Living in Book World

For the last year, i’ve been editing two novels. These were the first two works of fiction i ever wrote. When i submitted them the first time, the publisher gave me great encouragement but said there were problems with the books i needed to fix. If i fixed them, they would look again. Now, that’s HUGE motivation. Trouble was, i didn’t have the novel writing skills to fully understand what changes they wanted. So i took myself back to school (online) and submerged myself in craft workshops. I’m a quick study, so it became clear pretty fast what i needed to change — and it was a lot! So i did. Deep point-of-view, improved conflict. On scene after scene i went back to the drawing (uh, writing) board and rethought, rewrote. That, plus a sidetrack for some serious health problems, took a year.

So when i started the NaNo challenge this past Monday, i was actually doing the first from-scratch, original writing i’d done in some time. Wow! I forgot. Writing new material is so different from editing, even when the editing is extensive. Editing is serious work while new writing has a definite element of play, and like all good games, it sucks you in. I am now living in book world, that seductive other planet where writers go when they’re creating stories. I took a walk this morning and i couldn’t even listen to my iPod because music has its own story and i wanted to stay in mine. Every word the characters say takes me somewhere. I had decided long ago that my heroine would be working as a midwife in Africa. That’s all i knew. But i’ve been to Africa, and all of a sudden my heroine is talking about the people and the culture. How tall the men are, how they cook.

I’ve written over 8,000 words as of this morning and i’m through the initial part of the book where i was pretty clear what would happen. I had to get my two heroes on stage and then my heroine. I knew how i wanted to do that so the scenes flew along. But now i’m approaching the creamy center, that part of a book where everything gets a little mushy. I know where the high points are — yes, they will have sex soon, but how do i want to get them there? Last night my heroine told me she wanted to go to the gay bar with the hero. Bingo! There’s a fun scene — straight girl who looks like a boy goes to gay bar with gay boy who is oddly attracted to this girl. That’s a fun way to get them to bed. But as i’m doing this, i’m walking around with my eyes glazed in book world. When people talk to me i have to pull myself out of a deep well in order to pay attention.

Book world is soooo fun. Who needs drugs when you’re a writer?

The Gospel – According to Whom?

You may have read this many times, but it gets me every time. Hope it does you too. :  )

In her radio show, Dr Laura Schlesinger said that, as an observant
> > > > Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus
> > > > 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following
> > > > response is an open letter to Dr. Laura, penned by a US resident,
> > > > which was posted on the Internet.
> > >
> > > > Dear Dr. Laura:
> > > >
> > > > Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I
> > > > have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that
> > > > knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend
> > > > the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that
> > > > Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination … End of
> > > > debate.
> > > >
> > > >
> > > > I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other
> > > > elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.
> > > >
> > > >
> > > > 1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and
> > > > female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend
> > > > of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can
> > > > you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?
> > > >
> > > > 2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in
> > > > Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair
> > > > price for her?
> > > >
> > > > 3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in
> > > > her period of Menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is
> > > > how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
> > > >
> > > > 4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates
> > > > a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is my
> > > > neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I
> > > > smite them?
> > > >
> > > > 5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath.
> > > > Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally
> > > > obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?
> > > >
> > > > 6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an
> > > > abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality.
> > > > I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’
> > > > of abomination?
> > > >
> > > > 7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I
> > > > have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading
> > > > glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room
> > > > here?
> > > >
> > > > 8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair
> > > > around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.
> > > > 19:27. How should they die?
> > > >
> > > > 9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes
> > > > me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
> > > >
> > > > 10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two
> > > > different crops in the same field, as does his wife by
> > > > wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread
> > > > (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot.
> > > > Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the
> > > > whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn
> > > > them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who
> > > > sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)
> > > >
> > > > I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy
> > > > considerable expertise in such matters, so I’m confident you can help.
> > > >
> > > > Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal
> > > > and unchanging.
> > > >
> > > > Your adoring fan,
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > > > James M. Kauffman, Ed.D. Professor Emeritus,
> > > > Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education University
> > > > of Virginia
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > > > (It would be a damn shame if we couldn’t own a Canadian ūüôā
> > >

Great First NaNo Day!

I managed to crank over 2300 words by dinnertime my first day, mostly before work and at lunchtime. I’m excited since 1667 or so will do the job each day. I want to get ahead for those days i can’t meet the goal.¬†

I’ve gotten our two heroes to meet in the Blue Flamingo gay bar and they’re now on their way to a motel and — ah, fade to black. Until tomorrow anyway.BTW, one hero is a soccer player. ¬† ¬† ¬†: )

Boys Kissing Boys — Sigh

One of my most popular posts ever was the “Ode to Kissing”. Just to rest our eyes, i offer ¬†a little variation on that theme. Once, when asked what it was like to be in intimate situations with Antonio Banderas in Philadelphia, Tom Hanks answered, “I now know what it’s like to be the envy of all the woman and half the men in the world.” Here’s a little more kiss envy.

Watching Adam Lambert kiss is always a treat — and he does so much of it. Above is one of the photos that outed him as gay during American Idol. ¬†The photo below, is Adam doing his kissing thing with his bass guitarist, Tommy, who is reported to be straight. They kiss every night on stage during Adam’s GlamNation Tour and the audience goes nuts.¬†

Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr had no corner on the kissing-in-the-surf market. 

Have you ever seen My Beautiful Laundrette? It’s one of the films that put the brilliant Daniel Day Lewis on the map. In it are some truly steamy gay sex scenes that stand up even today as groundbreaking (and temperature raising.). : ¬†)

My Beautiful Boys — Writing Heroes

All writers, especially those who write in romance genres, tend to specialize in either heroines or heroes. My friend Suzanne Forster is famous for her plucky, quirky females. Not to say that she doesn’t write great guys, she does. But her women sing! With names like Kate, Trish, Augusta Featherstone and the perfect Edwina Moody, Suzanne’s heroines are the catalysts of her stories. I’ve never asked her, but i’ll bet she thinks of them first and then finds a hero to offset these great woman.¬†

Not me. For me it’s all about the boys. I guess that’s why i’m a m/m and menage writer. But even when i dream up m/f stories, the heroine remains a bit a of a cipher until i flesh out the hero. What does he look like? I describe him in loving detail. (When you read Genetic Attraction in February pay attention to the way i describe Roan Black when Em first meets him. Yes, a definite wet dream.) What does he do for a living? Is he tough, sensitive, gentle? Once i have him with lots of flesh on his bones, i think about the heroine or maybe the other hero or both that will best suit him. It has to be someone who can cause some sparks and has the potential for conflict, otherwise there’s no story. But it can’t be so much conflict ¬†that it can never be resolved, after all romance has to end happily. Think of a story we all know, Pride and Prejudice. When we first meet Mr Darcy he seems so unpleasant that he’s beyond redemption. Aside from being handsome, he has very little to recommend him. For the rest of the book, Lizzie learns more and more things about Mr. Darcy that redeems him in her (and our) eyes so that we are hyperventilating at the idea they may not end up married.

Some of my favorite EROM writers create the BEST heroes. Well, as m/m writers that is their stock in trade. Take a look at the wonderful Edward in Lynn Lorenz’ Edward Unconditionally, Johnny in Jet Mykles’ Heaven, Matthew in Sloan Parker’s More and the fabulous Adin in Z.A.Maxfield’s Notturno and now, the sequel, Vigil. Each of these men is completely unique such that they stand out in your mind in a sea of heroes. And i bet they haunt the dreams of their writers. I know my boys do.

If you write, who do you see first? Hero or heroine? And when you read, is the hero or the heroine the most important in making the book memorable? Share.

Telling Mom You’re Gay

The title of this post is taken from the old expression “being gay is harder than being black. You don’t have to tell your mother you’re black.” I’m sure there are arguments on both sides, but it’s still clear that telling your parents you’re gay is a miserable moment for a lot of people. That was made very clear on this week’s episode of Project Runway. And the moment was heart-rending.

Project Runway is a favorite show of mine. This season, the finalists were cut down to four, three men (all gay) and one woman. The real killer of the show, however, is that, while all four get to design a collection for New York Fashion Week, only three actually get to show it. One of the four is eliminated in the semifinal.

One the the four finalists was Michael Costello, a young man who had taken a lot of abuse from the other contestants during the season for his lack of patterning skills but had still managed to prevail in the judge’s eyes. He gradually won over the other contestants with his warmth and sincerity and by this semi-final episode was well accepted. Michael has a young son we saw during the season, and a couple times he made references to a woman as “i would date her” so it wasn’t completely obvious if Michael was gay or straight — until the semi-final episode when Tim Gunn goes to visit the contestants and checks out their progress. In that show, the audience meets Michael’s life partner who explains that Michael’s parents have only become supportive of him since he got on the show. Prior to that they kept insisting that he leave his partner, give up fashion designing, come home to their (Italian Catholic) household, get a job and marry a woman (which he had done in the past, producing his son).

Sadly, Michael was the contestant eliminated in the semi-final (Personally, i thought it should be Gretchen but that’s not what happened). The man was devastated. He broke down in tears. Why? Because he didn’t get to show his collection? No. Because now his parents would say “I told you so” and insist that he come home. Even though he had come in fourth among thousands of applicants, they would still not consider him a winner.

I know how hard it must be for parents to give up their ideas of “how it’s supposed to be”, especially when the way it is seems to defy strongly held religious beliefs. But if God is Love, then surely these moments have a clear message. In light of The Trevor Project and all the young people who suffer because of other people’s expectations, parents and family have a special responsibility to not make their lives harder. “It gets better” should be a message all parents hold dear. And i hope Michael Costello knows that their are millions of people around the world who are very proud of him.

Yes, You Really Need Readers

After i submitted my book, Genetic Attraction, to a publisher the first time, they came back with suggested changes and said i should find some readers to help me. I thought “Really, do i need that?” And the answer is an emphatic YES!¬†

Since then, i have gone to a dear friend who also happens to be a best-selling romance author with dozens of books to her credit. Years ago, i used to read her books and now, bless her, she is returning the favor. What a difference a reader makes. Just a few words from Suzanne can change my whole viewpoint. 

My most recent book, The Scientist and the Supermodel, that i’m submitting to my publisher next, has had the same opening scene since i started it. I’ve rewritten whole chapters, but that scene stayed the same. I saw nothing wrong with it. I even had a judge in a fiction contest rave over my first couple chapters and say nothing about the first scene being a problem. Then Suzanne said, “I don’t like the hero in this scene or the other character either. It makes me not want to read the book.” Suddenly, i saw the whole thing differently. Of course, i wouldn’t like a guy that acted that way either. I knew this character already (Jake from Genetic Attraction). I knew all his good points, so it never occurred to me he was acting like a jerk in this scene. But he was and Suzanne saw it. Of course, that scene has now been rewritten and i like it so much better.

I also have other readers who are not professional writers, but have the “readers” perspective. They are also invaluable. My reader, Cindy, questioned a scene that Suzanne also questioned. One in which two brothers talk about their sexual experiences. Both readers said “wouldn’t the hero be more reluctant to open up to his younger brother?” Boy, did i change that scene fast.

So before you submit that manuscript, find some readers. Get a mix of viewpoints and strongpoints. Make one a professional writer, if you can. You’ll be amazed how it will expand your mind.

BTW, the photo above is the inspiration photo for one of my heroes. Isn’t he gorgeous! ¬†: ¬†)

Adam Lambert: “It Gets Better”

Two passions of mine come together –Adam Lambert and The Trevor Project. Here, the eloquent young singer tells kids who are gay and otherwise bullied for being different that “it gets better”. The comments on the video on YouTube are inspiring. Kids say that Adam makes there lives better just by being who he is. Adam, that’s “what we want from you”. ¬†: ¬†)

Plotter versus Pantser

Ask ¬†fiction writers if they’re plotters or ¬†pantsers and most ¬†will know what you mean. Plotters, as their name implies, carefully construct the plot of their books, at least chapter by chapter and, most frequently, scene by scene. They may do this on the computer or the old-fashioned way, on index cards that can be moved around on a bulletin board. The classic plotter knows precisely where the high points of the book occur, where the climax is, what the denouement will consist of, where the sex scenes occur (if its a romance). They may describe every detail of a scene before writing it. The actual writing just inserts the dialogue and emotion.

Pantsers are another matter. These writers operate by instinct, inspiration and write from the seat-of-their-pants. I had one pantser writer tell me that she literally can’t determine anything about her story before she starts, not even the plot outline. ¬†Now, that’s inspiration. I recently wrote a post (see below) called Talking to Your Characters and explained how you may think you know what’s going to happen in a story, but once your characters start talking to you, things happen on their own. The “pure pantser” is the extreme of this idea. It ¬†scares the wits out of a plotter, but pantsing is very successful for many writers.

There is no right or wrong way. Choosing how to plot a book is individual to each author. I’m a mixture of plotter and pantser. I usually start with some germ of an idea and it suggests a character. I got an e-mail from a friend in London raving about the ballet and i thought wouldn’t it be fun to write a book with a male ballet dancer as the hero. (I’m writing that book now). Then i need a plot for this hero. I walk around in a fog and don’t get a lot of sleep for a few days while some story builds itself around the hero. I write (on cards) who the main characters are and what the significant plot points will be. Just high points. Two heroes meet, have a kiss, one runs, third man in the menage enters, meets dancer, other hero gets angry, comes to rescue, three hook up, etc. You get the gist.¬†For me, knowing that i have enough plot for the general length i want the book to be is important. That’s why i map out some plot points in advance. I need to know what the conflict will be so i can introduce the seeds of that conflict right at the beginning. Who is the villain, if any? How will i get that person on stage? What research do i have to do to make my story believable? This all sounds very organized but it’s actually not. Most of it happens in my head, with only a bit ever written down.

Then the pure pantsing comes in. I have no idea at the beginning, how i’ll get from one plot point to another until i start writing. That’s where the characters talk to me and everything just happens, seat-of-the-pantswise. As i come upon each scene i generally have to pause for awhile and figure out the best place to start to get to the action most quickly. Then i plunge. Stuff happens and i learn things i’ve always wanted to know.

I guess i’m a “plotser”. How about you?