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DA/SB LiveBlog of Custom Ride by K.A. Mitchell

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Summary:   We had an interesting discussion about m/m topics given that two of my gay friends came to liveblog with us.   I liked Mitchell’s voice in this story and would definitely read another one, but I felt that there was an overemphasis on the sex scenes and that some time could have been spent having the two characters talk and get to know each other so that the reader would have an understanding why they were to be together at the end. I also thought that the sex scenes had a very hard edge to them and wished for some tenderness between the two.   As Jace, one of the guest bloggers noted, the two delved into a deep relationship despite barely knowing each other’s names, phone numbers.   They knew each other sexually but that’s about it.   Overall, I would give the story a C.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

58 Comments

  1. Ann Somerville
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 01:22:44

    I found the discussion interesting and entertaining, but learned almost nothing about the book or the writing. There also didn’t seem to be many people involved who had read a lot of m/m, so the ‘conventions’, if you like, looked sillier than they could have done (though that doesn’t excuse silly conventions.)

    Reading the work in advance and blogging the review as you plan to next, might go better. But it’s fascinating to see reactions in the raw like this.

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  2. Jane
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 09:34:39

    @Ann Somerville What are the conventions in m/m romance that we should have bee looking for? I thought we comprised the core audience for m/m romance – 2 females and 2 gay males. LOL.

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  3. anon
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 10:51:56

    Being in the target audience for m/m doesn’t make one familiar with the tropes any more than grabbing 4 random literate women off the street and shoving a romance novel in their hands makes them familiar with a hetero romance novel’s tropes.

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  4. Jane
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 10:54:55

    @anon: The argument that you seem to be making is that unless you are familiar with the m/m tropes you can’t enjoy m/m romance but how do you become familiar with the tropes without reading the stories within the genre?

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  5. Robin
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 10:59:01

    Actually, Jane, I thought the two gay males were an added bonus to the targeted core audience. ;)

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  6. anon
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 11:27:55

    I’m not making that argument, Ms. Sommerville above is. I’ve read neither the book nor the liveblog so I can address neither the tropes in question nor how the book in question handled them. I just found your rebuttal to “you don’t know the tropes” to be a bit missing the point.

    If a group of genre-romance-unfamiliar hetero women read a hetero romance and wrote a review that was tone deaf with regard to the typical romance tropes in that novel (and how well or poorly that novel did with them), and someone noted “But you’re obviously not familiar w/ the romance tropes”, a rebuttal of “But we’re female.” would be missing the point.

    Obviously, it’s best if any given novel can appeal to an open minded reader, regardless of the genre, and I too would love to hear Ms. Sommerville’s (or any reader more familiar w/ m/m-by-and-for-women romance’s) take on how this novel did or didn’t work from the POV of a fan of the genre. And I also think your take (and the take of the other non-genre-fans) can tell me a decent amount about the book as well. But it’s a little disingenuous to equate member-of-target-demographic-by-virtue-of-sex-and-orientation with fan-of-genre-who-is-familiar-with-tropes.

    I’m sure you’ve had the experience of reading or hearing a romance reviewed by an outside-the-genre reader who misses a lot that a romance fan might catch and appreciate. I can’t speak to what you may or may not have missed in this book (or how well it works) but it seems only fair to acknowledge that you and the gay guys reading the book may have missed stuff a genre fan wouldn’t – and that being the occasional cocksucker lover of men yourself isn’t automatically going to make you familiar w/ the genre any more than being a straight chick makes you familiar w/ straight romance genre stuff.

    Any decent m/m should be enjoyable w/out that familiarity, natch, but the tropes exist in all their snarkability, just like they do in het romance.

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  7. Jane
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 11:39:01

    Sorry. My new year’s resolution is to not respond to assholes and your little cocksucker reference puts you firmly in that camp.

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  8. joanne
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 11:50:09

    hmmmmmm……

    Anyway, I thought everyone agreed that this book wasn’t a romance? It was more a m/m fantasy of erotic m/m experience book.

    I do agree that I didn’t learn anything much about the book or the writing other then it was a wham, bam, thank you sir story that may or may not appeal to certain readers. I think anyone looking for a romance story would have been disappointed no matter what the gender of the protagonist was.

    I really believe the books have to be read along with or before the event because the live blogging doesn’t allow time for many quotes or even much of a synopsis of the story.

    It’s less book club and more discussion over coffee and since both can be fun I don’t see a problem. I just know that for the next one I’ll read the story ahead of time so I can understand and appreciate a little better the comments of the hosts.

    I had an enjoyable time but nothing to say and that alone should make it an event for the ages! Thanks for the live blog.

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  9. Michelle
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 12:08:51

    I really enjoyed your two guest bloggers, it was nice getting their perspective. On kind of a silly aside, I thought the discussion between “come” and “cum” was interesting-especially those who said some publishers won’t let the authors use certain ones.

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  10. (Jān)
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 13:11:32

    I read tons of m/m, though admittedly most is Japanese or fanfic or gay romance rather than Western mxm by women because I don’t find a lot of it that fits me. I’m quite familiar with it though, and Jane knows it, which is part of the reason I participated. My comments on it are throughout, and I agreed with a lot the others said.

    My take on it was that the sex was meaningless and made me uncomfortable (and I’m someone who can not only deal with yaoi non-con but enjoys it on occasion). The in-between parts of the story were much more interesting, but too brief to give me the information I needed about the characters and their relationship to make it believable. Because it was so short, the ending was too pat and abrupt.

    I think this author could do much better at a novel length, though I would hesitate to read her unless I knew her sex scenes in those books weren’t like this one.

    So there’s your take on it by a fan of the genre. If you read all the comments btw, you’ll see that there were several of us there.

    (edited to fix crappy grammar)

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  11. Ann Somerville
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 15:36:16

    @Jane:

    Don’t want to cause wank here ::pause while everyone clutches their pearls and has heart failure from shock:: so please don’t take anything I’m saying as (a) gospel (b) an insult, okay? It’s just observation, for conversation.

    First, gay men *aren’t* the target audience. They’re what you might call a lovely, unexpected bonus. Only the delusional among m/m writers think gay men find this genre believable or enjoyable. I loved reading Jace and Jawk’s educational comments, but that they found it all a bit incredible, didn’t surprise me at all. I mean, I fact check with gay friends, but I don’t expect them to like the result.

    Second, the ‘I’m not really/might not be gay’ is one of the common tropes. Closeted men are a reality of homosexual interactions, and often found in this type of fiction. It’s not only found in gay fiction (I just reviewed a gay male authored story where it figures prominently), but it’s a holdover from the fanfiction origins of this genre where the characters are often ostensibly straight.

    Third. Jace said “Jeff or Ryan apparently have no issues with sex in dirty places…nothing phases them.” Actually, this is a staple of gay fiction. You don’t see a lot of it in m/m, so I’ll give kudos to Mitchell for realism there. Gay authors positively revel in smelly/dirty sex scenes – the number set in restrooms, my god. (And unlike SB Sarah, the smell of engine oil turns me on :) )

    Fourth. Jace said “Jeff and Ryan are sure expecting a lot for just having sex a couple of times. They still don’t know each others last names, phone numbers…” But that’s a staple of the erotica genre. Instant attraction == instant true love. I’ve read it over and over in m/m and het. And indeed, in Markham’s “The Fair Cop” to which review I linked above.

    Fifth. You said “Ryan knew how hard it was to hold yourself in check like that, when everything inside you wanted to fuck into that tight clinging hole, and he didn't think anyone had ever kept him waiting as long as he was making Jeff.” The ‘I’m so horny I’m going to explode!’ is a common trope in m/m – one of the silly ones, like the painful erections and the unbearable blue balls.

    Sixth. Bridget Locke said “Okay, this is why I have such a hard time reading m/m books. I’m not a huge fan of anal.Just ew. And that just sounds painful anywho.” Um, well, it’s like clitoral stimulation in het fic. You are just going to read a lot of it.

    Und so weiter. I mean, it’s absolutely fascinating to see the reactions of people unfamiliar with the genre, but it’s a bit like Doc Turtle reading Heyer. It’s not really telling the m/m lovers much about the story. The things you were all ‘omigod’ about, I was saying, but you get that in a lot of stories, good and bad.

    I will say though, it doesn’t surprise me that you thought this one less enjoyable than ‘Collision Course’. Mitchell’s writing has noticeably tightened and improved since ‘Diving Deep’, and I wouldn’t personally have recommended you tried a story from last year. And not started with a piece of short m/m erotica if you’re not familiar with the genre, as to be frank, I don’t think short erotica showcases any genre well (not a fan.) If you’d wanted a short piece, there are some good free stories like those of Jaime Samms which might have been more to your taste – ‘Better’ would have had all the tenderness you wanted. Short tender stories aren’t as easy to sell as short hot ones, unfortunately. Mitchell’s novels have a lot of sweet scenes in them as well as steaming hot ones.

    So I hope I haven’t offended you, or insulted your friends. I thought they were good sports, and very funny. As I said, the discussion was most enjoyable, but not so much for what was said about the book.

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  12. Ann Somerville
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 15:41:38

    @(Jān):

    My take on it was that the sex was meaningless and made me uncomfortable (and I'm someone who can not only deal with yaoi non-con but enjoys it on occasion). The in-between parts of the story were much more interesting, but too brief to give me the information I needed about the characters and their relationship to make it believable. Because it was so short, the ending was too pat and abrupt.

    I’m prepared to believe that. I just didn’t see enough of the book in the discussion to make an assessment myself.

    I think this author could do much better at a novel length

    Absolutely true. Mitchell’s novels have all the things you guys said you wanted and didn’t get in her short one. To be honest, no short m/m erotica does it for me (erotica full stop really). I want the story and the relationship. I don’t read m/m for the sex scenes (making me unusual apparently) because most authors don’t make them believable or erotic. Mitchell, when she’s in the groove, makes them hot, meaningful and part of the overall relationship – which is what you’d really hope all sex scenes would be, but they so rarely are.

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  13. DS
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 15:51:21

    I haven’t read a lot of m/m written for/by women but I have read some classic and not so classic books about male homosexual life, (maybe AIDS has made this sort of thing passe?). John Rechy’s Sexual Outlaw and Numbers, and Andrew Holleran’s Dancer from the Dance are two I remember.

    Anyway, from those books as well as conversations with male gay friends at the time, anonymous sex in corners of bars was considered “romantic”, I wasn’t surprised at all by the opening of the story or the sex in any type of unhygienic situation.

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  14. rebyj
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 16:38:34

    Ann Somerville wrote :

    I don't think short erotica showcases any genre well .

    That is the best point made in the whole conversation in my opinion.
    I enjoyed the liveblog last night and I agree with Joanne who wrote :

    It's less book club and more discussion over coffee and since both can be fun I don't see a problem. I just know that for the next one I'll read the story ahead of time so I can understand and appreciate a little better the comments of the hosts

    .

    If it’s not the case that it’s more discussion over coffee than serious book club then I may just sit back and read along next week instead of participating.

    I think that these live blogging events are quite new and it’s not evolved into what it will eventually be. So it is no surprise that there may be some growing pains in these early weeks.

    Thanks again DA and SBTB for hosting!

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  15. (Jān)
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 16:42:10

    Anyway, from those books as well as conversations with male gay friends at the time, anonymous sex in corners of bars was considered “romantic”, I wasn't surprised at all by the opening of the story or the sex in any type of unhygienic situation.

    The problem with that DS, is that this kind of mxm is targeted at women, and so what makes it successful is whether or not women find it attractive not whether or not it portrays what’s realistic to gay males. My favorite kind of mxm is completely the whimsical fantasy males of Japanese BL. So the opening completely turned me off.

    (And, btw, the actual gay erotica I’ve read doesn’t read like that either. As I said in the blogging, it felt like overcompensation by the author to make sure we knew she could write manly gay men.)

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  16. Ann Somerville
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 17:06:32

    it felt like overcompensation by the author to make sure we knew she could write manly gay men

    This is the tightrope m/m authors walk all the time. If we write gay men realistically, in realistic situations, it can be a turn off for women looking for fantasy. If we write ‘softer’ men in more romantic situations, we can be accused of writing women in male bodies. Not saying those are the only two options, but the number of authors who manage to write credible men in credible scenarios with hot sex that appeals to a female readership, is considerable smaller than those who attempt to. Or who think they do, unfortunately.

    A lot of m/m sex is written by the Chinese whisper method too – that is, the author has no experience of the act, and hasn’t bothered to read up from gay sources, and only ‘knows’ what to write from reading other female writers, who may be as clueless as she is (this is particularly common in slash fanfiction, which is where a lot of m/m writers learned their craft). I’m certainly not holding myself up as a shining light in this area either – sex scenes are my weakest area.

    It has to be said, though, unrealistic sex doesn’t necessarily make the book unattractive for the female audience. It just has to be believable in the context of the fantasy.

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  17. kirsten saell
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 17:18:41

    It has to be said, though, unrealistic sex doesn't necessarily make the book unattractive for the female audience.

    Or for any audience, really, if Penthouse Forum is anything to go by. :D

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  18. (Jān)
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 17:24:43

    when she's in the groove, makes them hot, meaningful and part of the overall relationship – which is what you'd really hope all sex scenes would be, but they so rarely are.

    Ann, if that’s the case then I’ll have to try Collision Course (if that’s the one you mean).

    If we write 'softer' men in more romantic situations, we can be accused of writing women in male bodies.

    I don’t really mind this. But yes, you’re not going to please everyone because for everyone woman there will be different preferences. I tend to skip sex as well, unless it’s mesmerizing for me (see Kingsley and I, which I’m finding that way despite it being the opposite of the normal kind of book I like). I’m almost always in it for the romance, and prefer lighter romance at that. And writing ‘gay’ men in lighter romance is harder than hell, which is probably why I never see any of it. If you have any recommendations along that line I’d love to hear them.

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  19. Ann Somerville
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 17:33:23

    @(Jān):

    Yes, Collision Course is the one I mean.

    By lighter romance, you mean what? I want to be sure I know what you want to read there so I can tailor my recs.

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  20. Ann Somerville’s Journal » Blog Archive » I can’t brain today, sorry
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 17:53:17

    [...] at Dear Author, Sarah at Smart Bitches, and two of Jane’s gay friends liveblogged a m/m short by K A Mitchell on Saturday.  A nascent conversation has spring up in the comments about tropes in m/m books, and expectations [...]

  21. (Jān)
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 17:56:07

    Not necessarily comedies, though that would be fun to read as well.

    Just something with some humor and wit in the characters. I like snappy dialogue a la Joan Smith, and wouldn’t mind a book that doesn’t take itself so seriously (another failing of a lot of slash IMO). Basically, humor to me is always around, even at the bleakest moments, and I enjoy books and characters that reflect that.

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  22. Ann Somerville
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 18:29:28

    Okay, I did a search on Uniquely Pleasurable for ‘funny’ and found masses of stuff to list, so hold on to your shorts :) Linking to the reviews here as it will give the best idea of what the story is about, and the info you need to find it. Some of these are free stories too, so you can try without paying through the nose.

    London Calling by GioGio – free
    Whistling in the dark by Tamara Allen
    ‘Shutterbug' by occupiedneptune – free
    Untitled by bexless – free
    Kourt/Blaine stories by Layna – free
    Almost like being in love by Steve Kluger
    Mike Dies At The End by Shukyou – free
    Your cover's blown by Shinju Yuri – free
    Snow Day by Jennifer Pelland – free [nb - the m/m aspect of this is ambiguous :) ]
    Interstitial by Ann Somerville [cough]
    Heron Feathers Fiction contest entries -”The Mechanics of Fucking” by Manna Francis – free
    Good grief by Drew Gummerson – free
    Grabbing hands grab all they can by Magpie – free
    Issues, Envelopes and Homophobes by FeatherJunkie – free
    Bad case of Loving you by Laney Cairo
    Care and feeding by Shinju Yuri

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  23. Ann Somerville
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 18:30:22

    @(Jān):
    Jan, I just posted a stack of links in a reply so it’s caught in your moderation queue.

    The last rec for ‘Care and feeding’ should note it’s a free story as well.

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  24. (Jān)
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 18:33:53

    Thanks! I dragged it out of the queue. I can’t wait to try some of these. Free is always good too. :) I really appreciate this.

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  25. Ann Somerville
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 18:38:32

    @(Jān):

    Oh! For pure humour, you have to read
    Colin Farrell’s Penis by Philip Huang

    Not romance but you’ll split something reading it :)

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  26. (Jān)
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 18:41:48

    Oh, I thought a couple of the writers sounded familiar! I read Shousetsu Bang Bang too, though not as often as I’d like. There’s some good writing in it, and would recommend it to anyone who wants to try some good (free!) mxm shorts.

    http://s2b2.livejournal.com/

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  27. Ann Somerville
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 18:43:59

    @(Jān):

    Bang*Bang is great, but like you, I never have time to read as much as I’d like (wish they’d give summaries with the titles). The standard is always so much higher than the usual free fiction on LJ – well-edited too.

    I have another rec which is sitting in your spam filter – you’ll see why when you read it ;)

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  28. anon
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 19:59:28

    @Jane – I’m sorry that a brief, pretty obviously lighthearted (by virtue of the strikeout) reference to both a recent romance blogosphere dustup and an act that most straight women and gay men have in common – thus making them part of the m/m target audience – and which I’d think you could manage to read about in the erotic novel in question – makes it so easy for you to disregard the other 98% of my comments, but whatever makes it easier to get through the day, I guess. *eyeroll*

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  29. Robin
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 20:29:06

    @anon, by “lighthearted” don’t you really mean “making light/fun/sport of”? If you read Jane’s comments on the “reference,” I can’t imagine you meant it as anything but a needle. And who wants to stick around to be poked by a needle?

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  30. Jane
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 20:34:57

    @Robin: I didn’t feel like it was a needle. I found the reference to cocksucker to be a perjorative which is the way I always have viewed it and particularly from someone who chooses to post via anonymously, I’m not going to respond. It seems pointless. A comment like that seems only want to start something because truly, who would use that even in a strikeout anonymously, if they wanted to engage in meaningful discourse?

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  31. Robin
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 20:49:55

    A comment like that seems only want to start something because truly, who would use that even in a strikeout anonymously, if they wanted to engage in meaningful discourse?

    That’s actually what I was trying to say in my roundabout, clearly not effective, way, lol. I meant “needle” like “needling” or poking at for a response.

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  32. Lorraine
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 22:20:11

    I didn’t read the book, but I read the whole discussion, and it was hysterical. A big thank you shout out to all of you witty posters! It was one of the most outrageously funny things I’ve read in a long time. Thanks!

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  33. Charlene
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 22:59:40

    I cannot believe I am writing this, but:

    The preference of “come” to “cum” might be spurred by fanfic groups in which the word “cum” is regarded with the same affection as an Ebola-soaked asbestos rag. It’s gone out of style and, even more, has become a sign of horrific writing.

    If I read a story that had the word “cum” in it, I would stop reading immediately.

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  34. (Jān)
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 23:35:32

    I don’t know Charlene. I’m in a few fandoms and I’d never heard such a thing, and several of those fandoms contain a lot of smut. Although, they’re mostly yaoi fandoms and not slash, which can take themselves a little too seriously for my tastes.

    I’ve noticed that women in yaoi fandom are very open and honest about expressing their sexuality and know that it’s OK for smut or erotica to be just that, and are willing to admit that they enjoy it. Cum or come, the choice is ignored. It doesn’t have anything to do with the quality of the fic it appears in.

    And too, guys use it all the time, so honestly it seems pretty silly IMO to ignore the word in fics populated mainly by men, unless those men genuinely would not use it.

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  35. (Jān)
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 23:45:06

    @Ann, Colin Farrell’s Penis… I died laughing. That one goes into the Hall of Fame.

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  36. kirsten saell
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 23:48:29

    I’ve always kind of found the word “cum” to be unsexy and juvenile–like “boobs”, only worse. Maybe I just saw it scrawled too many times on the guys’ locker room wall in highschool.

    Not that you all need to know what I was doing in the guys’ locker room…

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  37. Ann Somerville
    Jan 05, 2009 @ 00:07:21

    @(Jān):
    Brilliant, isn’t it. Another one to thank my mate, Paul Bens, for. He finds me all kinds of shiny things :)

    Velvet Mafia have some good stuff too (a lot of it not safe for work, as the site is not either) – but oy, they have some crap as well.

    But I must pimp one of their gems, again found by Paul, and only up until February so please hurry over to read it:
    Civil Disobedience by Jameson Currier
    Sweet and funny and sad, all at once.

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  38. (Jān)
    Jan 05, 2009 @ 00:48:52

    @Ann, I’m reading Mike Dies at the End now and am loving the author’s style. I’ll definitely try Civil Disobedience.

    Thanks so much for these recs!

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  39. Ann Somerville
    Jan 05, 2009 @ 00:53:53

    @(Jān):
    You’re welcome. Introducing people to good writing is one of my favourite things :)

    Civil Disobedience is a freebie, BTW. Velvet Mafia is a free ezine.

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  40. MD
    Jan 05, 2009 @ 01:43:57

    Adored Snow Day and Interstitial, both. Definitely read them!

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  41. anon
    Jan 05, 2009 @ 14:42:56

    @Robin “A comment like that seems only want to start something because truly, who would use that even in a strikeout anonymously, if they wanted to engage in meaningful discourse?”

    Perhaps someone who reads the term in question on a regular basis in erotica, and who assumed that someone capable of reading an explicit, erotic novel that likely used the term in question more than once would be able to take the phrase as intended (in that it’s slang that accurately describes behavior of those-who-are-sexually-attracted-to-men), the very quality that Jane seemed to put up as a badge that disqualified the sample readers of this book from having to understand the tropes of m/m – or even being interested that they exist.

    I tried twice to engage in meaningful discourse over the topic at hand – namely that simply being a member of the target audience for M/M isn’t in and of itself going to familiarize you with the tropes – which is what she seemed to be implying the response to Ms. Sommerville that I initially took issue with. But at no point, either before or after the use of the terribleawfulnogoodverybad word was my point addressed. Nor was it even acknowledged that I had a point.

    Instead, the (contextually accurate) use of the term – a term I was using to make a valid point – was used as an excuse for pearl clutching and *again* ignoring my point. Which is totally your perogative. You’ve got your hot buttons, fine. I don’t begrudge you that. But it seems terribly disingenuous in a review of an explicit novel with (presumably) explicit language to pretend that the use of that one word means the rest of my comments don’t exist, or that I’m *just* a troll.

    The fact that you can’t see that word without reacting doesn’t mean that other people can’t use that word without the deliberate and sole intent of provoking you. I wasn’t. Believe me or don’t, that’s fine, I’m just sad one word rendered you incapable of responding to the content of my comments, both before and with its use.

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  42. Jane
    Jan 05, 2009 @ 14:50:36

    @anon Right because called a pearl clutcher and suggesting that because I don’t find the cocksucker humorous I’m somehow not capable of discussing the issue of reader expectations and tropes, is also an opening salvo to meaningful discussion.

    But hey, if more name calling and perjoratives makes you feel like you are making your point even clearer, have at it.

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  43. Robin
    Jan 05, 2009 @ 15:17:33

    No, anon, it was not that “one word rendered [anyone] incapable of responding to the content of my comments, both before and with its use.” And FWIW, Jane’s actually the one who made the comment you attributed to me, although I agree with her statement.

    I’m assuming that since you used that word, with a strikeout, with the anon (*especially* with the anon), you are very familiar with the discussions that have taken place around the connotations of that word *in the context of a book title* at various blogs. And that someone who was familiar with those discussions, who had read Jane’s comments on Karen Scott’s blog, could only be using it as a goad of some sort. And if it’s a goad, why should she give the rest of the comment serious consideration, since the goad sets a definite tone, placing the rest of the comment in suspect territory, as well. Unless, you know, your entire point is to find yet one more reason to dismiss anyone who might not follow the TP line on cocksucker. In which case, have at it. I suspect any response at this point would be forced into qualification.

    As for the commentary beyond that point in your initial post, I can’t tell whether you are critiquing Jane’s comment or Ann Somerville’s, especially since you seem to be making a similar point as Somerville — at least about the recognizability of conventions to readers familiar with a genre or sub genre. Although I also think Somerville’s point about how the outsider’s view of certain conventions can point out how silly they can look, even to the jaded insider reader, is a good one, because it addresses the myopic nature of certain genre patterns.

    If your point is simply that readers familiar with a genre are also familiar with its conventions, I don’t think you’ll get any disagreement from anyone on this blog, since we’ve all made similar statements. There is a secondary question begged, though, about whether (sub)genre books are being written to a core audience, and whether/how that limits their readership. And a related question emerges around whether there is universal agreement on how those conventions are read even among “insider” readers.

    Perhaps someone who reads the term in question on a regular basis in erotica, and who assumed that someone capable of reading an explicit, erotic novel that likely used the term in question more than once would be able to take the phrase as intended (in that it's slang that accurately describes behavior of those-who-are-sexually-attracted-to-men), the very quality that Jane seemed to put up as a badge that disqualified the sample readers of this book from having to understand the tropes of m/m – or even being interested that they exist.

    I have no idea what you mean here. Who is Jane disqualifying and when does she say she’s not interested in the m/m tropes?

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  44. Ann Somerville
    Jan 05, 2009 @ 16:55:23

    Jane, I’d be interested in your view as to how much of your your reaction to Mitchell’s story was because of an unfamiliarity overall with m/m, and how much because of the failings of this story.

    Why I’m interested is that I recently did a poll about m/m reader habits (which is still open if anyone wants to share their opinion) and it gave substance to my impression that over two thirds of readers of m/m do not read het of any kind. Of those het readers, about half said they read as much m/m as het, and the others either only occasionally read m/m or did so very rarely.

    That indicates to me that there’s a large untapped audience out there for m/m, and what I’d like to know is – what’s deterring them from giving it a go? Is it the ‘anal sex, euww’ factor? Is it the tropes of the genre? Is it that gay sex and romance strikes them as inherently nasty and immoral (which I immediately discount as a reason for you and most readers here, who are very open-minded, liberal crowd)? Have we as m/m writers lost the plot and are we creating stories which are only unusual because of the gay aspect, and which, stripped of that, are silly and uninteresting?

    I’d really like to know what you personally think, and what other readers here think.

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  45. K.A. Mitchell
    Jan 05, 2009 @ 18:31:23

    I almost peered through my fingers when I found the link to the blog from my Google alerts, but I actually enjoyed reading the liveblogging review of “Custom Ride.” I enjoyed reading your comments and thank you very much for your praise of my voice. I would concur that short stories are not my best milieu.

    As a writer, I love hearing what other people have to say about my work. Writing is a lonely occupation, but you really want to share what you create. I’ve always loved reading and discussing books in live time with many of my friends. Everyone brings a different perspective to the work. It’s really fascinating when people are sharing their perspectives on mine.

    Thanks again for reading and commenting on my work. I also appreciate the time you’re taking to include the m/m genre. It can only mean more good books for me to enjoy and a bigger market for me to share my stories in.

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  46. Jane
    Jan 05, 2009 @ 20:50:33

    @Ann Somerville My primary take away from Custom Ride was a) unbelievable in the closet guy i.e., he was prone to having sex in public places and going on “dates” with guys for someone who was trying to keep it hush hush. I know a guy who keeps his private life private because of his work situation, and while it might be an open secret about his sexuality, I can’t see him having sex in his car or at his place of work. The second thing that bothered me was that the book was mostly sex. I bought this story from the romance gay/lesbian section and I choose Mitchell’s book specifically because she had been highly praised.

    I thought the dialogue was excellent and that it might be a situation where short stories just aren’t for me which is why we are changing the format of the liveblog to more of a book club discussion for next week.

    I don’t have a problem with anal sex, but I found my friends’ comments pretty interesting. There was a part early in the book where Ryan has just been topped by Jeff and Ryan thinks to himself that Jeff is being so patient with Ryan and that it was really generous of Jeff to do that. Given that anal sex always has some element of pain, I would think a caring lover would want to be patient and that this shouldn’t be viewed as a generosity. I think that combined with the fact that I didn’t see much tenderness in the story made me view the story as not very romantic.

    But again, I think that this was alot in part due to the length of the story and not necessarily tropes of the m/m genre but I could be wrong. I’m still interested in reading in the m/m genre and I know my friends were too.

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  47. Jane
    Jan 05, 2009 @ 20:51:30

    @K.A. Mitchell You are a very good sport and I definitely plan on reading you again. Short formats rarely work for me, no matter who the author is.

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  48. Ann Somerville
    Jan 05, 2009 @ 21:28:14

    @Jane:
    I can’t speak about how realistically the story portrayed the actions or the sex, but it didn’t convince you guys, for sure.

    I will say that from reading anecdotes and true life stories, closeted men will do things which look absolutely insane to everyone else – look at George Michael, and that American senator picking up men in a public bathroom. Part of the attraction of cottaging appears to be the risk of being caught, and I have no doubt some closeted men subconsciously hope to have their secret exposed. Living in the closet is extremely stressful.

    Given that anal sex always has some element of pain, I would think a caring lover would want to be patient and that this shouldn't be viewed as a generosity.

    Again, from anecdotes, that degree of consideration is often lacking, especially from casual encounters – male-male sex is often a lot harder and nastier than women like to read about. And a considerate lover isn’t a given, regardless of the orientation. There are just as many straight men whose idea of foreplay is ‘Roll over, Ethel’ as gay men who think ‘biff boff, I just got off’ is a perfectly acceptable approach to sex. So I wouldn’t, personally, have thought that being noted by a man used to casual sex as being odd.

    (Anal sex does not always hurt, I am reliably told. A little discomfort, maybe, but outright pain means you’re doing it wrong.)

    There are lot of short, romantic stories available (which I have to say, don’t usually work that well for me either – short story writing is an art and romance particularly unsuited to the form). You might do better aiming for novella or novel length, which, as it does in K A Mitchell’s case, gives the author room to develop the relationship and tenderness. If you really want to go for short stories, I could suggest some excellent ones in anthologies etc, but I think they’re all print, and I believe you don’t like anthologies much anyway?

    I do hope you persist. There’s some excellent work in the m/m genre, and some truly talented writers. K A Mitchell is one of them.

    @K.A. Mitchell:

    Seconding what Jane said. Your gracious response is very heartening, and I’m sure this mature attitude is one reason you continue to improve, and so much, as a writer.

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  49. Paul Bens
    Jan 05, 2009 @ 22:09:50

    I haven’t read the story yet (forgive me KA and all), but just commenting on some of what Ann said:

    closeted men will do things which look absolutely insane to everyone else

    Just speaking from my experience only, I find this to be true. I’m not sure why it is, but I’ve been approached in public situations (cottages, etc.) by more “straight” or closeted men than by gay men. And my ex who was deeply closeted used to cruise in public places all the time (which is one of the reasons he’s my ex).

    Part of the attraction of cottaging appears to be the risk of being caught, and I have no doubt some closeted men subconsciously hope to have their secret exposed.

    Again, I’ve found this to be true. Although I do think at times it isn’t necessarily about being caught as it is about some measure of surrendering control. Being closeted (from what I recall of those day…centuries ago now) for some is a very control oriented undertaking. You have to be so careful all the time so your secret doesn’t get out, that sometimes — logically or not — you have to find some way to release that control. Taking risks and cottaging I’ve found can often be about letting go of a control that can dominate your life. Also, I think cottaging is also sometimes specifically about “guaranteed no strings attached.” Living closeted, you still need that interaction and sexuality, but a long term thing isn’t possible. So, cottaging gives you a quick anonymous way to satisfy your needs, emotionally, and sexually, without engendering any long term issues that might threaten to out you. Of course, if you get busted, it creates a whole new set of problems.

    Anal sex does not always hurt, I am reliably told. A little discomfort, maybe, but outright pain means you're doing it wrong.

    From my experience, that pretty much sums it up.

    Again, from anecdotes, that degree of consideration is often lacking, especially from casual encounters – male-male sex is often a lot harder and nastier than women like to read about.

    Hmmmm…I have to think about this one. I’m guessing that can be true, but as I’m not one for rough stuff, I dunno that I have a frame of reference. If it gets harder and nastier, I really am not all that interested. From viewing pr0n, I’d say that’s accurate, but then again pr0n isn’t the best yardstick. And from the limited casual sex I’ve had, there are some really, really aggressive guys out there. SOme in a scary way. =-)

    And a considerate lover isn't a given, regardless of the orientation. There are just as many straight men whose idea of foreplay is ‘Roll over, Ethel' as gay men who think ‘biff boff, I just got off' is a perfectly acceptable approach to sex.

    Oh, so very true.

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  50. Jane
    Jan 05, 2009 @ 22:13:30

    @Paul Bens what are you guys trying to convince me of? I didn’t find the story romantic or believable within my metrics. If it worked for you based on your differing experiences, great, but it didn’t for me.

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  51. Paul Bens
    Jan 05, 2009 @ 22:23:57

    @Paul Bens what are you guys trying to convince me of? I didn't find the story romantic or believable within my metrics. If it worked for you based on your differing experiences, great, but it didn't for me.

    =-) Not trying to convince. Didn’t mean it to come off that way. If it didn’t work for you, it didn’t. That’s ultimately the bottom line…if it doesn’t work for any particular reader it just doesn’t work them.

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  52. Ann Somerville
    Jan 05, 2009 @ 22:27:28

    @Jane:
    I was commenting on

    My primary take away from Custom Ride was a) unbelievable in the closet guy i.e., he was prone to having sex in public places and going on “dates” with guys for someone who was trying to keep it hush hush.

    And

    Given that anal sex always has some element of pain, I would think a caring lover would want to be patient and that this shouldn't be viewed as a generosity.

    to say (and I asked Paul to comment from his own experience, in case I had it wrong) these may not be all that unbelievable.

    BUT – you are absolutely within your right to say these elements, realistic or not, didn’t work for you as romance, or failed to convince you. It’s one of the things about this genre that realism != romantic a lot of the time.

    I can’t say if it worked for me, as I haven’t read the story. I’ve read plenty of m/m and gay fiction which is undoubtedly true to life, but which left me completely cold. Sounds like that’s what happened here, and romance is about carrying the reader away. It’s not a documentary.

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  53. Paul Bens
    Jan 05, 2009 @ 23:09:56

    Oh…to add to Ann’s list….on the humor side of m/m romance/erotic, I love Kit Zheng’s Roy LeRoy series. I reviewed Roy LeRoy and the Black Bull of Whistler’s Gulch at UP.

    Although this particular story is definitely more erotica than out and out romance.

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  54. Paul Bens
    Jan 05, 2009 @ 23:11:35

    Sorry…somehow I’m having trouble with links tonight.

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  55. Ann Somerville
    Jan 05, 2009 @ 23:12:20

    @Paul Bens:

    And it’s erotica of a…er…unusual kind. A beastly kind. Not for those looking for sweet m/m loving :)

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  56. Paul Bens
    Jan 05, 2009 @ 23:15:41

    And it's erotica of a…er…unusual kind. A beastly kind. Not for those looking for sweet m/m loving :)

    Oh, very, very true. I should have mentioned that.

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  57. (Jān)
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 00:07:29

    Thanks for the link Paul. That was different, LOL! But I liked how the author wrote it in a way that evoked the folk tales she was paying homage to. You guys are giving me some good recommendations. Thanks!

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  58. Regarding Gay Romance | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 04:02:10

    [...] too).   I had a live book chat with a couple of my friends, both gay, regarding the book, Custom Ride by K.A. Mitchell.  Mitchell had received a very positive review from Dr. Sarah here at Dear Author and I thought it [...]

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