Alex Beecroft in the Spotlight

Please pop over to Jessewave’s Blog (Wave is a great supporter of gay fiction) and read the great interview with our very own Alex Beecroft.

Jessewave is going to run a series of these spotlights, so I’ll let you know when a relevant one comes up!

ALEX BEECROFT IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Submission Call “Don Juan and Men”

Don Juan and Men
stories of lust and seduction
Edited by Kyle Stone (ManLoveRomance Books)
Deadline: 30th September 2008

The story of Don Juan is a popular one and has appeared in many guises throughout literary and musical history. The Spanish Don with his single minded drive to seduce, conquer and desert those who fall under his spell, fascinates us all. He is a man of power, a man who goes against the rules, a cynic with devastating charm. But the stories in this anthology will explore a side of the Don that has not been examined before. What if Don Juan were gay?

The kind of stories I’m looking for can be set in any place, in any time period, even the future. They can explore any dynamic, make the seductive one older… younger… looking back or far ahead into a future we can barely imagine. The content of the story can be romantic, darkly gothic, or modern and stark; the erotic element can range from subtle to very explicit S&M. Always the focus of the story, as with the Don himself, is on the process and psychology of seduction, in other words, on the hunt. The majority will be original stories, with no more than three reprints allowed. I expect to have from twelve to eighteen stories, running from 3000 to a maximum of 8,000 words. Deadline: September 30.

I hope to have about half the stories by invitation to writers of all sorts of genres, with plenty of room for an open call. I always enjoy discovering new voices (to me) and know the thrill of giving a new writer a first publication.

Needless to say this is a small press publication, the pay an honorarium. What we do for love… 🙂

Send queries to carosoles@rogers.com

Sanity Clause? Ain’t No such thing as Sanity Clause

Thanks to T J Pennington for the heads up on this one: Spotted on Diane Duane’s LJ and the Guardian– Random House are inserting a morality clause into their contracts for children’s and YA authors:

If you act or behave in a way which damages your reputation as a person suitable to work with or be associated with children, and consequently the market for or value of the work is seriously diminished, and we may (at our option) take any of the following actions: Delay publication / Renegotiate advance / Terminate the agreement.

Apparently Random House will remove the clause if asked, which is the old “negative effect” thing which was made illegal in contracts and junk mail here a while back. The old “to take advantage of this offer you need do nothing” sort of malarkey.

I can’t believe that it is a direct reaction to William Mayne, as that was four years ago, they should have done this immediately if so. This – as the Grauniad rightly says – should affect all sort of “authors” such as Madonna, Jordan and even Sarah Ferguson – as I don’t think that being photographed sucking a man’s toes whilst topless is a great role-model for those tender young minds who love Budgie the Helicopter.

What’s next? A police check on all children’s authors in the same way that any person working with children is checked for employment?

And who is the moral arbiter here?  What standard are they using? Who, exactly, gets to say what is suitable? Are gays suitable? Adulterers? What behaviour will get you a bad name? How high is that bar?

It’s a nonsense, a dangerous precedent, a step backwards to the old days of Hollywood where the actors had such morality clauses in their contracts. Didn’t work then, won’t work now. Boo, Random House, boo.

Turns on and Squicks: a rebuttal

By T J Pennington

Were it possible, I would have posted this response on Erotica Readers & Writers Association. Regrettably, while Jean Roberta’s’ editorial on women who write male/male romance was there, there was no reply button, and thus no way to discuss or debate her statements…or beliefs that she stated as fact. So I am compelled to answer her comments here.

Ms. Roberta begins by saying, “Sexually-explicit literature comes in various genres and genders these days. Explicit sex scenes can appear in literature of every genre, as well as in “erotica” per se. “ I would agree with the first comment and raise my eyebrows at the second—after all, according to the rules of punctuation, a word or phrase separated from the rest of the sentence by quotation marks implies rather strongly that she doesn’t find explicit sex scenes in the least erotic—but no matter. We will let this, and her assertion that butch and femme are genders on the level of male, female and transgender rather than two different forms of sexually oriented behavior, pass.

However, she then says that “[o]ne genre which interests me is male/male erotic romance” while saying that male/male pairings were more rarely posted to ERWA’s Storytime section than the male/female and female/female pairings. This does not surprise me; ERWA is run by a woman who prefers het pairings above all, and who prefers f/f to m/m. It takes very little time for a member of ERWA to learn that while all pairings may be posted, writers of male/male stories are likelier to find positive feedback on lists and in communities where the webmistress and the membership do not favor the exact opposite of what they’re writing.

Ms. Roberta, though, does not mention the strong het bent of ERWA as a possible reason that male/male writers might be posting elsewhere. Instead, she offers a theory that, allegedly, an unnamed person in an unlinked thread told her. This nameless someone, she said, “explained that heterosexual men (who largely ruled the world) were squicked by images of men with men, but no one was squicked—or threatened—by images of women with women or by more conventional sex (men and women together, provided there was no coercion or incest).”

The theory does not make any sense when applied to ERWA. The membership is overwhelmingly female, and the webmistress and her two associates are female. Therefore, there is little reason for straight patriarchal males to have the influence that Roberta’s unidentified source claims over what gets posted to Storytime—especially as the tales are posted directly to the e-mail list. Nor does the unnamed source, who claims that squicked heterosexual men were the reason that there were were so few self-identified gay men on ERWA’s lists, even consider that gay men might not want to be hanging around a predominantly het-and-lesbian list or website.

All this, she says, was in 1998, when she first joined ERWA. “Some said [male/male erotica] would never fly,” Ms. Roberta says—though again, she does not tell us who said it. Ms. Roberta and these unnamed people seem unaware that gay erotica and literature involving gay characters and gay romances (which is not the same thing as gay erotica) have both been around for a while. “Gay fiction never existed as a distinct genre until the 1970s,” says David Seubert, but, he adds, gay pulps—primarily erotica and exploitation stories, dealing as much with stereotypes, neuroses, the difficulty of coming out and so on as they did with love and sex–existed in the 1950s and 1960s. One of the earliest of the pulps was Andre Tellier’s Twilight Men, which was originally published in 1948. As for literature involving gay romances, I do not think that it would be a stretch to go back to Ancient Greece, with its tales of the Theban Band and the myth of Zeus being smitten by the beauty of the boy Ganymede.

Ms. Roberta does not mention the history of gay literature or gay erotica, however. She cites slash fan fiction and the popularity of yaoi in manga and anime as ways that women became exposed to and started writing male/male romance. “Both the history and the appeal of m/m erotic romance are clearly complex,” she says, and in this I agree with her.

But then, alas, Ms. Roberta hits her stride. She does not like women writing male/male romance, and she says so: “The motives of women who write sex scenes featuring two or more male characters have never seemed self-evident to me.

I confess that I am perplexed. The motives of a writer have never mattered to me in the slightest; all I care about is whether the writer can tell a good, believable, well-characterized story. Why on earth would it matter to anyone why a writer was writing a story, as long as he or she was doing a good job?

Conceding that there is good work being done in the male/male romance genre and that many of the characters are well-written, interesting people—things that she dismisses a couple of sentences later—Ms. Roberta then raises two peculiar arguments.

First, she says, “describing bodies which are different from one’s own is bound to be a challenge.” Apparently she feels that women are inherently less able to write about men because they are not men. Yet she does not make the same complaint about male writers. Men have been writing about women for thousands of years, yet Roberts does not seem to consider their female characters invalid simply because their creators lacked vaginas. But in her discussion of females writing m/m romance or erotica, their lack of a Y chromosome is the first thing that she brings up.

Secondly, she claims that “[t]here seems to be no corresponding genre of f/f erotic romance written by men—aside from the work of a few very versatile writers such as M. Christian.” It astonishes me that she would say that no men seem to be writing f/f, as the genre has been around for some time. Indeed, Edgar-winning mystery author Lawrence Block, to name but one male writer, admits freely that he got his start writing f/f erotica. Some of his books have recently been reprinted. Perhaps it has not occurred to Ms. Roberts that males writing f/f fiction might have female pseudonyms. Consequently, it might be somewhat difficult to discern whether a f/f book was written by a man or not.

Ms. Roberta also makes it clear that she has asked women who write male/male romance why they write on the subject—and that she will not be satisfied by the answer. She has received answers, certainly: that the writers find men interesting, that they like writing about gay men, that they became used to writing about male/male romance in fanfic, that men historically had more freedom than women. She takes great exception to the last, disingenuously comparing maidservants who were seduced or raped by lustful employers to men facing imprisonment and execution if, as she puts it, they wanted to express their love for another man. The argument that men had freedom in the past while women had none does not hold up to scrutiny as a reason to write exclusively about men,” she says.

To me, Ms. Roberta is arguing apples and oranges. Men DID have greater legal, economic and social freedom in the past than women did, simply by virtue of being born male. Men, in general, had access to parts of society that women did not: the military, the law, medicine, the church. If you want to write stories set in the past…well, yes, there were women who ran businessess, wrote books, painted pictures, sculpted statues, healed the sick, ran forges and went to war. But they were all operating, to some degree, outside of the established society, and all were facing a great deal of static–societal and legal. Most women did not do this.

It is possible to write about a woman historically operating in a man’s world, of course, but then you would have only two options: to write an actual biography or a historical novel/romance based on a real woman, or to write about a romance heroine being anachronistically revolutionary and trail-blazing in ways that would not have been legally possible in order to satisfy the outraged sensibilities of readers who do not wish to think about the fact that men and women were not, for most of human history, considered equals.

Now, were gay men liable to lose a great deal if penetration and emission could be proven? Of course they were! Imprisonment and hanging are no joke. I think that is part of the appeal of gay historical romance—the reader’s awareness of how much is on the line for such a couple. There is a certain charm in knowing that someone will hazard all they have and all they are for the sake of the person he or she loves. (And the legal and social consequences for gay historical couples, should they be caught, blackmailed or arrested, means that conflict is built into the story from the beginning.)

Not content with muddling the difference between the legal, economic and social liberties granted to those who were born with a penis and the lack of freedom suffered by males who’d been caught violating sodomy laws, Ms. Roberta then states that there is no reason for women who write male/male historical romance to bother their heads about historical accuracy. “And if it is true, as I suspect, that fantasy literature has had an influence on this genre,” she says, “writers of m/m romance are not trapped in the pillory of historical reality anyway!”

In other words, why bother being historically accurate? Why bother writing historical novels at all? You could write male/male fantasy romance and not have to deal with the problems of gay men in history at all!

And there, as in so much else, Ms. Roberta misses the point. People write what they write because they want to write it. If a writer wants to write accurate historical novels, it is foolish to complain that she could write fantasy novels and not have to deal with actual historical problems. Presumably if the writer wished to write fantasy novels instead of historicals, she would choose to do so.

Ms. Roberta then proceeds to lambaste women who write male/male romance for being self-hating females. “Choosing to write about males need not be based on an aversion to females,” she says primly (strongly implying, by her sentence structure, that it usually is), “but several women writers have explained why they write m/m by explaining why they don’t write erotica about female characters.”

To write about characters that one person does not like or one group of people do not like, is not the same as expressing hatred for characters that a writer does NOT choose to write about. Writing is about freedom–saying what you have to say in the way that you choose to say it. There are not and should not be any restrictions on this. Women can write about gay men. Men can write about gay women. Blacks can write about Asians or Amerindians. Jews can write about Catholic saints. And so on.

Given that the tenor of Ms. Roberta’s comments is “Why can’t women writers write about women?”, I’m not surprised that some of the writers she queried responded by politely explaining why they preferred not to write about women—not realizing that she would misinterpret this as gender hatred. “Invariably,” she says, (contradicting her earlier statement that “several women”–no more than three or four—said this), “these reasons are based on the supposed negative qualities of women in general, or of supposedly unbreakable female roles.”

I have no idea what she means by “supposed negative qualities of women in general.” I suspect that it could have been as innocent as “I like reading and writing about men more than I like reading and writing about women.” As for “supposedly unbreakable female roles”–well, here we are, dealing with Ms. Roberta’s dislike of historical accuracy again. Let’s face it—if a writer who likes historical accuracy wants to write about a love affair in the British army circa 1790, she’s not going to be writing about Lieutenant Elizabeth Farrell, the noblest and bravest officer in His Majesty’s forces. There are plenty of scriveners already composing drivel of that sort, blithely ignoring the fact that the past was not, with respect to women’s rights, an exact copy of the present.

“In addition to the claim that actual women in the past lacked the independence to inspire fiction centering on female characters,” she continues, “several writers have mentioned the difficulty of writing sex scenes involving females who can still be respected afterward. This looks to me like an internalized double standard presented as an objective fact.”

This, more than anything, shows me that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Trail-blazers, whether male or female, are never the norm. Most women in the past—and most men, as well—were not trail-blazers. They were not independent; they simply tried to fit into society as best they could while remaining individuals. And women lived in a far more circumscribed world than men did—one focused on marriage, children, society and religion. Of course, this also limits the kinds of stories that a historically accurate writer can tell.

As for her protest about an internalized double standard about the respectability of sexually active heroines…I’m not sure if the writers she cites were talking about whether the other characters would respect a sexually active unmarried woman during, say, the Regency (which they obviously wouldn’t) or whether they were discussing the fact that while readers rarely have problems with male characters being sexually active in any sub-genre of romance, there is often a division between those who will accept sexually active heroines and those who will not. Those who prefer virginal heroines—especially virginal historical heroines–are often passionate about them, protesting those who write about sexually active women and promising to boycott future books by such an author. I think that the reluctance to write about sexually active women has less to do with an internalized double standard than an awareness of historical vs. anachronistic attitudes and a canny knowledge of what the market will bear.

Ms. Roberta then states that she sent a draft of this article to the women who replied to her questions and asked that she be allowed to quote them anonymously. I don’t understand why she wanted to quote them anonymously, rather than putting names with specific quotations. Perhaps it would have been more difficult to make all of the women who write male/male romance sound as if they thought the same way. In any event, one of the writers refused permission. Ms. Roberta seems to feel that she got around the issue by not quoting directly but paraphrasing. Given her lack of comprehension of the women she is paraphrasing, I can only wonder how accurate the paraphrases are.

“It is clear to me by now that I can’t find a non-controversial way to report other writers’ squicks,” she continues. Again, she puzzles me. Up till now, she has been discussing why women write male/male romance. Squicks have not come into the discussion. Nevertheless, she comes up with an entire laundry list of squicks at this point—a list so long it only serves to demonstrate that one person’s squick is another person’s turn-on.

Then she delivers her polemic:

My comments here will probably squick a number of readers who will want to expose me, not themselves, as irrationally biased and therefore undeserving of this platform. One of the ironies of a commitment to tolerance is that it has to involve “zero tolerance” (to quote the anti-abuse movement) for hatred presented as fact.

I will not discuss whether or not Ms. Roberta is irrationally biased. I will say that she has stated a dislike for women writing about men based on female biology, an aversion to historical accuracy which does not stress of radical feminist view of women and a granite conviction that women who write about men are self-hating females—without supplying proof of any of her assertions. I feel certain that the readers of Speak Its Name can decide for themselves if this is biased, irrational, both or neither.

(However, I do find it amusing that she has zero tolerance for hatred presented as a fact while presenting her own considerable hatred for male/male romance and women who write it as a fact.)

“In my world,” she continues, subtly suggesting that she does not live in the same world as the rest of us, “men are approximately half the human race, and no more than that. Women are approximately half, and no less.” I think that this is her way of saying that men are disproportionately represented in romance, but I’m not entirely sure.

At any rate, she goes on…only now what she’s saying has no connection with the rest of the article. “The occasional lurid accident which happens when a sadomasochistic scene goes wrong is overshadowed by the constant, nonconsensual, institutionally-enforced oppression of whole demographics in most cultures on earth.”

Nonconsensual oppression? As opposed to what? Consensual oppression? And what, oh what, does constant, institutionally-enforced oppression of most cultures on earth have to do with women who write male/male romance? And what does a lurid accident in S & M have to do with either? If there’s a connection here, I’m not seeing it.

“Heterosexuality”, she goes on to say, “is culturally taught and enforced. It is not instinctive in all people, most of whom are not white.”

I don’t know what a cultural bias toward heterosexuality or the non-whiteness of most of the human race has to do with the subject of male/male romance. Again, I’m baffled.

Finally, she contradicts her entire article with these words: “Human beings are sexual and complicated, and these qualities can be found in the literature they write. That’s my view and I’m sticking to it.”

As it happens, I agree. Human beings are complicated, and they have multitudes of reasons for the things they say and do and paint and write. Those reasons are not always easy to understand, particularly if what is being said and done is not to one’s taste, but trying to understand is better than projecting one’s beliefs and prejudices on others and reporting those prejudices as stone cold fact. Projecting one’s assumptions onto a group one does not like does not really fit a vaunted ideal of zero tolerance.

I would hope that Ms. Roberta is not given the opportunity to use ERWA as a bully pulpit again. There is quite enough hatred in the world already without her adding to it. Frankly, Ms. Roberta should forget about the mote she sees in the eyes of women who write male/male romance, and concentrate on removing the beam from her own.

F/F fiction

There is so much lesbian historical fiction out there that we are going to start reviewing it from today.

However, we have literally ONE reviewer, so don’t expect an equal weight.  If you would like to review lesbian historicals please let me know on erastes AT erastes DOT com.

I also need to work out how to reorganize the site…

Review: Vienna Dolorosa by Mykola Dementiuk

Vienna Dolorosa by Mykola Dementiuk is a full-length historical novel set in Vienna, Austria, in an inner city hotel managed by a transvestite and doubling as a brothel for men who like boys dressed up as girls. The entire book takes place during a one-day time period — March 12, 1938, the day Hitler “invades” Austria. Told from the perspectives of twelve different characters including various hotel personnel, hotel guests, brothel employees and brothel clientele, we also have a talkative Viennese official, German police, Nazi SS, and a darling street boy.

This is a terrible book. Yes, that got your attention, didn’t it? I don’t mean terrible as in bad, though, obviously. Rather than it’s a gripping and terrifying read.

Terrible

1. distressing; severe: a terrible winter.
2. extremely bad; horrible: terrible coffee; a terrible movie.
3. exciting terror, awe, or great fear; dreadful; awful.
4. formidably great:

So I’m taking this as definition 4. Resoundingly.

The story takes places in about 24 hours of the Hotel Redl in Austria (Redl being the name of a homosexual who committed suicide in 1913) where Frau Friska Bielinska is the manager. It’s the day of the Anschluss – the day of the “reunification” (read invasion) of Austria by Germany. The city had been demonstrating against it, but gradually support and pro-Hitler force has grown to the stage where no-one dare speak out against it. Brownshirts prowl the streets beating up anyone they suspect to be Jewish (there’s a terrifying scene where Jews are put onto a merry go round which “can’t be stopped”) and are probably dead.

The Hotel Redl is a metaphor for the treatment of homosexuals/transvestites and many other types in German occupied territory. Every guest has something to hide, and every aberration from what the Germans consider the norm has been committed here. It’s difficult to describe the activities within the hotel without using language that might offend the gay readers as I don’t want to blanket them with the term “perversions” as clearly some of them – in our more enlightened world – such as enjoying men dressed as women, and homosexual behaviour – are not. However I must warn readers that there are also descriptive sections of necrophilia, rape, incest, suicide and murder.

It’s clear from the first page, being what it is and when it’s set, that this is not going to be a happy book. Yet Dementiuk does manage some incredible characterisation in very sparse prose. He paints his characters deftly, bringing them to life before our eyes with hard bold strokes rather than any flowery watercolour.

You feel for them all: from the pathetic Kaufmann who loved his boy-whore so much that he couldn’t bear to hear the boy call him old, to Kurt who struts around in his brownshirt thinking – all so wrongly – that it will save him from the SS when they discover him with his mouth on a man’s cock. (The SS was ironically founded by homosexuals, which was something I didn’t know). There’s Helmut with his breast fixation and Wanda with huge breasts but no interest in men. I could go on but I think you should discover them for yourselves.

There’s some wonderful narration too, and discussion of why some men dress as women, why some men want to pursue men dressed as women – which rather threw me out of the story when I first encountered it, but once accostumed to it it’s hard to look away and hard to be unconvinced by the arguments set down. If I disagreed with any aspect of the book it was the section with dealt with gang rape. I found it inconceivable that the raped woman would have climaxed with every man who raped her. Once – perhaps- one’s body is capable of betrayal, but women don’t work like that. More so that we are shown that this woman doesn’t climax “normally.”

My favourite character was the male-identifying-as-female Frau Bielinska who had such empathy and understanding even for the most troubled of her guests, but – although the characterisation isn’t deep (hard to do with 12 POVS) it’s convincing and you’ll find yourself empathising with them all and their doomed lives.

The most resounding feel of the book, however, is one of hopelessness; that the Juggernaut is coming and there’s no escaping its clutches. This is a book of people who have no hope – some who are running – some who have run as far as they can. A book about people completely unable to prevent something terrible they know is ahead, but how terrible it will be they can’t see, can’t possibly believe – or they’d be running harder and as fast and as far as they could.

Be brave and read this book. Yes, it’s hard to take, visceral and bloody and frankly disgusting in some of its clarity and honesty. But it needed to be this way. To not accept the fate of the Redl and consequently the true fate of many queers in Germany occupied territories would be to deny that any of this happened. Bravo.

There’s an excerpt here

Mykola Dementiuk was born in 1949 of Ukrainian parents in a West German DP camp, immigrating to America when he was two. After Catholic grade school & public high school in New York City, he graduated from Columbia University in 1984. A writer with varied employment, from gyro seller at
Lollapalooza to roustabout at the Big Apple Circus, Mykola helped create the magic of the Cirque du Soleil performances of “Alegria” in Santa Monica, Chicago, Washington DC, Boston, and New York with his electrical work. After suffering a massive debilitating stroke in 1997, Mykola eventually returned to writing, using one finger to execute the fantasies and psycho-sexual stories of his min
d.

Buy from Synergy Press

My Top Ten: Historical Yaoi Manga by Zehavit Lamasu

I am compiling this list with a ridiculous level of reservation. Most historical fiction reviews I see tend to ponder and dwell on historical accuracy and I admit , quite bluntly, that this is NOT why I read historical novels. Hell, it isn’t why I read ANY fiction – full stop!

I read stories set in the past because I want to remove myself from the present and be transported to “the olden days” for a short time. I am addicted to escapism so I shun accuracy like the plague. Speaking of plague, if it appears in a novel I like it to be a device for character building, adventure setting, angst infusion. A narrative obstacle rather than an accurate account of the time. I have history books for that and I read them on times when I am curious about the reality of those time.

Fiction REMOVES me from reality, personal preference but a rather strong trend with me. I swallow stupid romance novels by the buckets and not ashamed to admit it.

And this is how I came to yaoi. I am worried that I would have to justify myself. My fantasies, my indulgences, my *gasp* FETISHES. I don’t want to do that and I rather not get drawn into defending the genre. It is what it is. Riddled with faults, vastly misunderstood and in my opinion, utterly brilliant because it is nothing more than what it is. It doesn’t TRY to be high literature.

I am not going to divide it into definitions and sub genres and I am going to CHEAT. I added some titles that aren’t labelled YAOI but they feature gay romance as central or part of the plot.

1) Avalon Eien no Ai no Shima (Avalon – Island of Eternal Love)(2 volumes) Akai Toreno

Akai Toreno is largely unpopular with western yaoi fans. Her Semes are too beefy, her Ukes too effeminate. She overdoes the angst factor and her sex scenes can be uncomfortably brutal. She also very rooted in the narrative aspect of the story rather than the smut. I confess that everything about her work appeals to me despite and maybe due to its faults. In this case the angst is well placed. A romance between an SS officer and his Jewish butler in Nazi Germany can hardly be a cheerful easy going affair.

This has been swiftly written off by people who never read the manga as fetishist. I fail to see how since Aloise is forced into his position in the SS having the life of his childhood friend (David – a boy from the Jewish serving family in his family’s estate) dangled as a threat before his eyes. He doesn’t spend too much panel time in uniform and is the UKE.

The premise of their affair (and this is quite an intricate relationship and story) is that Aloise feels responsible for the death of David entire family and as a sacrifice he offers himself to nightly humiliating series of brutal sexual encounters in which David takes out his frustrations upon his body.

It is a love-hate relationship, soaking in more angst than the law should permit and when the love finally creeps up gently into their encounters – it jerks the tears and dishes out some melodrama that is probably a lot to swallow for some fans.

It is perfect for me. It also hits a personal note. Similar story in my family’s past… without the gay angle XD It wins top spot without contest.

2) Gerrard and Jacques (2 volumes) Fumi Yoshinaga (mention lovers in the night)

This is one that a lot of fans will point to as the hight of historical yaoi. Rightfully so. It is witty, smart, sexy and romantic in all the right places. The art is very different. There is none of the big sparkling eyes, the lush hair and the willowy grace of the majority of yaoi out there. Once you get used to the style, though , it is just as highly detailed and eye-candy as the best. (the image is from LOVERS IN THE NIGHT though… same time period and I liked how you spotted the anachronistic glasses which illustrate the Yaoi Rule of “Historically correct? FEH! It looks good! It goes on the bishie bridge of his nose!”)

At the cusp of the French Revolution Jacques is a sold into prostitution as a child. Gerard, a successful novelist (we later learn he writes Lesbian smut for a living) hires his favors for the night at the brothel were he is forced to work. The child arrogance intrigues him and after he does what a gentleman does with a young boy at a house of disrepute, he buys his freedom… just to see if young Jacques wouldn’t be back whoring soon enough.

Of course he doesn’t. Few years later, teenage Jacques finds employment at Gerrard house, where he finds the novelist bed filled with young male whores and his own loins behaving completely against his will… dragging him in the direction of the same bed.

The story of THIS love affair stretches throughout the turbulent times as Jacques grows from boy to man and the two banter and bicker and have lots of lovely-lovely filthy sex. Laced with humor which just adds to the eroticism of the tale and a typical Fumi Yoshinaga clever dialog – this one is NOT typical to the genre. It is highly recommended and – JOY – available in English.

you already know how the anachronisms creep it… switch the historical accuracy goggles off – in my opinion it is worth ignoring them for this bit of fun. (anything by Fumi Yoshinaga is gold, even when not historical and even when not gay – try ANTIQUE BAKERY – it is … just… *swoons*).

3) Romance (3 volumes) Moka Azumni

Not one for the plot. This is complete eye-candy. Antwan a beautiful man in stunning clothes who never ties his lush hair and escapes marriage is pursued by an artist who asks to paint his portrait and ends up teaching him the art of man loving. Throw in a cousin who also expresses a romantic interest in him and you have thousands of excuses to show off beautiful men in hundreds of 18th century frilly attire… and take them out of it just as frequently.

Moka Azumi story telling never caught me but her art style and attention to detail takes my breath away. I find myself leafing through her books as one would do with an art book, pausing to take in favorite panels and shamelessly drooling over how pretty it all is.

Anachronistically speaking – there is probably enough to make a historian explode. I don’t think the mangaka cares… I certainly don’t. ^^;;

4) Song of the winds and trees (13 volumes) Keiko Takemiya

This would not be considered yaoi but it is the mostly undisputed work that sprung the genre of Boys Love. about to be born when slowly other mangakas picked up their pens and ventured into far more gratuitous Keiko Takamiya was a Shoujo mangaka who got very bored with her genre. So when it came a time to write a historical tragic love story … she simply changed the girl into a boy and the concept of Uke and Seme was territory (not always explicitly sexual but still a lot less plot based than this).

19th century tale set mostly in an exclusive boarding school. The very promiscuous Gilbert a student with a bad reputation for wildness, Serge a kind hearted fellow pupil offers him his friendship and receives a lot more in return. Not just a reluctant romance and eventual sex but also the full brunt of Gilbert twisted past.

Very angst ridden, very poetically written, very tear jerking. The style of drawing lies firmly in the 1970s and the characters look even younger than they really are (which is 14) so you have to switch off the political correctness here. There are no sex scenes as such but we are told they happen and we see the aftermath quite often. Scenes of child abuse can be a hard pill to swallow. This one is story all the way through.

5) Seifuku … (1 volume) Akai Toreno

A very early Toreno. I tend to favor these. Set in Roman times. The Seme is a Roman general who brings home a Celtic prisoner of war as spoils of war. The prisoner happen to look just like his mother which opensbrings up a big can of worms as he finds himself attracted to him and faced with the shadows of the past.

The romance is violent to begin with , filled with tears and carries the characteristic “invisible penis” style… all typical Akai Toreno.

We travel from Ancient Britain to Rome to the Holy land. The Uke goes from Chief son to Slave to Whore. All of this in one volume. Cheaply pushes all of my fangirlish buttons. Pulp Romance if I ever came across one – but it works for me… no surprise there XD.

6) The lily and the rose – Dany & Dany

The only GloBL title on my list. I love Dany & Dany. I know the plot is predictable and old but I am forever a sucker for a story that sets a priest against a decadent dandy. Good excuse to play with pretty 18th century and angst. Can a fangirl ask for more? YES SHE CAN! I am not going to – I am quite happy with this.

7) Ludwig II – Higuri Yuu

I am cheating again. This is shoujo. The famous love story between the king and his stable boy. Beautifully handled and apparently actually RESEARCHED!!! I can’t back up the claim but Yuu Higuri fills this 3 volume manga with all the political intrigue and manipulations at the time.

I spotted one huge anachronism (I got this after visiting Ludwig II castles), the king never grows fat and he is a lot less… ahem… eccentric than he was in real life.

Still – this is a proper historical manga (which might not be up to accuracy standards with western historical novel but it makes the effort at least) and the plot follows history. Lots of dialogs and story. Sex scenes are subtle, the love story is central and heart breaking. It plays the romance of the time for all its worth.

8)Wild Rock – Kazusa Takashima

Ah! The stone age as it never was! Two stories of utter fluff and eye candy. Uke is very feminine and young looking. Seme is all muscle and manliness. They wear very little when they wear it at all. Let me try and remember the plot – I am still trying to peak under than loin-cloth!

The uke is made to dress as a girl in order to seduce the handsome son of rival clan for this or that reason. They fall in love and live happily ever after. There is another story that reveals the steamy past of their fathers.

Unlikely to the extreme… but who is going to be able to prove that… who is even going to TRY! WHY WOULD THEY WANT TO???

9) Stolen heart – Maki Kanamaru (writer) and Yukine Honami (illustrator)

It is a simple and pleasant enough Regency story. A spoiled young nobleman hops from party to orgy until he is utterly bored. In comes a mysterious highwayman who brings back the fire into his desire. It isn’t the most surprising theme. The only interesting twist here is that both sides are far from innocent and willing participants in all the bed exploits. It is a shame that for this story there isn’t more explicit depiction of these.

This is the longest of three stories in the book. The other two are not historical. This is quite typical since historical BL romance is far more common in novel form… but that would have to wait for another top 10…

10)Temptation – Maeda Momiji

I am not a big fan of short story anthologies but this one captured my attention. Small installment of old frilly themes. Dandy nobleman and his devout love interest, pirates and noblemen. A nice frolic in fangirl fetishes which I enjoyed very much. A first from Maeda Momiji. I only ever saw illustrations for novels or teaser images in anthologies. These tend to be one-of pictures with no story attached so I was pleased to see her try her hand in manga.

This list turned out to be more problematic than I thought.

To begin with – there is a lot less of it out there than I realized. I compiled a large folder of historical yaoi images through the years of collecting but it is a rather misleading collection (although very beautiful).

To begin with – most of the images are from NOVELS. Then there is the separate genre set in alternative universe in which the setting is historical but it allows mangakas with more conscience to shrug of anachronisms with the excuse : “it isn’t REALLY our history” (think LIONS OF AL RASSAN in Western terms). This is before we even touch upon all the Fantasy stories (in manga form as well) who set magical tales in magical lands where characters get to dress in historical gear for the sheer heck of it. This is before we even start stepping into Gothic vampire territory… it is as overdone in Japan as it is over here and I am no fan of vampire romps whether it comes from here or over seas.

The last problem is that the vast majority of the images I have come from magazines and anthologies. In the good cases these are attached to one shot short stories and SOMETIMES those end up stuffed at the end of a takubon as page filler but not always. The problem is that a lot of these are just cover or insert commissions from illustrators and there is no story attached to any of them.

And when I threw myself happily into this I suddenly found myself having to select from… well… not very much. Since I felt I had to at least LIKE what I listed I bunched it up with some shoujo and had a good go at it.

This is the muddled result.

Author Interview: Marion Husband

In 1998 Teesside small press Mudfog published Marion Husband’s first collection of short stories, entitled Three Little Deaths. This was followed by a run of short story and poetic publishing successes.

In 2005 Accent Press published her first novel The Boy I Love. (Reviewed on this site HERE) Its sequel Paper Moon was published in 2006. Two more followed: Say you Love Me and The Good Father in 2007. She is currently working on her fifth novel.

She holds an MA in Creative writing and is a recipient of the Northern Writers’ Andrea Badenoch Award.

~~~~~~~~~

SiN: Hi Marion, Thanks for agreeing to be quizzed!

How long have you been writing? What inspired you to pick the pen up one day and create characters that capture the imagination?

MH: I’ve always written but stopped when I was about 18 only to start again when my children were about 3 & 4.  My inspirations come from lots of sources but mainly I wanted to write about sexy men in difficult situations….

SiN: What is the most memorable and most forgettable moment you’ve encountered on the writing path?

MH: Most memorable is being rang by my present publisher to say that she was going to publish my first novel The Boy I Love – most forgettable?  I forget…

SiN: *Laughs* Are you a full-time writer?  What other jobs did you have before becoming a writer?

MH: Really I am part time, because I also teach creative writing for the Open University and various colleges and universities.  I used to be a bank clerk, I’ve also been a receptionist and data processor and one of those women who answers the phone when you have a query on your mortgage

SiN: What was your first published story? What was it about?

MH: My first published story was called The Lilac Tree about a man remembering his First World War experiences and his love for a fellow officer. This story was a spin off from the Boy I Love which I was writing at the time in its first incarnation.  The Lilac Tree can be read on my web site: http://www.marionhusband.com

SiN: Which of your story characters do you love best and why?

MH: Paul Harris from The Boy I Love – because he’s stoical, brave and loyal and very gorgeous…

SiN: Do you have a writing routine that you follow?

MH: Yes, I write as often as I can, work, family and housework permitting – I try for 1000 words a day minimum, more when I’m racing towards a deadline as I am now.

SiN: The Boy I Love was based in the North, are all of your books based in your part of the world?

MH: Yes, they are all based in Teesside (Thorp is a mix of Stockton and Thornaby which are towns near to Middlesbrough where I was born and have always lived).  My characters often escape to live in London although they mostly come back to Thorp

SiN: Out of all your books, do you have a favourite? If not, then which one is closest to your heart?

MH: My favourite book is always the one I am writing at the time of asking…

SiN: When I was writing a 1960’s novel, I found the research every bit as hard as researching the 17th Century. Did you find the 40’s and 50’s difficult to research?  What kind of research tools do you rely on?

MH: I didn’t find the 1950s more difficult – I was born in 1961 and the early 60s were a hang-over of the 50s, I think, so I have a feel for the time.  I research mainly by reading lots and lots of books, history, biography, poetry, fiction, plays, memoirs.  Also I look up facts on the web – even in the middle of writing a sentence – yesterday for instance I looked up Herring Gull on Wikapedia…very useful it was too.  I also draw on stories my parents told me, particularly my father who fought in the Second World War and whose own father was killed in the First World War.

SiN: When did you first decide to submit your work? Please, tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step.

MH: I was always up for being published – it was the main reason I went to creative writing classes in the mid 1990s so that I would (I hoped) meet people who might have a bit of influence with local publishers or a least point me in the right direction.  I was very lucky to be taught creative writing by a poet called Bob Beagrie who encouraged me to submit The Lilac Tree and two other stories to the Teesside publisher Mudfog.  I have had other teachers, especially those who taught me at Northumbria University on the MA course, who really liked my writing and encouraged me to send The Boy I Love to their agents…I have been very lucky in the teachers I’ve met…

SiN: Tell us a little about your success in getting published in the UK, most of the British authors who read Speak Its Name have had to flee to America in order to get published.

MH:It was very difficult to get The Boy I Love published because of its very strong gay theme. I sent it out to lots of agents and independent publishers and got lots of rejections, some of which were very encouraging and even flattering but all said that the gay angle was a no go especially since I was a untried writer (and probably because I was an uncool middle-aged women living in the north east).   But Accent Press, my present publisher, was quite new and innovative and liked the book for its writing style and weren’t put off by the controversial theme.  Also, they didn’t have lots of too cautious marketing people to worry them into turning The Boy down.  The Boy I Love is about to be published in the USA in February 2009, but I’ve always felt that the US market is even more conservative so I don’t hold our great hopes that it will be a best seller over there.

SiN: What did you spend your first advance on?

MH: Can’t remember – it just went into the great bottomless pit of house and kids

SiN: What do you feel is the most important aspect a new author should remember when writing/creating their own stories? Any advice for aspiring authors?

MH: Write and write and write – as much as you can as often as you can – really stretch yourself, really think hard and carefully to make your writing true to how you see the world but also to how the world actually is.  Write strong, grammatical sentences, polish your syntax so that every sentence is as elegant and clear as you can make it.  Edit and then edit again.  Then edit some more.  Remember that you should be entertaining your reader, giving hints at what is to come to draw the reader in.  Avoid all clichés, and think hard and deeply about every description, every adjective/adverb – make every word count…I could go on, but really, writers need to write a lot, and it’s hard, hard work to write something half decent.

SiN: What I particularly like about The Boy I love is the small-town ordinariness of it – despite it’s not ordinary at all. What made you take this tack? So many authors write about extraordinary events rather than such realism.

MH: I can’t really answer that – it wasn’t a conscious decision.  I write as I write, just as I look as I look, I can only hope to improve on what ever talent I have with practice

SiN: Have you ever been nervous over reader reaction when a new book comes out? How much does reader response mean to you over your books? What do you hope readers get from your books after they read them?

MH: I don’t get terribly nervous – although I was a little over Say You Love Me because I panicked that I has shown Teesside in a less than fabulous light…I love feedback (as long as it’s good…)  I hope readers are entertained by my books but most of all that they have been so entertained that they go out and buy another one of my novels.

SiN: How long does it take to write a book for you?

MH: No more than a year and usually much less – probably on average nine months, including many days when I don’t write at all

SiN: The editing process: Heaven or Hell?

MH: Both – it’s satisfying when I’m editing a finished novel for the last time before its printed, but very disheartening when I’m editing what I laughingly call a ‘finished novel’ for the first time – I end up with a m/s defaced by crossings out and scrawled, exasperated notes to myself which usually say More here!!!  (I know that it means…)

SiN: Can you tell us what you are working on now?  What are you plans for the future?

MH: I am working on my fifth novel – which is a ghost story set between 1922 and 2002.  Plans are to write more novels, I suppose, and hopefully to make a living as a novelist without having to teach (a very tall order, a big wish…)  I have always said that I would like a shelf in Waterstones full of my books by the time I am fifty, which is probably too tall an order…

SiN: Thank you so much, Marion – I hope that some of the readers here try out your work, particularly The Boy I Love, which I really really adored.

Marion’s website, with links and news can be found here.

http://www.marionhusband.com

Next time we have Mark R Probst, author of The Filly.

Review: Damned Strong Love by Lutz Van Dijk

Set in occupied Poland during World War II, this novel is based on the true story of Stefan K., a Polish boy who, at 16, fell in love with a German soldier. When their liaison was discovered by the Gestapo, the teen was tortured and sentenced to a labour camp, eventually escaping during the chaotic days before liberation.

It’s always hard to review true stories, because you can’t fault the history, or the plot. I do feel though that perhaps some of the heart went out of the story in the dictation to Lutz Van Dijk and then the translation because I was never really gripped by the love that Stephan undoubtedly felt for Willi G. Perhaps it’s because it was re-told from such a span of years, and a 16 year old’s love is difficult to describe when one gets to old age. I know I would find it hard, even to write out my own feelings, let alone transpose someone else’s.

I would have liked a little more description of the affair itself; not so much the sexual contact, but the meetings that they had, what they talked about and more about how they felt about what was happening to the world around them. I particularly liked Stephan’s description of his family and their relationship with him, especially with his brother Mikolai who is his first crush, until he meets Willi G.

Their discovery was caused by an idiotic love letter, sent from Stephan K to Willi G at the Eastern Front- and this surprised me – the fact that he’d make such a silly mistake – in fact his very naivety surprised me throughout, but it was another time and place and it’s impossible to imagine the mind set of a Polish boy in 1942.

Don’t let the subject matter of this put you off reading a copy if you come across it, because Stephan K doesn’t dwell too heavily on the (frankly dreadful) things that happened to him after his arrest and incarceration. One can’t really imagine what those years must have been like for him, and it’s probably better that we don’t.

Above all he comes over as an optimist, and although he doesn’t say that he found love and happiness in what he admits was a life in Communist Poland, I hope he did. He has campaigned for gay rights and was around to see the lessening of the restrictions in his beloved country.

I was touched by this book, and although it’s probably not for those who dislike “real, unpleasant, history” it opens a little window into a quite dreadful time but gives hope to the future – something that Stephan K never lost.

Buy: Amazon UK Amazon USA

World’s longest pub crawl: An Interview with Alex Beecroft

Back in midwinter, I asked Alex Beecroft for an interview. We agreed to meet over virtual pints and spent the rest of the winter happily trading rounds along with questions and answers. Now that the lilacs and azaleas are blooming (in my corner of the world, anyway) it’s time to share our adventure with all of you. So belly up to the bar, the next round’s on us!

Lee Benoit: What inspired you to undertake Captain’s Surrender?

Alex Beecroft:The honest answer would be ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl’. While everyone in the world was swooning over Jack Sparrow, I was transfixed right from the beginning with the lads of the Navy. That fabulous great ship (which I now know was a twin of HMS Victory) emerging out of the fog. Those gorgeous young men in wigs and stockings, looking well scrubbed and well pleased with themselves in their fancy coats and their gold braid. I forgot about pirates in an instant and went away and bought ‘Master and Commander’ on DVD. After which I had to read the book.

Except that it turned out there were twenty books in Patrick O’Brian’s seafaring series about Captain Jack Aubrey. I went through them at a rate of two a week, feeling utterly transported. When I’d finished I found I had to move on to even harder stuff – text books about the 18th Century Navy, biographies of Admiral Lord Rodney, Lord Cochrane, Anson, Nelson and Collingwood, non-fiction about 18th Century society, etc. I had ended up with an 18th Century fixation. After that it was inevitable to want to tell a story in that setting, and as my mind naturally comes up with m/m love stories, it ended up as a m/m love story in the Age of Sail.

I’d also stumbled across Rictor Norton’s website about homosexuality in 18th Century England and was pondering what it would be like to be a fairly sensitive young man, living amid so much hatred. That’s why my character Josh turned out so angsty and so conflicted!

LB:Can you tell us a bit about how Captain’s Surrender came to be published by Linden Bay Romance?

AB: Oh, that’s one of those amazing flukes where you feel that someone up there is looking after you. I had known for a long time that what I really wanted to write was m/m fiction, but I thought there was no market for it at all. So I’d been writing a series of short stories for my friends just for our own enjoyment, when one day one of them discovered Ransom by Lee Rowan.

She reviewed it, saying how much she’d enjoyed it and how delighted she was to find that there were actual published books of the kind of fiction we enjoyed. And then Lee dropped by to say thank you for the review. I mentioned to her how exciting it was to find this new genre, and how I hoped one day to get involved myself. Then she said, “Well, my publisher is running their annual competition to select a new writer. If you can get something together in the next month, why not try entering it?”

At that point I didn’t have a book at all, I had a linked series of short stories. But I thought “nothing ventured, nothing gained”, and spent the next month sitting up to all hours writing the bridging material needed to turn the stories into a novel. I entered it into the competition one day before the deadline. And it won! Unbelievable! I was sure that such things didn’t happen to me. But this time they did.

LB: That’s not unbelievable at all to those of us who’ve read and relished Captain’s Surrender. It sounds like your involvement — coming to the genre first as a reader, then as a writer — reflects the experience of many, including writers, who crave rich plots and fully-realized characters with their smex. Could you tell me more of your thoughts on this?

AB: Thank you! And yes, I know that there’s an initial rush when you discover m/m fiction or slash fic or whatever, and you read whatever you can get your hands on, the smuttier the better. It doesn’t really matter at that point about good writing, because it’s all so new and you’ve been starving for so long — and for the first time in your life there is enough of the stuff. But once that initial rush wears off, I think you start to want the same things you want in mainstream fiction too — namely good storytelling. There’s no reason why we can’t have m/m fiction *and smut* and quality writing too.

LB: You clearly know your era well. You mentioned Rictor Norton’s web site as a reliable source for information; can you tell us more about how you conducted your research? What advice would you offer someone who’s considering writing historical fiction? Any special advice for those writing gay historicals?

AB: My advice would be to set your book in a time that you love. When I fell in love with the 18th Century Navy I knew nothing about it other than that the uniforms were gorgeous and the cannons sounded cool (if the films could be believed). But it was sheer enthusiasm that drove me to read every book I could lay my hands on about the time. Because I was powered by an infatuation with the historical period, I emptied libraries and read textbooks for fun, going ‘oh wow, that’s so cool!’ all the time. As a result, I learned an awful lot, while enjoying myself at the same time. But I can’t imagine what it would be like to dispassionately decide on a period and to research out of obligation. I think that would make the research feel too much like work, and you would be tempted to skip it in order to get on with the story.

Because I loved the world first, it became fun for me to drop in little details like Emily’s fashionable ‘sack’ dress, or the ostentatious meal Captain Walker gives to Reverend Jenson. But if it had been miserable labour to look up the menus of the time, the proper set of a toga or whatever, I think the detail would be sparser.

As for advice on writing gay historicals — I think it’s important to check the specific shape of the prejudice at the time. For example, the later 18th Century was fairly modern in that there was already a dawning understanding that it might be an innate trait, whereas earlier it was seen as entirely a matter of choice. In Biblical times it was disliked because it was seen as a waste of seed (which was regarded as killing a potential child), whereas in Roman times it was all about status. No one cared if a Roman citizen buggered a boy or a foreigner, but it was an enormous shame for a Roman to allow himself to be buggered. So check which form the prejudice takes!

Also, try to keep away from the two extremes of ‘oh, everyone knows and they’re ok with it, despite the fact that it’s a crime that warrants the death penalty’ and ‘oh, it’s so dreadful, their lives are not worth living.’ Gay people seem to have managed to live full and defiantly happy lives under the worst conditions. As an author it’s a fine balancing act to keep both the dread and the happiness of gay love in a time when it could get you killed.

LB: Tell us about your writing process. Where and when do you work? Do you outline? Write each scene in order? Work on projects one at a time or concurrently? Have any special rituals or idiosyncrasies?

AB: I have a computer desk tucked in the corner of the dining room. (At least, the estate agent called the room a dining room. We have two computers, three bookshelves and no table in there). It’s not organized enough to be an office, though. It’s true that an office doesn’t need to be organized, but this isn’t even organized enough to contain useful books. I have to wander all over the house to find my research.

I try and write between 10am and 2.30pm (when I have to get the children from school) each day, though I’ll admit that I procrastinate a lot.

My process is to fly by the seat of my pants for the first 5 chapters or so, by which time things will have sorted themselves out in my mind enough for me to outline the whole thing. After that I do write each scene in order until I get to the end — and only start revising and editing when the first draft is finished. I prefer to work on one thing until it’s finished, not to do multiple things at once.

Heh, and I will admit that I have a special writing hat. I email and netsurf and so forth on the same computer I write on, so putting on the writing hat is a way to signal to myself that it’s time to stop all that and concentrate on the writing now.

LB: A special writing hat? What’s yours like and where do I get one?

AB: I bought myself a special beanie with scratchy glittery bits, so that I would be able to tell by feel that it was not a normal hat (I wear hats quite a lot, and didn’t want my subconscious to get confused).

LB: What’s surprised you the most about your own writing?

AB: I don’t know if I’m allowed to say so, but it still surprises me that anyone thinks it’s anything special. I look at Patrick O’Brian or Ursula Le Guin, and I still have a very long way to go!

LB:What has surprised you the most about being published?

AB:I never imagined it would be so much work! If I’m lucky I spend four hours a day writing, but now the rest of my life has gone under in trying to promote, keep up with chats, write reviews, deal with Facebook, MySpace, etc., write to Amazon, sort out tax etc., etc. If I do four hours writing a day, I then do another 10 hours trying to keep up with my various groups. It’s insane – but kind of fun.

I save up reviews or interviews or excerpts for a Monday (which is promo day on most of my lists) and then send the same thing simultaneously to five or six lists. I can’t keep up with commenting on everyone else’s promo, though I try to say something nice once in a while, whenever I have five minutes to spare. That’s about as much as I can manage. But then I don’t expect anyone to comment on mine – and very few people do, so that’s OK!

LB: If you had the opportunity to travel back in time, where would you go and why? If you could bring one item or idea from the present to the past with assurances that your action wouldn’t disrupt space-time, what would it be? And, if you could nick something from your historical destination, what would that be?

AB: It’s quite boring, I’m afraid. I probably would go to mid 18th Century London, just to see how it really was. If I had to go as a woman, I’d take sanitary towels with me (oh and pants — is that underpants in America? Because they didn’t wear underwear in those days, and I think I’d feel a bit uncomfortable with that.)

I think the best thing to bring back would just be the experiences; no matter how you try to imagine things, really living them brings it home like nothing else. However, I wouldn’t mind bringing one of these fantastic coffee-percolators home with me.

LB: Not boring at all. Underthings are an inspired choice!

I’ve just picked up The Witch’s Boy, though I haven’t read it yet. It looks to be very different in theme and structure (as well as plot and genre) from Captain’s Surrender. I’d love to know how working on the new fantasy novel was different from working on your first, historical piece. Did you have any trepidation about shifting genres?

AB: Ah, well, curiously enough, The Witch’s Boy is the earlier written of the two books. I wrote it when I was first at home with my newborn daughter. She would sleep for an hour and a half a day, and I seized that chance to write. It took me two years to finish the book, but because it was slow and steady work I had plenty of time to think about the plot when I wasn’t actually writing it. It allowed me to make the plot quite complex — I was able to work out where all those loose ends could be sewn back in to achieve an effect that seemed inevitable.

I’ve always been a big fan of Fantasy; I grew up on Tolkien, and it seemed natural for my first book to be a fantasy. I have to admit that I love what I think of as ‘the appeal of the strange’. I like to open a book and be caught up in a different world, where everything makes sense, but it’s not the same sense as our ordinary, commonplace life. I like to take a holiday in a book, so that when I come back my own life is more welcome and homely — as it would be when you’ve just returned from somewhere exotic.

And that’s the link, I think, between Fantasy and Historical. Both are books about other worlds; strange, exotic places where people think and act differently. It’s just that in the historical that world was once a real part of our past. The only real difficulty with Captain’s Surrender was that it had a strict word-limit of 60,000 words, which I found a little too short. I wanted to pay more attention to Josh’s time with the Anishinabe, but I couldn’t manage to cram more than the bare minimum into the word count.

And thematically, they’re both about the triumph of love, whether that’s Sulien’s attempt to save Tancred from the consequences of his own evil actions, or Peter’s refusal to bow to the expectations of society and condemn Josh. So I didn’t really perceive much of a difference in any basic technique in writing them. I tend to feel that a story’s a story, no matter the genre. Though having said that I am a bit intimidated by the demands of the strict murder mystery. I haven’t tried one of them, but I’m keen to try at some point just to see if I can do it.

LB:Now I really can’t wait to read it! What’s next for you (besides a cab home)? I meant, what’s next on your writing agenda?

AB: I’m just entering the home stretch on the second draft/rewrite of another m/m Age of Sail novel, currently under the working title of ‘False Colors’. It’s 80k words at the moment, but needs a couple of extra scenes and a bit of expanding at the end, so it may end up 85-90,000. And I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel with it! It’s exciting, but of course external forces are now conspiring to stop me doing that final twenty pages. Still, I should have a new novel to hawk around by August, touch wood!

LB: That certainly is exciting! What can you tell us about False Colors? Is it a sequel to Captain’s Surrender?

AB: It isn’t a sequel to Captain’s Surrender, as it has different characters, but it will be similar in tone — lots more nautical action, heroism and forbidden love.

LB: Something for us all to look forward to, then. What else is on your horizon?

AB: I have a short story called ‘90% Proof’ (when I say ‘short’ I mean 10,000 words) which is due out fairly soon from Freya’s Bower in a m/m anthology called ‘Inherently Sexual’. I’m looking forward to that one coming out because, from the summaries I’ve seen of the other stories included, it should be a really good read.

I’m also busily writing another m/m short of about the same length, tentatively called ‘Away With The Faeries’, and when that’s finished I’m going to settle down and write a short, lighthearted contemporary novel, just for a bit of a break.

LB: I’m sure I have lots of company is wishing you best of luck with your new projects. It’s been a real pleasure, Alex. Thank you.

Alex Beecroft is the author of the novels Captain’s Surrender and The Witch’s Boy, along with several stories. She is currently at work on False Colours, a new Age of Sail novel. She’s also the founder of The Macaronis, a blog dedicated to writing gay historical fiction.

Lee Benoit reviews fiction at Uniquely Pleasurable and Rainbow Reviews, and Speak Its Name, and is the author of several stories published through Torquere Press.

Promo: “Read the Rainbow”

Ah, gay books. Where would we be without a volume of Mary Renault or Alan Hollinghurst in our hands, or the next Gordon Merrick or Patrick Gale on our reading list? 🙂

It’s wonderful to be able to read the reviews on this site, but sometimes the comments section isn’t long enough for a really detailed discussion. So, if you enjoy reading gay books and would like somewhere to chat about them, list your current reads, pick up recommendations of books and/or authors you haven’t tried before, and generally have some fun, why not head over to Read the Rainbow?

This is a brand new chat forum for gay books of all types, shapes and sizes, including (but not limited to) fiction, short stories, non fiction, films-of-the-book, and any genre you can think of.

Like the sound of Read the Rainbow? You can find us at http://readrainbow.4.forumer.com/

All are welcome and I hope to see you there!

Fiona Glass

Gay Historical Fiction – Awards, Competitions and Markets

So the Arch & Bruce Brown Foundation is open again for its competitions for short fiction, play-writing and novels. These are the only online awards (that I know of – would be happy to be corrected) for Gay Historical Fiction and as such deserves attention from this blog.

However, I was mildly confused by the guidelines, namely: –

All works submitted must present the gay and lesbian lifestyle in a positive manner and be based on, or inspired by, a historic person, culture, event, or work of art.

All works must be Gay-Lesbian positive and concern:

1. A historical person known, in fact, to be lesbian or gay.

2. An actual historical person for whom a lesbian or gay identity is invented (with some specific intent) by the writer.

3. A period in history which the writer populates with lesbian and/or gay characters to show the effects of that time or culture on GLBT life..

4. A historical event or events that have lesbian/gay resonance. (The characters in the story may or may not have actually existed.)

5. A historical event or events that have general significance, showing those events’ impact on lesbian and/or gay characters (either real people or fictional).

6. A historic work of art and it’s inspiration, or effect, on gay lives (real or fictional).

7. We are not interested in biographies of persons or direct retelling of events. We want your individual take on that person or event that makes your submission a creative work of art.

So Gehayi wrote and asked them what they meant, because:

“Now, I can think of lots of stories that would fit the six categories, and many ways to make the gay character or characters both believable and sympathetic. It’s the “gay-lesbian positive” requirement that perplexes me. How do you write about history accurately and find a way to make being gay or lesbian a positive thing? For much of history, it wasn’t positive, socially or legally, and I dislike the idea of ignoring or contradicting facts.

“Could you please tell me what you mean by “gay-lesbian positive”? If it’s simply a question of depicting GBLT people as believable, sympathetic human beings, then I would have no difficulty doing so. If it involves spinning history to make it look better than it truly was…I would have some problems with that.”

And she received this reply:

Positive can be shown, or at least glimmer, in negative stories.

We don’t say you have to write “history accurately”. In fact, a story detailing a time or person, as in biography, is exactly what we don’t want.

Yes, there was an Inquisition, but might one judge been conflicted? Could 2 lovers have been stoned together? We want fiction, not history.

To say I’m more confused would be putting it mildly. They seem to contradict themselves at every turn. They don’t want history? Bwhuh? Surely that’s the whole point of the competition? And to say “you don’t have to write history accurately” just makes my blood BOIL, to be honest. No wonder historians turn they noses up at historical romances.

I’m going to write to them myself because although they list a lot of winners, there is no place where one can read excerpts and I’d certainly like to see how they portrayed previous themes.

Other competitions/resources (as always if you know of others, let me know) most of these are Historical, no emphasis on the Gay – but the only way to get them to accept the genre is to submit to them, of course.

Paradox Magazine
Fish Publishing (yearly historical contest)

I’ll make a larger list and add a “Markets” page eventually.

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