me tense; I couldn’t just enjoy a thing because I felt pressure to say clever and insightful things about it. I stopped really reviewing books beyond writing a few stray thoughts on Goodreads because reading something for review feels too much like homework. Now, I LOVE to talk about books, just adding that extra layer of having to do so in an intelligent way on a deadline gives me, like, PTSD flashbacks of pulling all-nighters to finish English papers in college. (So good on you, reviewers; I couldn’t do what you do.)

Not sure where I was going with this, besides that I think how we read is kind of an interesting thing to analyze.

five things—libraries, ladyparts, lists

Weekly wrap-up!

1. Reminder! If you’re in the greater New York Metropolitan Area, I’ll be signing at the Brooklyn Book Festival on Sunday from 12-2pm at the Romance Writers of America table. (It’s table #170, which, according to the map, will be toward the north end of the courthouse.) The festival is at the plaza in front of Borough Hall, which is very easily reachable by subway. (Website.)

I thought we could do the rest of this post in the form of Discussion Questions. More people have been commenting lately, so I figured I’d take advantage of my new brave readers and ask your opinions on some things. So…

2. How great are libraries? So great, am I right?

On Monday, I went to the first meeting of a book club that meets at a branch of the New York Public Library. I enjoyed the books and we had a good discussion. I went to check out the books for the next meeting and learned that it’s been so long since I used my NYPL card that I’m no longer in the system.

That made me sad. Mostly I haven’t used the card since I moved to Brooklyn; I live two blocks from the Central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, which is independent of the NYPL, so I got a card there instead.

But it feels like the end of an era. I’ve been carrying around that library card since the summer of 2001, part of which I spent unemployed and aimlessly bumming around New York City. I had very little money, but the library kept me from getting bored and gave me a place to go when I couldn’t think of where else to be.

Libraries are such a great resource for communities, and it breaks my heart that their budgets keep getting cut. Support your local libraries!

3. Would you read it? #2 wasn’t a very good discussion question, because the answer is obvious. (SO GREAT!) So here’s a better one:

You may or may not be aware that the Rainbow Romance Writers conducted a survey of romance readers this past spring. I spent part of August sifting through the data. (It may or may not be available on the RRW website at some point in the future.) One of the things I was curious about was how many readers of m/m read exclusively m/m. My conclusion based on the survey data was “fewer than you’d think.” My suspicion is that a lot of romance readers read some of everything, but everyone thinks that nobody else ever leaves their sub-genre boxes. (For example, my friends list on Goodreads is, I’d say, better than half people who pretty much only read m/m lately, but I was surprised by how many of them had read and positively reviewed the Black Dagger Brotherhood books.) But it’s weird. Like, there was some implied lesbian sex in the first draft of the book I have coming out next year, and my writers group was like, “Dude, why aren’t these girls doing it on the page?” and my response was, “Gay romance readers don’t like girly bits.” I mean, we hold these truths to be self-evident, right? Although, honestly, this baffles me a little, because aren’t a lot of m/m readers possessors of girly bits? (I mean, I’ll read pretty much anything you hand to me, so I’m of no use here.)

But, so, hypothetically, if an m/m writer that you like wrote an m/f book, would you read it? Or, for those writers who dabble in both, do you just read one or the other pairing? Or do you read whatever as long as the writing is good?

The reason I ask is that I’ve got ideas for m/f books. You probably already guessed that. I’m currently developing a series that will be a mix of m/f and m/m and I want to bang out at least one book in the series during NaNoWriMo. But would anyone read it? (I think yes, but I might be crazy.)

I still love m/m, I just want to try different things. Plus, I think the audiences for these are bound to intersect more as m/m gains more mainstream attention.

4. What do you call that? Speaking of girly bits, I have kind of a conundrum.

It has been a VERY long time since I’ve written a sex scene with a woman in it. So I’m having some trouble now. Not so much with the mechanics; as a possessor of lady parts myself, I’m familiar with how these things work. No, I’m struggling with language.

Here’s the problem: I hate the word “pussy.” Hate it! So much! A lot of the words I like are things other people find offensive. Using the anatomical names sounds to dry and clinical. So what do you call it?

I like the way JR Ward writes sex scenes—sorry to keep bringing her up, but I’ve been consuming the BDB series like I’m a competitive eater at a hot-dog-eating contest—and I wonder if she had the same language problem I did. Her scenes are hot without being super explicit, but she never uses “cock” or “pussy.” She does say “erection,” which is kind of the same thing but more health-class-y, and “arousal.” The women have cores. As in, “She felt his arousal push against her core.” I mean, you get what’s going on there, right? I’m not crazy about “core,” either; I think it’s too vague, and it sounds sort of mystical? Like what you’d talk about in yoga class?

Trade secret: I get around this in m/m scenes by using “entrance.” I’m also not so thrilled with that and second-guess it every time I type it, but I don’t like the word “asshole” or “hole” in the context of a love scene. Or sometimes I write around having to use any word at all. “He pushed inside,” for example. You know where.

So I guess I could do something similar in a m/f novel. And, yes, I’m obsessing a little, but this is what I do. Language matters, it colors how readers interpret a scene, goes a long way toward conveying tone and emotion.

What words (if any) do you prefer?

5. Recs? I have a reading wait list that is not to be believed, but other types of entertainment? Fall TV?

What are you liking so far? Is the new season of Glee any good? (I have it on the DVR but haven’t brought myself to watch it yet because the second half of last season was really awful, IMHO.) Do you feel kind of dirty for not completely hating The New Normal? Is that just me? (The show is deeply flawed but has some charming moments.) Why is this season of Project Runway so boring?! (Although, it turns out Fabio’s boyfriend and I have a mutual friend, so I’m gonna try to get some insider scoop. Also, New York City is a small world after all.)

Any shows that haven’t aired yet that you’re looking forward to? Or books that aren’t published yet that you’re lusting after?

five things: book festival, schmoozing, vampires

Weekly wrap-up:

Brooklyn Borough Hall, site of the Brooklyn Book Festival (photo from last spring, taken by yours truly)

1. Brooklyn Book Festival Come check it out if you’re in the NYC area. It’s happening a week from Sunday (on 9/23). It looks like a really awesome event and the English major in me is swooning at some of the panels. I personally will be signing at the Romance Writers of America table from 12–2pm. It’ll be in the marketplace in front of the court house, table #170, which is at the very north end of the plaza according to the map I have. There’s even an app for that! (We’ll have lots of swag, too, and there’s going to be a drawing for a bag full of books and goodies.)

2. Partying Well, sort of. Last night, I went to my local RWA chapter’s awards night, and it was a really great event, lots of friends and industry people were in attendance. I’m still buzzing from it. I won’t bore you with the inside baseball stuff, but yeah, I think next year is going to be a great one for m/m romance.

3. Reading I’m joining the romance book club at the Jefferson Market Library, so I’m currently reading The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie for my first meeting next week. (More info if you live in the area and are curious). I’m, like, halfway through it and like it so far. Then I will be returning to the Black Dagger Brotherhood series for moar well-endowed vampires. (Vhampires?) (I wrote out some thoughts on the series on Goodreads.)

I haven’t read much m/m at all in the last few months. It’s… kind of weird. It’s good to shake things up, I guess. (Not reading it has not prevented me from buying books, however. My Kindle backlog is an epic thing.)

3. Purchasing! Speaking of reading devices, I went and bought myself an iPad last weekend. It’s so pretty! I haven’t done much with it besides install apps and play games, because I haven’t had occasion to use it for the purposes for which I bought it. (Namely, to have a small computer to travel with and/or watch movies when I am in places without televisions.) I’m thinking about buying a wireless keyboard because I do not have enough of a knack for the touchpad keyboard for it to be a viable machine to use for writing. (I’m looking ahead to NaNoWriMo, basically. I’ll probably still use my MacBook this year, or until the rumored Scrivener app becomes a reality. Have I ever mentioned how much I love Scrivener? So much. I hate writing in Word.) (In other news, Apple probably owns part of my soul now.)

Any app recs?

4. Writing! I almost forgot my big news! This week, I contracted my 7th novel! I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this book before; I have no idea how to categorize it, but I’m calling it “contemporary with fantasy elements.” The plot circles around an antique shop in NYC that is also featured on a Pawn Stars-style reality show. There are reincarnated gods and magical objects. I love this book, I’m glad it found a home. For now, it’s called Show and Tell and it’ll be out sometime in 2013.

5. Traveling! So, October is like this. The first weekend, I’m going to New England for a baby shower. The second weekend, I’m going to the New Jersey Romance Writers convention and possibly also the last day of NY Comic Con. The third weekend is GayRomLit. I’m looking forward to it, but man, that is a lot of stuff in a very short amount of time.

So that’s what I got right now. Until next week!

five things: vampires, doormats, unfinished projects, etc.

It’s time for my weekly wrap-up post! Here’s what’s going on with me this week:

1. Reading I just finished the second book in JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series and then immediately started book 3. I may have a problem. I forgot how much I liked series’ like this, where there are series arcs and the characters have to work together and side plots and all that. (If you’ve been hanging around here at all, you know I am an unabashed fan of Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooters series. I feel like Troubleshooters and BDB are similar and yet totally different. On the one hand, a team of alpha males have to work together to keep the world safe from terrorists/soulless vampire slayers, and the strong women who love them. On the other hand… vampires.)

So needless to say, a lot about these books is working for me. My one quibble so far is that I’m not really a fan of the mates trope in paranormal romance. It feels like a short cut. I like to see relationships develop and people fall in love when I read a romance novel, but in all of the relationships I’ve read so far in this series, it’s all, “OMG, you make me so hot, I’ve never felt this way before, I love you!” insta-love craziness. (I’ve also been skimming the chapters from the lesser POV; I’m less interested in that part of the plot.) So the series is not perfect, but I’m enjoying it.

Aside: I’m so in awe/jealous of those readers who can plow through many books in a week. It took me four days to read Lover Eternal, and I spent almost all my downtime reading. My life is too busy and/or I read too slowly.

2. Also reading! Given the enduring popularity of the alpha-hole hero and the doormat heroine (see 50 Shades, et al) there’s been a lot of talk this week about doormat heroines specifically and everyone’s wondering why they continue to be A Thing. (Here’s a great essay by May at Smexybooks and the question was asked over at Heroes and Heartbreakers.)

Given all the reader gripes online, it’s a little mystifying to me not only that the trope still exists but also that books that employ it are tremendously popular, particularly in the case of the heroine who is only functional with help from her man (see also Swan, Isabella). It’s one of the things that actually put me off m/f contemporaries for a while; I read one book too many with a klutzy, incompetent heroine who could only take care of herself and/or enjoy sex when this one man came along.

I get why this trope exists—it has a lot to do with restrictions on women and the ways they can express themselves, if you don’t mind me putting on my feminist pants here for a sec—but I don’t like it, and I don’t feel like there’s much justification for it in 2012. I suppose there is also something to be said for letting someone else handle things for a while, letting your partner take over if you’re the type who piles too much responsibility on herself, but I don’t particularly find this dynamic appealing.

One of the interesting things about the BDB series is that these are, like, Alpha Alpha Males. They’re all huge, muscular guys who are aggressive and fight a lot. I like an alpha hero, I do. But you know what I really love? A strong heroine who stands up to him and calls him on his shit, who is his equal and not his dependent. And Ward has put those women in her world.)

3. Writing! I’m about 25K into the novel I started last week, a Gilded Age mystery. I’ve gone off-outline a little, but it’s going well. Hooray!

4. Not Writing 🙁 Heidi Cullinan put up a post this week that I identified with pretty strongly. I keep trying to write and then re-shelving the sequel to The Boy Next Door. It’s just… not coming to me. It’s not sustaining my interest. Which sucks, because it’s a story I want to tell, but every time I try to work on it, it’s just forced and awful. I hope that changes. Neal is a fun character to write, and the whole book is outlined. I’ve put it aside for now, though.

5. Pimping: I guested at Coffee and Porn in the Morning this week, talking about booze and bars. There will be an excerpt and giveaway of Four Corners today (as of when I’m writing this, it’s not up yet—I write my blog posts in advance—but go to the site and it should be there; the giveaway is open until Sunday I think). (Uh, site is NSFW, if that wasn’t obvious.)