A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

We find our genre delightfully, dangerously, and deliciously exciting - join us here, if you do too!

NOTE: the blog is currently dormant but please enjoy the posts we're keeping online.

Julie Moffet . Cathy Perkins . Jean Harrington . Daryl Anderson . Nico Rosso . Maureen A Miller . Sandy Parks . Lisa Q Mathews . Sharon Calvin . Lynne Connolly . Janis Patterson . Vanessa Keir . Tonya Kappes . Julie Rowe . Joni M Fisher . Leslie Langtry

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

And not a drop to drink...

I have hundreds of books in four bookshelves in my house. Maybe a dozen books on my nightstand. And probably close to 100 books on my Kobo.

And I can’t find a thing to read.

It’s clearly not the books’ fault. It’s because of the weird place in which I always find myself after finishing writing a novel. My mind is still swirling with the story and my hands still reach out to flick on the writing computer… only to fall short. I should be starting on my next project, but there are four clamoring for my attention and I’m experiencing a kind of mental restlessness. I need to immerse myself in other people’s stories. Rinse my palate, so to speak.

So I turn to my collection of books, but none of them fill my current need. I’m hankering for a mystery, but not a regular cozy, noir or even suspense. I want a mystery with a twist. A good, solid, mystery fantasy or mystery science fiction. Even a mystery featuring a ghost would tickle my fancy. And so, I’m reaching out. Any good books to recommend?

Just to start us off, here’s a short selection of books I’ve read and enjoyed. All descriptions are from Amazon.

Shadow of Ashland by Terence M. Green
Only weeks before she dies in March, 1984, Leo Nolan’s mother shows her son a rose she says was just given to her by her brother, Jack, who disappeared 50 years earlier. After her death, letters from Jack begin to arrive at the family home. They are postmarked 1934. The final one is from Ashland, Kentucky. Leo heads to Ashland, to track down the source of the letters…. And to find out why they are arriving now, after 50 years.

The Disappeared by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
In a universe where humans and aliens have formed a loose government called the Earth Alliance, treaties guarantee that humans are subject to alien laws when on alien soil. But alien laws often make no sense, and the punishments vary from loss of life to loss of a first-born child.

Now three cases have collided: a stolen spaceyacht filled with dead bodies, two kidnapped human children, and a human woman on the run, trying to Disappear to avoid alien prosecution. Flint must enforce the law—giving the children to aliens, solving the murders, and arresting the woman for trying to save her own life. But how is a man supposed to enforce laws that are unjust? How can he sacrifice innocents to a system he’s not sure he believes in? How can Miles Flint do the right thing in a universe where the right thing is very, very wrong?

Kiln People by David Brin
In a perilous future where disposable duplicate bodies fulfill every legal and illicit whim of their decadent masters, life is cheap. No one knows that better than Albert Morris, a brash investigator with a knack for trouble, who has sent his own duplicates into deadly peril more times than he cares to remember.

But when Morris takes on a ring of bootleggers making illegal copies of a famous actress, he stumbles upon a secret so explosive it has incited open warfare on the streets of Dittotown.

Threads of Malice by Tamara Siler Jones
One by one, young men in the kingdom’s outer reaches are vanishing into the dark. So far, two bodies have washed up on the local riverbank. But Dubric Byerly, head of security at Castle Faldorrah, soon realizes there are countless more victims…for it’s his curse to be forever haunted by the ghosts of those whose deaths demand justice.

Oh, and if you’re curious about the novel I just finished, I’m calling it Backli’s Ford—Book 1 of the A’lle Chronicles. For now, at least. It’s with beta readers right now, and I expect it will be available as an e-book by August. If you’re curious about it, you can check out the first chapter on my web site.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Rose is a Rose...

But is a book a book by any other name? More and more we find books available in a multitude of formats. Could be an ebook, an audio book or a paperback. Does one format work better for every book?

When I first got my Kindle, I thought it was the coolest way to read. I loved the anonymity of carrying a variety of titles anywhere from the gym to vacation with the parents to the dentist office. I read ebooks exclusively for months. Until my book club chose a selection that wasn't available as an ebook. Okay, so I could deal with the occasional paperback.

Months later we decided to take a long car trip and unfortunately, I get an awful headache when I read in the car. But alas -- I remembered that my Kindle played audio books and I embarked upon a brand new experience. Isn't it wonderful all the choices we now have in books? I was thrilled when I learned Protective Custody was going to be an audiobook. I could be part of the book revolution!

One of my other romantic suspense books, Tropic of Trouble, a personal favorite (since the hero is loosely based on my wonderful husband), is coming to print. Yet another format I'm going to conquer -- or something like that.

I don't know about you, but I can't wait to see what the future holds for books. Will we be able to somehow read a hologram? Watch our story unfold in 3-D? I'm curious. What as yet uninvented format would you like to see come into being?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Where's the Inspiration?

Where do you find Inspiration?

Last month I was lucky enough to lose my Bruce Springsteen concert virginity. Yes, it’s true, I’d never seen The Boss in concert. Though I’ve liked his music, I never went out and actually bought it. I’ll admit, had a Springsteen concert not been on my husband’s bucket list, I probably would not have gone.  And that would have been a mistake. So now you’re wondering… what’s the point of telling us this? One word:


Whether you’re a Bruce Springsteen fan or not, there is no way to leave his concert uninspired. The reason I bring this up is because I was worried that I had no ideas for my next book and mid way through his concert, something popped into my head. Something that resembled the beginning of a plot. That was the minute I started taking serious notes about my surroundings in the concert venue. How could I make my story plausible? Who were my characters and what if… Well, you know how that “what if” question works. And lo and behold, I have a skeleton idea for my next book. It’s not the first time, I’ve been inspired by something on my husband’s bucket list. In fact it’s the second time a book has evolved from one of the items on his “to do” list. This has only made me realize how important it is to stick with my husband when he plans his next adventure. Turns out his list is good for my creative self.

What about you? Have you ever done something out of the norm for you and been inspired by it?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I Confess...

I have a confession. I am an avid fan of airplane disaster films.

Granted, I was a wee little tot when AIRPORT came out, but eventually I saw it and I was hooked. By six years-old I had proclaimed myself a seasoned traveler with my commutes to Florida for family. At that age it took me a couple of flights to realize that the people below did not keep up Christmas lights all year long, and that they were just house lights. :) 

Airport ’77 in the ocean came along, and then Airport ’79 on the Concorde! OMG, why did they stop? Why can’t we have Airport 2012 on Richard Branson’s new experiment?

We cannot discredit AIRPLANE. That was a masterpiece. Tell me who here amongst us doesn't still say, “Don’t call me Shirley?” or, “I picked a bad day to stop…” One of my favorite stupid quotes was from AIRPLANE 2 (yes, a blockbuster!). Someone said, “I need a little breather”, and there in the corner was Herve Villechaize…breathing.  They even list him in the cast as "Little Breather". LOL! Great stuff.

AIR FORCE ONE was phenomenal. I even loved TURBULENCE with Ray Liotta. Of course I and Ray Liotta’s mom are probably the only people to have seen it. I did draw the line at SNAKES ON THE PLANE, though. 

When Jodie Foster announced she was filming a movie on board the new Airbus, I was counting the days to the release. Granted, it didn’t meet up to everyone else’s expectations, but I loved it!

So then why the heck have I not written a romantic suspense novel on board an airplane? The answer is simple, and common to us all. Time. People wonder where authors come up with the ideas for their books. It is not the ideas that are lacking…it is the time to execute them. My romantic suspense air disaster will have to wait...but can you imagine the possibilities...

Coming soon to a book near you.  Six glamorous movie stars are about to board the first ever Star-grazer flight. They were supposed to experience six minutes of semi-weightlessness, but one of the actresses lied about her weight!  :)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Why I Write Romantic Suspense

I read my first historical romance novel at the age of 11 (maybe 12). A feisty Scottish heroine, an alpha English lord, an Elizabethan setting, stirring action, sex scenes without the word “seed.” I was hooked. A few hundred novels and a few years later, I became disconcerted by the material I was reading. No, I didn't turn prudish. The monarchy system of government and the peerage system go against my belief in democracy and meritocracy. When it got to the point where I wanted to reach inside the book and slap the heroes for being lazy or sexist, the heroines for not standing up for themselves, and other characters for mindsets that were acceptable at the time, I knew I had to stop. (Yes, I know the sub-genre is more than European historicals, but westerns aren't suitable for someone with mysophobia. Actually, no historicals are suitable for someone with mysophobia.)

I turned to paranormal and urban fantasy romances because I liked the kick-ass heroines. Then I noticed a small detail that grated on my nerves and killed the sub-genre for me: humans were portrayed as clueless idiots who survive at the whim of the undead or creatures that go furry (or feathery or scaly or stony or whatever) on occasion. Hmm. For some reason, that doesn't sit well with me. Personally, I think humans are pretty intelligent (although, you wouldn't know it if you follow politics), resourceful, and innovative. And I think plenty of other people agree with me. If you read comic books, you'll know that two of the most beloved superheroes are Batman from DC Comics and Iron Man from Marvel Comics, both of whom have no supernatural powers.

Luckily for me, I was introduced to romantic suspense by Tami Hoag and Sandra Brown. Romantic suspense is great fit for someone who can't leave a crossword, Rubik's cube, jigsaw puzzle (2-D and 3-D), Soma cube, or any type of brain teaser alone. I NEED to solve them. I love to solve puzzles so much that my career has been about solving puzzles, from troubleshooting software programs to tracing money to solve accounting anomalies. With romantic suspense, I love figuring out who'd done it and sometimes how. I love that my brain can be engaged when reading romantic suspense and mystery novels. I love the process of solving the mystery, I love the "Aha!" moment when it comes together, and I love the climax when the baddies are taken down, especially if it involves a little hand-to-hand. (I read comic books, remember?)

So, that's why I write romantic suspense. Hopefully, other people like me enjoy reading them because it can be expensive to be a comic book collector. And I recently developed a taste for Hunter boots.

Monday, May 14, 2012

I-Spy: Writing the Gay Mystery (Plot)

Join the authors and friends of Not Your Usual Suspects for an occasional series of posts about their world of reading, writing and publishing.

Short and sweet, hopefully both informative and entertaining - join us at I-Spy to find out the how's and why's of what we do.

TODAY'S POST: I-Spy Writing the Gay Mystery…with Josh Lanyon


Plot is always paramount in mainstream fiction, but it is probably more important in the mystery genre than any other. Whether the sub-genre is thriller, espionage, suspense or classic mystery, plot is paramount.

 That means that writing about gay cops or gay FBI agents or gay sheriffs or even gay criminals does not necessarily mean you’re writing a gay mystery. In order to qualify as a mystery, you must configure a mystery plot. And a mystery plot does indeed take some configuring. If you’re one of those writers who hates to outline, mystery might not be the genre for you.

The thing to keep in the forefront of your mind is that a random series of events, AKA having a bunch of stuff happen, does not equal having a plot. Not even if all that stuff happening is exciting and interesting stuff. A plot is a logical sequence of events. Meaning every action your character takes (or doesn’t take) brings about a result which requires reaction which will bring about another result which will require reaction…and all this action and reaction keeps the ball moving forward.

In a mystery or crime novel, that logical sequence of events is the investigation of the crime (usually, but not always, murder).  It is because the plot is an investigation that logic is required. Your sleuth -- and this includes sleuths with psychic powers, by the way -- cannot solve the crime through intuition, coincidence, acts of God, or visions from beyond the grave. Or at least not solely -- primarily -- through such happy strokes of fate. All sleuths must investigate. They may have their own wacky method of investigation, but investigate they must.

By the way, this remains true even if you are writing an inverted mystery or a thriller where the criminal’s identity is already known to the investigator.

Now, before you start to sweat, let me make your life a lot easier. Regardless of whether you are writing a cozy mystery or a police procedural, all investigations amount to the same thing: a series of “interviews” or interesting conversations with your other well-drawn characters. That’s pretty simple, right?

In the course of those conversations your sleuth will uncover one bit of information that leads him closer to solving the mystery (even if he doesn’t recognize it at the time) and several pieces of information that will lead him in the wrong direction.

Got it? All the rest of the stuff that fills your book -- lab reports, DNA results, the inquest, attempts on your hero’s life…that’s all it basically is: filler. Filler and subplots. Which is not to say that it isn’t excellent stuff -- sometimes a subplot (often your main character’s romance) is even the primary reason readers keep coming back to your books. And here you were thinking it was your locked door puzzles!

The second thing to remember is that there is no plot without conflict.

Now…by conflict, I don’t mean your main character spends 230 pages bickering with the guy he’s romantically interested in. The primary conflict in a mystery or crime novel is that while your protagonist is trying to solve a crime, his antagonist is trying to get away with murder. Usually literally.

In other words your protagonist and his antagonist want two separate things -- which puts them in conflict with each other.  While your protagonist is trying to unravel the mystery, the antagonist is trying to make sure there are no loose ends.

As you plot your mystery, focus on the two things that any investigator would focus on: motive and opportunity. Make sure that you have a couple of characters with both motive and opportunity. And make sure that nearly every character has good solid motive -- even if it is not immediately apparent to your sleuth. Crazy is not a good, solid motive, for the record. And while serial killers remain a fixture on crime fiction lists, the bar is pretty high on creating truly chilling and memorable ones.

You must have enough suspects to keep both the reader and the protagonist busy. Not so many that your reader can’t keep track of them, but enough so that she has fun wondering if her initial guess could be right.

You must play fair with the reader -- and we’ll talk more about that when we get to clues and red herrings in a few months.

Finally, do not make the mistake of confusing literary crime fiction with real life criminal investigations. In real life, most crime is not that interesting and a lot of it goes unsolved. You don’t have that luxury. All your crimes must be interesting -- as must all your criminal investigations -- and your sleuth will always figure out who dunnit. Usually either a little before or a little after but generally around the same time the reader figures it all out.

Questions? Thoughts? Opinions?


A distinct voice in gay fiction, multi-award-winning author JOSH LANYON has been writing gay mystery, adventure and romance for over a decade. In addition to numerous short stories, novellas, and novels, Josh is the author of the critically acclaimed Adrien English series, including The Hell You Say, winner of the 2006 USABookNews awards for GLBT Fiction. Josh is an Eppie Award winner and a three-time Lambda Literary Award finalist


FUTURE POSTS will cover:

Kindlegraph / the art of research / writing male/male romance / rejection and writer's block / building suspense / writing love scenes / anti-piracy strategies / audio books / interviews with editors and agents / using Calibre.

We welcome everyone's constructive comments and suggestions!


     All budding actors are told there is no such thing as a minor character. Every individual in a play is important. A difficult concept for a young actress to accept while waiting in the dressing room for an hour or more for a chance to say the three words she’s been practicing over and over again. There are many ways to say, “Good Morning, Sir” or “Your tea, Madam.”
     Since I began placing words on paper and keyboard, I’ve found that each character—no matter how brief his or her entrance upon the stage—adds to the story, and sometimes manages to manipulate a twist or turn in the plot I’ve researched and planned—often surprising me in the process and expecting me to deal with their unexpected revisions. Something is set in motion that needs a reaction from my leading character. A chance remark, sighting or gesture may change a line or a chapter and sometimes will turn a minor character into a major player.
     Leading characters need to be more fully realized so that the writer and later the reader can understand the character’s action. The reader needs to recognize and identify with background, period, and the happenings in a life that motivates and distinguishes the individual’s behavior. The secondary characters should add seasoning to the story, a touch of spice that adds humor, fear or another layer of mystery. We and the reader have to find something about our secondary characters that adds to the authenticity of each individual and his and her moments on the page.
     My intended villain in Scene Stealer decided to charm me and I had to choose another character to carry out every reprehensible deed.
     Often a minor character threatens to take over the book and that’s when the author has to decide if the character is right or whether that character should be told to stand back and wait for a future book of his or her own.
     What unexpected adventures have your minor characters involved you in?



Friday, May 11, 2012

Revenge: What Goes Around Comes Around

This year I’ve been watching Revenge, a television series featuring Madeline Stowe and Emily VanCamp. It’s about a young woman who returns to the Hamptons seeking revenge against the couple who set up her father. Her father was tried and incarcerated for organizing the bombing of a plane. He left papers and documents for his daughter, proving his innocence and detailing the different people who played a part in his imprisonment.

Each week Emily Thorne goes after a different person and tugs on strands of the past, forcing the cast of characters to react. In the last episode I watched, Emily is starting to realize that innocent people can get caught in the fallout. She starts to waver in her pursuit of revenge.
I used the theme of revenge in my historical mystery romance, TheSpurned Viscountess. My hero Lucien is focused on discovering the identity of the men responsible for murdering his first wife. He lets his estranged family organize a second marriage for him, but he’s totally indifferent about his new bride. At the start of the story the only thing he’s interested in is revenge. It takes time for him to appreciate his new wife and come to accept the loss of his first wife.

Revenge is a fairly common theme in romances, and it works particularly well with romantic suspense stories. In most of the stories I’ve read the character seeking revenge usually comes to realize that success won’t change the circumstances or bring the wronged person back. The characters learn to accept and forgive.
I’m not sure how the TV series ends since I’m still watching the show each week. As a writer, I’m enjoying the slow build and the way that each action by the heroine brings consequences. She doesn’t always achieve her goals because the other characters move to their own drummer. I think this makes her seem more sympathetic as a character. We know her father was wrongly accused, and we want her to succeed, yet we don’t want the innocent players hurt either.

So, my questions for you today:
1. Do you enjoy the revenge type plot?
2. Do you think that the character seeking revenge should be successful or should they come to accept that they can’t change the past? Should they move on and embrace the future?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Don't tell me you haven't read my book

I’d like to let you in on a little secret: Just because you know me, doesn’t mean I expect you to read my books.  Most people who know me haven’t read my books and that’s okay. 
But please, PLEASE don’t tell me WHY you’re not reading it, because  THAT is awkward.  I shouldn’t have to tell you that “it’s okay” or “I understand”.
I do understand that you’re a) short on time b) reading books more worthy of your attention c) haven’t read anything more challenging than the back of a cereal box in the past decade. As long as you’re okay with those things, it’s okay with me.

Worse than the “I haven’t read your book” is the declaration “I’ve started your book”  that’s never followed up. It makes me wonder if you thought my book was so bad that you used it to line your hamster’s cage.
Even worse than that, is the, “I read your book” statement. What am I supposed to do with that? Go fishing for a compliment and ask, “Did you like it?” or “What did you think of it?”. My usual, “thank you” seems woefully inadequate, but quite frankly if you don’t say anything good about it, I assume you didn’t like it and wonder if I should say “I’m sorry” instead of “thank you”.
Confession time: There are tons of books I haven’t read either.  And yes, I feel guilty about the ones written by the authors I know. It’s not that I don’t think their books are worthy, it’s that there are a finite number of hours in the year and the majority of mine are spent writing, not reading.  Sadly, it seems the more I write, the less I read.
Speaking of my books, I’m very excited that the second book in my CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN series will be out in October…which is why I’m so busy writing and not so busy reading!
Now tell me: What books ARE in your To Be Read pile? What new releases are looking forward to? What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

Monday, May 7, 2012

When is romantic suspense not romantic suspense?

Damned if I know. My Carina book, “Learning To Trust,” which I thought was romantic suspense, was categorised as contemporary romance in many places. I thought that with dead bodies, bombs and a bit of assassination, that might qualify it, but in my books the romance is always upfront and center, the most important part of any story I write, be it paranormal, contemporary, historical, or indeed, suspense.
What’s more, I’ve won an award for romantic suspense, an EPPIE (now retitled). It happened in a year when I had a lot of books I wanted to enter in the EPPIEs, but I didn’t want to enter too many in the same category, and so have them compete against themselves and perhaps weaken the vote.
The EPPIEs happened when writers entered their books for awards, and chose the categories they were entered into. Then the books were sent to readers, who judged them, giving each book points, and that included relevance in the category they were entered in.
I had a paranormal, and several historicals that year, including two Richard and Rose books, the series that made my name. I could never choose between them, and I didn’t want to, so I decided to take a chance and enter them into different categories.
“Harley Street” was a book that started with a murder, which then factored into Richard and Rose’s lives in an alarming way, and spread over the remaining books in the series, only finally resolved in the upcoming “Lisbon.” But there was this murder, so I figured I could get away with entering it in the Romantic Suspense category.
And blow me down, that was the book that won. Historical mystery is an unusual and fascinating subgenre, and mine was even more specific, because it was a romance novel, or a novel featuring a very strong romance.
So what do I know? “Learning to Trust” was, I felt, an important step for me into another genre, but not everyone thought so, probably because the romance is the thing, rather than the suspense. I still love the book, and I’m still thrilled that it got into a publishing house like Carina. But it was really hard for me to write. The issues are dark and gritty, and writing a romance with that in mind was harder than usual. However, some of my paranormals are also suspense books, featuring secret agents, murders and other good things. But paranormal suspense is a genre I’ve just made up. Bloody good, though. I’d read a paranormal suspense in a heartbeat. Hey, aren’t the Harry Dresden books paranormal suspense?
As I said, damned if I know. I’ll let the experts decide in future. 

Lynne Connolly

Friday, May 4, 2012

Malice Report

I'm home after attending the Malice Domestic mystery convention. If you're wondering what "Malice Domestic" represents, it isn’t a discussion about domestic violence or ripping your mother-in-law or the latest overhyped story. It’s a celebration of the cozier end of the mystery spectrum. The conference spotlights traditional mysteries, leading up to the Saturday night banquet and the Agatha Awards. Agatha Christie wrote character-driven mysteries with puzzle plots, very different from the conspiracy thrillers, steamy romantic suspense or gritty hard-boiled stories that populate the far side of the mystery genre – er, the end where we hang out here at Carina Press.

Mystery conferences have a different vibe than romance gatherings. The emphasis is on connecting to readers, so there isn’t the edgy, I must impress the agent/editor at my pitch session undercurrent. Instead there’s a whirlwind of names, faces, panels and chatting. A chance to connect with old friends and make lots of new ones. Time to hang out with irreverent Janet Reed or have fan girl moments when Sophie Littlefield (who is the nicest human on the planet) told me about her latest story and asked about my next book over dinner.

But the entire time, even as I chatted with librarians and tried to remember the two second summary of my book for a reader, I wondered if the expense of the conference was justified.

I factored in industry information from agents, the editor who invited me to send both my new projects to her. An historical author who generously shared tips on ways to find slang and speech patterns from earlier years. Good stuff.

Would any of it translate into sales?


Was that really the point?

Another friend with a dozen books on her list told me she doesn’t go to conferences any more. The money she spent on the conference fee, hotel and travel, she insisted, was better spent translating her latest novel into Spanish. For her, those dollars translated into actual income.

But I think each of us has to make a decision based on where we are at that particular point in time.

So I'm wondering this morning, what do you get out of conferences that you don't get out of chatting online, emailing and Facebooking?

What’s the best piece of advice you learned at a conference?

Do you have a favorite conference? One you'll never again attend? One you'll never miss? One you wish existed?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

American Idol...

Anyone else glued to Season 12 of American Idol? I've watched it for the last eight years. Actually I probably watched it before you guys because I was glued to Pop Idol in the UK back in 2001, which was the precursor to the American juggernaut.

Ryan Seacrest and the gloss of the whole production makes me think of book covers and websites. Slick and gorgeous. The judges (& Jimmy) remind me of editors and book reviewers, shaping and evaluating the end product.

The talent this season is phenomenal. I don't think I've seen such a fine array of singers/artists ever. But the whole idea of singing for votes made me think about the concept of popularity versus talent. Are these guys really being voted for because of their (incredible as it may be) singing ability? Or are people just in love with looks and charm? When Jessica almost got voted off it was obvious that success was not necessarily just tied to vocal ability. 

I think this is true for writers too. Plenty of great writers languish in obscurity. Jessica is gorgeous and talented, but perhaps not to whoever it is who votes for American Idols. Maybe the people who should love Jessica don't watch American Idol? Or don't own phones? I don't know. It's a mystery. Or maybe she doesn't connect with the voters. Heck, maybe we're all jealous :)
So what does it take to be successful?

Talent, for sure. Connecting with your fan base, be it voters or readers. A huge amount of luck and serendipity and the willingness to follow your dreams no matter what.

I watch them and think, as difficult as it is to send out a manuscript to an agent or an editor, at least my humiliation (if there is to be humiliation) is more or less private. I haven't just performed on a stage in front of millions of viewers. 

But this is perhaps the real key to the power of American Idol...

American Idol gives them a chance to rise above obscurity. Obscurity, not losing a contest, will kill a career, be you a writer or singer. Sure, they might mess up, some people might loath what they do, but if they can find a big enough fan-base of peeps who love them, they will have a career. Personally, I love them all and would happily adopt the lot. Can't wait to see what they do with their lives :)

Who's your favorite?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I-SPY : Writing M/M Romance

Join the authors and friends of Not Your Usual Suspects for an occasional series of posts about their world of reading, writing and publishing.

Short and sweet, hopefully both informative and entertaining - join us at I-Spy to find out the how's and why's of what we do.

TODAY'S POST: I-Spy something beginning with ...


Here are just a few of my thoughts on one of my favourite topics :). I hope they're enjoyable, enlightening and expressed well enough - but remember, these are only my personal opinions.

What is it?  
M/M romance is the shorthand for male/male romance – in other words there are two heroes rather than a hero and heroine. A gay relationship is central to the book, though its plot can fit in any other genre – suspense, crime, fantasy, scifi etc. Many of fiction’s tropes are familiar too – cops and villains, star-crossed lovers, friends to lovers. It doesn't have to be erotic or explicit, but often is, like many romance books.

Why do you write it?  
I’ve written in several genres over the years, but m/m romance caught my imagination most strongly. I like men – no excuses there! – but I’m not talking about physical attraction alone. I also like to explore their character, behaviour, upbringing and attitude. The difference from my own character – and sometimes the similarity – is fascinating and intriguing. To set two of these men together in a romance novel is even more challenging, and I find it both empowering and refreshing. Other authors quote the excitement of creating a new dynamic on the page, and that’s certainly true. Both female and male characters can be portrayed away from the usual male/female stereotypes.

Can anyone write it?
Of course, anyone can write about anything they like, though to publish successfully you also have to consider issues such as publisher guidelines, the right market, and what’s popular. But even more importantly, in my opinion, you should follow your heart and instinct. An author knows what s/he likes to write, just as a reader knows what s/he likes to read. There’s a strong argument that if you try to write something you don’t love, it loses sincerity. In other words, if you try to write it for the wrong reasons – to keep up with other authors? To cash in on what looks like a new, better market? – it won’t feel right, either for you or your readers.

What are the challenges?
*As a female writer, the first challenge is that I’m not a man myself! However, my imagination is as strong as anyone else’s, so is my respect for reality, and my perception of human nature. Writing is a process of setting all that into an enjoyable story.
*There are logistical difficulties though. You can write “he put his hand on his shoulder, and turned him to face him” and no one knows who did what! It becomes even more tricky with intimate scenes, when you can easily lose track of whose (always male) leg went where :).
*There are significant differences in love scenes, of course, where – if you’ll excuse the bluntness – the whole process of Tab A and Slot B proceeds and concludes in very different ways.
*You should always show respect for your characters, and as they are, not as you’d like them to be. It may be tempting to take a classic m/f love story and replace the F with another M, but it rarely works successfully. Men think and act in a different way, even before the author allows for individual characters.
*You also need to step carefully into a genre where you can’t claim automatic, biological sisterhood with the main characters. It takes extra care to avoid being accused of being either ignorant or exploitative.

Why not?
All the things I love about m/m romance are the same as for other romance novels – after all, men are as strong, sexy and sympathetic as women can be, and a m/m relationship deserves its happy-ever-after the same as a m/f one. But…
*Some readers like to fall in love with their hero, and imagine themselves the heroine. Readers of m/m find a different excitement, because their hero will never fall for them!
*It’s not a guaranteed successful route. There’s fast growth in the genre at the moment, due to the accessibility of e-books and new exposure. But it’s still (excuse the pun) a closed book to a large percentage of the reading population. It’s a niche market: people can feel either uncomfortable or hostile with the subject matter, and this affects readers and book outlets.

So it’s different – but the same?
In many ways! As in any romance, if you write two-dimensional characters who talk and act the same way, whose motivations are boring or implausible, who don’t appeal to universal emotions – it won’t work, whatever gender they are.

Lastly (a late addition) - who reads it?
Well obviously I do LOL. But so do plenty of other people - men, women, gay, straight, young, old, and the list's not limited to these examples. Numbers are growing all the time. Some people who've never come across m/m romance before, assume it's for the same audience as the main characters - gay men - but that's far from the case. It genuinely is for anyone and everyone. We all have our valid preferences, but there are no restrictions on trying something out!

Needless to say, I love writing it - and hopefully my readers enjoy reading it!  Clare :)


If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share them. Maybe we’ll return to the subject again if there's more you'd like to know!  
I’d also like to encourage anyone who’d like to try a m/m romance book, maybe for the first time. If you email me off-blog, I’m happy to offer you one of my short stories for free. 

Clare London publishes novels and short stories of m/m romance, and is an author at Carina Press, Dreamspinner Press, Amber Quill Press, JCP Books, MLR Press, JMS Books, Torquere Press and Pink Squirrel Press.
Visit her at her website and her blog, and at Facebook and Twitter.


FUTURE POSTS will cover:
Kindlegraph / the art of research / writing male/male romance / rejection and writer's block / building suspense / writing love scenes / anti-piracy strategies / audio books / interviews with editors and agents / using Calibre.
We welcome everyone's constructive comments and suggestions!

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