Thursday, April 24, 2014

So, I wrote a soap opera...

In The Stars Part II Trailer Out Now!

♥ It's a labour of love. ♥


I've blogged about it before. Hiding Behind The Couch - my series about nine friends.

I've blogged about it a good few times, in fact, because I have a problem.


It. Sells. Bugger. All.

It sells so much bugger all it made me do that one word to each sentence thing!

It doesn't get many reviews either, even though I can see that the first two novels are being downloaded from my website.

Because, you see, the first two books are free.

Book four is technically free too, as it's available in instalments from Smashwords, with 'user sets price'.

So what's going on?

When it does get reviews, they're generally great.

I've done interviews in the press and online. I've run giveaways, taken part in blog hops, made video trailers...

I can't even be bothered to list the rest of the things I've done here, but the bottom line is this:

It's contemporary fiction. And that's a MASSIVE category. And people say, "Hey, Deb. Why don't you list it as something else?" But, the trouble is...

It doesn't fit ANYWHERE else!

  • Book one is characterisation - there's some story in there too, but it's your introduction to the nine people in this fictional world - a world like just like ours. They could be your friends. They may well become your friends if you read the series (soap opera).
  • Book two is a murder mystery - does it get solved? Maybe.
  • Book three is, if anything, gay male romance (with no sex!) - it's a lot more besides.
  • Books four and five are all of the above!
  • The novellas are festive and romantic, mostly.

In short, the series to date covers FOUR YEARS of the lives of The Circle - a group of nine friends. Life is not all romance, festivity, murder mystery. Sometimes it's just...

LIFE!

So how to sell this thing?

Because, as the writers out there will know, we can write for two reasons.
  1. To make money, in which case we write what sells, market the hell out of it, and keep selling out. Unless, of course, what we write is what sells, and that's just jammy!
  2. Because we have to, we need to and, most of the time, we want to and we love it.

I write for the second reason - I write this series because it's there. Always there.

During the past few weeks, I've written two stories for the Love's Landscapes Anthology (more on this another time, but they're called Checking Him Out and Sugar and Sawdust, and will be available from Goodreads and MMRomanceGroup.com Summer 2014).

And at the end of writing those stories, The Circle was still bloody waiting for me to pick up where I left off. However mad it sounds, I missed them while I was away.

So, you see. I'm going to keep writing it. I don't even care if it sells. I just want it to be read!

My solution?

I realised last year that what I'm writing is actually a literary soap opera. Maybe it needs its own theme music!

But whatever, if you read this post and would like to read my series, I will send you the full set of ebooks for free*. I ask for nothing in return, but I would hope if you like it, you will tell people - review it on Goodreads, your blog, Amazon, tell your friends, invent your own pyramid marketing scheme - whatever. And if you do any of this, tell me, so I can revel in your oodles of praise. (Or sob into a hanky.)

All you need to do is email me and tell me whether you want epubs or mobis, and it's yours. No strings.

*Books 1-5, inclusive, and the novellas, Beginnings, First Christmas and Breaking Waves.

My email address: debbie (insert squirl here) beatentrackpublishing.com

For more information on the series, visit www.hidingbehindthecouch.com or www.debbiemcgowan.co.uk

Oh, and one last thing: Book Five is out in June! It's called In The Stars Part II - if you haven't read anything else before now, you can read the synopses of books 1 and 2 on my website, or jump straight in at book 3 (The Harder They Fall), or even 4 (In The Stars Part I), at a push.

As always, thanks for reading! Here's another heart, to demonstrate my unwavering love: ♥

Monday, April 07, 2014

My Writing Process - Blog Hop

Blog hop! What a great idea, like playing the Wikipedia game of link-clicking and getting lost in a whole new world of knowledge, except here you get to meet some authors you might not have met before, so without further ado...

In this post I'm going to tell you a little about my writing process and what I'm currently working on. I was tagged by the fabulous Larry Benjamin, author of What Binds Us, Damaged Angels and Unbroken (shortlisted for this year's Lambda Literary Awards).

You can read Larry's blog post here: http://authorlarrybenjamin.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/my-writing-process-blog-hop.html

Larry's website is here: http://www.larrybenjamin.com

What am I working on?

I've just finished editing the second edition of my first novel, Champagne, and after a very drawn-out discussion with a reader last week about how much the story affected him, I'm thinking about writing a "sequel" that would bring resolution. I deliberately wrote the ending the way I did, and have puzzled for 10 years over whether there was more story to be told. Anyway, that's a discussion for another post.

I'm also at the 'step away' stage of my latest story, which is part of the Love's Landscapes anthology being published by the MM Romance Group on Goodreads (mmromancegroup.com) from June 2014 onwards. It starts with a prompt from a group member in the form of a "Dear Author" letter and accompanying photo.

Mine was of two guys meeting in the checkout queue, where one attempts to queue-jump, much to the chagrin of the other. It's been an amazing challenge for me, as I've written in first-person narrative, which I've never done before, and I had a remit to work to that set out some interesting stipulations. Great fun!

How does my work differ from others of the genre?

I'm one of those genre-crossers, so I don't fit anywhere, which is frustrating, as my Hiding Behind The Couch series as a whole only really fits in contemporary fiction and that's a HUGE, subsuming category to get buried in, but then each instalment also fits into other genres, such as romance (in all its forms), murder mystery, and even children's books.

What I write is character-based, character-driven fiction, focusing more on the psyche of the characters than their physical attributes, which means I switch perspectives within the narrative, and adjust narrative style accordingly. I try to write about people who are real, with flaws, insecurities, battling to keep their mental health - all the stuff we all experience all the time. It means that I can't really tell you what they look like, but i can tell you exactly how they think and feel at any given moment!

People tell me I also tend to suck my readers into the worlds of my stories. The characters become very real to them, which is pretty awesome!

How does my writing process work?

The characters make me do it!

I don't plan, but I may well have an ending in mind and certain events that I want to play out, so at the same time as writing the first draft, I'm thinking ahead of how I can get to a certain point in the plot, but if the characters veer off and take me on a different route, I'm happy to go with it.

For instance, No Time Like The Present starts with a murder, and I had no idea how it would conclude until I was halfway through the first draft. Also in that book, a new character called Sean Tierney suddenly appeared from nowhere! I really hadn't intended that, as I knew there were too many characters in book one, so I should have been trying to downsize. But anyway Sean got to stay around and plays a very prominent part in the subsequent instalments.

Having said that, writing this way can be a little precarious. I was writing a scene involving a cat a while back and had in mind that the cat would survive the story, but there was always the possibly it might suddenly run off and meet an untimely demise.

Why do I write what I do?

Honestly, I don't know. I was sitting outside a pub with Stuart Ayris (author tagged below) a while back, and he said he felt it was as if the stories were already written, and it was just a case of remembering them, which I can definitely go with.

Insane as it may sound, the Hiding Behind The Couch stuff almost feels like I'm being fed the story from somewhere else. The only way I can explain is to imagine that at some point their universe and ours intersected, creating a link between Josh Sandison and me. All I am doing is writing about the lives of Josh and his friends - maybe he's doing the same about me on his side of the incursion? I find myself writing about them for hour upon hour, day after day, and then suddenly run out of stuff to write about for a while, like I've caught up. I don't know.

Ultimately I write because I have to. It's the vent that stops me exploding. I've recently read a few articles about people surviving on desert islands - imagining myself trying to survive the experience my immediate thought is "How will I cope without being able to write?" I can see it now: Water? Check! Primitive spear for catching fish? Check! Crushed berry ink and dried leaf paper? Check... And the headline after my rescue: Woman washed up on desert island for eight years fills it will billions of words...

Next week, check out:

David E. Manuel (Richard Paladin series, Sudden Addiction and more in the pipeline)
killerprotocols.blogspot.com

Stuart Ayris (Frugality Trilogy, The Buddhas of Borneo and an amazing work in progress I'm sure he'll tell you about himself)
stuartayris.co.uk / stuartayrisblog.org

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Let's Talk About Sex Roundtable (part two)

Welcome to Part Two of our Roundtable discussion on sex in gay fiction, with authors, Larry Benjamin, WS Long, Andrew Q. Gordon and Hans Hirschi, all of whom write gay fiction. Deb McGowan, author, editor and publisher is the discussion's moderator.

Miss Part 1? Don't worry, you can read it here. http://authorlarrybenjamin.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/lets-talk-about-sex-roundtable.html

Don't forget we are also running a giveaway of eBooks and a $30 gift card. Just click the Rafflecopter link on this page to enter the drawing.

You have until 12:00 a.m. April 8, 2014, to enter and winners will be drawn on April 9, 2014. Winners will be notified by email.



DM: Welcome back gentlemen. Let's just dive in and pick up where we left off, shall we?

What's your approach to writing sex?

WSL: The sex scenes should propel the story, involve the characters at that moment. That's the only reason to include it. If the sex doesn't add to the plot then don't add it.

HH: I try to be as realistic about it as possible. I've read far too many books to know that some writers have no clue what they're talking about and some of the sex scenes I've read were pure fantasy.

AQG: Typical for me is to get them to the bed, get them naked, have some playful banter that is a prelude to sex, but when it gets to more than kissing, groping, fondling, undressing, I generally fade to black. I will also at times add 'after' scenes. These would be where one character makes a comment about being too sore to walk, their jaw is sore, they ran out of condoms, etc. I'm not opposed to letting folks know what I see the characters preferred role or what they like, but detailing it in a 'blow-by-blow' account is not my approach.

LB: Here, I'll have to agree with WS; the sex only belongs on page if it propels the story or illuminates something about the characters that adds a dimension to them. Otherwise I think it can be led up to, then fade to black. When I write sex I try to make it realistic—the marathon sex sessions and positions requiring acrobatic agility in some books leaves me puzzled. When I write, I try to make the words beautiful and there is always a rhythm in my head. I try to keep that going through the sex scenes so it seems part of the story rather than a scene inserted randomly.

AQG: I agree W.S. (and Larry) too, it has to add something, but cycling back to a previous answer and comment by Hans and Deb–sex between characters is no different than them going out to eat in a sense, it's a glimpse into their lives and interactions so–in theory at least–all sex could add something to the plot, character development, mood, etc. But as Larry puts better than I can, the pages of detail and contortions and fabled, we always come together and multiple times every time, well that seems more gratuitous to me that necessary.

DM: When you write sex scenes, what are you hoping to elicit from your reader?

WSL: Hopefully, the reader feels the attraction between the characters, what each character wants from the other. Sex shows the dynamics of a relationship and those dynamics should be explored.

HH: A better understanding for my characters, what makes them tick, how they feel, how they love, why they love, or simply how they're horny. Whatever else happens in the privacy of my readers' homes is none of my business…

AQG: As I've said before, if I write a sex scene it needs to advance the story. Sometimes it can be to shown that one character is out of touch with the needs of his partner, or is in total sync with his partner.  If I were writing about someone's first time, I could see some merit to that, but again, the actual act itself doesn't need a step-by-step recitation for the characters reaction to be conveyed to the reader. The afterwards is generally a better time to get out those emotions. But again, I can see it being done while they're in the act. 

I also think that sex – or the build up and aftermath – can be a good way to add depth to your characters. Just like showing them in different situations can let the reader know the character better. But honestly, writing about one character plowing the other deep and hard, or sucking each other off, really doesn't advance the character development all that much. 

LB: Well, I want them to get a sense of the emotion underlying the action and a sense of the dynamics of the relationship. I always hope the reader is learning something more about the characters, seeing something revealed that they may not have noticed before. For me a sex scene is essentially seeing someone clothed, then seeing them naked—you see so much more, so much that was hidden and that gives you a fuller picture of that person.

DM: This discussion raises some very important issues as regards readers' expectations, given that there is a massive market currently for M/M Romance, and yet being labeled as such seems to carry a certain stigma, in the sense that the genre is seen as mindless humping with little in the way of plot. Reading through some of the Goodreads reviews for books listed as M/M Romance but with no on-page sex, I notice that many readers are now expecting this and feel they've been mis-sold if it's absent. I'm not sure how we get around this so that we can tap into the market without "selling out" and including sex simply because our readers (customers) have paid for it.

Perhaps, then, it is a question of personal sensibility and artistic merit—do we stop selling fast food because it's bad for people? Depends on whether we want to get rich or keep our conscience intact.

However, I suspect there is also a much bigger political issue here, akin to the one which was fought (and to a greater extent lost) by 1970s radical feminists against the objectification of women in pornography. This led to a distinction between "pornography" and "erotica," the latter of which was considered to have (the potential for) some artistic merit. Yet in terms of written fiction, erotica has been adopted to describe "PWP"—the textual equivalent of pictorial porn. There's a whole lot more than fifty shades of gray in the language we use for the spectrum of sexually explicit fiction.

In conclusion, maybe the only important consideration here is the MAIN genre of the work. Larry Benjamin writes romance; WS Long writes thrillers, Hans Hirschi writes about family life; Andrew Q Gordon writes science fiction /fantasy. The identity of the characters shouldn't come into it. If sex is crucial to the story, game on.

AQG: Deb, you bring up several interesting points. All Romance eBook (ARe) has a heat index for their books. That should be a staple for all 'Romance' books in my opinion to avoid the 'mis-sold' problem. Then if you're told the book is a 5 flame barn burner and it turns out to be a barely smoldering pile of kindle, you've got a legitimate gripe.

But the other issue is something Larry and I discussed a few days ago, the focus of LGBT Fiction seems to be romance. If there is a romantic pairing in a book, it gets the Romance tag – why? Because that is what sells. The market for LGBT fiction, the kind that doesn't have a romance or sex, isn't as developed. One would think there is a large enough market for LGBT fiction that is not romance focused, but this takes us onto a different topic – demographics of readership. By many 'studies' the largest segment of MM Romance readers are straight women. They are probably not as interested in LGBT fiction, just the romance element. So as you say, the need is to focus on the main genre: family life, mystery, thriller, sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, etc and 'convince' those markets that the orientation of the MC isn't as important as the story. Mercedes Lackey did this with her Valdimar world, or Richard Stevenson did with Donald Strachey. But we also need to educate the LGBT readers who are looking for LGBT character driven, non-romance books, that these books exist.


I'd like to thank everyone for participating in this discussion.

Our readers are invited to join the conversation by leaving a message in the comments section.

You can learn more about our participating authors by visiting the links below.


Larry Benjamin: http://www.larrybenjamin.com

WS Long: http://www.tumblr.com/blog/wslong

Andrew Q. Gordon: http://andrewqgordon.com/

Hans M. Hirschi: http://blog.hirschi.se

Debbie McGowan: http://www.debbiemcgowan.co.uk


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Let's Talk About Sex Roundtable (part one)

Here's something a little different, AND you get to enter a giveaway!


Awesome!

I recently moderated a discussion between four authors - Larry Benjamin, Andrew Q. Gordon, Hans M. Hirschi and WS Long - all of whom write gay fiction. If you're not familiar with the genre, the fact that these guys are, well, guys, makes them quite rare, as much of the work published as "M/M" (male/male) fiction is written by women, and is more often than not romance.

Not that I'm suggesting this is a bad thing (I've been known to write gay romances in my time), but it does mean that, for whatever reason, on-page sex is a common feature in gay fiction.

Thus, sex in gay fiction is the topic for this roundtable discussion, posted in two parts.

The first part can be found on Larry Benjamin's blog: http://authorlarrybenjamin.blogspot.com/2014/03/lets-talk-about-sex-roundtable.html

The second part will be posted here on my blog on Thursday April 3.

In addition, we have arranged a giveaway of eBooks and a $30 gift card. Just click the Rafflecopter link at the bottom of the post on Larry's blog for details and to enter the drawing.

You have until 12:00 a.m. April 8, 2014, to enter and winners will be drawn on April 9, 2014. Winners will be notified by email.



Here's a little teaser to get you going...

DM: Do you feel on-page sex is necessary? Why? Or why not?

WSL: On-page sex is necessary only if the story line involves adult gay men in the male-male romance. The idea is to show through the sex the emotions, the connections between the characters. Sex is a very intimate act and the use of sex scenes implies character change and development.

HH: It is necessary if it adds value to the story line, not otherwise. I add them to move the story along, e.g. bring characters closer to each other. Sex is part of our lives, so why not describe it? We have dialogue, car rides, dinners etc., sex is no different in MHO.

AQG: Can I answer with a qualified, "No?" No. Unless the scene is needed to advance a plot – for example, the MC has changed and is now more controlling or aggressive or passive or disinterested.  Or if the sex is meant to show a reconnection between two estranged characters, then some – some – on page sex is needed. But only as much as is needed to advance the plot. There is an entire genre devoted to on-page sex – Erotica.  Otherwise you run the risk of being PWP – Porn without Plot.

LB: I think it varies based on the story you are trying to tell. From my own writing, I feel it’s usually not necessary.  That’s just my preference. Nothing bores me more quickly than page after page of sex that doesn’t tell me anything about the characters or their situation, that is sex thrown in simply to titillate, to entertain.


Read More and Enter the Giveaway:
http://authorlarrybenjamin.blogspot.com/2014/03/lets-talk-about-sex-roundtable.html

Find out more about the giveaway here: http://andrewqgordon.com/ebook-giveaway