Dreamspinner announced today that they’ve sold over 1.5 million books. Some of them are mine, which is awesome, but the important part is this: they’re having a sale to celebrate. Save 25% on all in-stock titles through the 31st!
Because that To-Be-Read pile isn’t going to grow on its own… And besides, I don’t think it’s possible to have too many books. Even if the garage is currently full of boxes of books. Anyway.
So! Smaller publishers often have the first chapter or so up for free, right on the buy page for the book; sometimes they have a link that opens a pop-up window with the excerpt. If you’re looking for M/M stuff in particular, you can try:
- Dreamspinner Press (full disclosure: they’ve published two of my stories and I love them to bits)
- Samhain Publishing (I can definitely recommend The Balance Of Silence and The Slipstream Con)
- Torquere Press (GLBT publisher)
- Amber Allure (the GLBT arm of Amber Publishing)
If you’re looking for a community with which to interact, you can try:
- The Goodreads M/M Romance Group (It’s a restricted membership group, but not hard to get into; if you don’t want people to know your precise birthdate, use the proper month/year and pick a different day. It’s also very active, with lots of author/reader interactions; for the past two years, the group has put together an annual anthology of over 100 free stories. It’s a great way to discover new voices.)
- The LoveRomancesCafe mailing list (Two important things to know: 1) it’s VERY busy, and can/will swamp your inbox, especially on Mondays and special-event days and 2) the age-restriction is due to the adult excerpts (M/M and het) that get posted. As for the list itself: There’s usually a monthly Dreamspinner chat and a GLBT-only day every month/6 week. Monday is open promo day, which means you get some of everything. Also a great way to find other groups, since some people cross-post like crazy without bcc’ing.)
And if you’d rather have someone else read it and give you an opinion, here are a few review sites to get you started:
- Rainbow Book Reviews (Run by Serena Yates and friends; freshly revamped and reopened)
- Reviews By Jessewave (Reviews, giveaways, and gratuitous pictures of lovely men.)
- Mrs. Condit Reads Books (Not exclusively M/M, but she does review it on a regular basis.)
- A Bear on Books (thoughtful reviews of M/M only)
- and not least, the tag ‘read this you might like it’ right here (I do my best to avoid spoilers.)
You know who can rip my stuff to shreds and inflict more psychological stress/pain on me than I’m already experiencing?
You think that review of Going To Pieces was bad? He didn’t even bother to knock the TITLE. What kind of wuss misses an easy dig like that? Pfft. And let’s not even get started about how he stayed away from critiquing the sex, the position(s), the BDSM, the colors of the decor, OR the vocabulary. “repast”? Really? Who uses “repast” in everyday conversation?
Every time I send a story off, I’ve got a serious case of cognitive dissonance going on: “They’re going to LOVE IT!” is followed immediately by “No, no, they will HATE IT. LOATHE IT.” Which is then drowned by “They’re going to ADORE IT!” and so on, until I decide to reread my submission.
The last story I submitted? Has at least one glaring typo. I’m amazed I managed to keep it under the word count—so I’m proud of myself for that—but I’m also half-convinced that in so doing I’ve wrung all the sensuality and hotness and immediacy out of it. I look at it and think “If I just had another 1,000 words! I could make Jackie’s whole look less gimmicky-sounding. Or I could do more with the plant. Or…”
I have yet to see a review of my story in Model Men, which is a Benny and Phil story. Phil’s the POV character… The first-person POV character. There are people out there who are going to declare that I am an absolute wash as a writer, simply because they hate Phil’s voice. There are other people out there who will rightly point out that there’s a minor omission toward the beginning of the story that ideally shooooould have been filled in, now that I think about it. (It doesn’t detract or otherwise substantially change the story itself, though, so I don’t think it really matters all that much.)
People have pointed out the problems with First Flight and Tobias’s Own, though for the latter most people were polite enough to not mention the fact that I smooshed six months of being attracted to one another into a couple of “telling” sentences. There’s more than that, of course, since they’re novellas, but seriously.
And not every negative review I’ve gotten has been bad — one of my favorites was for Gone To Pieces, where the reviewer said she was pretty sure Brice was pudgy, balding, and friendless. The story still wasn’t her cuppa, but we both agreed that Brice was a jerk and a half. I don’t care about that — tell me the story’s not your thing, even tell me why, that’s great. Make me laugh at the same time? That’s even better!
Write a lengthy critique that focuses on things I didn’t do or didn’t do the way you were expecting/wanted me to? Especially when it was a request story and you weren’t the one who requested it? I’ll fume about it, then write something relatively neutral in response.
Tell me I suck and I’ll get annoyed; tell me to quit writing and I’ll dig my heels in and keep on. Claim that anyone who has given my stuff bad reviews is a bully and I’ll be really confused. As I said at the beginning, dude. You want someone to point out every last wonky beam and misplaced modifier, I am at your service. I wrote it, I better know damn well just where it sucks and how.
So, y’know. I’m not saying I want negative reviews, or that I embrace them all with a smile on my face—because in all honesty, I’d rather have people love my stuff, warts and all. It’s just that for the most part, people who’re going to give First Flight one star because they had a traumatic run-in with their great-aunt’s hyacinth macaw when they were 12 and now they hate all birds (or whatever) aren’t going to bother to pull it apart the way I can.
I did actually manage to get something written today (once the cat stopped standing on me). I have no title for it, but it’s just over a thousand words about an android and a little room; you can read it right here. No rating, because it has nothing in it to offend anyone, with the possible exception of math purists and/or English teachers (run-on sentences without punctuation).
As for the ending… Make up your own mind.
Well, you’ll have to keep waiting—it’s not quite done, what with the editing and the cover art and the pineapples and all—but Reesa posted a little taste of the next Ylendrian Empire novel.
So my weekend was full of change. Granted, a fair amount of it had needed to happen for a while—my mattress and my bed frame were not playing well together, to the point that I not only added a couple of boards to the frame, but then stuck all of my old pillows between my frame and the mattress.
On Sunday, one of Mom’s friends called her up and said, “Hey, I’m getting rid of the bed in the guest room. It’s practically brand new—do you want it? If so, come over and get it.” Mom, knowing about my bed situation, said “I’ll round up Connor and we’ll be there by 4.”
So I spent most of Sunday blitz-cleaning my room, discovering both things I thought I’d lost forever (my new carry-everywhere-just-in-case notebook; my microSD card for my new Nook) and things I only wish I’d lost forever (some lube packaging that was supposed to have gone into the recycling bin months ago turning up, happily bright orangey-red and obvious, among the stuff under my old bed).
I also discovered that I own entirely too many clothes. I don’t need all of them, and I certainly don’t wear all of them. In a bold move, I actually threw away some socks because I didn’t wear them, they didn’t have mates, and they weren’t worth giving away. Some things went into a give-away box, but not nearly enough. Since the idea was to get enough room for my new bed, I didn’t take the time to do a thorough cull—but I will.
My new bed is awesome, by the way. No head or foot boards, but that’s not a big deal—I can get those later. The lady who gave it to me threw in two sets of sheets, two standard pillows and one body pillow/bolster, a memory-foam topper, a bed skirt, and a heated mattress pad (though we walked off and left the cord behind, oops). Oh, and a dark purple blanket-with-sleeves-that-isn’t-a-snuggie-as-far-as-I-know, though that was intended for the Unofficial Nieces.
It’s taking a little getting used to, both in terms of sleeping in it and in its presence. It’s been a while since I’ve had a bed this tall, not to mention one where I’m in danger of falling out of either side. (My old bed was a twin-sized mattress (no box spring) that was in the corner, so I tended to end up against the wall. The new one is a double/full with box spring, and only the head is against the wall.) I’m exceedingly happy with it, though, especially after having discovered the hard way that a saggy mattress really does affect your back, and that in turn affects things like, say, being able to walk. Sleep. Think.
What does all of that have to do with conflict? Everything! No, wait, bear with me.
Once upon a time, I was grumbling about conflict. That fighting made me tired, and writing characters who fought all the time was just as tiring. Reesa, who is wise beyond her years, pointed out that just because the usual word used as shorthand for “stuff that moves the story forward in small, smooth increments” is “conflict” doesn’t mean that it’s all about fighting.
This fascinating (and totally worth reading!) article starts with the statement that, “In the West, plot is commonly thought to revolve around conflict: a confrontation between two or more elements, in which one ultimately dominates the other.”
The author of the piece argues that there are other options, but the premise—that “conflict” is inherently violent, requires a “winner”, and that violence is the only tool in the western story-telling arsenal—is the same one I started with. And it’s not true.
Part of the problem is with the connotations of the word “conflict”. People have used the word “conflict” as an euphemism for “war” (or massacre, or genocide) for so long that probably at least two generations have grown up internalizing that connotation.
You can find conflict in the most mundane of tasks. Take changing a light bulb, for instance. The first conflict is one’s desire for light, but alas, there is none. No one wins or loses anything, in this case — it’s just a fact: I want the light on, but the bulb is burned out. So I have to go find a new bulb, which isn’t too difficult, and something to stand on.
Ah! The stepladder. It’s downstairs. So I have to put the new bulb somewhere safe (so the cats don’t knock it down and break it, and where I won’t forget it), then tromp downstairs to find the ladder. I find the ladder, but… It’s behind a bunch of boxes, which I have to move before I can get to it. And before I can move the boxes, I realize that I have to go to the bathroom, which means I have to go back upstairs…
See? You thought changing a light bulb was boring! Getting ready for my new bed was the same way. Very little actual violence (there was a bit of recyclable-tossing), but plenty of conflict that didn’t necessarily have a winner or a loser. There are ways in which it is possible to have a negative outcome—dropping the vacuum’s dust-cup full of, well, dust and cat hair and fuzz and crumbs and God only knows what onto the freshly-vacuumed floor, for instance. Or attempting to adjust the blinds and having them fall down. Or any of a million other ways that things go pear-shaped.
The point is, you can write a story without violence, without people clashing and without defining who/what “wins” and who/what “loses” — but you cannot write one without adjectives or adverbs.
Dutch Boy Paint’s Color Quiz. I used it for myself, then started answering the questions from the point of view of my characters — not all of them, but a few. Utterly unscientific, sure, but a great way to kill a few minutes… And you never know, you might just figure out what color your latest protagonist’s bathroom walls are.
These are the stories that grabbed me, for whatever reason, in no particular order. If they’re not already available for download, they will be! Also, these are all pretty much NSFW (but if you’re here…), so there’s that.
- Roses In The Devil’s Garden, by Charlie Cochet. Prohibition-era cops! Bad guys! Former lovers and secrets!
- Into Deep Waters, by Kaje Harper. The story of two guys who meet in the Navy in WWII. Bring tissues/a hankie, you’ll need it — trust me, if it was Misery Lit, it wouldn’t be on this list.
- Altered States, by LE Harner. Looks like a cop/buddy story at first glance… And then you get to the end! If you really want to be surprised, skip the informational post at the beginning.
- Louder Than Sirens, Louder Than Bells, by KD Sarge. I don’t know why I can’t get into Florence & The Machine, but I just can’t. However, the song from which the title is taken seems to be a good fit for the story — which is not-exactly-friends (but not entirely enemies) to lovers, featuring lovely stubborn characters that you want to whack with a shoe even as you want to give them a hug. (…I apparently have A Thing for that kind of character. Learn something new every day.)
- Feels So Good When You Stop, by Eve Ocotillo. For me, the hints that perhaps Tomas isn’t what he seems were really what made the story.
- By Design, by Kate Islay. I like architecture, and while this story doesn’t require a degree in engineering or design, the architectural details add another layer of interest to it.
Jaime Samms wrote me a story! Skin Or Scale is about my favorite kind of character: Frustrated Semi-Outcast. It’s a nice little story, but it has so much room for exploration. I really hope she expands on the world of Alec and Kreed in the future — I know I’ll be first in line for it.
- National Geographic has put together a very cool interactive map of surnames across the US. I’d love to see one of these for other countries, honestly.
- Baby Name Wizard’s Name Mapper - see where and when a name was most popular, by year from 1960 to 2009. (US only, as far as I know.)
- My favorite Wikipedia category: Surnames. (I particularly love the lists of common surnames by country. So useful!)
- Behind The Name is great for finding first names by country, especially when you’re looking for things like ‘Cornish’ and ‘Breton’.