Friday, July 13, 2018

New Release IN OTHER WORDS... MURDER

Either late today or sometime tomorrow (ARGH!)  In Other Words... Murder goes live.

Just finishing up the bits and bobs of edits and all the front and back matter -- and then formatting. This has been quite the month. But anyway, the book is pretty much done and now it's just a matter of getting it up.

It's available for preorders through Amazon, iBooks, and maybe Smashwords? (I don't think Smashwords actually does preorders--they just act as a funnel for preorders at other sites?)

BLURB:


Mystery author and sometimes amateur sleuth Christopher Holmes is now happily (all things being relative) engaged to be married and toying with starting a new career as a true-crime writer when he learns a body has been discovered in the backyard of his former home.

Then, to complicate matters, Christopher’s ex turns up out of the blue, suggesting the body may belong to Christopher’s former personal assistant.

It’s life as usual at Chez Holmes. In other words… Murder.


EXCERPT:


Oddly enough—or maybe not so oddly, because I did have that third drink and then a fourth—it was easier from that moment on. David and I were able to talk about Dicky and even our own past almost like old friends. It probably helped that he was so complimentary. No, not that he was complimentary, because I didn’t trust his compliments, but that he was genuinely bowled over by the change in me. It was funny really. What a difference a good haircut and a few pounds made. Not just to David. To me. Because I was confident in a way I hadn’t been for years.

But then that wasn’t really about new clothes and fancy-schmancy moisturizer. It was about J.X. About the way he made me feel. Valued. Cherished. Loved.

I resolved to call him as soon as I got back to my room. To hell with who was right and who was wrong. I missed him like crazy. And I wanted him to know that.

“I know you don’t want to hear this,” David said suddenly, “but you’re the perfect person to find out what happened to Dicky. You’ve already solved four murders that I know of. And this happened in your own backyard.”

“First of all, I didn’t solve four murders.” It was more like six if you counted secondary and appended victims. “And definitely not on my own. Anyway, are you so sure he’s dead?”

“Yes.” David’s eyes were dark and sad. “I think I knew something was wrong almost from that first day when he never came home. I tried to talk myself out of it. Tried to convince myself he changed his mind, but I knew.”

“Okay, maybe you’re right. It’s alarming that he’s never turned up in all these months. But neither of us has any useful information as to where to even start looking for what could have happened to him.”

“You must have his old résumé and his job application somewhere.”

“Maybe in a box. I might have dumped it all, though.”

“Exactly.” David leaned back in his chair, smiling. “And if something brilliant should occur to you while sorting through those papers, well, it can’t hurt to make a couple of phone calls. Right?”

“Hm. I suppose not.”

He grinned. “Elementary, my dear Holmes!”

I felt a twinge as he said it because that was J.X.’s little joke with me. Then, with an uncomfortable flash, I remembered it had been David’s joke first.


Funny I’d forgotten that.

I glanced at my watch and was surprised to see it was nearly ten. We’d been drinking and talking in the dining room for over four hours. The dinner crowd had come and gone, and it was back to just the two of us.

I said, “Wow. Look at the time. I should say good night. I’ve got a long drive home tomorrow.”

David looked surprised and disappointed. “Are you sure?”

“Yep. But thanks for dinner.” I rose, and he rose too.

He said, “My pleasure—and I do mean that.”

“Yeah, it was…good.” Good to confront old ghosts, good to let go of the old anger, the old bitterness anyway. Not an event I was in a hurry to repeat, however. More like a rite of passage.

I started to turn away, and David said quickly, urgently, “Christopher.”

I looked my inquiry.

“I owe you an apology. Not just for Dicky, though for Dicky, yes. That was the worst one, I know. But for…all of it. All the times I hurt you. Whatever I felt, whatever you did, you didn’t deserve that.”

I hadn’t expected an apology—or rather, I’d figured this dinner was his apology—so I didn’t know what to say. Especially since I didn’t miss the whatever-you-did comment. 

I finally came up with what I thought was a gracious, “It takes two people to ruin a relationship.” 
Which actually isn’t true. One determined and resourceful person can do it all by himself.

David offered another of his stock smiles. “True. Well, then…” He came around the table to hug me. I think I stood there about as responsive as one of those blank-faced department-store mannequins they prefer these days.

He whispered into my ear, “What about one last time? For old times’ sake.”

I drew back. “What about—huh?”

His smile grew rueful. “You know. We never got to say goodbye.”

“Yeah, we did. I gave you Dicky as a going-away present.”

He leaned in, still smiling, charming and purposeful. His breath was warm against my face. “No, I mean really say goodbye.”

“I think get-the-hell-out-of-my-life is really saying goodbye.”

I’m not sure he even heard me. “You have to admit, the sex was always good between us. Really good.”

Yeeeeaah. About that. 

And even if sex with J.X. had been the worst ever, I still loved him too much to ever think of hurting him the way I’d been hurt. Not in a million years.

I laughed, but not unkindly, not mockingly. “Man, you really are incorrigible,” I said.

David heard me that time. His shoulders slumped, and he sighed. “Yeah. I am. But I mean, we were married.”

“It was a commitment ceremony.”

“Same thing. To me, anyway.”

Did he really not see the irony? I said, “Uh…yeah. Okay. Your point is?”

“We’re allowed to have goodbye-forever sex.”

“I’m sure we had it, we just didn’t notice it at the time.”

He scrutinized my face. “I can’t tell when you’re laughing. Was that your final no or—?”
I was still laughing. “That was final.”

“Maybe one more drink would help?”

“One more drink and I’ll pass out. Besides, these people want to go home.” I nodded at the waitress and bartender, who were watching us with weary wariness.

David gave another of those heavy sighs. “All right. Have it your way.”

We bade farewell to the relieved-looking staff and walked out to the lobby.

At the elevators, I turned to him and said, “Good night, David. Thanks again for dinner.”

“You’re sure you don’t want to—?”

“I’m sure.”

“Absolutely, positively—?”

I said firmly, “’Night, David.”

I stepped into the elevator, punched the button for the third floor. I nodded cordially as the doors closed on David’s glum expression.

I chuckled quietly to myself as I strolled down the brightly lit hall and let myself into my room. I flipped on the lights and moved to pull the drapes across the windows.

I was buzzed but not drunk, and I felt pleasantly…pleasant. I’d have a leisurely hot shower, get in bed, and phone J.X. If all went well, we could maybe even manage a little phone sex. Phone sex with J.X. was still better than live and in-person sex with anybody else.

These agreeable plans evaporated at the tentative knock on my door.

I stopped smiling.

I admit being propositioned by David—urgently propositioned at that—had been good for my ego, but this was not flattering or amusing. Jesus Christ. He couldn’t be that desperate to get laid.

I yanked open the door, prepared to tell him that very thing.

But it was not David standing in the garishly bright hallway. 

Or maybe it wasn’t the hall that was garishly bright. Maybe it was the green-haired guy wearing whiteface and a blue polka-dot clown suit.

 The clown said nothing.


He gazed at me with his sad clown face, complete with painted downturned mouth and eye drips. His costume was one of those ruffled, old-fashioned things—I forget what they call them—and he was holding a single red heart-shaped balloon.

I stared silently back at him. I was thinking—and at this time the defense wishes to call upon the four G&Ts, two of which had occurred on an empty stomach—that maybe J.X. had sent some kind of weird floral-delivery apology. Except I did not see any flowers and J.X. did not like clowns.

I transferred my gaze from the clown’s black eyes to his red balloon. I said, “Where are the other ninety-eight?”

The clown’s blue-gloved hand released the string of the balloon, which went sailing to the ceiling, bouncing against it with an eerie whispering sound.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Two Years Before the Mast

AKA Six Months on Patreon.

Happy Six Month Birthday to me and my Patrons!

Yes, I too was surprised to realize that I've now been on Patreon for six months.  (Which means, holy moly, we're halfway through the year!)

It seems like only a month or so ago that I came up with the idea. But no. Six months! So it seems like perhaps it's time for a progress report.

So far, so good. 

When I first posted about starting a Patreon, I got a lot of helpful feedback--and some of the things mentioned have proved true, and some have not. Or if they have, I've hopefully found a fix.

Providing exclusive and original content in addition to my books and stories is definitely time-consuming. Some of the content is readily provided: excerpts from works-in-progress, story notes, character notes, etc. Some of it requires more effort: character interviews, "missing" scenes, an exclusive-to-Patreon novel, exclusive audio, etc.

But what I've found is taking the time to do character interviews, for example, is really helpful as well as entertaining, so it's a good trade-off--versus simply writing a couple extra short stories a year (which I can still always do if I have to). Also it's hard not to be energized by a group that is so unfailingly supportive and enthusiastic. That's kind of priceless.

Unsurprisingly, it's been tougher during months when I'm already stressed. Like the last two months. But given the nature of Patreon--the purpose of such a community--I'm getting comfortable with letting patrons know this might be a skimpy month, but I'll make it up to them the next month.

As I was warned, there have been a couple of instances of people who pledge, enjoy the rewards at their tier, and then quit before their pledge is processed--only to rejoin the following month. That's been really rare, and as of this month I've changed my account so that people are charged when they join. That should take care of that--and it was, luckily, not a serious issue to begin with (although, it is a serious issue for a lot of creators, as I've learned hanging around the creator forum).

The question I'm always asked is are you actually earning anything? And it's a good question because apparently a lot of creators do not earn much at all. There are loads of really interesting articles on whether it's possible to earn a living on Patreon. Like here and here and here.  Basically that comes down to where you live and how many people you're supporting and in what style.

For the record, I can't earn a living on Patreon, but the monthly payouts act as a much needed safety cushion. If I  have to postpone a book--and (*&+!&^^%%$$$###@!) I have needed to do that with every single deadline this year--I can go ahead and know we're not going under because I need another month to make my book better. So right now my earnings go right back into my business, but I do earn enough to pay the mortgage if it came down to that.




That's huge. That is worth the price of admission right there.

On the maybe-not-so-great side, I spend less time interacting elsewhere on line. This was something people were concerned with, and it has unfortunately proven true. I'm less active on Goodreads, Facebook and this blog. (I was always terrible with my newsletter, so we can't blame that on Patreon.)

Now partly I think my lack of energy for social media is because this year has been a tricky year. A lot has gone on in my personal life and, maybe more to the point, I'm still struggling to catch up on all that over-committing I did last year. In Other Words... Murder is the final book with any deadline attached. After this, THANK GOD, I have no other deadlines.

(Well, that's not true. ARGH. I still have the deadline for Mr. and Mrs. Murder, but that isn't until mid-next year, so I think I'm fine. )

Also, though, I think every social venue has a life cycle and I've been on some of these places for nearly a decade, and it's reasonable that interaction might begin to wind down in certain places as it revs up in others. As much as I loved LiveJournal in its heyday, by the time I bowed out, it was no longer the same experience. Things change. We change. And that's actually great.

Other things: Amazon has not done anything in the past six months that affects me directly, but they've done plenty to affect Kindle Unlimited authors. And they're as autocratic and ruthless about is as ever.

Some of the problems Amazon is now trying to fix are of their own creation. Things like fake reviews...Amazon brought that on by making reviews part of their arcane algorithm and by making it so difficult for ordinary people to review: you can't "know" the author, for example, which includes having friended them on social media. Say what?!

It's like enriched white bread. Had you not taken everything nutritious out of the food to begin with, you wouldn't have to artificially inject it back in. 

Anyway. My dire predictions have not yet come to pass, but that doesn't change my feeling that I'm still too dependent on Amazon. Kindle Unlimited is making it harder and harder for the rest of us to have any visibility. Visibility is everything in this game.

(Okay, not everything. Writing still counts. Readership still counts. But it's a lot.)

Regardless of what happens with Amazon, my Patreon account is a big step away from feeling so entirely vulnerable to their every whim. Over these past six months I feel like I've begun to lay a foundation for a publishing future that doesn't involve me lying awake worrying about what Amazon might do next.










Friday, June 1, 2018

IN OTHER WORDS...MURDER playlist

Happy June!

I don't know about you, but May was a bit of a weird month for me. There were just a lot of...things that happened. Normal but unpredictable things. Family health crises, family job crises...the kind of stuff that pops up eventually in every life, but can't really be planned for. Or at least, I have trouble doing that kind of planning--probably because I don't like to, well, open the door to dark possibility. (I think that's called hiding your head in the sand, but whatever.)

Anyway, it was a trying month, and that's a fact. But now it's June and summer is just about here, and on we go, one foot in front of the other, and little by little we make progress.

Anyway, I thought I'd share the playlist for IN OTHER WORDS...MURDER. I don't think it contains spoilers, but maybe it does.

Anyway, I think of it as my easy, breezy murder music. ;-)










Friday, May 25, 2018

Your Cheatin Heart Will Tell on You

Hello again! The wonderfully talented (and funny as hell) Dal Maclean is back to chat about infidelity in romance and other stressful interesting topics. ;-)

We had some thought provoking comments on yesterday's blog ;-) as well as a great discussion on Facebook. The three questions we threw out to readers were:


1 – Do you believe a relationship can survive infidelity?

2 – Do you have personal experience with infidelity?

3 – Barring murder, can you think of a worse “relationship crime” than infidelity?

Share your thoughts in the comment section below and you'll automatically be entered in the giveaway for one of five audio book download codes from Audible.com (good for any of my titles--including the brand spankin' new The Magician Murders narrated by the wonderful Kale Williams). 

So here we go! 


JL – I’m entirely in agreement about most readers probably preferring their protagonists’ flaws to be of the romantic variety. Like those old Mills & Boons where the hero was temporarily blinded or paralyzed and was a complete asshole because of it (but then luckily ended up with a miracle cure anyway, so no worries!) Addiction and alcoholism is a harder sell—and I’m in agreement on that; I will almost never read a book where the protag is struggling with addiction or alcoholism (although I’ve got no problem writing such a book). I suspect readers would prefer to read about a recovering sex addict than a guy who deliberately and in full control of his senses (if not body parts) chooses to be unfaithful. Thoughts?

DM - I think you’re right. Many readers would prefer to read about recovering sex addicts and recovering drug and alcohol addicts than, as you say, someone who cheats ‘in full control of his senses.’ But again, as I said in the piece, maybe that’s because the flaws we accept in our romance heroes almost require the hero not to be responsible as it were? An addiction is something the hero cant help – it’s an illness (like those Mills and Boon heroes), though done well and with an attention to the psychology, it can be great (I just read a really great one). I’d say though, addiction isn’t a flaw in a hero, so much as a hurdle the couple have to overcome to be together?  Cheating is an active flaw.  I’d liken it more in Romance hero-active flaw-dom to being an assassin or a ruthless slave owner. Just, as I said, less acceptable.
Uh oh. 

The cheating I was talking about though wouldn’t be ‘I fancy a fling with that very attractive person’ but, for example ‘I’m terrified of where this relationship is going and how much I’m feeling, so I’m going to sabotage it’ or ‘I’m miserable and unhappy and so I’m succumbing to temptation’ – both scenarios which would create intense, genuine regret in the culprit and punishment would be losing something they realize too late they cant bear to lose. They made a Big Mistake but they made it as adults. Hence they’d have to face up to consequences. That’s what I meant about a redemption arc.
Of course, in reality, that’s a romantic best-case take on cheating, but Id suggest so is every other scenario we talk about in Romance books, like addiction.  Again that my big question -- if we can romanticize The Mafia, assassination, slavery, rape, torture and personality breakdown, why cant we romanticize infidelity?

JL – It occurs to me that infidelity is probably more forgivable depending on subgenre. For example, it’s rarely a deal-breaker in mystery. Meaning mystery readers might not like it, but they won’t refuse to read the book. And in historical or, better yet, spec fiction, it’s probably not nearly as problematical as it is in contemporary romance.

Anyway, harkening back to your essay, ludicrous misunderstandings aside, I will say that inability to communicate is one of the most realistic problems any couple can face, but that comes more from styles of communication, including the inability to listen properly—which is tied up in personal history and sometimes education and experience. When I read a story where two men are struggling to make the other understand, I really do sympathize. It can be hard to be honest and vulnerable, even with the people you love most.  

DM -Yeah I do agree. That’s actually not that common a trope in Romance is it? I mean that ‘trying to make the other understand’ but failing. It’s not really ‘romantic’ as issues go – and in real life, as you say, it often doesn’t go away for the HEA.

JL – I kind of divide readers into two camps. (Well, three camps if we include readers just skimming for sex scenes. ;-D)  One camp has trouble believing in happy endings if the problems between the main characters are sufficiently painful and realistic. It doesn’t matter how much relationship work the couple does, these readers always have trouble believing anyone could surmount big issues like…infidelity. Heck, these readers have trouble with even the suggestion of infidelity, say a kiss that shouldn’t have happened. The second camp are the readers who, like you and me, enjoy the struggle to achieve that happy ending. In fact, I prefer those stories because to me the couple has been tested through fire and their love is triumphant.

DM - Yes again totally agree! Lisa Horan at The Novel Approach said in her review of Object of Desire I write ‘Genre Non Conforming Romance’ which was a revelation because-- who knew? She wasn’t talking about cheating there--there isn’t actually any cheating in OOD or BL. But--she’s right I think. That’s what I’ve been writing without realizing it, and perhaps what you wrote, more bravely with Jake Riordan in the brilliant Adrien English series?

 The second part of the audience you mentioned which includes you and I, may be more open to that kind of story? We value the struggle and a real fight for a happy ending.

But I also think people are right to say that Romance is a unique genre in that there is a kind of contract with the reader. Many people read it to relax--for the joy and security of knowing what’s coming.  That’s what the contract is. And I totally get that and understand the sucker punch of being dragged out of that comfort when you didn’t want or expect it, and get given something different that you didn’t want. I didn’t mean to bend the rules of the contract guys! It just keeps happening…

JL – One hundred percent in agreement that, when a book is labeled genre fiction—and regardless of what that genre is—there is an implicit understanding that writers will abide by the terms of the “contract” formed with the reader. If the book is labeled Western, there is an expectation of cowboys. If the book is labeled Mystery, there is an expectation of detecting—and a solution. If the book is labeled romance, there is an expectation of true love and a Happy Ever After.

What’s less clear, in fact, what I find fascinating is how “infidelity” can be defined, depending on the reader. As mentioned above, there are readers who get angry if the hero exchanges a kiss or even considers fooling around. Now in real life, these things happen. They just do. And that should be the point. Moral fortitude is tested by resisting temptation, not by never being tempted. It’s like courage. Courage is how you behave under fire, not being blind to a real and present danger. Also I notice timing is very important to some readers. I had a character break off his relationship over the phone and then go have sex with his romantic interest. One reader was troubled by this “infidelity.” To me, infidelity would have been not breaking the relationship off. As far as I know there is no official wait period once you’ve ended things.

DM - That’s a great point. The comfort zone in defining ‘cheating’ differs. For some it’s lying and betraying. That’s pretty clear. But as you say, for others it’s more… zero tolerance than that? I’m thinking of Jason in The Monet Murders – he didn’t half get it in the neck for a one night stand, even though Sam had broken up with him. He was hurt, he was trying to distract himself, he was being human. But there’s an element of ‘he has no business being human--he’s in a romance book’. Same with Ben in Bitter Legacy and  Tom in Object of Desire.  It’s how far Romance readers are prepared to tolerate that kind of ‘humanity’ in their heroes. I come from a fanfic tradition as you know and it’s definitely redder in emotional tooth and claw there. Maybe MM Romance comes more from MF romance? Maybe it’s evolving into a hybrid of both?  Or maybe not?

Actually, on this point, I read recently that there’s a sneak Third Romance Rule (after 1-Happ ending 2- No Cheating) that readers expect to be followed. Maybe that’s what’s in play here. The love interests must not have sex with anyone else after they meet in the book, even if they’re in sexual relationships with other people when they do meet. This applies even if they don’t commit to each other for some time in the book. For some readers, a character breaking that rule is tacit cheating (even if its awkward to call it that)- as Jason, Ben and Tom discovered. I crashed through that one in both books without knowing it existed.


 JL – Yeah, I would have to say that third rule is more of a guideline. 😉 If not outright wishful thinking. That said, I’m in complete agreement with your observations on inveterate cheaters. It’s one thing for extreme circumstances to result in a Big Mistake. The inability to resist any temptation…that’s just...ugh. Whether it’s gluttony or sloth or promiscuity or an addiction to QVC, the inability to control one’s self is something as a society we really, really look down on. We don’t like weak willed people, so fair enough that horn-doggery should be condemned in romance.

DM - Yeah I’m with you on that. I talk big about realistic flaws but in the end, we are talking… carefully chosen flaws. An inveterate cheat is pretty unattractive imo and one of the most unromantic concepts out there.  Personally, as a reader, I can’t deal with consensual non-monogamy as an endgame in Romance, so I’m marshmallow to the my core.

 One thing I’d possibly quibble on is promiscuity as a plot choice (if it’s not some sort of compulsion I mean).  Ben in BL used promiscuity deliberately as a defensive barrier against any romantic commitment and an emotional distraction for himself–it was a choice, not a compulsion or a helpless need for rampant sex with lots of men. A lot of readers though were very sure that he could never change his spots because promiscuity is looked at compulsive like inveterate cheating–an inability to resist any temptation.

JL – Oh, definitely! Plus, Ben was NOT in a committed relationship. When you’re young and single, is fooling around a lot genuinely promiscuous or is it just…normal male-in-his-sexual-prime behavior?

DM - So I think maybe there can be nuance. Ben for example, now he’s found someone who fits so perfectly what he wants and needs, will be compulsively faithful. Tom uses sex as part of an avoidance of commitment, sometimes as an avoidance of confrontation or loss.
On the whole though, yeah – pffft to horndoggery!


JL – You wrote: ‘Redemption and Forgiveness.  Genuine mistakes, genuine regret. All are powerful drivers of romance for me’. 
Ding Ding Ding!!! This. Like you, physical torture, abuse…that’s a no can do for me. A bad man on his knees? (Er… ) That’s romance.

DM - It really is. That’s putting it…perfectly!

******

Faithful reader, what do YOU think? Comment below!


Oh, and Dal has a giveaway going too! 










a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Holding Out for a Hero - Dal Maclean

Hey, Dal has a new book out! 
This week on the blog we're doing something a bit different.

This morning we've got my dear pal Dal Maclean in to blog on a topic dear to both our hearts: infidelity. ;-)

Admittedly, it's a delicate subject. But I've known Dal for a number of years now--I've been a fan of her writing forever--and one of the things that drew us together is what I think of as a shared positive pragmatism regarding human nature. Human beings make mistakes. Good people do bad things. In fact, bad people occasionally do good things. Ink and paper notwithstanding, it's not a black and white world. And Dal and I instantly recognized in each other's work that sometimes painful mix of realist and romantic.

Anyway, there's lots to think about in this post!

TOMORROW the conversation continues as Dal and I bat around the topic of infidelity (and other character flaws) in our own writing and reading habits. Again, it's all happening right here on the blog.

We're hoping some of you will pop in and join the conversation!

1 – Do you believe a relationship can survive infidelity?

2 – Do you have personal experience with infidelity?

3 – Barring murder, can you think of a worse “relationship crime” than infidelity?




HOW FAR CAN A ROMANTIC HERO GO---AND STILL BE A HERO?

As an author feeling their way in the MM genre, I’ve been doing some thinking on MM romantic heroes -- what readers do and don’t want, and what they will and won’t tolerate.  I’m not sure if I’m going to be saying the unsayable here but--

I think most of us would probably say we like heroes ‘with real flaws’, but maybe we’re not being entirely honest about that. I mean, we’re not talking real flaws, like farting in public, or chainsaw snoring. or crotch scratching, or halitosis.  I would assume. We mean romantic real flaws, flaws the hero can have and remain a ‘romantic’ hero to the reader. 

I should declare a position here and admit that, (while excluding the farting reality) when I say I like flawed heroes, I mean flawed heroes, in the sense of emotionally flawed.  The kind of heroes who generate genuine emotional conflict.  And (to clarify again), by emotional conflict, I mean the kind of relationship conflict not solely generated by external events (e.g. Hero 1 and Hero 2 are madly in love and know it, but are kept apart by bad guys/homophobes/simple misunderstandings which they overcome to be together).

Personally, I love reading about relationships where Hero 1 and/or Hero 2 are facing and overcoming their own character flaws and issues, which create problems between them, though said issues may also stem from external pressures (e.g. fear of their own sexuality, fear of societal condemnation, fear of intimacy, inability to trust, other emotional ties, emotional unavailability etc).

I love stories where the conflict is real, and not an error in communication -- once perfectly summed up to me by Josh Lanyon as the ‘But Darling, She’s My Sister’ get-out-of-jail-free card for emotional battles. The thing is, I don’t want main characters to get out of jail free. I want them to have to fight and claw their way out of jail.  But that’s me.

Which brings us to what are accepted to be MM romance reader’s lines in the sand, and what I was advised about Romance Rule No 1 kind of surprised me, and kind of didn’t. 

In MM, it’s acceptable for a romantic hero to be a killer or a torturer or a corporate shark or a gangland leader or a thug or a slave owner. He can break down his love interest psychologically through torture combined with great sex; he can physically punish and/or even permanently scar/mutilate his love interest. He can break his love interest’s heart by leaving him without giving the love interest any choice in the matter, because He Knows Best. But -- he must not, under any circumstances, be a cheater.

If infidelity arises. it’s generally okay to have a hero cheated upon to push him toward his true love, but if the cheater returns, it’s to beg forgiveness and be kicked forever into touch.  Romance Rule No 1 though  - neither hero must cheat, or their character is pretty much irredeemable. It’s incredibly unusual for a character who’s cheated to get to the HEA or even the HFN.   Non-monogamy is acceptable if it’s consensual  – threesomes, ménages, open relationships. No problem. It’s cheating that’s de trop.

So - is it down to intolerance of dishonesty between lead characters?  On the surface it seems so, given ménages and threesomes are definitely okay in the genre.  Yet, heroes lie to each other all the time in various plots, about all kinds of very important, sometimes life threatening, and definitely happiness-threatening things,  and that is easily brushed past by readers.

 So why is the Cheating kind of lying, under any circumstances, the ultimate Romance transgression?

Perhaps, infidelity is too real?  It’s a situation in which readers are more likely to have been personally wounded or seen others wounded, in real life -- as opposed to finding out their partner is a mafia hitman or a slave owner or whatever.  It’s a closer to a farting, snoring, scratching flaw. Is that why?

Yet.  On the other hand.  Isn’t infidelity a rich seam to mine in touching on (relatively) realistic emotional conflict in a romantic relationship, and what drives people to behave in certain ways? Even in the once-removed-from-reality genre of plot-driven romance?

I’m coming at this by the way, as someone who can’t even read ménage books because of my inability to cope with one hero loving someone else as much as he loves my fave. I can’t read consensual threesomes or open relationships and really enjoy them. I have a fatal weakness for possessiveness and jealousy.   I am OTT into monogamy and true love as a romance reader.   Yet, as a reader I love seeing Infidelity explored and taken by the scruff and shaken out and overcome in Romance, vanishingly rare as that is in the genre. Possibly, because it is an ultimate romantic challenge.

 Yes I love fluff, but first I love the emotionally hard-core to get to Fluffsville. Challenge and reward.

To clarify yet again, I’m not talking about inveterate horn-dogs who cheat compulsively and forever.  I’m not talking about the Leopards Never Change Their Spots kind of cheating. I’m talking about cheating driven by a real issue.  A thing that happened for a coherent reason. Coming back from that believably, is a huge challenge for a reader and writer, and if it’s done well…?  It’s The Prodigal Returns. Redemption and Forgiveness.  Genuine mistakes, genuine regret. All are powerful drivers of romance for me. 

So, that’s my guilty truth. I find reading books that deal head-on with infidelity and other huge emotional conflicts and still lead to a believable happy ever after,  incredibly rewarding.  How small is the minority I’m in with that?   There’s me and…


For the record my own difficulties with character behaviour in MM romance lie in physical torture, pain, maiming or death for a loved character or by a loved character, even if it’s called hurt/comfort. There speaks my marshmallow core.  Go figure as they say across The Pond.

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Dal has a brand new book out this week called Object of Desire. The book is terrific--no surprise there--so go buy it now!

AND three copies of Object of Desire are up for grabs thru May 28th.

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, May 18, 2018

Five Things I Learned While Writing The Magician Murders

Yep! Now available in audio too!
Part of the fun (or maybe the word is "challenge") of writing a series is how the characters change--sometimes in unpredictable ways--throughout the course of the books.

I mean, characters change (and hopefully grow) in standalone novels too. If at the end of the story the main characters are exactly who they were at the start of the story, there's a problem. Every story--even a short story--is ideally supposed to have some kind of a character arc.

But with a series you have so much more room to stretch out and explore. It feels kind of luxurious. I'm only three books into The Art of Murder series, so there's still room for plenty of surprises and developments.

(Personally, I think five is the ideal number of installments in a series, so I'm pretty sure five books will be the final count for Jason and Sam--but you never know.)

Anyway, here's what I learned in the last book.

1 - Though neither Sam nor Jason is by nature insecure, they trigger each other's deepest insecurities. I'm not sure if I have another couple with quite that dynamic. Everyone is vulnerable during the process of falling in love, but with Sam and Jason it cuts a bit deeper than that.

2 - Sam is willing--well, maybe willing isn't exactly the word--but Sam will make compromises for Jason in every aspect of his life, including the job, that he would not (or at least never has) made for anyone else. That's kind of a big thing. Sam might not be ready to get married and settle down at this exact moment in time, but he's prepared to make the kinds of concessions that preface that kind of commitment.

3 - Though Sam has been in trouble for cutting through red tape with a chainsaw, and will not waste time on diplomacy when blunt force trauma can achieve faster results, Jason might actually be the one willing to break the law in his mission to protect our artistic and cultural heritage. I'm still thinking that one through, but yeah.

4 - Sam is, um, ambidextrous. ;-)

5 - Sam scares Jason a little. Not in a...I'm afraid HE'S a serial killer too!!!! way, but Jason has an uneasy awareness that you can't stare into the abyss and not be changed by it. Mostly his fear is for Sam--but maybe not entirely.




Next week we've got something special! On Thursday Dal MacLean is posting on the ever-delicate topic of infidelity in romance--and on Friday we dig deeper into the topic with a bit of back and forth discussion on the topic. I hope you can join us!