The Rating Game: Or, How I’ve Learned To Loathe It


TNA BadgeI’ve seen some discussion on the internet recently that focuses on that heinous and subjective little number we each choose to assign to the reviews of the books we read. I’ll be the first to admit that we here at The Novel Approach seem more prone to like than to dislike the books we choose to read and review, but that’s the law of probability—gamble on enough books, know thyself well enough, and the odds are going to be in favor of the reader a greater percentage of the time. Do we all have our favorite authors? Of course we do. Again, that’s the law of numbers—read enough authors and we’re bound to find a few who do it for us every time, sometimes to varying degrees of success, but success nonetheless. Have we each gambled and lost? Yep. That’s the risk of this biz—there’s always an unknown variable. Am I going to start selecting books to review on the basis that I’m fairly certain I won’t like them just so I can give lower ratings and, therefore, somehow up my credibility? Nope. Continue reading


Happy Holidays!

As we take this day off to spend it with family and friends, we at The Novel Approach would like to take a moment to wish you all the love and joy the season has to offer.

May your day be filled with the warm glow of knowing you are thought of fondly today and every day.

Wishing the happiest of holidays to you and yours!


Happy Thanksgiving!

We here are The Novel Approach are wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving (or simply a lovely Thursday), and please…

Don’t forget to kiss the cooks!


Is He Already An Internet Sensation, you ask? Why, Yes He Is. Please Welcome, BJ!


Well, you all know the drill by now, yes?

I say: “Here we grow again?”

And you say: “Whaaa…? Again?”

Or, at least that’s how it goes in my imagination. Your version may vary somewhat. :)

So, I’m just going to spill it straight up. Please welcome our newest reviewer, BJ!

We couldn’t be happier to have him on our team!


BJ Sheppard is a figment of a crazy person’s imagination from the South of England, where he lives with an entire army of make-believe characters in his mind who share in his particular brand of psychosis. He writes every day of his life, in varying degrees, if only to his imaginary husband, who looks like Colton Haynes but thinks like Aragorn and can dance like Channing Tatum.

He reads scores of books every week, mostly because he hates the fact he made the life error of studying science when all he really wants to do is to get fat[ter] and fuse to his desk chair eating donuts and trying to be Chuck Palahnuik.

He likes Thai food because it smells of sex, and if ever asked who would be good playing a film role, his answer is always obnoxiously the same: Matt Bomer should play ALL the characters.

He tells every employer he ever had that he can speak fluent French, when in actual fact all he can say is a line he learnt watching The Craft when he was a child. He is a hundred miles of bad road, a self professed geek and is a little in love with the idea of ideas.

Books rock his world, so he reads them all the live-long day when he should be doing other things.

He also likes referring to himself in the third person…yes he does.


The Joyful Approach – Countdown To GayRomLit 2013

Hi, everyone!

The lovely Jay, she of the Joyfully Jay fame, and I are so excited to announce a joint celebration we’ve been cooking up to celebrate our way toward this year’s GayRomLit Retreat: The Joyful Approach: Countdown to GRL 2013!

Joyful approach badgeFrom August 19th – October 6th, we will be spotlighting GRL authors, both here and at Joyfully Jay M/M Romance Reviews and More. Depending upon how many authors decide to participate, we will host up to three guest posts each week per blog. It should be lots of fun and a great way to learn about and meet some of the GRL participating authors, and maybe get to know some new folks as well. So for my readers, keeps your eyes open in August for that to kick off, and be sure to stop by Joyfully Jay and say Howdy-doo (or some such nonsense) to the fabulous Jay and her gang of amazing reviewers.

If you are an author interested in participating, here are all the details you need to know:

For this event, we will be offering special guest spots to GRL registered authors on our two blogs. These guest spots can be used for authors to introduce themselves to our readers in a variety of ways; they do not have to be focused on a particular book or a new release.

We will be heavily cross-promoting each spotlight feature throughout the event, so every author, regardless of blog placement, will get exposure to readers at both sites. However, because of the complexity of coordinating and scheduling so many posts, we are unable to take requests for specific dates. Never fear, though: we will work together to formulate a schedule and alert each author well in advance of your allotted time slot.

If you are interested in participating, we ask that you add your name to the Countdown Spreadsheet. This is a first come, first served opportunity, so don’t delay if you’re at all interested in joining in the fun.

Once you’ve joined the Countdown, all promotional materials (blog posts, announcements, images, etc.) should be submitted to us at lrhoran@yahoo.com no later than Monday, August 12th.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at lrhoran@gmail.com or Jay at joyfullyjay@gmail.com.

Thanks so much for your time. We hope to see you soon!


Well… We Are Now The Fab Five

Would you have a look at us? We’ve grown again, peeps, and I couldn’t be more thrilled if I tried… Nope, I tried. It doesn’t work.

I hope you’ll join us in welcoming our newest reviewer Lynn to the TNA family! As you’ll see from her bio, she’s bringing review experience to our little corner of the sandbox from MANtastic Fiction, so without further blabbery-ness on my part, I give you… Lynn!


Hi everyone, my name is Lynn and I’m happy to be here with you all. I’m a wife and mother, and obviously, an avid reader. I generally have a few books going at a time, and just jump to whichever book fits the mood I’m in. A few things I love (and a few I don’t) about books are:

1. hot guys who love hot guys
2. fast paced storyline
3. gritty, grimy, and angsty

Don’t Love…
1. ugh, fluff!
2. predictability
3. unrealistic “Happily Ever Afters”

I also post reviews over at MANtastic Fiction. I can’t wait to share my thought with you here, and find out what you have to say, as well.

Welcome, Lynn! :-D


It Is A Day Of Celebration!!!

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

As our nation has witnessed the landmark 5-4 defeat of DOMA, we celebrate the truth and unconditional belief that LOVE IS LOVE!

We are all now equal in the eyes of the government. Let us all continue to strive for the day that we are all equal in the eyes of mankind!


Night Song – Because Sometimes I Feel Purple

And today was one of those days. When that happens, I often sit down and pretend like I know how to write, mostly reviews, but there are times I get a little poetic and when I do, things like this come out. :) You don’t have to read it. I’m just leaving it here for safe keeping, and now I’m heading for the hills. :-P


tumblr_lmyxocMas31qi0mnqo1_500Night sounds drift through a thin curtain of decomposing light, light that has been tamed and is now shrouded within the dusky gray of the softening day. A symphony of crickets accompanied by the sibilant sound of leaves slipping one against the other carries itself in through the open windows and over the gossamer fabric that plays lazily on a fickle breeze, sounds that land without effort, stroking quiet fingers along and over the landscapes of the two bodies entwined in the pale cool sheets, laying a trail of gooseflesh beneath the sheen of sweat that’s testament to the mellowing of the heated day.

The room glows sepia with the flicker of a dozen candles, adding the scents of cinnamon and clove to the heady blend of lilac and summer hovering around and over them, skin shimmering in a mix of clean exertion and mellow flame where it touches the men in the most intimate way, illuminating a path to the places they will each welcome the stroke of a tongue, a soft kiss, a sharp nip to tender flesh, each laying claim to the body beneath as they battle for the lead in this primal dance.

The silken whisper of skin against skin, soft words spoken on sighs—yes, more, right there, oh God…yes. Please!—the rasp of facial hair as a kiss deepens into something frantic, something frenzied that demands rather than asks permission, each breath a testament to two lives that have somehow become one, tongues dueling not with words but with lust and love and need and want. It is a battle, this desire to take, to possess, to each overwhelm the other in a press of flesh and a joining of bodies at a place where hearts collide.

A long, low lover’s moan harmonizes with the night chorus, a bass vibrato that is part pain, part pleasure, and resonates like the desperate prayer of a man seeking salvation from the only one who can offer him redemption. Face to face, touch to touch, eyes seeking and finding perfection, the two become one, sharing breaths and sighs in an endless confession, hips rocking in a synchronous rhythm both ancient and timeless; silken steel sheathed in molten heat fanning flames long held in check, now set to a steady burn that threatens to consume them the nearer they come to catching the electric current humming through their veins and buzzing along every nerve, beginning somewhere deep and unknown and primitive, then radiating outward like a pebble that’s broken the smooth surface of a quiet pond, tight rings of energy growing wider as they flow ever outward from the center until they simply no longer are…

And then the world explodes in a chorus of light and color. The ambient noises that had once surrounded them are now swallowed in a litany of cries and moans and hot, heavy breaths that carry promises of forever, and words that offer praise and give meaning to that small and simple one—Love. They are each wrapped tight around the other, Yin-Yang, neither knowing where they begin and end, neither wanting to be the first to let go, neither willing to end what they’d begun, both certain that forever is built upon single moments such as this.


We Are Multiplying Like Zeh Bunnehz Around Here

Guess what, everyone. Our little family here at The Novel Approach is growing again, and I couldn’t be more thrilled!

So, without further ado but with much fanfare and flailing of the arms and jumping for the joy, it’s my pleasure to introduce the lovely Jackie, who is apparently just crazy enough to want to join us in this little escapade we call reviewing. Here’s a quick little bio:

My name is Jackie McKenzie. I am a 38 yr. old mother to the two most beautiful girls in the world. I have been married for 15 years to the best man ever. I have two of the hardest jobs in the world: I am a Navy wife and a stay at home mom. I wouldn’t trade either job for anything…well maybe for Sam Winchester!!! :-)

I spend most of my day reading while the kids are at school, then it is homework, trips to the library, mall and whatever the rage is this week. When I want to relax, it’s a cup of coffee, a soft lap blanket, and a good book.

I hope you’ll take a moment to give her a word of welcome.

Welcome, Jackie! ::flails like Kermit the Frog:: :-D


Booty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder


There’s nothing better than good sex. But bad sex? A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is better than bad sex. – Billy Joel

I don’t talk about sex a lot, not unless it’s the entire point of a book. To me, the sexual content of a book is tertiary to the plot and the development of the characters—if it’s there, fine, if it’s not, I couldn’t care less. I will say, however, that when a sex scene is well written and organic to the building and growing of the relationship, especially in BDSM, it adds dimension to the story and to the physio-emotional bond between the two people involved, which, in turn, can do a lot for my emotional connection to the couple I’m learning about. But, and this is the BIG BUT in the room, the opposite of that is also true: if a sex scene is written like a technical schematics manual rather than a passionate and/or primal interlude between the two main characters (or whomever the protagonist happens to be with at the moment), it can really diminish the strength of that scene for me. I’ve never in my life lowballed a book because it didn’t contain enough sex; though I do admit that I’ve deducted points because a book contained a lot of gratuitous and meaningless sex. No, not even gratuitous and meaningless…more along the lines of elaborately and clumsily manipulated, overdone to the point of skimming; it’s ::yawn:: more sex, sex, and that’s bad sex, people. That’s peanut butter and jelly sammich time sex, and that’s not good.

There used to be a day when I would turn to Young Adult fiction when the sex started to get ho-hum-not-again, in the grownup stuff, but I’ve noticed a growing trend lately, even in the YA genre, toward a more intimate exploration of the sexual relationship between characters, albeit a far less graphic one, but still something I’m not altogether certain of my feelings on yet, knowing that sex is a part of growth and self-discovery but not really wanting to read about two teenagers doing the humpty-hump. That tows a fine line of Eek-Squick! for me, but so far, I’m remaining Switzerland on the subject. I think in that matter, tasteful should always be the primary rule of thumb—the less explicit imagery, the better, as far as I’m concerned. Really. My imagination can go places all on its onesies, with no help from the words on the page. But, as usual, I digress.

I’m not sure if you’ve been paying attention lately, or if you’ve participated in the conversation, but there’s been a fair amount of honest, not to mention articulate, debate (very recently over at The Armchair Reader) on ways to try and delineate romance and erotica in an effort to come up with a way to distinguish between these two elements so readers for whom sexual content is important, either a lot of it or none at all, can find books they can potentially enjoy, provided that all the other plot elements come together in the perfect storm for them.

Is giving “Heat Ratings” in reviews becoming a necessity, even though some publishers already provide that information? Is it helpful to note the frequency of sex in a book? I’m extremely neutral on the subject, so I honestly don’t know. I can say, with a 100% degree of accuracy, that I have no interest at all in keeping track of how often characters have sex while I’m reading about them having sex. There’s nothing that’ll ruin a scene or the flow of a story for me more than going, “Oh, wait! Sex. Put it on the board.” But I don’t mind doing “Heat Ratings”, though I still find that to be so very subjective. Someone could read a book I’ve rated low on the Heat scale and think, “Dear God, she’s a perv.” Could happen. I’ve recently become a little bit fascinated by the Marquis de Sade, so take that for what it’s worth. :)

So you tell me, how important is it for you to be fully informed of the amount of sexual content in a book before you dig into it, and whose responsibility do you believe it is to provide that information? Is there such a thing as too much sex in a book for you, and if there is, what’s the saturation point, the point where you’ve become so desensitized to the boinking that you want to send that booty call straight to voice mail?


Wishing You A Wonderful Day!

Whether you celebrate Passover, Easter, chocolate bunnies, or are simply celebrating the gift of today, my wish is that you’ll find at least one moment of beauty in it to make a memory.


DOMA – A Demonstration Of Massive Absurdity

Today and tomorrow, March 26 and 27, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments and weigh considerations that, provided these men and women whose job it is to promote justice for all, will fall on the right side of history and bring same-sex couples into the fold of equality that I, and everyone like me, takes for granted.

It is my fervent hope that these nine justices will see DOMA for the hypocrisy that it is; that it’s nothing more than a prejudicial forum based in the irrational fear that same-sex couples being recognized under the law as husbands and wives will somehow be detrimental to the sanctity of my marriage, when, if DOMA were truly concerned about the state of marriage in this country, they would see that their focus would be better concentrated on why 50% of heterosexual couples don’t seem to hold the vows of marriage and all the legal benefits it offers in such high esteem.

My husband and I both are supporters of marriage equality because when it comes down to it, there is no single entity or focus group on this planet that needs to defend what we’ve built over the past twenty-plus years. The only two people who need to defend my marriage are my husband and me. We neither need nor want the so-called protection this group seems to feel obliged to offer on our behalf because, let’s face facts: This isn’t the defense of marriage; it’s the defense of the right to use religion as a basis for hatred and superiority. It’s not sanctity, it’s sanctimony, and I hope the Supreme Court sees it for what it is.

We and our three children have been a family for more than two decades, and we will continue to be a family long after everyone is allowed to marry the person they love, regardless of whom they are.


In Which I Ask The Question, Is Editing A Make Or Break Proposition In Book Reviewing?

Lets-eat-grandmaI have a lot of pet peeves. So…so…many. (If one of your pet peeves happens to be ellipses, then let me just apologize for that previous fragment of a sentence. If fragmented sentences are a pet peeve, again, apologies.) (If parenthetical phrases happen to be a… never mind.) Anyway, between you and me, sometimes I have a difficult time distinguishing between what’s a simple and forgivable nuisance, and what’s something that should be addressed as an issue, especially when it’s a correctable one.

When I first started reading books in the M/M genre a few years back now, I came to it straight from reading some pretty well-known mainstream authors: Ilona Andrews, Jeanine Frost, Diana Gabaldon, Patricia Biggs, Kelly Armstrong, J.R. Ward, J.D. Robb… You get the picture. I was reading authors who were being represented by some fairly large publishers with deep pockets, and I have to say that one of the things that astonished me when I first began reading books in the gay romance segment of the fictional population was that I had to very quickly learn to turn off my inner critic, which tends to want to nitpick things like misused idioms and overused clichés and poorly structured sentences. I had to learn not to nitpick over line editing issues that, for me, being a mildly OCD person with a bent toward ADD, is really, really difficult, let me tell you. And let me also tell you that things have got infinitely better over the years, but, in my most humble opinion, there’s still room to improve.

6a0120a753b67e970b0133f3205559970b-500piNow, before I go on, I want to be perfectly clear on one thing, and that is that I’m not talking about a missing “and” or “the” a few times in a two-hundred page novel. And believe me, I know from firsthand experience that COMMAS SUCK! I’m not that arrogant. I’ve had the very humbling experience of going back and reading some of my puny reviews days/weeks/months later and have cringed at my grammatical shenanigans. ::shudders:: The point is, is that I grasp the brain’s capacity to read something over and over again, until it starts filling in what it thinks should be there, or overlooking things that are there but shouldn’t be. That’s the simple truth of a very complex machine. No, I’m talking about the sorts of errors that are so frequent—significant words missing from sentences, words placed in the wrong order, words that had likely been deled during the editing process but were never accepted as a deletion before the book went to publication, because those words clearly don’t belong—those are the sorts of things I’m talking about, errors that don’t show up once or twice but a multitude of times, the sorts of things that will jar you out of the flow of the narrative and force you to read the sentence several times over just to figure out what the author is attempting to convey. Those are the things I’m addressing here; it’s been a red-flag-reading period for me recently, which has caused me to, fairly or not, rate some perfectly good stories just a tick or so lower because I couldn’t get past those annoying boo-boos. Honestly, I’ve read one-thousand-plus page books with fewer editing mistakes in them than some of the shorter novels I’ve read in the past few months, and let me tell you, it’s disheartening to me to love a book’s content and dislike its execution.

4088495_700bSo, here’s the question of the day: what do you do when you come across a book that’s been so poorly line edited that it makes you kind of want to cry for the author’s sake? Is it fair to downgrade a book’s rating based on, again, not minor mistakes but blatant issues that pull you out of a story? Should reviewers start giving separate ratings, one for content and one for line editing? Because I have to be honest, there are a few times I’ve wanted to do that just to get the point across that, hey, publishing world, this is something that a lot of us readers really care about. Clearly this is something that a few publishers (and self-published authors) have made a priority; I want to let them know that it shows, which is why they’re my “go-to” guys when I’m on the hunt for a good book. As a reader looking from the outside in, it seems to me the author/editor relationship should be a symbiotic one, each making the other look shiny and spectacular so we readers can shout to each other, “PEEPS! READ THIS BOOK RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE!” Because that’s what I love to do.

But there are still some publishers, in spite of how dramatically this genre has grown over the years, that seem not to make that trifecta of a relationship between author, editor, and reader much of a priority, and maybe it’s a simple matter of not having the financial resources to devote to that area of the business, but it’s to those folks I want to shout, “HEY! It matters. Trust me, it matters.”

Does poor editing make or break a book for anyone but me? Is it something that we who opine ought to even mention in a review? (Or whatever it is that I do. Mostly, I think I just ramble.) I am curiouser and curiouser.

And P.S. – Please forgive any editing issues in the above text. :-)

Authors, Ramblings

In Which I’m About To Piss Some People Off…

Yes, here it comes, more crap, but I’m not an author, I’m a reader, dammit, and I think if anyone has the right to weigh in on this one, it’s those of us who support this genre with not only our love and commitment but our hard earned dollars as well, so here I go…

I woke up this morning to the one thing I’ve been waiting for since I came home from Albuquerque in October: news about the upcoming registration for GayRomLit 2013 in Atlanta. This is the one and only author/fan event I’ve ever attended, ever, as in, in all the history of my reading. I mean it literally; I’ve never even been to a book signing… Okay, you get it. And while I’d love to be able to paint the picture that I scrimp and save my spare change for it all year long to up the “poor pitiful me” quotient, it’d be a lie, so I won’t go there. Where I will go, however, is here:

We’ve also taken the list of must-have authors (bolding mine) that you the readers have given us and are doing our best to pre-register them before the general author registration begins.

Now, I missed a memorandum here, folks, because I don’t remember participating in a poll in which I was able to weigh in on my “must-haves”. And I’m going to be perfectly honest, some of my “must-have” authors have never even attended a GRL event, so to say that these elite few writers have been selected for me from a random sampling of readers pretty much pisses me off in ways I can’t even begin to describe, and quite frankly, it smacks of the same cliquish attitudes that kept people like me from sitting at the cool kids’ table in high school. What this seems to boil down to, from where I’m sitting, is a popularity contest, and a questionable one at that, in which some pretty amazing toes, and maybe a few feelings, just got publicly trampled on, and I’m almost certain I’m fairly angry about that.

So, I remain puzzled on why a select few authors deserve preferential treatment. When registration opens, you either sign up for the event, or you don’t. I read/review somewhere close to three-hundred books a year, many, if not most, of them bought with my own money. Where’s my preferential treatment, as a reader, huh? The answer is that I don’t deserve any, so why does anyone else? I can understand if an author is on the financial fence or is unable to commit early for whatever reason, I do, but that doesn’t mean I believe registration should be withheld from other writers in the meantime. I hope that’s not going to be the case. I also don’t understand the “author cap” that’s being placed on the event. Readers are coming to meet and greet the authors, after all, so why exclude anyone who has a reason and the means to attend? My feelings on the matter are: the more the merrier!

And now I wait. Before I even consider registering for Atlanta, I will wait to see whom these chosen ones are. If it’s being determined by sales, I remain skeptical. If it’s being determined by how prolific the author, I remain doubly so, because we all know quantity and quality are mutually exclusive propositions, in many cases, and I have news for you GRL organizers—I have a “must-have” author on my list who’s written one, count it, one book to date that I can guarantee was far more brilliant and original than the half dozen books some writers spew out in a year’s time.

I’ll finish with this thought: to see any author excluded from GayRomLit on the basis of his or her popularity would be, to me, the height of irony in a genre, and for an event, that prides itself on inclusivity, wouldn’t it?

And that’s my two cents on the subject.


Happy New Year!

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Through all the days of the coming year, may your burdens be few and your joys be abundant. May we all welcome 2013 with a spirit of compassion, and may we embrace the hope for change and the progress toward equality for all.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if the year brought about fewer apocalypses, fewer scenes of mindless violence, and many, many more random acts of kindness?

Hugs and many blessings to you and yours,


photo credit: dMad-Photo via photopin cc


Whichever Holiday You Celebrate In The Month Of December…

Whether it be Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Boxing Day, or Kwanzaa, I wish you all the peace, joy, and love that holiday brings.

May all our days be merry and bright and filled with wonder.

Many blessings to you all.



Ramblings, Videos

What Are You Thankful For? Besides Books, I Mean…

Was November kind of an insane month, or is it just me? Not who’s insane (debatable), I mean, but who thinks the month has been crazy?

I’m going to be completely honest here; I’m kind of glad it’s almost over, but it’s pretty much my fault for spending too much time on Facebook watching people fight over their political beliefs. It was kinda nutty, wasn’t it? But you just have to kind of laugh it off because, let’s face it, the people who can’t laugh about it are the ones who end up going postal…or threaten to secede from the Union…whatever. So laugh, darn it! Just laugh. We’re starting to take ourselves way too seriously, if you ask me, and all this anger going around is making people say stuff that hasn’t been publicly acceptable since about the middle of the 20th century, except it sounds worse now because we should all know better.

So, here we are, on this day in the month when we all are supposed to remember to give ourselves a mental “DOH!” and offer thanks for all the things in life we’re grateful for, my attitude of gratitude pretty much all boils down to one all-encompassing thing:

I’m just grateful for each new day.

That doesn’t sound like I have much to be thankful for, does it? Well, lemme ‘splain. No, there is too much. Lemme sum up. (Sorry, this moment brought to you by the Princess Bride.) :)

Years ago, I read the book The Kite Runner by Kahled Hosseini. It was brilliantly written, one of those books that stuck with me long after I’d finished reading it, but there was one passage in particular that I remember over and above any other in the novel. It’s near the beginning of the book, when the boy, Amir, is talking to his father about sin. Baba says something to his son that I found so profound I couldn’t forget it if I tried, and whether or not you agree with him, you’ve got to admit the man makes an interesting point.

There is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft. When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness. There is no act more wretched than stealing.

So, what does this have to do with being thankful? Not a damn thing. :-D But it’s not the message itself as much as the nuance of the message that leads me to my point.

I do have so many things to be thankful for, don’t get me wrong, but for me, all of those gifts hinge on a single promise, (the principle of “one” in Baba’s message – the fulcrum around which everything else revolves) and that’s each new day that I’m offered. Every other gift in my life is just a variation and a result of what I do with each twenty-four hours I’m given; time I try very hard not to take for granted, time I use to try to make me a better person – a better example to my little people, a better friend, a more compassionate person. Each new day offers the opportunity to change and to be changed by whatever it has in store for me, to be kind, to love and to be loved in return. None of those things would be possible without the chance to build – or to sometimes just wipe the slate clean and start over again – on the foundation of a new day. That’s all. I don’t take it for granted, even for a moment, because my days come standard with family, friends, health (so far!), books and books and more books. :-D And yes, there has been a lot of sadness in this year for me too, but even that has been an opportunity for me to try and find more things to be appreciative of. So, really, there’s so much to be grateful for on a daily basis that it’s just easier to be grateful for my days than to try and enumerate everything in them for which I give thanks. And that, as they say, is that.

Oh! Wait, I’m also thankful we love to look at beautiful men together too! Every day. Yeah. :-D

::bows:: I give many thanks for Levi Poulter and Paul Francis, and those gorgeous Andrew Christian boys, don’t you? AMEN!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who’re celebrating. To those who aren’t, well, just go ahead and join in by eating yourself into a food coma! You’ll fit right in. :-D

Abigail Roux, Aleksandr Voinov, Amy Lane, Ariel Tachna, Charlie Cochet, DC Juris, DH Starr, Eden Winters, Edmond Manning, Ethan Day, J.P. Barnaby, Jacob Z. Flores, Jamie Fessenden, K. Piet, M.J. O'Shea, Marie Sexton, Michele L. Montgomery, P.D. Singer, Piper Vaughn, Ramblings, Rhys Ford, Rick R. Reed

I’m back, sick as a dawg, and suffering from sleep deprivation. Man, was it worth it!

I’m not even going to lie… GayRomLit 2012 was the most fun I’ve ever had with all of my clothes on. Heh. Shhhh, sorry I went there. :-D

Bonnie (a lovely fan whose last name is escaping me), Rick R. Reed, Michele L. Montgomery, Me, and Rhys Ford at dinner

But seriously, let me tell you, there are very few things I will leave my family for, and GayRomLit 20–, yes, all of them—for many years to come, I hope—is the one event for which I’ll put the hubby on full-time kid duty and bid them all farewell, even if it means they eat like crap the entire time I’m gone (Hey, they were all alive this morning, so I count it as a Daddy Success; although #1 son is suffering from some gastrointestinal issues. ::insert “God, mom, you’re so inappropriate!” here::), and even if it means I have to suffer from sleep deprivation ::dear gods:: and a miserable cold every single time afterward.::sniffles:: :-P Trust me, it’s so very worth it.

The lovely, lovely Eden Winters and P.D. Singer

There were dozens of stellar moments from the weekend, starting with the sheer number of amazing and talented people I met, both authors and readers alike, topped only by the fact that now I get to call at least a few of those wonderful people “friend”. I don’t know what they’ll call me, though. Probably “Restraining Order”. And I finally got to meet two women whom I’ve loved for years — Michele L. Montgomery and Rhys Ford — and had the thrill of meeting so many of the authors of whom I’ve been a rabid fan for what feels like forever!

Yes, there were some embarrassingly bad fan-girl squee moments for me–ugly crying all over Amy Lane in the middle of a crowded restaurant, tackle-hugging Piper Vaughn in an elevator, ninja-leaping over the arm of a chair in the hotel lobby so I could hug Aleksandr Voinov (who I didn’t know was going to be there), threatening to club Marie Sexton over the head so I could steal her freaking amazing boots, and asking waaaaaay too many questions in the Author Q & A with Lynn Lorenz, M.J. O’Shea, Abigail Roux (who is really Ty Grady in disguise), and J.P. Barnaby. They were sick of me before it was over, I know, but dammit, how many times do you get a chance to sit down with authors and ask them deep and thought provoking questions such as: Abigail, do you make up all the sayings on Ty’s t-shirts? ::eyeroll:: Yes, I asked that question. Am I an idiot? Why yes, yes I am. Whatever. ^_^

The incomparable Amy Lane

And I’m going to sneak this one small thing in here too, which was just an amazing, amazing experience for me–listening to Edmond Manning read a passage from King Perry! They gave me the entire seat, but I only used the edge, swear. I don’t think it’s any big secret that I have a deep burning passion for that book, like a sick love for it, so listening to him read and getting to meet him in person was an over-the-top moment. He’s funny and charming and his kindness radiates from him in waves. AND, I’ve had the privilege of reading the first three chapters of book 6 of the series, King Daniel, which was one of his giveaway items. ::heaven:: I’m all verklempt from the awesomeness of it.

Edmond Manning – hotel soap really is lucky! :)

Some of my most wonderful memories didn’t revolve around the scheduled events at GayRomLit at all, though. They revolve around the dinners I had the immense pleasure of sharing with Rhys, Michele, Rick R. Reed, DH Starr, Jacob Z. Flores and his husband Bruce, and Jamie Fessenden. Yeah, the conversation was wildly inappropriate–ask Rhys about when she was little and gnawed on her cousin’s nuts when he sat on her face (she can show you on the dolly where the bad touch happened), or ask Rick R. Reed about his sexy-ass sword and tool…er, I mean tulle, pics. Oh, ha! Or you could ask him about the story he wrote about the guy who air-launches a carrot out of his bum-hole. Yes, he went there. I read the story. It really exists. And how’s this for a supremely bad move on the restaurant hostess’s part: They sat a family with children next to us–can I get a witness? It was a caca bad move on the restaurant’s part, for sure, right guys? But my after dinner conversation with DH and Jacob about education and diversity and the responsibility I feel toward raising decent and compassionate human beings? Well, that was pretty much just the perfect way to end the evening. It proves there were actually some grownup moments among all the “Dear God, did we really go there?” times.

Jacob Z. Flores, his amazing hubby Bruce, and my lucky breath mints

So, now I’m brain dead. It was a C-I-L-L my brain cells D-E-D sort of weekend from which it’ll take days to recover, and all I can say is, Atlanta 2013. If you want to attend an event where fun spills over into friendships, GRL is the one. I know I’ll be there.

Michele L. Montgomery, DH Starr, and a case of the big rainbow balls

Charlie Cochet, who is pocket-sized, adorable, and I wanted to bring her home with me!

The amazing Ethan Day. I had had many gin & tonics here. :-P

DC Juris and Michele L. Montgomery

Michele L. Montgomery and Rick R. Reed

Q&A with Abigail Roux and J.P. Barnaby

The wonderful Jamie Fessenden

The inexhaustible K.Piet

The lovely Amy Lane and the electric Ariel Tachna

Amy Lane, Dreamspinner Press, Ramblings

A Review…Sort of… Dex in Blue by Amy Lane

“Love is when one person knows all of your secrets… your deepest, darkest, most dreadful secrets which no one else in the world knows… and yet in the end, that one person does not think any less of you; even if the rest of the world does.” – Unknown

Excuse me while my thought train runs off the rails for a bit. Happens more often than not. My youngest has ADHD, and I know exactly whose genetic jackpot he tapped into to inherit it. ::raises hand:: This is why I read so much; because when I’m reading, my brain is in constant motion while the rest of me can practice being still. I have something to focus on and can do it in near total silence, as the rest of the world and all its sensory overload disappears while I get lost in the words and worlds an author has created. Put me in a seat in a movie theater and I can guarantee near constant fidgeting and time checking. At home? Fuhgedaboutit. My family has learned not to bother pausing a movie and waiting for me anymore, because I’ll likely never come back from whatever it was that distracted me in the first place.

See? Now I’m rambling. This will end up a review of sorts at some point, I’m sure of it.

So, I’ve been doing some thinking recently about what makes a book infinitely re-readable. Why is it that with some books, a single read is enough, while other books I can read over and over again until I can nearly cite the text verbatim? And sometimes it’s not the entire book but a single scene that I’ll go back to, because it’s the point in the lives of the characters where everything comes home, settles in and makes sense, the defining moment in which all the stars and planets align and create that brilliant burst of, “Aha, I get it now.”

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. Is it? I’d like to think I’m not alone in this.

So, what’s brought on all this rambling and randomness? It’s Amy Lane’s Dex in Blue, the story of two men whose lives have been filled with a series of perspective altering moments. David Worrall’s transformation began with the bliss of surrender to his best friend Dexter Williams’, but the hairpin turns and stop-sticks that fate loves to throw in the road to happiness quickly threw David into the living hell of surviving the death of first love. It was an event that drove him from his Montana home to California, where he became…

David became the Dex that never was and would never be. He became the man who denied his Self because there would never be another Dexter Williams in the world against which David could measure his emotions. He became the man who supported himself in gay-for-pay porn. He became the man who finally was able to confess the pay wasn’t the component at all in the gay part of his life’s equation. He became the man who, for all his complicated secrets and painful past, learned that sometimes the black and the white of it all can be as simple as simply being.

Carlos Ramirez would never describe himself as a smart man, but that doesn’t mean he’s stupid either. Carlos merely sees things in their simplest possible terms because to complicate things by borrowing extraneous variables from multiple sides of an equation simply doesn’t make sense to him. No, Carlos adds up to a man who doesn’t try to be obtuse; he’s just a man who has to measure the degrees of any given situation until they form an angle he can understand. For Carlos, there is right and there is wrong, there is good and there is bad, there is truth and there is lie, and rarely is there ever a tangent in which the lines blur into a gray area of uncertainty. Carlos simply is.

Or was, until he became Kane and began having sex with men for money. Then he became the man who would do whatever he had to, to keep his sister away from her abusive husband, to protect her and his niece, to pay that niece’s medical bills when Leukemia threatened to ravage her tiny body. For Kane, there was no question. It was simple: sex=money. And that was right, even when it left him homeless.

Or it was simple until Dex came into Kane’s life (or Kane barged into Dex’s) and complicated something so simple that it was up to Kane to simplify something so complicated as love and need and want and the sure and unquestionable knowledge that together was good, apart was bad, and that one plus one plus one plus one plus one…equals the family that you make because the one you didn’t choose has erased you from their existence.

And then sex isn’t just sex anymore because losing the one you place above all else is a price far too high to pay, and you come to realize that your body isn’t mere collateral and your worth can’t be pawned off as a byproduct of your job, because your worth is exponentially expanded by your value to someone else, and your secrets become not-so-secret anymore, but it doesn’t matter in the end because the character of a man is measured by the sum of all his various parts, not the rare and individual negatives that are themselves negated by all the positives.

And so is Dex in Blue, the sum of all its various parts that add up to a bright and beautiful love story, one that I’ll become lost in again and again because, like Kane in his simplest form, stuff makes more sense when I can feel it.

Buy Dex in Blue HERE.

Amy Lane, Eden Winters, Piper Vaughn, Ramblings, Rhys Ford, Xara X. Xanakas

Countdown To GayRomLit 2012

In exactly one month from today, I’ll be heading to the Indianapolis airport at the bootie-crack of dawn to catch a flight to Albuquerque for the second annual GayRomLit convention, Desire in the Desert. I’ll be showing up at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino with my roomie, Rhys Ford, and a heaping helping of fangirl squee to be spread around equally, guaranteed. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to be going—check out the list of attendees HERE, and you’ll see why.

Between now and the time I leave on October 18th, I’m going to concentrate all my efforts on reading books written by the authors who’ll be attending the retreat. I wish I could say that I was going to read at least one book by every author showing up this year, but that’d be humanly impossible. In spite of my mad reading obsession, I do need some sleep in order to function. But in celebration, I’m going to be hosting some GREAT GIVEAWAYS from some of the authors who’ll be there, including Rhys Ford, Piper Vaughn & Xara X. Xanakas, Amy Lane, and Eden Winters just to name a few, so make sure to stay tuned in.

Trust me when I tell you that for me, this is like the holy grail of fandom. I am going to make every effort to conduct myself with at least a modicum of dignity, but I’m making no promises. As long as I don’t get maced or no one calls hotel security on me, it’ll all be good.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


The Great Chik-Fil-A Debate

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not an activist, I’m a pacifist, and I believe firmly in the concept of “live and let live”. I’ll be me, you be you, and hopefully—not as Republicans or Democrats, not as Protestants, Catholics, Buddhists, Muslims, Wiccans, Agnostics, or Atheists, not as men or women—but as human beings, we’ll find a common ground on which to meet and to celebrate our individuality. It’s not that I don’t have strong opinions about certain subjects, but more a case of believing that my opinions are my own and really shouldn’t matter to anyone else because what you think counts just as much, if not more so, than what I think. But it’s this sense of self-importance and self-righteousness and the grandiose belief that what some people believe is more legitimate than what others do that seems to be getting in the way of us behaving compassionately toward one another, and honestly, it makes me worry about the state of the human condition.

Let me be the first to acknowledge that I, in no way, claim to be without more than a few character blemishes. I sometimes forget the “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” rule, but I also grew up believing in the idea of treating others the way that I want to be treated, judging not lest I be judged, casting the first stone only if I myself be without sin, and that since we ALL are supposedly made in His image but fall short in His sight that none of us is without sin. That makes perfect sense to me because none of us is perfect, so when Dan Cathy says, “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,” it makes me wonder if he is as sinless as he’d like us to believe, and if so, then why should he be so fearful of that judgment? Aren’t Christians supposed to welcome judgment day as their recognition and reward for living a spotless life? I would think it would behoove him to be more fearful of his bigotry than of a man and woman’s right to marry whom they love, because God’s judgment is a blanket judgment, and I don’t know if He would appreciate Dan Cathy taking a single edict from a book written by mortal men to discriminate while at the same time completely disregarding the biblical principle of loving thy neighbor as thyself. Perhaps Mr. Cathy should reread the Old Testament definition of marriage and see how “non-traditionally” God viewed marriage in the beginning. Hm…maybe that’s called evolution, and if that’s so, isn’t it possible the definition of marriage is yet again evolving?

Perhaps Mr. Cathy should also familiarize himself with the Bible’s thoughts on divorce, then examine why nearly half of all first marriages, nearly two-thirds of second marriages, and nearly three-fourths of third marriages end. Then maybe he should research how many petitions for divorce cite “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for the dissolution of the marriage. Nowhere in the Bible does it say “we grew apart” is a valid excuse for divorce. Hm…maybe divorce has evolved too. It certainly seems to have departed from “God’s plan” for marriage between a man and a woman. Maybe we need to give someone else the opportunity to get it right.

I don’t deny Mr. Cathy’s right to speak his mind. If the First Amendment didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to post this rebuttal. But what I do deny is his right to hide behind that amendment and to be outraged that he’s receiving backlash for his inflammatory and prejudicial remarks. What he said is no more politically or socially correct than if he’d come out and said he was against interracial marriage. Discrimination is discrimination, regardless of where that belief stems from and regardless of how much he couches it in his righteousness. His remarks may be based in the belief in his God, but it also stands firmly in the disregard of the fact that his remarks have marginalized an entire segment of His children who reportedly were made in His image.

If Mr. Cathy is truly living a moral and upstanding life based on God’s word, then he cannot be a hypocrite and use parts and parcels of that word to support his homophobia while ignoring the rest of it because it contradicts and invalidates that intolerance. It doesn’t work that way. Or at least it’s not supposed to.

This has become quite a divisive subject within a very devout segment of my own family, and to them I say this: I’ve been married for twenty-one years, have three children, and fail miserably to see how who someone else loves and wants to spend the rest of their lives with will undermine my own marriage or my family’s values. The only person with the power to destroy what I’ve spent almost half my life building is me, and the day that anyone tries to tell me that I will be condemned to hell because I show others compassion is the day that I say you keep to your God and I’ll keep to mine, and I’ll just continue to love you in spite of how ashamed you are of me and my beliefs.

Ramblings, Videos

Grab Some Tissues And Watch…Just…Watch

I don’t surf the net much. Hell, I don’t even watch television much. I’m too busy reading, so I may be the last person on the planet to have seen this video. Okay, maybe not the last, but nearly three-million people have seen this video before me, so yeah, I’m a little slow on the uptake.

This is the story of two men, one from right here in Indiana, that should cause everyone who opposes Gay Marriage to sit back and take a good long look at that position, though based on some of the comments on YouTube, the ignorant and bigoted are still determined to out themselves publicly, every chance they get.

This story is tragic and heartbreaking but has also become the catalyst for a project by Hollywood producer Linda Bloodworth Thomas that one can only hope will advance the march toward equality for everyone who wants to formally commit themselves to the person they love.

Shane and Tom’s story is difficult to watch, but well worth the time:


Hop Against Homophobia – Meet Derek and Ty

I wasn’t planning to do another Hop post. I’ll be perfectly honest with you: although I have a blog, I’m not what you’d actually call a blogger. I love to talk about the books I read, but otherwise, I’m really pretty boring. :) Yet here I am, blogging again, and all because I was inspired by a picture.

First of all, I want you to know that I was given clearance to post this photo. Derek and Ty are minors, and if I hadn’t gotten Derek’s permission to use it, these boys wouldn’t be here representing today.

Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll talk about why they’re here. I talked very briefly in This Post about how fortunate my kids are to be a part of a school system that supports and values the diversity of our children, to be part of an education system that believes its schools should be a safe place where children can focus on learning rather than worrying about the way they’ll be treated or if they’ll be accepted.

My daughter brought her yearbook home a couple of days ago, so we sat on the couch together and looked through the pictures. Her school is massive and I don’t know 99% of the kids who go there, but it’s still fun to sit down and share with her the things that are important to her. When we got to page forty-one in the book, we stopped and looked for a bit. It was a double-truck titled “For the Long Run” and featured photos of couples who’ve been together for a while. I looked. And looking back at me was this picture of Derek and Ty, who’ve been dating since March 27, 2011. For the long run. What makes this photograph so remarkable isn’t that Derek and Ty have been together for more than a year. No, what makes it so remarkable is that there was no reluctance at all from the yearbook staff or the school to acknowledge that relationship, to show that it is a real and lasting connection.

There’s a quote from another student, discussing how he and his boyfriend met through a mutual friend, and while Justin initially wanted to be just friends, he finally asked Josh out, and now they’ve been a couple for more than a year, as well. For the long run.

Is this an anomaly? Are there other schools out there willing to stand up against those who might cry “Foul!” and use intolerance to try and suppress the concept that love is not something that can be compartmentalized into a tidy little cubicle of right and wrong to suit a person’s belief system? I don’t know. Maybe we’re just terribly, terribly fortunate. For that, I feel so blessed.

I’d be interested to hear if this picture caused any red flags to go up from parents in our community, because all I see when I look at it is the beauty of a couple who’re in love.

When my daughter asked Derek if he minded that I talk about him and Ty, she said he got very excited when he found out why. He told my daughter, “Tell your mom thanks for not being a hater.”

How can there ever be hate in the presence of love?


Hop Against Homophobia

Last month, a teenager at Arsenal Tech High School here in Indianapolis was reprimanded and eventually expelled for firing a stun gun at school. Why did Darnell “Dynasty” Young own a stun gun, let alone have it in his possession on school property? The answer is horrifying yet simple–his mother gave it to him because she didn’t know any other way to help her son cope with the bullying he endures on a daily basis.

When I saw this story on our local news, I was shocked and angry and saddened, as much by the desperation I felt as a mother myself–that I’d do anything to protect my children–as by the fact that the faculty and administrators of Darnell’s high school seem to feel that it was somehow his fault that he was being bullied in the first place. Darnell, you see, is what some might call flamboyant, and the powers-that-be at Arsenal Tech seem to equate Darnell’s mannerisms and the way he dresses as an open invitation for bullying, much the same way that society re-victimizes rape victims by believing that if they’d only dressed less provocatively, they’d never have been raped. The rationalization behind that mentality is so ass backwards that it terrifies me to think these people are in charge of molding and shaping future generations of this country’s youth.

I live in a northern suburb of Indianapolis, not far from Darnell’s neighborhood, in terms of miles, but worlds away in terms of advantages and opportunities. My community couldn’t be more typically middle to upper class Midwestern if it tried, though we are becoming more beautifully diverse. It’s wonderful to see how much my children’s classrooms have changed for the better over the years–they don’t look like a white-on-white 1950s television show anymore–but for all that, the families who populate the area still fit the Mom/Dad/2.2 kids demographic.

There’s one thing my community and our school district does very, very right, though. The administration has implemented a Zero Tolerance Bullying Policy, but even better than that, they enforce it, which is the important part in the equation. My daughter is a sixteen-year-old sophomore at one of the high schools in town, so I have inside information on the inner workings of her school. I know that there’s a Gay/Straight Alliance at her school. I know that the couples at her school who walk down the hallways holding hands and who sneak kisses by their lockers between classes aren’t all Male/Female. I know that gay and lesbian students go to the prom together–as couples–and I know that my daughter says that she’s never witnessed an incident of any of these couples being bullied on school property or at school sponsored functions.

I’m not so naive as to believe it doesn’t happen elsewhere, but I’m so proud to know that there are adults in charge of my children while they’re at school who value diversity and the right to live and to love openly.

Hop on over to the Hop Against Homophobia website and join some of the participating authors and organizations that are working for and celebrating our diversity.