Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Come On, Spring! Books Heidi's Looking Forward To

What it says on the tin! I'm a writer, but I'm also a reader, and like many, I have a huuuuge TBR pile. Here are a few books I'm looking forward to as we FINALLY head into Spring. There's no rhyme or reason to this other than as a reader I can't wait to get my hands on these upcoming books!

Under the Hill: Bomber's Moon by Alex Beecroft (from Samhain Publishing)
Multicultural M/M Time Travel Fantasy

The faeries at the bottom of the garden are coming back—with an army.

Under the Hill, Part 1

When Ben Chaudhry is attacked in his own home by elves, they disappear as quickly as they came. He reaches for the phone book, but what kind of exterminator gets rid of the Fae? Maybe the Paranormal Defense Agency will ride to his rescue.

Sadly, they turn out to be another rare breed: a bunch of UFO hunters led by Chris Gatrell, who—while distractingly hot—was forcibly retired from the RAF on grounds of insanity.

Shot down in WWII—and shot forward seventy years in time, stranded far from his wartime sweetheart—Chris has been a victim of the elves himself. He fears they could destroy Ben’s life as thoroughly as they destroyed his. Chris is more than willing to protect Ben with his body. He never bargained for his heart getting involved.

Just when they think there’s a chance to build a life together, a ghostly voice from Chris’s past warns that the danger is greater than they can imagine. And it may take more than a team of rank amateurs to keep Ben—and the world—out of the elf queen’s snatching hands…

The first in a series (!!!), this one has it all: dangerous Fae, time travel, and a time-travelling main character from the Greatest Generation. Alex Beecroft is a big name in the M/M genre, but newbie that I am, I haven't read her stuff before. This book strikes me as Torchwood-meets-Outlander (by Diana Gabaldon)-meets The Hunter's Moon (my childhood favourite snatched-by-the-Fae novel) and I canNOT wait. Coming out April 3rd 2012, with the sequel coming out May 1st, 2012.

Power Play: Resistance by Cat Grant and Rachel Haimowitz (from Riptide Publishing)

Give me six months, and I'll give you the world.

Brandon McKinney has scraped and sacrificed for what little in life he’s ever had. Though it’s been fifteen years since he escaped his father’s abuse, the damage remains. Trust seems as far out of reach as his dream of becoming an architect, and though he’s come to accept being gay, he can’t deny the shame and confusion he feels at other urges—the deeply-repressed desire to submit.

Jonathan Watkins is a self-made Silicon Valley billionaire whose ex-wife took half his money and even more of his faith. Comfortable as a Dominant but wary of being hurt again, he resorts to anonymous pickups and occasional six-month contracts with subs seeking only a master, not a lover.

When a sizzling back-alley encounter cues Jonathan in to Brandon’s deep-seated submissive side, he makes the man an offer: Give me six months of your life, and I’ll open your eyes to a whole new world. Brandon doesn’t care about that; all he wants is the three million dollars Jonathan’s offering so he can buy the construction company he works for. But he soon learns that six months on his knees is no easy feat, and shame and pride may keep him from all he ever wanted—and all he never dreamed he had any right to have.

The first of the Powerplay books, which feature a Total Power Exchange relationship, a genuinely resistant sub, and a heavy dose of (consensual) sado-masochism. Rachel Haimowitz is already on my autobuy list (unless she does shifters or something, I guess), but even she weren't, I'd still be salivating for this book. I'm super excited about this kinky, psychologically complex set of books. Comes out April 9th, 2012, with its sequel coming out June 11th 2012.

Pearl by Kelly Rand (from Storm Moon Press)
Trans* historical

Edith sleepwalks through a life so normal as to be boring. She lives with her mother, works a mundane job to support them, and makes no waves among the ladies of her sleepy 1920's Canadian town. Secretly, though, she watches the flappers and so-called "loose women" with envy, dreaming of what glamorous lives they must have. And that's before Clark walks into her life.

Clark embodies the world that Edith wishes she could be a part of. He's slick and dangerous and sexy in a way Edith has never experienced. So when Clark offers her a window into his world, she dives through without thinking. On the other side, though, her black and white world explodes into shades of gray, challenging Edith in ways she never imagined.

Set in the 1920s AND in my native Canada? Be still, my beating heart! I haven't read anything by Kelly Rand before, but I'm ready and willing (haha) to take a chance on this story of sexual awakening in the roaring twenties. Coming out April 27, 2012.

The Lonely War by Alan Chin (from Dreamspinner Press)
Interracial M/M historical

The realities of war are brutal for any man, but for a Buddhist like Andrew Waters, they’re unthinkable. And reconciling his serene nature with the savagery of World War II isn’t the only challenge Andrew faces. First, he must overcome the deep prejudice his half-Chinese ancestry evokes from his shipmates, a feat he manages by providing them with the best meals any destroyer crew ever had. Then he falls in love with his superior officer, and the two men struggle to satisfy their growing passion within the confines of the military code of conduct. In a distracted moment, he reveals his sexuality to the crew, and his effort to serve his country seems doomed.

When the ship is destroyed, Andrew and the crew are interned in Changi, a notorious Japanese POW camp. In order to save the life of the man he loves, Andrew agrees to become the commandant's whore. He uses his influence with the commandant to help his crew survive the hideous conditions, but will they understand his sacrifice or condemn him as a traitor?

Where to start! To begin with, I'm just happy to hear that this is a big meaty book clocking in at 340 pages, something for me to really sink my teeth into. I also can't wait to see how the author handles the issue of an Asian-American MC dealing with the racist reality of the Pacific War. Add in Andrew sexually sacrificing himself to the enemy and the fallout of that choice, and you've definitely got me intrigued (and a healthy few of my kink buttons pushed hard). Coming out April 27, 2012.

That's it for me (so far!) How about you? What are you looking forward to?

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Lucky Seven Meme!

Shamelessly stolen from Alex Beecroft, a meme!

The Rules
1. Go to page 77 (or 7th) of your current ms
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines – sentences or paragraphs – and post them as they’re written. No cheating.
4. Tag 7 other authors. (I am not doing this – anyone who wants to do it can. Those who don’t want to don’t have to.)

This is from page seven of short story currently in first round edits with Riptide Publishing for their rent boy line. "Cruce de Caminos" is a dark bisexual paranormal set in New Orleans. It comes out (tentatively) in May.

But still. Forty-something bucks in five minutes? He’d made enough money for a night’s shelter and dinner, maybe lunch tomorrow. It felt... well, it didn’t feel good, exactly, but it felt productive.

A store down the street sold cheap saran-wrapped muffaletta sandwiches. He paid with the quarters and scarfed one down with a cup of free tap water, trying to ignore the yellow tint and the rancid aftertaste. Then he hit the bathroom to crush and rail his last oxycontin. The mirror didn’t show any traces of white powder under his nose, but he stood there for a while as the rush came over him, staring at his face and calculating.

Money. Cristina. The drugs. It was all like some kind of geometry problem. To solve for one, he had to figure out the others. He’d lied to Cristina on the phone—he’d never leave her, not while she still needed him. Wanted him. She was the only one who did. Or would, now.

He considered the angles of his face and practiced several different kinds of smiles. Very pointedly licked his lower lip. Took off his bandanna to tone down any thug factor and ran a hand over the top of his head, shifting the light that caught his buzzed hair. He’d made enough for some bedbug-infested hotel, but why stop there? He could get enough for a steak dinner, or hell, a proper motel with a clean shower and a color TV—but who was he kidding? He knew exactly how he’d spend the money, if he got it. Enough heroin could make even a highway underpass tolerable, and more than that, it might be the one thing to remind Cristina that he was looking out for her still. No matter what.

He was feeling pretty good now. Light and warm and happy and he wanted it to last, but it wouldn’t, not unless he got out there on the street and made it happen. And he was young. They liked young. He smiled again, reminding himself, then walked out of the bathroom head held high.

What do you think?

Friday, 23 March 2012

WIP Wednesday: His Master's Touch

On Friday, because I am so awesome. And I can never get the days of the week straight. Like... ever.

From our historical Roman WIP that we're tentatively calling "TMQF", currently on hiatus while we do a little freebie for the M/M Goodreads Group's "Love Is Always Write" event.

Marianus acknowledged his presence once again, and his regard brought the same mix of arousal and fear roiling in his stomach, then diffusing, sinking lower, transmuting into heat and hardness. Not bodily fear—Anazâr had been used for release by masters before, and ones much crueler and less physically appealing than Marianus—but fear of causing displeasure, of being valued lower, of having his place in this household irrevocably changed.

Anazâr thought his hesitance would earn him punishment, but Marianus’ face was sympathetic. “I’ll give you the choice of refusing, and Alexandros will bring me a kitchen slave instead. No?” Anazâr stood frozen, barely able to breathe. Marianus stepped closer. “On your knees, then. No, not the tile, you can move to the rug.”

“Thank you.”

“Don’t sound so surprised. I know some masters take pleasure in the pain of their slaves, but I’m not one of them. I’d have you comfortable.”

“Dominus,” Anazâr acknowledged, allowing himself to be lead to the rug. Marianus didn’t grip him, just barely brushed his elegant fingertips across Anazâr’s skin with the faith that Anazâr would not let that touch be broken. Marianus’ power: the ability to command without threat, to have his expectations fulfilled without voicing them.

That same touch guided Anazâr to his knees.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Women in M/M PSA

Riding on the heels of Aleks Voinov's post criticizing M/M genre "purity" and the misogyny, transphobia, and biphobia it represents, I'd like to make a quick public service announcement and offer a bit of feminine and feminist perspective on the issue. Do hop by Aleks' blog as well, though, for an examination of how this issue impacts transgender authors, readers, and characters, as well as a very important point on self-censorship.

And now for the PSA:

My books have women in them. Capable women, smart women, lost women, emotional women, kind women, villainous women, mothers and wives and exes and sisters and cousins and girlfriends and great great great (great great great, etc.) grandmothers. Sometimes they have sex. Sometimes I even write in full glorious detail about their sex organs.

Look, I get it. Women grow up in a world that teaches us to revile our own vaginas. We're taught our sexuality, our sexual urges and feelings, are somehow dirty and grotesque, whereas male sexuality is celebrated. We all live and die with "Lie back and think of England" hanging over our heads. For people like me, that already confusing and damaging relationship is further complicated by our sexual history, namely the fact that I (among many many too many others) am a survivor of rape and childhood sexual abuse. Basically what I'm saying is... I've been there on the hating vaginas front. I was at one time the queen of hating my own vagina. I had enough issues to get myself a respectable place in JSTOR.

Thing is... I acknowledge that. I forgive myself for being a product of my society, but that doesn't mean I don't examine and try and heal these harmful attitudes when I recognize them in myself or when someone else points them out to me. Other feminists will argue I'll never make progress in that respect so long as I write M/M, a genre where I can safely avoid female sexuality for as long as I bloody well please. Maybe they're right and maybe they're wrong. I'll continue writing and reading subjects I enjoy, and continue working on my issues with my gender, and if there comes a time when I decide that I can't write M/M and call myself a feminist, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

I'm not saying anyone else has these issues (or at least, I'm saying somebody else does, but not necessarily you). I'm not your therapist. I don't know why you read or write M/M. I don't know what you get out of it. Maybe you're perfectly comfortable with your body and your sexuality and the mere notion of what I'm saying is offensive to you. If you're feeling defensive right now, though, I'd ask you to give this some thought rather than rejecting it outright. A little bit of self-reflection is never a bad thing, even if you do it and say "Nope, I think I'm all clear on this front."

But whether or not this post speaks to you or enlightens you or makes you want to scream HOW FUCKING DARE YOU into my face, know this:

I will warn for themes of rape, abuse, and incest in my stories. I will warn for violence and violent and abusive language. I will not warn for female characters, and I will not warn for female characters getting it on. You have a right to have whatever relationship with vaginas you please, but I likewise have a right not to coddle your Issues by letting you know in advance about the presence of vaginas in my writing. I feel I owe my readers warnings about rape and abuse and incest and abusive language because I want them to feel safe reading my writing, so that people with issues with rape know that X story might upset, disturb, or trigger them, etc. I don't owe my readers safety from vaginas. If that means my stories don't conform to the "purity" standards of the M/M genre as it stands, well then I guess I'll have to put them in another niche of romance.

But having said all this, I have a feeling that this distate for vaginas among M/M readers is far less widespread than some people would have us believe.

I'm an M/M reader and writer who enjoys women characters and who recognizes that human sexuality and gender is a spectrum. As such I'm perfectly fine with M/F and M/M/F relationships appearing in my M/M stories. If you are too, speak up and be heard!

For further reading, I highly recommend this post that popped up overnight on Dear Author:
A really excellent, in-depth examination of this issue that's a million times more thoughtful than my post here.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Happy St. Paddy's Day Beef and Guinness Stew

My husband was born and raised in County Kildare, Ireland. He's not a big fan of Saint Paddy's day, especially not the whole North American green beer spin on things, but he is a big fan of Irish food and of people buying him drinks, so he puts on a good show of it.

This is my Culchie father-in-law Mick's beef stew recipe, and the only one my husband will eat. Which I happen to be cooking for an Irish-themed potluck tonight. That my husband will no doubt complain about once we're fed and home again. Never mind him, though, he's a spoil sport.

So here's what you'll need:

(Feeds 2)
1 lb stewing beef
1 can of Guinness (plus one to drink, if you're like Mick)
300 mL of beef stock
1 tsp "mixed herbs"
1/2 cup flour
Potatoes and other root vegetables
3 sticks celery
1 onion (optional)

Start off by peeling and prepping your vegetables. You can use whatever veg you're into: if it grows underground, it'll probably taste good. For my husband and I, we like a mix of yukon gold potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and turnip. I threw some celery in, even though he doesn't like it, but there's no sneaking an onion by him so I had to leave that out. There's no exact numbers for this: just do as much as you think your family wants to eat. I'm serving a crowd so I did 5 carrots, 5 parsnips, 6 potatoes, a big turnip, and 5 small stalks of celery.


Once you've got them all prepped, toss them into a big bowl and put them aside for later.

Next, take out your stewing beef (or you could buy a roast and cut it up yourself, but eh, I'm lazy). I buy mine from the local butcher's because it's high quality, humanely raised, and locally-sourced. If you buy tougher/cheaper meat, I imagine you can just cook it longer (or even stick it in a slow-cooker for the day) and it'll taste perfectly delicious.

Roll the beef in some flour. I added pepper, although that's not strictly included in Mick's recipe. Put a pot (if you're going stove-top) or cast iron dutch oven (if you prefer to bake) on medium high heat on the stove and add a glug of olive oil. When the oil's hot, use it to sear your beef. Usually I use a dutch oven, but because I'm making this for a big party tonight, I'm using my mother's stock pot.


Once your beef is seared, remove it from the pot and set aside. (I just threw it on top of my vegetables, because eh.) Crack open a Guinness (or two) and pour it into the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Mick's exact directions are to "pour a small glass" into the pan, reserving the rest, and then add the remainder of the can later. I imagine this method would give you a stronger Guinness flavour than pouring in the whole can at once at this point, which is what I did. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up all the yummy bits the beef has left behind. Let the Guinness boil a bit to burn off the alcohol.

Once you've deglazed your pan, dump your meat and veg back into the pot. If you followed Mick's Guinness instructions, add the rest of the Guinness. Add the beef stock, as well. Your liquid shouldn't cover the vegetables. Finally, add your "mixed herbs." Mick was in bed by the time I tried to ask him what "mixed herbs" are, so I used my mom's jar of herbs de provence, which is always yummy with beef.


If you're cooking this on the stove top, bring it to a boil and then lower the heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for two hours. If you're baking it, bake it at 190 Celsius for 2 hours, likewise stirring occasionally. It'll thicken as it goes.

(And then at the very end of the recipe, Mick notes "don't forget to pre-heat the oven." Thanks, Mick!)

Serve with Irish Soda bread. To eat it like my husband does, you can also add Chef Brown Sauce right before serving. Happy St. Paddy's day!

Friday, 16 March 2012

5 Tips for A Successful Co-Writing Relationship

People are always asking Violetta and I how we do this co-writing thing, so I've decided to do a series of blog posts discussing the ins-and-outs of our method. First on the docket, how to get along with the person you're about to split your royalties with.

1. Put a sock on the doorknob

Even if you're writing with a very good friend (like I am), being successful at co-writing means acknowledging that you are entering a professional relationship with one another. Have you ever been roommates with a friend? You have this picture in your head of the two of you baking cookies together and having America's Next Top Model marathons in your underwear (okay maybe just me), and then suddenly she's eating the food you bought or leaving hair in the shower drain or bringing over her drunk friends when you've got an essay due the next day and... you've got to somehow enforce your boundaries while maintaining your personal relationship. You don't want to be that person that just rolls over and lets their friends take advantage of them, and you don't want to risk your friendship by being too strict about your living rules... 

Co-writing is a professional venture. You will have artistic and financial disagreements, and sometimes these will prove to be a strain on your personal relationship with the other person. Plan for it. Before you write a single word together, talk together about what your expectations for your co-writing relationship are. Talk about the money, but also talk about how you want to handle creative disagreements (and you will have them, so don't kid yourself). Talk about how you're going to deal with professional disputes in a way that doesn't hurt your friendship. Talk about boundaries. Talk about how you'll make business decisions. Write a contract. Most of all, be prepared to work around the fact that even if you are BFFs who finish each other's sentences, when you stretch the definition of your friendship (like living together!), there's going to be some conflict. Be ready for it.

2. On Wednesdays, we wear pink!

Violetta Vane and I are both full-time moms, and when we wrote our first book, we were both working day jobs as well. Every Sunday, I go to my mother's for a family dinner. On Tuesdays, she volunteer teaches. Thursday night is my husband and I's date night. She's two hours ahead of me timezone-wise, so she goes to bed two hours earlier. Her son's sick. My daughter's teething. And so on, and so on, and so on. The long and short of it is, when you're co-writing, you suddenly have two people's "real lives" getting in the way of your writing time. 

When a deadline's looming (like it is for us right now... several of them!), this can be very stressful, but it can also be dangerous when there is no deadline, because there's no urgent motivator forcing you to make time for your writing. And every writer knows how unproductive you can be when you get that "eh, it can wait" attitude about writing. Schedule time for writing together. Set goals. Share a calendar with pertinent deadlines. When we're super busy, this can be as little as "separately write 100 words each a day", but it can also take the form of "barring child-vomit emergencies, Saturday is a day for editing and nothing else" or "Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 6pm-8pm we will both log on and write". We keep a calendar that lists our deadlines, our wordcount goals, our real-life commitments, and schedules in time specifically to simultaneously write. When you have two people and their families and their jobs to wrangle, a little organization goes a long way.

3. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake

I'm an author too. I know about our tendency to get a little bit... difficult as artistes. When you're co-writing, there often isn't room for that desperate clinging to your artistic vision. The reality is, sometimes you won't see eye-to-eye on something, and sometimes you're going to have to compromise on something you would have originally kept had you been writing on your own. For Violetta, I once poo-pooed a car chase scene she was itching to write. She didn't want to write a captor/captive narrative for Riptide's Roman Warriors call. Sometimes something that you are super in love with, your co-author just can't get behind, and at those times you have to relinquish control a little. 

We're all used to compromising our vision with an editor, but co-writing brings that to a whole new level. Ultimately, a good editor will make your work stronger, but will do so in a way that doesn't compromise your style. They want a story that's your style at its best not... your story in their style. In co-writing, though, sometimes your co-author really does want your story in their style, and that's their right. They're an author too, which means sometimes they're going to exercise creative control in a way that is far more fundamental than tightening your pacing or fixing your comma splices. They might even... change your characterization. If you're not willing to do this give-and-take, you're going to have a very hard time maintaining a working relationship unless you find someone who is willing to cede you majority creative control. Violetta and I both have strong visions for everything we write, which means sometimes something's gotta give. Leave your ego at the door for this one, kids.

4. Let your co-author's freak flag fly

In keeping with the above rule, sometimes you have to just have to let your co-author try something you totally don't get... at all. For Violetta and I, when we disagree I have a tendency of saying, "Let me try and sell this," which is basically my way of saying "I know you're not hot on this idea, but let me actually get it down, and then decide if once you see it on the page, you understand where I'm coming from." Sometimes she sees what I've written and goes "Oh, now that I see it in context I love it!" and sometimes I get to delete everything while we try a new strategy. Both people have to be willing to let the other take risks, and also accept that sometimes those risks might not pan out. 

Remember! You're writing with your co-author for a reason. They have a certain special spark, you love what you make together, they bring skills to the table that complement your weaknesses, they're incisive or witty or creative or just plain fun to work with. Keep that admiration in mind when they come up with an idea you're not too sure about and let them give it a go! When Violetta came back at my captor/captive idea with "How about a gladiator having to train an ensemble cast of ragtag gladiatrices?" my first response was "Oh god what?" but now that we're in the thick of it, I wouldn't have it any other way. I love the concept, I love the characters, I love knowing that the story we're writing is really going to set us apart from other Roman-themed M/M. You are working with a brilliant person! Let them be brilliant! And if they're not brilliant... why are you working with them?

5. Houston, we--

Communicate communicate communicate! Remember in that first point when I said to hash things out before you start? Keep hashing them out. If you're worried about a deadline and want to pick up the pace, say so. If you're frustrated that you're always footing the bill to mail contracts, say so. If a chapter just totally isn't working, say so. If you've lost interest in a certain WIP, or don't know where it's going, SAY SO! Co-writing requires a lot of compromise, probably more than most authors or artists are willing to give. But compromise doesn't mean being unhappy or feeling taken advantage of or silently stewing over things you don't like. Keep it professional, of course, but remember that your name is on this book too. You are the only one who can advocate for yourself in this relationship, so do it! And just think: if you're anxious about a deadline and writing two nights a week isn't cutting it, or if you're burnt out editing a chapter, your co-author might be feeling that way too. And don't feel like you only have to speak for yourself. Take the initiative and ask her how she's doing, too: "What do you think of chapter 9? How are you feeling about this deadline? You seem kind of stressed, do you want to take a couple of days off and have an America's Next Top Model marathon?" 

Keep the lines of communication open from start to finish: write a professional contract together, plan a schedule together, plan the story together, sketch out characters together, share the workload of writing, editing, and promoting together. Stress together. Complain about synopsis writing together. Angst about the wait period to hear back on a submission together. Look at reviews together and whine/cry about the bad ones together. And then, at the end of it all, celebrate together. You overcame conflict and schedules and egos and day jobs and googledocs crashing and wrote a damn book!