Category: keeping it real

I’m Real…I Swear I Am…

This weekend there was a slight kerfuffle about a well known author’s identity. I love this author’s work and I’m not going to comment or link. The author doesn’t need my two cents.

But, just in case it’s not clear, I’d like to repeat that I’m real. I’m gay, too. I’ve said it before on the blog and I’ll say it again. I swear I am really me (smile). My name is Ryan Field, and I can prove it. Ryan is actually my middle name. But I’ve been going by Ryan all my life and that’s what all my friends call me. That’s what the lady in the Post Office calls me. I’ve met and had lunch with Elisa Rolle; she knows I’m real. The photo you see on the sidebar, and all other photos you see of me online, are really my honest to God image. And I’m not an alien (there was a rumor about this once). I know I write fast, but what can I do (bigger smile)? I learned a long time ago that if I was going to be able to face the vipers of m/m fiction head on, I’d be better off keeping it real all the time so there was nothing to hide.

But I’m not against using a pen name, not at all. Especially not with fiction…and that includes all fiction. And I’d like all authors who use pen names to know that I support them and all I care about is their work.

Finns Point National Cemetery: A Young Widow’s Promise

I’ve heard it said around the interwebs authors aren’t supposed to talk about their books…in the sense they aren’t supposed to explain themselves, or their books, and readers are supposed to get what they are trying to do through the reading experience.

I get that. I tend to agree with it. But sometimes authors have to explain certain things about the book so readers will get the full concept of what they are buying. Especially if the author is known for writing in one sub-genre and the author is crossing over into another.

I’m not talking about content and storyline. That should be up to the reader to judge. What I’m talking about are things like sub-genre and heat level. I try to get all this into the book description when I submit to a publisher. But it doesn’t always work out quite the way I wanted it to work and I try to add more information here on my blog so there are no misconceptions.

I have a new release coming out soon. It’s a novella that’s titled, A YOUNG WIDOW’S PROMISE, and it’s a historical romance. I don’t write historicals often. I don’t read them often. When I do, they are usually civil war historicals. And this time, A YOUNG WIDOW’S PROMISE, is not (I repeat, not) highly erotic. There are a few steamy love scenes. But they are extremely tame and the story revolves more around love and the main character’s emotions than her sex drive. And though I will try hard to get this into the book description, I might be explaining it here for a while. The book just went to edits and we’ll be going through many rounds before it’s ready to be published. And I’ve already edited it about 100 times myself, checking for historical accuracy and believability. Yes, it’s fiction, but it has to be believable, too. And I think this story could have happened.

I could have used a pen name with this novella. The main characters in A YOUNG WIDOW’S PROMISE are straight. And I’m known for writing highly erotic m/m books. But there is a m/m sub-plot, with an interesting twist because the book is set during the civil war. And the main reason I didn’t use a pen name is because I just don’t like doing it. I realize I may be shooting myself in the foot. But I’m willing to take that chance in order to keep it real. I always write because I love the story I’m writing, not because I’m thinking about how much money the book will make or many books I’ll sell. (I think I just heard a publisher scream.)

A YOUNG WIDOW’S PROMISE is a story that’s set in a quirky place called Locust Point, NJ. This is fictional. But it’s not far from real places that have been noted in history with regards to the civil war, like Finns Point, NJ, and Fort Delaware. I know these places well, Ft. Delaware and Finns Point and Fort Mott, because I grew up not far from them in Salem County, NJ. And this story has been in the back of my mind for a long time…since I started jogging at Finns Point almost 20 years ago…and I finally decided to get it out there.

I will post more, in detail, especially about Fort Delaware and Finns Point. The most interesting thing about Finns Point is that there’s a small cemetery there where they buried confederate prisoners of war in unmarked graves. They came from Fort Delaware. I’ve seen these graves many times in person. And the history behind them fascinates me, and always makes me a little sad. And, frankly, I’m also explaining all this in such detail because I want the historical police to know this isn’t just a whim and I didn’t make it all up. Especially those who shall remain nameless, and don’t even live in the US or know a thing about real US history.

If you live in the surrounding area and haven’t been to Fort Delaware, Finn’s Point, or Fort Mott, it’s an interesting day trip. And only about 100 miles from New York. All of quiet Salem County is rich with history and there are plenty of things to see.

Emotion vs Erotica

It’s hard to find the right balance between emotion and erotica. In a series, like The Virgin Billionaire, it gets easier because the main characters, Jase and Luis, have been together and in love for a long time. This makes the erotic scenes more emotional, and it helps the characters grow…as well as their relationship.

But it’s not always that simple, especially if you’re trying to keep it real at the same time. I wish all gay men were as emotional as others. But that’s not always the case. Gay men, in fact, are men. Not all gay men have fag hags; not all gay men like to shop. They think like men, even when it comes to sex. And that strong emotional element isn’t always there in the beginning. It takes time to nurture and develop.

And look at it this way, does anyone really think the guys in the photo above are thinking about emotion? Seriously? For all we know, they may indeed be in love. They may be about to fall in love and their lives might become filled with emotion. But I doubt that’s what they are thinking about when this photo was shot. In fact, I’d bet money that’s not what they were thinking about when this photo was shot. And in order to write real gay fiction, romance or not, there has to be a certain amount of believability or it’s not going to work. And finding that emotional aspect isn’t as simple as it looks or sounds. It has to come from the heart or it’s just going to look contrived.

Getting Too Close to Publishers…

One of the main reasons why having a good literary agent is so important is that the agent works on behalf of the author. And the agent’s biggest concern is making sure the author gets a fair deal in all situations. That’s as simple as it gets when it comes to this part of the agent/author relationship. And I want to keep this post simple to get my point across. There are other aspects that include editing, shopping books, and helping authors to get published. But the most important duty an agent will ever perform is making sure the author gets the best deal.

This goes for the real estate industry as well. And when it comes to the bottom line, no one can ever dispute the importance of having a professional advocate on your side…someone you can trust completely…who always has your best interests in mind.

But not all authors have the opportunity to work directly with literary agents. Some, like me, deal with publishers alone. I’ve mentioned before that I have a very good friend who is an agent. But he’s not my agent and the best I can to is ask for basic advice every now and then. And even then I feel as though I’m infringing on our friendship. And I’ve never spent much time querying agents because I’m not fond of the query process. I’d love an agent. It would make life so much easier sometimes. But the query process always seemed futile at best to me.

However, when you are working with publishers and you don’t have an agent, I think it’s extremely important to always keep in mind that it’s a business situation and you have to keep it professional at all times. Don’t get me wrong. I love each and every single publisher I work with now, and almost every publisher I’ve worked with in the past. There’s only one small publisher with whom I’ve had a problem, a print publisher, which goes back several years now. And from what I see and hear, I’m not the only author who had a problem with this particular publisher. But like I said, that goes back a few years, and I was objective enough to break away from that publisher without looking back, and, most important, without feeling a single ounce of remorse.

My point in this post isn’t about looking back or having regrets. I’m writing this post hoping that authors will read it so they don’t wind up with any regrets. If you don’t have an agent to represent your best interests, you have to think and work like a business person at all times. I love all the publishers I work with now. I think if I didn’t work with them we could be very good friends on a personal level. I know two in particular would be great friends…if they weren’t my publishers.

But I always keep that invisible line drawn at all times, because the only one who is looking out for my best interest is me. I’ve seen authors cross the invisible line and become too friendly with publishers. I’ve seen publishers cross the invisible line and become too friendly with authors (it goes both ways). And it never works out in the end. When you become emotionally attached to anyone in a business situation where money is involved, you can’t view a situation with an objective eye.

In a perfect world, all authors would have agents and they wouldn’t have to worry about any of this. But the world’s not perfect, and these days a lot of well known authors are working without agents…for many reasons I won’t get into in this post. The most important thing to remember is that you can love your publisher, you can get along well with your publisher, but I wouldn’t recommend making your publisher your new BFF. Because one day down the road, and you never know when that day might come, you’re going to have to make a professional career decision as an author that works in your best interest, and the publisher is going to have to make a decision that works in their best interest. And it’s so much easier…and friendlier…to keep it professional.

More About Babycakes: Upcoming Release

I have a new short story being released sometime this month by I’ve been writing for lyd for about five years, ever since I found out I could publish short story e-books as stand alones. Up until then, for years, I’d always submitted my work to larger lgbt publishers like Cleis Press and Alyson Books. Before that, I was pubbed in periodicals and journals dating back to my college days.

Babycakes is a perfect example of what’s been being published for many, many years within the gay fiction genre. It’s the kind of story I would have submitted to an editor ten years ago for a gay anthology, not something I wrote because it’s a hot trend right now. I’ve been right here doing this for a long time, loving every single minute of it.

But I’d also like to make it clear this is erotica, not romance. I always try to distinguish between the two here on the blog because I’m always reading about how readers can’t tell the difference and wind up buying something they didn’t expect. I also try to keep it simple…as simple as possible without being boxed-in. The short stories I write are usually more erotica than romance. The full length novels are usually erotic romance. And I always post something on the blog about this when there’s a new release. It can get complicated, and booksellers don’t always categorize properly. Strawberries and Cream at the Plaza is a short story, but there’s nothing erotic about it…it’s pure romance.

So if anyone has questions, feel free to e-mail me and I’ll be more than happy to go into more detail. Readers do this all the time…some even ask for spoilers and I’m more than happy to oblige.

LGBT Fiction: Do Readers Have Standards?

In my blog travels, I came across an interesting blog post where an author seemed to be questioning reader standards with regard to LGBT Fiction. It wasn’t the lightest blog post I’ve ever read. In fact, it was downright depressing.

Aside from the dark tone, I couldn’t help get the impression the blogger was taking a quick snipe at books that are selling well, and also knocking the people who are writing, buying and reading them. There’s an insinuation that reader standards have slipped and trash is selling better than so-called art. I’ve said it before; I’ve read it before by people who are far more important in the publishing industry than I’ll ever be. There is no way to judge good writing objectively. If you think you can, you’re either an idiot or a pompous ass. You can judge bad writing to a certain extent. But good writing is subjective and it depends on who is making the judgement call.

I also thought the blogger in this dark post somehow considered his/her own work superior to other authors. At least that seems to be the underlying tone. This is something I don’t get either. Every single author I’ve ever read…in my life…is a unique individual, with a different style and voice. And for one author to believe he or she is superior to another author crosses the line of petty and competitive and plunges into the universe of childish and mean. Not everyone is going to love every book and that’s a fact of life. This is where subjectivity comes in. Some readers will give a one star rating for certain books and a five star rating for others. This is called personal taste and it keeps things interesting. I’ve even had readers rate some of my books with one star and others with five stars, which, oddly enough, I truly appreciate. It tells me the readers and their ratings are real.

I’ve been writing m/m fiction for almost twenty years and I’ve seen a lot of changes happen in the last five years. I’ve seen obscure book review sites condemn authors they know nothing about, and I’ve seen more than a few nasty online flame wars between certain authors. The genre has opened up and there are more lgbt books, which means more authors are getting a chance to be published. But I haven’t seen any changes in the quality of the books or the authors who are writing them. Cleis Press, with whom I’ve worked more than a few times on anthologies, is still publishing quality lgbt fiction and non-fiction. The newer e-publishers I’ve read are publishing as much quality fiction as the traditional publishers did. There are also quite a few self-published authors putting out some great fiction, too. How can this be a bad thing?

Maybe I’m looking at it as an openly gay man, who writes with his real name, isn’t ashamed to admit what he does in public, and learned a long time ago he can’t please everyone. I’ve also learned that the secret to enjoying what I do is to keep it authentic. Although everything I write is pure fiction, I draw from personal experience as a gay man all the time. And I never looked at the lgbt genre as a “thing” or an “entity” that has the ability to make me or break me as an author. It’s what I am.

I don’t get why any author would get upset over reader standards, with regard to books that are selling well. Unless that author considers his/her work so far above everything else they feel a sense of bitter entitlement. For me that takes too much negative energy out of the day. I’d rather keep writing stories I love, hoping other people will love them too. Pardon the cliche, but it’s so much nicer to think of the glass as half full than half empty.