Some book recs

Writers are always told to maintain an active blog. We’re supposed to write about our books and projects, but also about things outside of writing, to show our readers something about our lives.

I’ve been struggling with this last bit. I work, I write (and promote my books) and I read. I can write about writing easily and enthusiastically, and I guess I could write about my day job too, but while it’s a job I enjoy, it’s not very interesting to outsiders. I mean, we all sit in an office for a lot of the day and stare at computer screens and type out endless emails. There, that’s my job in a nutshell.

There’s only one other thing I have anything exciting to say about – the books I read. Those of you who following my Facebook will already know pretty much what I read and when I read it because my Goodreads account is linked to my page. But I don’t tend to write reviews, even though I love 99% of everything I’ve read in the last few months. I simply don’t have the time for in-depth reviews, which is what my favourite books deserve.

But today, I do want to tell other people about some of the wonderful M/M romance writers I’ve fallen in love with recently, because they make my life 100% better!

So, while you’re waiting for my new books (and they are coming, I promise), why not check out some of the great books below? By the way, these authors are not a definitive selection, they merely wrote some of the M/M romance stories that have touched me most deeply. There are many, many more amazing authors in this genre, and I’m hoping to write about them next time!

Here they are, in no particular order, my most beloved M/M romance writers and stories!

Garrett Leigh

Writes: Contemporary M/M romance

I simply love her books. LOVE them. Her characters are sweet, sexy, gorgeous, but always very real and relatable. And she writes the best hurt/comfort I’ve so far encountered in M/M romance. And boy, am I ever a sucker for H/C! I love gorgeous guys taking care of each other. And Garrett writes H/C in such ways that it never makes her characters appear very real.

My favourite book so far has been Between Ghosts, which is set during the Iraq war and tells the story of an SAS soldier and a journalist who (unsurprisingly, since this is romance) develop feelings for each other. But my first book was Rented Soul, which is the story of a cool guy business man and a rentboy falling in love. The book is followed by Soul to Keep, which is the story of the rentboy’s best friend overcoming his own demons. And this book is what led me to Between Ghosts. Garrett likes to feature her characters more than once, giving supporting chast from one story their own book later on. I really love that approach!

Not all of her series work for me, and this is actually one of the best things I’ve learned in recent months: If a book doesn’t immediately grip me, don’t write off the author. If there’s something about the book you like (the writing style or the voice, or the characterisation) try another one of theirs and see if it’s a better fit. Writers tend to write for different audiences even in the same overall genre, and they evolve. And lucky for us, some of the most amazing writers have been at it long enough to give us plenty of stories to choose from!

Find Garrett’s books and more info on her website.

Josh Lanyon

Oh my goodness, what can I say? I love Josh’s books! Nothing is as satisfying as her crime stories in that beautiful prose, giving us one hot couple of law enforcement officers after another (interspersed with the odd artist, bookstore owner and history professor, who just make the stories even hotter).

Again, I came for the hurt/comfort, and stayed for the amazing storytelling. I have several favourite couples. Adrien and Jake from The Adrien English Mysteries are a classic, but I think Will and Taylor from the Dangerous Ground series are my favourite couple. I mean, FBI. Lord. Jason and Sam from The Art of Murder series are a close second for the same reason, and Elliott and Tucker from All’s Fair are also up there. Sometimes, Josh does cameos for her characters too, and it’s always fun to find those.

I liked a whole bunch of her other works too, but steered clear of the cosy mystery, the paranormal and the adventure stories, because the genres are simply not my jam. But I want to mention them, since everyone loves different things and I’m sure these books will be just as amazing for those of you who love the genre!

Find out more about Josh and her books on her website.

Other books

There are many other M/M romance books I loved, and I want to mention a small selection because I genuinely think you’re missing out if you don’t read them!

The Sacrifice and Other Stories – Kim Fielding

After just having extensively gushed about two authors’ back catalogues of contemporary M/M romance, here’s a Fantasy anthology I thoroughly enjoyed. I haven’t read much M/M in the genre, but this one took me by surprise. I loved the fairy tale quality of the stories, and how the author doesn’t shy away from writing sweet love stories between men who aren’t always perfect, young and gorgeous. I’ve added a whole bunch of Kim’s other books to my TBR pile. 

Trailer Trash – Marie Sexton

I’m not overly fond of books about younger people. I found puberty annoying enough to go through once and adolescent angst isn’t for me. But this book definitely hooked me. It’s not YA, even though the protagonists are only 18. It doesn’t even really read like NA, maybe because it’s not set at college. I’m not sure. But whatever it is, it worked for me. The story is sweet and sad, but also gritty. The boys are easy to like, and I cared a lot for their fate. So far, I haven’t delved deeper in Marie’s back catalogue, but I do want to!

Gay Amish Romance series – Keira Andrews

Loved this so much! It was one of the first M/M romance series I seriously delved into, and I was hooked from the first page. The books are a little heavy on the sex for my taste, and I probably skipped the odd scene, but the story Keira weaves around the steamy bits is sweet and angsty and feels very real. I’ve added a few other of Keira’s books to my TBR list and will hopefully get around to them soon!

That’s it for now, but I thoroughly enjoyed writing about these faves, so I definitely plan to do another post like this in the not too distant future!

Do you want to share your favourite M/M romance stories and writers with me? Please comment about them below, I’d love some good recs!

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Have I told you about Wings of Glass yet?

Muse and Flame coverNo, I haven’t, because I’m a doofus! My little short story, over which I laboured for a long time, found a very loving and perfect home with Fluky Fiction in The Muse and The Flame: A Collection of Bizarre Romance, which came out last week! The anthology is really unusual, the love stories are about monsters, cannibals, and death. But I promise, it’s a great read! (I also really love the cover.)

Matt Doyle also had me over on his blog for an interview about the anthology, in which I made up a poorly thought-out analogy to do with kangaroos. Yeah, I don’t know either.

And here, last but not least, a little taster of my story. Maybe it’ll entice you to spend $1.40 to read the rest!

Wings of Glass (Excerpt)

He’s been dead three months today. But when I close my eyes I see him, perched on the balustrade out on his roof terrace. Goofy grin on his face, sort of lopsided around the cigarette he never could give up, even at the end.
“Hey, babe,” he calls, and beckons me over. “Missed you today. What’s new with you?”

***

Daz’s cell:
U bought milk? Bacon? Cigs?
Lucy:
Baby animal food, check. Cholesterol in shrink wrap, check. Cancer sticks, check and check. Be there in 5.
Daz’s cell:
U funny xx C ya soon.

 

I sold my book, now what? Part 2 of my writing tips

Back in August I wrote a post about how to get your foot onto the published author ladder. I had just successfully chaired my first ever Nine Worlds panel, and my book had not yet come out. Now I feel it’s time to share more things with you that I’ve learned and trialed since then.

My book is out, and I’m very pleased with how the launch went, and how it has been received. Since August, I have learned an awful lot about how to market your book. The guide, I sold my book, now what? is a collection of all the useful resources I’ve come across, plus some hints and tips for all of you who are slightly panicky over how to start their marketing efforts for their first book.

Take heart, you can do it! And if you have any questions, just drop me a line and I’ll see if I can’t dig up something useful!

Musings on the release of A World Apart

Now that my debut novel has been out a couple of weeks and the reviews are coming in, I had the urge to write a little bit about how the book’s reception has affected my thinking of the story.

First of all, thank you so much to everyone who has written an honest review! I can’t stress this enough, I’m deeply grateful to everyone who has taken time out of their busy lives to share their thoughts.

Secondly, I’m not trying to justify or even clarify anything with this blog post. I don’t think any writer has to justify why they wrote the story they wrote. But of course, I have thoughts on my first release, and I want to address one of the aspects that has come up a lot in the reviews so far: The quick progression of the love story between Ben and Donnie.

I’ve said this before in other places, so forgive me for repeating myself: I write relationship stories because I find relationships, of any kind, quite hard. I’m an introvert and like to be by myself. But I like people, too. I like my friends, and I even like meeting new people, in small doses, with lots of time in between to decompress. What fascinates me is how people relate to one another, as acquaintances, friends, family, lovers… I like thinking about that, and I like writing about it, especially about people being kind to each other.

When I started writing, I did so in the world of fanfiction. I’m proud of that, and I carry the flag and talk about it openly. There are a lot of great writers in that world who deserve to have their talent recognized as widely as possible. I’ll always feel connected with the fic fandom. (You can find a lot of us over on AO3.)

Fanfic is different from published writing in many ways, and I want to talk about one of the main differences. When you write romantic* stories in a fandom, the fact that your two characters (or sometimes three, or four, or more) will end up together is a given.

There are heaps and heaps of slow burn fics in fandom. I think, generally, the structure of the romance genre is a lot like those fics: Two people fall in love against all odds, must go through trials and tribulations but, in the end, are HEA (or at least HFN). And that’s lovely, there’s a lot to be said for that and it’s wildly successful both in fic and in romance as a commercial genre.

But I haven’t ever really written those fanfic stories. My stories are about the romance, yes, but they’re also about other things – oftentimes quite serious things like illness, and violence, and dealing with a hostile world (I write The Walking Dead fic, after all).

I think it’s entirely my fault, that I don’t fit all too comfortably into the romance genre. I didn’t do my homework. I didn’t come to romance writing after a life spent devouring books about people falling in love. I read Sci-Fi and fantasy and horror and crime growing up, and I still do. I’ve asked myself why then am I not writing in those genres, and I honestly don’t know the answer.

My next book is a romantic suspense novel, and that’s probably more along the lines of the stories that I’m used to writing.

When you write fic, you can experiment with everything. You make it available to a small audience for free, and while some readers will tell you if they don’t like your story you’re usually not judged on whether or not it fits into a specific genre. Fanfics are sometimes called transformative works, which means that a mainstream text is taken and changed in some way. But I believe that transformative also refers to the experimental nature of fanfic writing. You can write odd POVs (2nd person is something no publisher will even touch, except maybe for RPG which are also transformative literature, in a way), play around with style, with tense, with mixing genres etc.

A World Apart, just like my fic, is a story about a relationship, but it’s also a story about what happens to the characters beyond that relationship. My favourite romance stories have always been the ones where a couple gets together quickly, even if they then have to fight to make the relationship sustainable. I’m no fan of the slow burn, or the “will they, won’t they” trope. (I just want to make it clear that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with those stories at all, they’re just not my personal favourite.)

If I were to write A World Apart now I would write it differently, I’m sure. I might stretch the first story over two books (to conform more with the customary relationship arc), and I definitely would refrain from making the characters use the L word so soon. But I’m not writing it now. I wrote a story to the best of my abilities at the time, and I’m pleased with how it turned out.

I’m not sorry that Ben and Donnie’s story is what it is. Writing about them still makes me very happy, and I’m working a little on the second book in the series now, alongside writing the standalone romantic suspense novel. Another thing I learned from writing fic is that it’s nice to have several projects at the same time, even if they take longer to complete that way.

On a final note: Something from fanfic that I wish was adopted more widely by the publishing industry is tagging. If we knew, when we buy a book, that the story is “slow burn” or “insta love” or “relationship amongst other stuff” or “enemies to lovers” or “angst” or “hurt/comfort” I think it’d be much easier to pick books we’ll enjoy.

*By far not all fanfiction is romantic in nature.

Want to have your work published? I wrote a thing that might help

This weekend I attended the Nine Worlds Convention in London and got to chair a panel, From Fanfic to Book Contract and Beyond. While this is a terrifying prospect for an introvert, I think it went rather well. Many thanks to all attendees, and to the organisers to make this happen!

During the panel, I mentioned a document I pulled together. In it, I list (and ramble about) all the resources I’ve been using in the last few years to help launch my writing career. If you’re looking to do the same, you can find the document here: Mel’s Resources for Writers Who Want to Go Pro.

I hope it’s of use to some of you. And because the WWW is truly bottomless I’m already working on the next list of resources. Stay tuned!

Pre-order for “A World Apart” coming soon!

The pre-order links will go up on Saturday, August 5. I’m so excited! Will post it here as soon as I get it.

Meanwhile, the blurb is ready:

Ben Griers is the darling of Corinth Georgia’s Police DepartmentCover small—intelligent, handsome, and hardworking. Thanks to his beautiful wife and clever daughter, Ben’s family is the envy of the town. Yet desperate unhappiness is hiding just below the surface.

When Donnie Saunders, a deadbeat redneck with a temper, is brought to the Corinth PD as a suspect in a hit-and-run, Ben finds himself surprisingly intrigued by the man. He quickly establishes Donnie’s innocence but can’t shake the feeling that Donnie is hiding something. When they unexpectedly encounter each other again at an AA meeting in Atlanta, sparks begin to fly.

With his marriage on the verge of collapse, Ben is grateful for the other man’s affection. But he is soon struggling to help an increasingly vulnerable Donnie, while at the same time having to deal with the upheaval in his own life. Ben eventually realizes that they cannot achieve happiness together unless they confront their darkest secrets.

Scammers Break The Kindle Store

So infuriating!

David Gaughran

On Friday, a book jumped to the #1 spot on Amazon, out of nowhere; it quickly became obvious that the author had used a clickfarm to gatecrash the charts.

The Kindle Store is officially broken.

This is not the first time this has happened and Amazon’s continued inaction is increasingly baffling. Last Sunday, a clickfarmed title also hit #1 in the Kindle Store. And Amazon took no action.

Over the last six weeks, one particularly brazen author has put four separate titles in the Top 10, and Amazon did nothing whatsoever. There are many such examples.

I wrote at the start of June about how scammers were taking over Amazon’s free charts. That post led to a phone conversation with KDP’s Executive Customer Relations.

Repeated assurances were given that the entire leadership team at Amazon was taking the scammer problem very seriously indeed. But it was also stressed that the…

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