We're back after a couple of days hiatus. I did have a story deadline to meet, dang it all, and "Fear of Frogs" made it just under the wire.
So who better to return to our 2013 GRL Authors I Have Read series than with one of the heavy hitters of the genre? Today, I have a few words about Amy Lane.
Amy's one of those really problematic authors for me as a weirdo...I mean reader! Reader. See, I have this odd pathology. If there's a book/movie/song everyone's talking about and everyone's raving about, I tend to cross over to the other side of the street. It isn't so much that I want to go against the trend just to be contrary. It's more that I've learned over the years that popular things are not for me. Titanic? Blech. Fifty Shades of Whatever? Ick. Breaking Bad? Meh. Sorry. I'm just wired strangely.
So - I wouldn't read Amy Lane. Refused to. The more people talked about her, the more I shied away. Silly? Yeah. Shut up. Then I read a lovely review on the blog "A Bear On Books." Now, I know Tom, trust his judgment, and quite frankly love his reviews since he writes them from the heart. And what was it that caught my eye? The much lauded Promise Rock? The wolves? The SF book that got so much attention?
No. It was a quirky little cover without headless naked torsos or hot manga style men. There was an alpaca in knitwear and a marvelously funny title, The Winter Courtship Rituals of Fur-bearing Critters. She had me at alpaca, but the oddball characters clinched it for me. The painfully antisocial, gruff Rance. The we're-not-acknowledging-our-attraction-to-each-other banter of Aiden and Jeremy. The absurdly optimistic vulnerable mess that is Ben. The writing was, at times, jumpy and higgledy, which suited the characters and the story. It suited me. It soothed me. It made me smile. (I don't knit. Never had enough practice. But I come from a family of knitters and crocheters. I may not be able to get my fingers to do it right, but I know, on a bone deep level, what it feels like.)
By the time I got to GRL last year, that was the only Amy Lane I had read, but the story had settled in my heart and affected me profoundly. When I did meet Amy - well into my third margarita of the night, I believe at the piano bar party - I hugged her and sobbed. She must have thought me a great ninny or a terrible lush or perhaps both. She was awfully kind about it, though, and patient.
Since then, I have read all of the current Knitter books - and have loved them all, especially the Honest Rabbit one, such a lovely, poignant portrait of a soul trying desperately not to come apart every moment of every day. I have read a couple of others, Dex In Blue and so on, but none that burrowed in as deeply as these knitters. I do adore them.
I won't promise not to drink this year, but I will be keeping a better eye on the consumption for reasons of health and perhaps dignity. Right. It's the little things. So perhaps if I run into Amy again this year, I can manage an actual conversation instead of dissolving into fangirl blubbering. Yeah, I know. We'll see.
Here's another author I wish I could read more of (and will someday, darn it.) Not only that, *small cringe* I have yet to read a solo book of Marguerite's. The ones I have read are co-authored with Fae Sutherland, and those are so very charming.
I like a good historical, you see. Yes, yes, sometimes that means a good regency, but *gasp* there's a lot more to human history than just the Regency era. Sometimes I think romance authors tend to neglect the rest of human history in favor of balls and British lords.
Or they used to. I've been seeing a lot more variety over the past few years and I do find those less-explored century stories tantalizing. Both the works I've read by Marguerite and Fae take place in the waning years of the Roman Empire, when Rome is beginning to abandon its holdings in Britain and the North European groups are beginning to settle on the island. Bee Among The Clover and Lotus in the Wild are both beautifully researched pieces, ones that explore the prickly and problematic attitudes of Norse and Northern Germanic people toward homosexuality, toward other cultures and the world in general. I believe I did review them both in my previous life...
I found them both transportive in a historical sense with the language barriers and cultural clashes well and believably painted (though there are moments of magic here and there, these don't detract from the well-constructed historical setting.) Also very glad that I read both books - they really are companion pieces - since I was a bit put out over how things ended with Wulfgar in the first book. (Sorry, ladies, I still think Aron behaved like a brat ;) ) But the second book lets Wulfgar have the rest of his story, with which I'm more than content. Both stories are explorations of damaged and suspicious hearts and both are wonderful reads.
What would I probably pick up next? I see that Marguerite has some luscious looking paranormals out there - those would have to be my next choice. Yum.
Again - an author I have yet to speak to in person. Come say hi in October, Marguerite!
Compared to the other "how I ran into this author" stories, the one for Damon goes in reverse. I met Damon as a reviewer. No, not me acting as the reviewer. He was.
Damon reviewed one of my early works, one that was written in a flurry of anxious, anguished desperation when I realized: A) I had become entangled with an unethical and mean-spirited publisher several years ago B) I had received an invitation to submit to Amber Quill Press and it was a legitimate invitation (I nearly died of shock) and C) I had NOTHING to offer Amber. Panic in Detroit, as it were. I'm still rather fond of A Different Breed but I recognize that I wrote it a bit too quickly.
So did Damon. He wrote one of the most thoughtful, insightful reviews I have ever received from any reviewer. He had obviously enjoyed the story but he pointed out in a funny, gentle, slightly manic way that it had flaws. I agreed and thanked him. He didn't attack me as a writer or as a person. He simply told me what he thought, something that's become more and more rare in reviews.
I saw Damon around and about on the intertubes after that, but then he announced he was releasing his own novel. Squee of excitement in the reader half of my brain, so of course I stalked him, er, showed up at the release party on GR so I could ask a hundred trillion questions. See, some authors are all out there on a visible level. You read their work and you know what it's all about. There are no questions. I'd seen enough of Damon at this point to know there was a lot of weird shit going on in that manic brain and if you poked a bit, you might get to see more.
I do love Hot Head and have read it several times and, yes, there were layers of thought that went into the story, an outpouring of things that had to be said. In the still-raw emotional wreckage of 9/11, it was an anthem, a remembrance, and a poignant journey.
And, damn. Griff is hot.
But it's no longer my favorite Damon story. He delved into SF shortly after that and wrote two related pieces, a short titled "Seedy Business" which was fast-paced and often darkly hilarious, and a more serious piece, Grown Men, which I absolutely adored. It didn't have the widespread success of Hot Head but the sad fact is that contemporary will always outsell SF. I loved it. Lurved it. Damon understands world-building, I think, in a more instinctive way than a lot of romance writers - material culture, political motives, and economic structures are all important pillars of how a character will react and respond to situations in any new world. Heck, it's vital to what situations there will be in the first place. You could easily dismiss Ox and Runt by saying "oh, there's that old M/M trope again, the big man/little man one." You could, if you're one of those readers who can't absorb anything past the most superficial and obvious. They are a couple of the most unique characters I've yet to come across in any genre and their story is quite astounding. (Some of the sex gets rather inventive, too, but that's a different story.)
I actually met Damon at last year's GRL and got a lovely hug and was rather tongue tied and shy. He is, if you have not met him yet, a human typhoon. He often sweeps into a room, rattles it about, and sweeps out again. The man has so much energy it's kind of scary to watch sometimes and while his brain is capable of darting in several directions at once, it's the intensity of focus as he sweeps in and out that makes heads turn. (OK, and he's not bad to look at. There, I said it.) The kilt did make an appearance at the readings (I have grainy pictures) and there was some pretty elastic dancing as I recall.
Anyway. Damon's new project A Bad Idea is one that I'll want to snap up. Currently reading through Horn Gate, which I do believe is related - and it has the Itch series attached to it on the DPS website. You gotta love the promise of a series...
This year, maybe I'll siphon off a little of Damon's energy. Discreetly. Not too much. I don't think he'll notice, do you? ;)
Clancy will most likely be coming for my head for this one. (I hope not, but...)
See, I have monetary issues. This isn't (no kidding?) unusual for a writer but they've been worse the last couple of years. One of the fabulous things about writing reviews was I got to read without the cost. (So long as I wrote my thoughtful, inspiring, incredibly erudite *cough cough* reviews, I got to keep playing.) Without this literary safety net, I have to limit my purchases and, sadly my reading these days.
Yeah, yeah, I'm going somewhere with this. There are a lot of writers I would A) like to read more of or B) like to read at all. Clancy falls into the A) category. Every time I see a new Clancy Nacht story, I gaze at it wistfully and tell myself to remember it in the next semi-annual book buying spree. These happen in June (birthday) and late December (Christmas) with gift card money. Every relative I have knows I don't need things - I need books. But since I keep losing my lists, there are authors, like Clancy, that I invariably neglect to pick up.
This makes me sad. Especially since I have read one Clancy Nacht story - though probably not one of the ones you would expect. I ran across Clancy for the first time in a wonderful M/M Fairytale Anthology Bedknobs and Beanstalks (a nod to the old children's story Bedknobs and Broomsticks.) I enjoyed several of the stories thoroughly but only one of them made me laugh out loud. We say that a lot these days, the whole lol thing, but my son says I shouldn't be allowed to use it. I should only be allowed to use lqtm (laughing quietly to myself) since I rarely laugh while reading in any audible way.
With Clancy's story, "Jack and the Peenstalk," I did. Loudly. Until my stomach hurt. It just hit all the right tickle spots for me and was so marvelously sarcastic and ironic. I like sarcasm. Bet you couldn't tell. (From the original review: "This Clancy Nacht gem had me in stitches with its satirical take on the evils and ennui of modern life. It’s not merely a bit of humor, though. There’s a sweet love story here as well, giving us hope for the possibility of redemption for even the most selfish slacker.")
Long story short, I do look forward to reading more Clancy and perhaps speaking in person this year. Anyone who can write about peenstalks already has my approval. (lol)
Sometimes you run into another author in strange and various ways over the years. He or she kind of pops in and out of your life with a bizarre frequency that almost makes you wonder if there are patterns in the universe of which we're unaware.
My first encounter with Belinda was in my guise as the evil reviewer. (Evil Review Queen sounds a little melodramatic so we'll stay with the small title.) The book? An Uncommon Whore.
I'm an ancient Science Fiction fan. Have been for...a long while. All right, I'll say it. Probably for longer than some of you have been alive. Reviewing M/M SF, though, had left a bad, bad taste in my mouth previously. It wasn't really Science Fiction at all. It was romance with spaceships and not even very interesting spaceships or with aliens who were just like humans in every way that mattered or on distant planets that really were Fantasies...on different planets. Where was the science? Where was the universe building? (Don't get me wrong - I love a good genre mash for a purpose. A little fantasy thrown in with the SF for a humorous piece is splendid. But these all took themselves waaaaay too seriously.)
Did I really want to risk another? I'm so glad I didn't give up on the genre and it was Belinda who gave me hope. Here was (finally!) an SF author writing M/M romance. There were planets and societies to explore, fun tech, evil aliens, (and morally dubious aliens) hints at intergalactic relations and so on. The SF didn't overshadow the romance, though, and we have a fascinating look at a main character who struggles to regain his confidence and his sense of self after losing everything up to and including his identity. This was SFR I could get behind and now I wanted more.
I started to run into Belinda through SFR groups next (The Science Fiction Romance Brigade, specifically) where I had fun posting about new releases for other authors. There was a dearth of GLBT SFR at the time so it was nice to see company. (Both Belinda and I write M/F SF as well, in the interest of full disclosure.) We found each other on Facebook and I've admired Belinda's huskies and the lovely pics from various cons. The second UW book came out and I snatched it up. Squeezed Blacque/Bleu in there for good measure - not SF but tons of fun.
When I arrived in Albuquerque for last year's GRL, I managed to squish myself onto the wrong shuttle from the airport. I didn't know the times were scheduled and reserved. I was just so relieved to find the right bus for the right hotel. On this bus? Belinda and ZA Maxfield (ZAM!) and the lovely Tara Lain. I think I'm recalling correctly... Anyway, I felt so much better about the whole going to a conference where nearly everyone would be strangers thing after that. It was such a lively group and the best introduction one could have to such things.
This year? I've just finished The Bacchi (which was quite a story, let me tell you... no, just read it. I won't tell you.) and Belinda and I will be doing a Storyteller spotlight together with KC Burn. I think we're just meant to keep bumping into each other like really strange ships in the night. At warp speed, of course.
When you think of a soft-spoken gentleman who writes like a demon, who comes to mind?
No, no, not Ralph Waldo Emerson. A contemporary writer. What's that? Andrew Grey? Why, yes, that's right. :)
Andrew's another writer I came across for the first time during my reviewing years. I may have been a bit critical with my first review, but it was early on in Andrew's career and I saw something there in the manner and the mode of the storytelling that attracted me. My second Andrew book was one of the Farm Series books - and after that I snatched up every one as quickly as it was entered into the database.
When I look back through my review folder (yes, I saved them all, so there) I have tons of L.E. Bryce, a good bit of Josh Lanyon, ones and twos from lots of others, but my folder is just peppered with a healthy population of Andrew Grey novels. Once upon a time, I could safely say that I had read everything Andrew had written. But he's such a prolific writer that I can't keep up and sadly *sniff* have had to curtail my devouring of his novels.
Again, these are a bit atypical for me. While Andrew wrote some fantasy early on, his focus is more real world - farms, cowboys, vintners, restauranteurs and so on, but for me, Andrew is a comfort food author. He's who I turn to when I feel heart sore and world weary. His writing, while there's certainly conflict and often souls in terrible need, is gentle and kindhearted. Everything's going to be OK and there are still good people in the world. Andrew says so. His characters show it's true.
I do play favorites, I'll admit. The Range series really got to me (Dakota's father has MS, after all, something rather close to home for me since it's the retro-virus that decided to take residence in my body, too) and I do still love the Farm family. But I have a special place in my heart for the Of Love series which takes place in lovely Carlisle, Pa, not too far from me, and features some really lovely food scenes as well as poignant characters in difficult situations. (Tell me you don't cry over Billy trying to take care of his little brothers on nothing, I dare you.)
Luckily, Andrew goes to lots of events throughout the year so there are tons of photos out there of him. The first time I saw him in person was in the Swag room at last year's GRL. I need to warn you, the photos are correct. Andrew is quite tall. (And I am quite short) So the hug was a bit of a tiptoe stretch, but, hooray! Andrew hug!
Some writers are exactly as you imagined them. In some cases, this is a really good thing. :)
My next writer really needs no introduction. You know you'll get one anyway.
Ethan Day, if you don't know, is one of the beating hearts of GRL. He was an intimate part of the nurturing from the germ of a lovely idea to the full-scale exuberant madness that it is today. This is in less than a handful of years, mind you. He could easily have been one of those writers who spent all of his time on self-promotion (and writing, of course) but he's always been a staunch supporter of other romance writers and, as long as I've known his name, has provided forums for fledgling writers to try their wings.
I first ran across Ethan as a reviewer. (Yes, I was one of those horrid, nasty people who read books for a review site and didn't always say glowy, gushy things. Of course, that's when I still had time left in the day for such things.) This review site accepted all manner of erotic romance and while most of my colleagues snapped up the M/F and the menage offerings, I haunted the listings for M/M, the odder the sub-genre, the better. It must have been at a point where I needed something to lift my spirits (probably after reading something dark and distressing or several somethings) that I was lucky enough to spot At Piper's Point. The blurb made me hesitate a bit but, what the heck? A comedy, even if there was a bit of slapstick, was just the ticket.
Was there slapstick? Some - Ethan does some hilarious physical comedy, not just in this book but in several others I've picked up since. But the expectation that I was getting a shallow rom-com didn't last past the first chapter. Our Mr. Day has depth. He's a natural storyteller who understands the rhythm of a story and just how much to spool out on the story thread. (From my review, oh, my, almost three years ago: "After my first, wrongheaded impressions had been swiftly shattered, I found it amusing that Cassidy and Nate spend most of the novel not having sex. Quite honestly, the not having sex and almost having sex was hotter and more squirm-inducing than most sex-filled novels I’ve read.")
Yes, Ethan writes contemp stories, but weirdo me will make an exception for him. There aren't too many writers I'll do that for. (What? No mystery? No horror? No crime scenes? No spaceships? No paranormal beasties? Heavens to Murgatroyd!) Ethan writes more than simple comedy, though - his stories contain very real internal struggles. Don't be shocked if you alternate between giggling and tears when you read them.
Talk to Ethan? Well...maybe this year. If he's not busy. If I don't get all tongue-tied again. Or I could just wave from across the room...
The pretty At Piper's Point cover above is the new one from Wilde City Press.
I first met Silvia online through a mutual publisher where we had one of those "Hi, how are you?" "Oh, new release, congratulations!" kind of relationships. We first met in person, though, in September of 2012 in Tennessee of all places, where we were staying in the same cabin. ("Cabin" is a misnomer here. It was a wood structure set up on the side of a mountain but the dang thing was bigger than my home and could house and feed a small army.)
We were both early risers and began to run into each other stumbling about the half dark kitchen, trying to get coffee started or Silvia would find me after her walk out on the veranda sipping coffee, watching the morning light filter through the mountain mist. We clicked, through some odd grace of the universe, with enough mutual geek girl overlap in different subjects to keep things interesting. Full disclosure - Silvia is one of my favorite people, and one of my favorite authors to work with. Since that first time together, we've worked on several anthologies together and often serve as the each other's beta readers.
We tease Silvia that she could be a school librarian. Sweet, kind and gentle, her polite southern soul rarely has a harsh word to say about anyone. Bless their hearts. But don't let the exterior fool you. Silvia's stories are hot, with a big, red, flaming, capital "H." While we both write adult fiction, mine is definitely in the "plot with a little sex if I feel like it" camp while Silvia's work tips more toward the "sex built around a plot" style of romance.
The first Silvia books I read (before we ever met) were her SF novels, the Galactic Betrayal stories. (What a shock - I dove right for the science fiction. Anyone surprised? Show of hands? *crickets chirping* Yeah, that's what I thought.) I didn't go in with high expectations. I've been horribly disappointed by M/M "science fiction" before - the kind that had no SF in it, that was really just one sex scene after another with maybe an alien thrown in. But no, Silvia's work sucked me in. There is a lot of sex, don't get me wrong (a LOT) but it's sex for a reason, sex that furthers the relationship and development of these seriously damaged characters. And the SF portion? Built right into the sex in some really imaginative and kinky ways. Lark and Derek are both such lovely messes - the reader can't help but fall in love and I'm excited to see these being re-released now with beautiful new covers and all. Good stuff.
Since then, I've discovered Silvia is a versatile author of steamy hot romance - with shifters of all sorts (including but not limited to wolves) and various sexy contemporary heroes to go with the SF stories. It's a full service buffet of yummy tales into which she invariably builds a lot of sexual tension, badly damaged souls in need and some of the loveliest mouth-watering meal descriptions you'll ever find. Really, it's often as much food porn as it is erotica :D
Can't wait to hook up again in Atlanta, Silvia! (Well, not in the sense the young folk mean...you knew what I meant...)
This is going to sound absurd, I know, but the thing that first attracted me to Jordan is her profile picture on Facebook. I love that hat. How trivial, how silly, I know, but sometimes those little eye-catching things make you pay attention through the noise of social media.
I liked her posts. I liked her sense of humor. Pretty sure I spotted her at the last GRL, but we've yet to speak. (Time for an overly honest moment here: as much as I'd love to say hello and get to know everyone involved, it takes a ridiculous amount of shoring up my social fortitude to introduce myself to someone new. I will try to follow my more social friends' example and do better this year.)
Point is, I was interested and finally (with the birthday book money this year) was able to purchase a couple of Jordan's books. Hooray! Had my eye on the Whyborne and Griffin books for some time...
Jordan is self-published, which sometimes makes folks hesitate, even in this shiny new era of alternative publication. I understand - some self-pub stuff is really rough, unfinished, unpolished. These? Gorgeous books. I had no real idea of the plot/content of the W &G books going in, so I absolutely giggled in glee when the word Arkham showed up early on. Lovecraft! My brain shrieked in delight.
The edge of horror was not as oppressive as Lovecraft, nor as overwhelming to an easily influenced mind, but the atmosphere that Jordan lets ooze through the pages is perfect, dredging up old feelings of dread and wonder. I had a couple of bad nights where I was turning on more lights than usual, convinced that something (thing!) lurked in the dark outside my house.
These paranormals are as good (or better in several cases) than the ones being put out by the big M/M publishers these days - thoroughly enjoyed the setting, the poignancy of the characters and the creeping sense of horror. (Yes. Old horror fan. I do enjoy it even when I'm scared into doing silly things like racing up the stairs too fast.)
This is one of the most wonderful things about our genre - discovering each new, wonderful author a story at a time. We'll always have our favorites, our comfort food authors if you like, but there's something exquisitely satisfying about sinking your teeth into someone...er, something new.
It took me a long time to read Abigail Roux. Some explanation is probably in order...
Reading, for me, is not so much escape as it is comfort. Being able to connect with someone's interior world soothes me since I so often don't connect well with the exterior world. So reading contemporary fiction is not generally my cup of tea. Neither is reading authors "everyone" raves over. I need something different, something odd, something more imaginative than "real life" stories and stories that, to me, have become part of the popularity contest of life. Give me good SF, a well-crafted fantasy, a good mystery with a quirky detective, a historical that isn't that same plot line as the hundred thousand that came before. Give me an author who can write, who does more than create the usual "hot" stories.
It's silly, sometimes, I know. But an author "everyone" has to read? My red flags go up immediately. Abi, unfortunately, was one of those authors "everyone" talked about. I can, with enough finagling, get over myself, though.
Abi sat catty-corner from me at the GRL book signing last year, across the aisle where I could observe. She seemed like a lovely person and her table was constantly busy. My dear friend, Silvia (who was at the table behind me) even took time for a fangirl moment to leave her own space and talk to Abi. What's it all about? I asked. Silvia assured me that Abi's work would be right up my rather crooked alley: mystery, suspense, an atypical relationship, some really odd characters and dark stuff with a sense of humor. So I tried one.
Um, yeah. Several weeks and several Ty and Zane adventures later, can you say Abi fangirl? I fell fast and hard.
Flaws here and there? Sure. Did I enjoy every book as much as the others? No, of course not. But Ty and Zane, with all their damage, all their conflict, all their bizarre coping (and non-coping) mechanisms rammed through all my carefully constructed defenses. I adore them. They've become absurdly real to me and I worry about them (and now their oddball friends, too, darn you Nick and Kelly!)
Abi's strength, I think, lies in the characters themselves - the way we're allowed into certain rooms in their brains, their unique voices and internal struggles. The external conflicts are fun, too, of course. You had me at Poe and Baltimore, Abi. It really wasn't fair. It's the slow reveal of character over time and the slow growth from one disaster to the next that sears these stories into the heart.
Think you're only seeing Abi's writing through the lust haze for Ty and Zane? Fair enough. I will argue that her writing also excels in place and atmosphere - the research into setting and feel, the overall ambiance of the story is just as crucial to her yarn-spinning and just as effective. Don't believe me? Step away from our FBI boys. Slowly. You can do it. Now go read Gravedigger's Brawl and you'll see what I mean.
This time when I go to GRL, maybe I'll have a chance to speak to Abi. Fair warning. There may be a fangirl moment or two. :)
Angel writes (mostly) Science Fiction and Fantasy centered around queer heroes. Currently living part time in the hectic sprawl of northern Delaware and full time inside her head, she has one husband, one son, two cats, a love of all things beautiful and a terrible addiction to the consumption of both knowledge and chocolate.