Friday, February 26, 2016

Five Things I Didn't Know About Jason West and Sam Kennedy Until I Started Writing Them

Well, time is running out on my beach resort vacation. Knowing me, I'm looking forward to being home but already missing Catalina Island.

Anyway, on Tuesday The Mermaid Murders goes live! It's always exciting to launch a new series. I plan to write this particular trilogy quite quickly with a book out each March for the next two years. I think I've made a mistake in letting so much time lag between books in all these other series. But you know, to some extent this is all determined by creative drive. You don't want to thwart it too often or it really takes the joy out of the work.

The next adventure for Kennedy and West will be The Monet Murders. Which, to my ire, turns out to be a surprisingly popular title for a mystery. HOW DARE SOMEONE(S) THINK OF THAT BEFORE ME?!

Nonetheless that's what I'm calling it.

I'm a big advocate of doing a lot of the work before you ever begin writing. I like to outline and I like to have a pretty good idea of who my characters are and what their big conflict will be. That said, writing is an organic process and there are always surprises and discoveries along the way. That's why writing is as addictive for writers as it is for readers. We also get to lose ourselves for hours at a time. Not in the same way, but it's equally powerful for all that.

So here are a couple of things I discovered about Jason West and Sam Kennedy as I began to write their story:

1 - Sam is from Wyoming and was raised by a single mom in a conservative small town.

I had originally thought he might be from Texas and that he would come from a large family. But no.

2 -  Jason is a winker. (NOT a wanker! I did not say WANKER.) He's one of those smooth, maybe a little too smooth guys used to offering one of those knowingly charming smiles and winks...and watching everyone melt into a puddle.

But that's because he was a skinny, fragile kid with braces and a chronic case of heart-on-his-sleeve, so he's worked hard and long to build up that aura of cool charm.

3 - Sam has a masters in Criminal Psychology.

I thought his background would be law enforcement! I did not see him as someone who had actually spent a lot of time cracking psychology books.

4 - Jason's parents are elderly. He was a surprise baby who arrived after they'd already raised their two daughters.

I pictured him as a middle kid with a middle kid's insecurities. But he's actually not particularly insecure. About really anything. He's more emotional than I expected, more passionate. Very loud during sex. :-D I was thinking he'd be more quiet and restrained.

5 - They both love the artist Granville Redmond.

Where the heck did that come from?! I don't know. But it's a sure sign they are Meant To Be Together.

Friday, February 19, 2016

On Vacation....

As of yesterday morning I am officially on vacation. :-)

The thing about being a writer is you go nowhere and speak to no one that it isn't all potential story fodder. Which is a good thing! Even if it does mean scribbling notes on cocktail napkins and writing in the margins of books you didn't write and asking nosy questions of people who just met...

Part of why it's so necessary to travel -- at least get out of the house! -- for a writer is that you need something to write about that doesn't strictly come out of your own brain. You need to interact with the world (and not the online world where you don't have to look into people's eyes or imagine their reactions).

Part of being a good writer is being a good observer.

But anyway, I plan to do a lot of reading and walking and spending time with the SO where I actually concentrate on what he's saying and not just absently agree because most of my brain is still grappling with the imaginary conversations of characters.

I plan to drink and eat and get a massage. I plan to watch sunrises and sunsets and breathe deep lungful's of ocean air.

So that's me for the next nine -- NINE -- days.

What about you? When was the last time you had a real vacation? What did you do? Who did you do it with?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day!

However you celebrate--and whoever you celebrate with--it's always a good idea to let the people you love know that they matter to you.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Dear Josh

As part of the Goodreads celebration of romance, Harlequin suggested that we show our appreciation for readers by posting reader comments in the various romance reading groups at Goodreads.

Now I'm not sure that posting a lot of the really kind things readers have generously taken the time to write over the years is the best way to say Thank You. ;-)  It probably just seems ego-maniacal. But I began gathering up a few snippets.

I had a couple of little epiphanies. I've known some of you a very long time. When I say "known" I mean we've shared a bit of our lives on social media and in email. Some of you have come and gone. And sometimes you've come back again. I also realized that over the past few years I have personally responded to over four thousand "fan" mails. This does not include all the comments and messages and questions on social media--back when I used to try to answer everything--but it's no wonder I sometimes lose track of how far some of us go back.

In the end, I decided to just pick a few emails from the last couple of years. Not that these mean more than the earlier emails--I do really treasure those first emails of initial discovery--but because it was interesting to see my recent writing life through the eyes of readers.

(I'm not sure if that was supposed to be part of the exercise, but hey.)

As far as why I picked these emails versus others... There were some really beautiful, thoughtful emails, but they were too lengthy to share or too personal in nature or too similar to another email, and this is already an embarrassingly long list of quotes.

Some of these made me smile, some of these choked me up, some of them made me laugh out loud. But I think that all together they give you a sense of why I love my readers and why I feel that what I do matters and is satisfying on many levels.

The thing about writing is I can never experience my work as you do. The closest I come to understanding what someone might get out of my stories is when I hear directly from readers. Which is why it's sort of funny when someone apologizes for "gushing" or "fanboying/fangirling" or "taking up your time." You're not taking up my time. You're reminding me why--because we all have those moments when we wonder--I continue to write and publish these stories.

Anyway...letters from readers:

Reading your books, I often take the writing for granted, but reading this and also Come Unto These Yellow Sands, specifically, I realize the quality is not relative, it stands on its own and I savour every word. It all feels very polished, very deliberate, a true craft but it also retains enough fluidity and accessibility that the focus remains on the story and it looks easy, but I'm sure it's not.

Thanks for writing. I'm sure glad you didn't grow up to be a mailman or a doctor instead.

I just discovered your Adrien English series of books on Amazon. Yesterday I read the first one in the series, today I read the second one. They are wonderful books. Your writing is flowing and your characters are interesting. Plus, you do a good job of setting a scene. I delayed getting any of your books because you are such a prolific writer. I equated prolific with popular and popular with all that's bad with popular fiction. I was wrong.

I do not know why I am writing to you.
I mean, of course I know... I had not finished your book yet that I wanted to write to you immediately and tell you - aloud! - how much I loved it; but at the same time I thought - still think - that maybe I should not disturb you with my silly enthusiasm. I had already read some of your novels and really, REALLY, enjoyed all of them. They are the stories I always wanted to read (and, well, write too, but... duh... I am not that good! Not even in my own mother tongue) and your characters are always absolutely fantastic. But this... I don't know... I think it's even better! The plot, the mystery, the atmosphere, everything is perfect. It was like I was there with Griff, feeling and seeing and dreaming like him. Ok, maybe I let myself be too much involved with the stories. But still. Anyway, I don't want to waste other of your time. Just let you know that I think you are an unbelievable writer - thing that obviously you already know and that lots of people already told you!

…I’m sure you’ve heard all of this THOUSANDS of times before, but… I guess, it can’t hurt to hear it one more time. I just finished the Adrien English books – all 5 of them in 4 ½ days – and, yes, I do work a full time job and I’m married!    Oh Josh – I am so in love with Jake I can’t stand it.   It is so totally believable that Adrien would not be able to “quit” that man.   And God damn you had me scared a few times – having never read anything by you before I had no idea how “realistic” you were gonna go. 

This is about to say thank you  very much for your book: Man, Oh Man!
My name is R. I am a German writer.
Please excuse my bad English. I try to improve it every by reading  books written in English.
Your Adrien English series was a challenge for me, but I love the stories very much.
Although I write my own stories in German language, I found a lot of good advice and inspiration in your book, Man, Oh Man!
The book market in Germany works different than in the USA but good writing is always and everywhere good writing.
Thank you for your advice and for the sparkling inspiration coming along with the fun 'listening' to Dr. Lanyon's lessons. I like how you address your reader and how you define a good writer.
And thank you for the sentences about women writing M/M romance. I'm female, I'm mature. I read mainstream books until I didn't want to read anymore. The step to writing what I wanted to read myself, was the discovery of the German fanfiction page. That encouraged me to try it myself in the year 2010. And in my opinion I don't have to be a cop to write crime as well as I don't have to be a man to write a male story.

Hey Josh, I'd just like to thank you for writing such amazing stories. Reading your stories has really helped me through a lot, and it still is, anytime I'm feeling down I'll read one of your stories and it cheers me right up. I've had a lot happen the last few years (don't worry I'll spare you my sob story) and when I found your stories it really helped keep me going. Keep being awesome and good luck with...well, whatever you need luck with.

You are brutally honest in your writing, To the point that reader starts begging for mercy, for a corner to hide from waves of emotions. I just finished "Death of the pirate king", and found myself shaking and overwhelmed by Jake and Adrien 's reunion love scene. Clever choice of vocabulary, yet you used them in such a agonizingly light as feather way, almost childish,there is no way, this could be fiction, it's as bitter and as crippling as naked ,harsh personal memories, you are so accurate with feelings, it almost makes me angry. If this is fictional love, then I'm not sure there has been a true one. Thank you A reader from anther side of the world.

I have been off facebook/RSS feeds for 4 days only to discover the tip of the iceberg regarding your authorship. From a longtime fan (including a Gay Men's Press print edition of Fatal Shadows) THANKYOU THANKYOU THANKYOU for all those hours of reading, re-reading and enjoying.

I truly believe you to be just the best storyteller. 
I went to your blog (I drop in for a look once every other quarter maybe) and discovered a firestorm going on. I don't care about your gender--you are a great writer. I know this because I've been reading since I was about four years old--non-stop, and I am 68 now.  ALL kinds of books, ALL kinds of authors. I don't know your gender. . . because you are a terrific storyteller, I truly don't care.  It's too much bother to worry. Please, just keep writing.   You write, I'll read.  I'll keep with the kindle and then buy the print. 

I read that you have had a hard time with 'revealing’ who you are, that people are hating you because you dared step into a world that is supposedly exclusive. All I can say is that you are a talented writer and I wouldn't care if you were a quad-eyed, tentacles, alien who typed with their tongue about being a human even though you aren't, your books give me an escape, your mysteries are wonderful and your writing style is fluid.

I have been an avid reader of your books since discovering them and I will confess I just
assumed you were a male as your name implied. I have since discovered otherwise, and you know, I just don't care. I love your stories and I love your characters. I can't stop reading and re-reading your books and I love that you give us a chance to revisit the characters in the holiday codas. I eagerly await your next and future releases.
If you're wondering why I'm not so up to date on this issue, I'm not a Facebook or Twitter user and only recently read your blog regarding revealing your identity. It's sad that it matters to some people when your writing speaks for itself.  I wanted you to know, I was a fan, still am a fan and will always be a fan.
Thank you for all the hours of reading.

I want to thank you for your wonderful books.  I look forward to reading everyone I can find.  I am 61 and began the process of coming out 5 years ago.  I finally completed it this June.  As I struggled coming to terms with being gay and struggled coming out so late I turned to gay literature for perspective.  Of all the great authors I have read, you by far are my favorite.  I love your writing style and characters.  I want you to know you books have been great companies and I feel sad when finish a book and series.  Your mysteries are some of the best I have read.  You are a great talent.  Thanks again for your books.

I had no idea you were a lady, I thought you were a slightly neurotic, highly talented gay man, now I know you are a slightly neurotic, highly talented woman.  Or not.  Don't care.  Just keep writing. ;)

I'm D. and I'm from Turkey.  I've just started to read your books and i can't just get enough. My favorite series is the Holmes & Moriarity. I love Holmes' wits and non-stopping brooding. Also mustache is very common in my country but for the life of me I can't imagine JX with one! Generally here, it's used by older and non-sexy people which is opposite of JX.
And I really hope to read more about Holmes' relationship with JX's family. İt's just the crime takes all the attention in your books so we can't learn much about the characters' ordinary life. I would love to learn more about them and their lifes. I don't know if you gonna take this or read it but these are my thoughts. I'm glad to write them to you. :)
And lastly, when will you publish another book in the series? You are writing great books but not fast enough!;)

I'd like to be a tad more specific with my fan mail now that it's morning and I've had coffee: I work at a domestic violence/rape crisis advocacy organization and our client services manager is a HUGE fan of Jake and Adrien and has passed all five books around the office. I believe that I am the third or fourth person who has borrowed them and I handed them off to someone else. Our work is challenging, demanding and disheartening. I spend my days talking about child sexual abuse and how we can prevent it. We see the worst of humanity on a daily basis and while I was reading the series it was exciting to come home after a long day and get lost in the mystery and romance. Thanks again for coming up with such dynamic, lovable and compelling characters who always seem to find their way into and out of trouble.

This year I am going to be 80. I am still gainfully employed, and publishing (scholarly stuff). I am writing to tell you how much I appreciate that on your blog you updated my favorite gay couple: Adrien and Jake. I needed this kind of romance fifty years ago, but that was not possible. You give that back to me in a few paragraphs. Thank you for keeping them alive for me. I also read every other thing that you write. Having been a dancer, Lone Star still means a lot to me, but then so does that wedding planner in South Dakota. You are my favorite author because you give me back my youth.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Love is in the Air

Also murder, but that's March 1st. More info to follow. ;-)

Goodreads is celebrating Romance this month with week-long festivities. If you're not a member of Goodreads...well, you're missing out on some fun!

Anyway, February 8th - 12th are the dates to watch.

My own Goodreads group--which is located here--jump at every opportunity for a party, so we've got some things planned, and yes they do include games and prizes and general goofing around. I mean, what else are you going to do during the week? WORK? Let's get serious.

One of the things the Goodreads team is really pumped up about is the Ask the Author feature on the site. For whatever reason, I have a rather active Ask the Author -- which is great! -- and if you have book or writing or publishing related questions you've been dying to ask me, next week would be an especially great time to do that. But of course, you do have to be a member of Goodreads (see how that works).

Anyway... I will be taking questions and even frequently answering live at various times next week. The exact times are a bit erratic because I'm in the midst of edits, but I will most definitely be popping in and out.

So if you're not my pal on Goodreads, what are you waiting for? And if you are my pal, are you not a member of my group? How can that be?

And speaking of Romance, thoughts on Valentine's Day?

When I was unmarried, Valentine's Day was a BIG DEAL to me. But now... I like Valentine's Day in that it's a nice reminder to pause for a moment and say Hey, I love you even if I forget to say it enough NOW LET ME GET BACK TO WORK. ;-)

The SO is the real romantic in this house--as he never lets me forget. But I wouldn't have it any other way.