Thursday, May 23, 2013

Safe sex: Should characters in M/M fiction wrap it up or not?

I'll start this post with the disclaimer that not only am I a woman, I've been in a monogamous relationship for the last 16 years. And while I read a lot of M/M fiction, I'm definitely not an authority on gay sex. I research my scenes to ensure that positions and reactions are realistic, but one sticking point for me is condom usage.
Colorful condoms
Photo by Qxukhgiels

Should contemporary M/M fiction promote safe sex? I posed the question to a group of authors and got varied responses. Most agreed that safe sex was important. I also posed the question to a group of readers and got a very different response--nearly all of them thought it didn't matter, since it was fiction.

When I'm writing a scene, I often dither about whether or not to include a condom. When do the MCs reach a point in their relationship that it's okay to bareback? And where do blow jobs--not to mention rimming--come into play in the scope of safe sex? Since unsafe sex does happen in the real world, is it all right to write it or as authors, should we be using our writing as a means to gently educate readers about safe sex practices?

It's a lot to think about while you're in the heat of the moment, so to speak, and I'll admit that I usually omit the condom on the first draft of a sex scene. They haven't been a part of my own sex life for over a decade (has it really been a decade since college ended? Yikes), so it's difficult for me to work them into a scene naturally. I do think it's important, though, and that's why I always try to make my characters as safe as possible, even though it often involves editing condoms in during revision.

That can happen in a variety of ways. Sometimes it's a committed, long-term relationship and I can throw in a comment about how glad they are that they made the decision to stop using condoms. When it's a first-time encounter, condoms are always discussed, even if they don't use them. But is that "I've been tested recently and I'm clean" discussion a cop-out?

What's your opinion on safe sex in M/M fiction?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Editing and the EDJ

Things are plugging along for me, despite the Evil Day Job's best attempts at getting me off track. I'm a freelance journalist, so most of the time after a long day of interviews and writing the last thing I want to do is write more, but I'm trying hard to get past that. Having the daily word count goal I set at the Dreamspinner Author Workshop in April has been a big help.

The Buyout
I just finished the first round of edits on my latest novella The Buyout, which will be published by Dreamspinner Press later this year. My first instinct when I see one of my manuscripts all marked up is to cringe at all the mistakes I made and all the plot holes I left (or the number of times I changed a character's eye color or the city they lived in or, on one memorable occasion, getting the character's name wrong...not misspelled, just flat out wrong).

As a journalist, I'm used to having my pieces torn apart. What I'm not used to is having those ripped up pieces sent back to me, asking me to sign off on the changes and revise in areas--we journos usually work on a tight deadline that doesn't allow for that kind of dialogue between writer and editor. To be honest, I kind of prefer it that way.

This is the third story I've taken through production at Dreamspinner, and I have to say that my experiences with the editors has been top-notch. Their comments are insightful and they never fail to make my stories tighter, clearer, and better when we come out the other side of the editing tunnel. That said, the editing process is still a nerve-racking one, and my conversations with authors who are much more seasoned than  me leave me to believe that the initial roller coaster ride of self-pity and horror that accompanies getting that first edit back is never going to change. 

It's not that I'm not open to the criticism, because I am. The editors ultimately have the same goal I do--to make that story the best it can be. And like I said, once I've reworked paragraphs in accordance with their notes or changed the wording or sentence structure the way they've suggested, I always walk away from it feeling like that story is better for it.

But any feedback that isn't open gushing about your story--your baby, the piece you've reared from infancy and spent many a late night with--is hard to hear. I think that experience makes us better writers, though. And the work editors do with us definitely makes the books better in the end, and that's what should matter.

How do you deal with the editing process? Do you have any tips to share with a newbie?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Turn that frown upside down...dealing with rejection

I'm fully aware that as a newbie author, I've been incredibly lucky. I spent months trolling internet discussion boards, blogs, and publishing resource sites trying to pump myself up for that first submission, armed with all of the publishing horror stories about how many rejections it takes before you finally get that successful bite. When I did take the plunge and submit to a publisher, the surge of nervous anticipation right after hitting send felt like every birthday-Christmas-night-before-the-tooth-fairy eve I've ever had. (I'll be honest, I've sent off four more since that first one, and the feeling is the same every time.)

My first three submissions were accepted, which I'm over the moon about. Every time I send something off, I feel like a small part of me holds its breath until I hear back. (For my upcoming novella, The Buyout, that wait was six weeks. That's not a really long submission lead-time in the publishing world, but damn, that first full breath after its acceptance was a nice one!)

This time, though, the much-awaited email was a rejection. My submission for an anthology didn't quite fit the bill, and I'll admit I had that heart-crushing moment of self-pity. But the editor was compassionate and professional, so the self-pity didn't last long. The rejection was sandwiched between a "I really liked it, but..." and a "You could try to re-write it and submit it as a novella," so I decided to turn that frown upside down and make it a smile. Or rather, turn that short upside down, add a few thousands words, and make it a novella. There's no guarantee that it'll go over better this time, but at least I've tried. And I love these characters, so spending a little more time in their world is a pleasure, not a hardship.

Connor and Jake have been together since college and their relationship has fallen into the rut that many longterm relationships do. They take each other for granted. They work overtime, they miss dinners. They slide into bed at night and keep to their own side because they're so damn tired that all they want to do is sleep. To make matters worse, they have a roommate, so their love life lacks the spontaneity of kitchen sex or even just the wanton thrill of being as loud as they want to be when they do find time for sex. When Connor becomes secretive and pulls away even more, Jake starts to worry that their relationship is in trouble. He even begins to suspect that Connor's having an affair. Just as Jake is sure that Connor is pulling the rug out from under him and sending their stable relationship crashing to the ground, though, Connor surprises him with a romantic weekend that puts all his fears to rest.

(See? Would you be sad about having to spend more time writing with these guys? With all this angst-turned-sweetness, my rejection frown is definitely turned upside down now!)

I'll be finishing the novella up this week and sending it off, so think happy thoughts for me. I'm also waiting for the submission editors to review my first full-length novel, Island House, so I'm a big ball of nervous angst right now. And while that's bad for my blood pressure, it's great for my house. I'm an anxiety-cleaner, so things are looking pretty spotless around here right now. (It makes up for how neglected things get as I finish up a manuscript!) *g*

Friday, May 3, 2013

What's coming up

I was lucky enough to get to attend the Dreamspinner Press Author Workshop last month in Chicago, and I came home super-charged and ready to write all the things. Of course, that only lasted a day or two before the realities of shaping my writing schedule around two young kids and a my freelance writing gig.
Driving into Chicago for the Dreamspinner Author Conference

First, can I just say how impressed I was with Dreamspinner Press? The workshop was awesome, and I really did feel privileged to be there. As a newbie author, it was amazing to get to meet some of the authors I really admire, like Amy Lane, J.P. Barnaby, Andrew Grey, B.G. Thomas, Shira Anthony and so many others. Just being in the same room as them was a bit panic-inducing, I'll admit. And there was swag! (I'm using my DSP ear buds to rock out to the new Fall Out Boy album while writing this!) *g*

Meeting the Dreamspinner editorial staff and about 70 other authors was a really motivating experience, and I've been trying to incorporate some of the things I learned into my daily work flow. (Like Tweeting more and blogging more often...) I also committed to a goal of writing 300,000 words this year. Daunting but something I'm excited to try!

To that end, I'm happy to announce that I was able to (finally!) finish Island House and get it submitted to Dreamspinner. It's the story of Niall Ahern, who left the U.K. for the British Virgin Islands four years earlier when his partner died, and Ethan Bettencourt, the man who makes Niall realize his life didn't end with Nolan's. They meet when Ethan arrives on the island looking for a vacation home. He chooses Niall as his real estate agent, and the two begin a flirtation that spans a hurricane, several misunderstandings, and two countries.

Those of you who've been coming to my fiction site for awhile might remember my Connor and Jake series. Their angsty love story was too fun not to expand on, so I indulged and put them through a little more hell before they finally got a chance at their happily ever after. That story, Better than Okay, is a short I submitted for Dreamspinner's cuddling anthology. Still awaiting news on that front, but I'll let you know if they make it into the anthology!

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