J to tha M: What We’re Reading

2013: What We’ve Read and Liked. A lot.

medium_4186292315J:  Our favorite reads of the year. First, I should thank you for getting me to read again

it’s been a fun year

and I’ve been amazed at how much time I actually have to read when I make myself do it

M:  when you look forward to it

I still maintain you can’t write if you don’t read

for a whole myriad of reasons

plus, just the whole experience and worlds reading opens

I love

J:  for me, I didn’t think I could write if I did read. because I wanted all my free time to go toward writing

of course, I still only read just before bed

so more often than not, I pass out before I even open the kindle app

but I’m getting there

M:  I’ve read so many book this year, I’d be scared to keep count

but a few stick in my mind as favorites

J:  I’m guessing a few of those favorites will match mine

M:  Kate SeRine’s Transplanted Tales series, of course

Red, The Better To See You, Along Came a Spider

J:  yep

if I named a number one, that would be it

M:  Yes. Downloading Red was one of the best things I did this past year

and still my best example of how offering free days for your ebook works big time

I love everything about that series and her writing

jeebus, her imagination

J:  the connections she makes

and the leaps that don’t end up being leaps at all

Nate is still my number one hero for the year, but he’s closely followed by Ivan from Delphine Dryden’s first in the Science of Temptation series, The Theory of Attraction

because geek

M:  Kate does great heroes. All three so far are great.

And I did like Ivan, too

but the Transplanted Tales series just has it all, in my opinion. Solid writing, amazing world-building, great characters, hunky heroes, intriguing plots

can’t go wrong

and, I’ve rec’d to a ton of people and haven’t heard that even one didn’t enjoy

my mom actually went and ordered the print copies from her local bookseller to have and hold, she enjoyed so much

J:  well, plus Kate’s super nice

M:  oh, yes. that’s just a bonus

Great series and an author who is so, so nice and genuine

she deserves all the good

J:  I agree

what’s next?

M:  Ben Monopoli, of course

Homo Action Love Story: A Tall Tale was just a huge, rollicking romp

J:  oh, I finally read it!

M:  and?

J:  oh, I loved

silly question

I don’t know why I forgot to mention

I read it a couple months ago while we were kind of on hiatus

M:  I think Boots McHenry gets the award for best character name ever

J:  I have to agree with you there

but if I were to choose my favorite of his three, you know I’d go with The Cranberry Hush

M:  all his books make the list

so many feels, and such amazing diversity in his writing while still maintaining that level of response

J:  I’ve not cried so hard reading a book in ages

M:  to me, that’s the sign of a good writer

J:  also, nice guy

M:  also very nice guy, yes

J:  but seriously. Sobbed.

M:  amazing story

J:  who’s next?

M:  well, I know you didn’t read, and I have some things to say about this one

J:  off you go

M:  Lover At Last by JR Ward

J:  oh yeah

M:  I loved and hated this one – I have such complicated and conflicting feels

I love Qhuinn. Love him. One of my all-time favorite fictional characters

But JR Ward. Argh. The Black Dagger Brotherhood has become so frustrating

I loved this one because Qhuinn finally got his HEA

but, the completely outrageous lack of research and expectation of suspension of disbelief – the plane scene, for example. So outrageously wrong in so many ways.

And…his and Blay’s story had so much potential to be amazing. Super amazing, with all the feels, because he’s such a complicated character that feels so much himself (and did I mention amazing? ‘Cause he is)

I can’t help feeling it missed the mark in living up to all that

J:  sometimes it’s hard to live up to the potential, especially if there’s just SO MUCH potential

M:  well, I know there was a lot of expectation for this particular book

but this series started out with great emotion and feels, but has kind of gone away from that as it continues

I mean, as I’m reading, I could actually note the scenes where the opportunity for something amazing was there, but just wasn’t developed

not just an overall sense of overhyped expectation not met, if that makes sense

J:  it does

I’m sad it didn’t quite hit the mark

but sounds like it still left an impression

I have the first one in the series, Dark Lover, packed in my laptop bag for tomorrow, btw

M:  worth the read

the series and characters are so great and so frustrating at the same time

my mom and I call it the “Yay! Factor”

you know it’s wrong and stupid, but…”Yay!” You’re so caught up, you don’t care.

J:  well, I’ll finally know what all the fuss is about

M:  we could do months worth of chats on both the awesome and the wtf-ery of that series

J:  heh

let me get caught up

I’ll let you know after I read the first

anything else on your list for the year?

M:  I’m really enjoying Kit Rocha’s Beyond series, as far as erotica

Beyond Shame, Beyond Control, Beyond Pain so far

I know you weren’t as enamored, but I’m hooked

And CD Reiss’s Song of Submission series was a good alternative to Fifty, right up until the last part of the serial/series – book 7

I disliked so much, it ruined the whole experience. Big bummer.

J:  oh, I started that one

but didn’t go past the first

M:  no? Didn’t like?

J:  I think maybe the hype for BDSM?

I dunno

because I loved Del Dryden’s stuff

but it wasn’t the same old thing, either

M:  what were your faves?

J:  well, definitely Kate and Ben

and then my little geek love kick brought me to Delphine Dryden’s The Science of Temptation series

which I just adored

but that’s because I do love the betas

M:  I really liked the first one of the series

I haven’t read the rest, but I will

J:  and then I loved Charlotte Stein’s Control and Power Play

again, beta heroes

M:  I don’t think I’ve read those yet

J:  I enjoy her a lot

very deep pov

takes a bit to get used to it

feeling EVERYTHING the heroine feels

but then you’re so deep you can’t get out

M:  I read another of Charlotte Stein’s that was like that

did take a little getting used to, but I enjoyed

the one with them on a boat – Curve Ball

J:  oh, shit. Elizabeth Hunter

how could I forget?

Her vampire series, Elemental Mysteries, was excellent. A Hidden Fire, This Same Earth, The Force of Wind, A Fall of Water

but her new book and series The Irin Chronicles, is just wow

The Scribe

I loved

cannot wait for the next one

M:  I enjoy her stories, too

J:  I liked them enough to buy them for my mom

I don’t usually do that

the only other author I’ve sent her way is you

M:  there is a meandering-ish quality to her stuff that keeps her just on the edge of making my fave of the year list, I have to admit

I can’t quite put my finger on it

J:  have you read The Scribe yet?

it had a slow start, but all those things that made me pause in the vampire series were smoothed out in this one

M:  I did, and I liked

maybe too much time spent in the character’s heads? I’m not sure

J:  perhaps

but then we really know the character, too

M:  definitely a new fave author

J:  something she seems to like to do is make the good guy appear to be the bad guy in the beginning

I think that might be the extent of my faves this year

M:  I do like the good guy/bad guy juxtaposition

a couple new-to-me authors I’m looking forward to reading more of next year

Karen Rose – I read her You Belong to Me, romantic suspense

really liked it

and Rebecca Zanetti.  I had a ton of love for the first in her Sins Brothers series, Forgotten Sins, up until one certain scene that seemed just way over the top for me, and then the story and heroine took a completely different turn. So weird. The first 2/3 I loved a lot. Last 1/3, not so much

but I’m definitely looking forward to reading the next in the series, Sweet Revenge, to see if it is as awesome as the beginning of the first book

J:  I choose stuff based on what’s in front of me at that moment

so I don’t even know what I’m looking forward to

I know there’s more from Kate SeRine coming

and Ben has a novella out that I need to get

M:  the next two in the Transplanted Tales will be out in 2014

J:  I’ll be all over those

M:  Grimm Consequences – more about Nate and Red

and Gideon’s book, Ever After

J:  guh. Gideon.

M:  Wait. Whaaaaat? Ben has a novella out?

the hell? and how did I not know?

J:  erm

I forgot to tell you?

Stag: A Story

M:  well, if that isn’t the perfect brb ending, I don’t know what is.

gonna go order.

brb

Happy Holidays, everyone!!

photo credit: shawncalhoun via photopin cc


Author Interview: Ben Monopoli

Words and Wisdom from Ben Monopoli

We haven’t made any secret of our respect and regard for Ben Monopoli. Plainly put, we have a serious crush on the way he thinks. After reading everything he’s written (that we know about, anyway), we really hoped for a chance to pick his brain. Smart, funny, and generous, Ben granted our wish in the form of a short interview. We share those words with you here. Enjoy.

*Spoilers right ahead. If you don’t want to be spoiled, read the books. In fact, read them anyway. Carry on.*

Ben Monopoli author interviewWe think we can safely say that your stories don’t follow “the formula” or genre expectation, rules and guidelines. Do you think this affords you as a writer greater character and story development? Allow you to explore the not-so-pretty part of people that most fiction and romance/love stories gloss over or ignore. We can be good people but still have those occasional selfish or uncharitable thoughts, and you do such a good job of showing this. How do you tap into that, and how do you think that differs from mainstream or traditional fiction and romance/love stories?

My books, at least the first two, probably do follow a genre expectation, but the genre is literary fiction (“lit fic” sounds less pretentious), which is what I read most often. I like the navel-gazey books that get into the nitty-gritty of people’s lives. I want a lot of detail, a lot of insight. John Steinbeck is my favorite writer—the amount this man understood about human nature, it’s crazy. You read something like East of Eden and it’s easy to see that it’s everything he knew about everything. He put it all in that book. I think that’s what literary fiction tries to do and that’s what I’m most interested in. My first two books represent everything I knew about life, love, loss up to that point. Part of that is that people don’t always do the right things, they make mistakes that are really obvious and stupid; they do the wrong thing even when they know what the right thing is. But they’re also susceptible to moments of real beauty and, for lack of a better word, magic.

While all three of your novels are unique, the tone, subject, and story from Porcupine and Cranberry to Homo Action is quite different. The first two have a similar feel, but Homo Action is pretty unique. Can you give us any insight from where you wrote the first two stories and where Homo Action came from? Dying to know how you plotted (or pantsed) Homo Action.

The Cranberry Hush and The Painting of Porcupine City were finished before I knew m/m romance was even a thing. Maybe that makes them seem fresh to the m/m crowd, because they weren’t influenced by it. They both ended up in the m/m category for marketing reasons, because, I don’t know, writing gay characters narrows your audience so you want to go right to the readers who are looking for that. Originally I was targeting my books at 20something gay male readers; I had no idea straight women would be so receptive to stories about gay dudes, but it’s been a nice surprise. And since that audience embraced my first two books so much, I kind of wanted to play in their sandbox. That’s where Homo Action Love Story came from. It was sort of on a dare. My friend Maggie supplied the name “Boots McHenry” and told me to write a bodice-ripper about him. I think of it as something very “other” from Cranberry Hush and Porcupine City. I couldn’t bring myself to call it a novel, so I call it a tall tale. But I think it’s fun and a nice change of pace.

Ben Monopoli author interviewLoved the detail in Cranberry about bisexual people not being limited to who they can fall in love with – such an intriguing idea, especially for a writer. You’ve mentioned you weren’t sure about that aspect of Cranberry, but it was such a great arc and detail. Thoughts, insights, comments?

In my head Vince was bi from the get-go, and in all my early drafts he was longing for something he knew wasn’t possible: for Griff to fall for him. It was a type of denial. But that just never rang true to me. It took me like five years of working on the book before I realized what Vince’s bi-ness would actually mean for him and the way he relates to other people. What he feels isn’t willful denial of Griff’s straightness, he just doesn’t understand straightness at all—or gayness, for that matter. A person who’s attracted to both genders would find it hard to understand how someone could be attracted to only one. So that’s where Vince is coming from: He loves Griff and he can tell Griff loves him too, so what’s the problem? What’s Griff’s hurdle? Can the hurdle be jumped? Vince doesn’t know. I think that’s a sweeter, sadder thing to deal with.

Cranberry Hush (and Homo Action, to an extent) is about something a bit different, not the “usual” story – the girl wishing her gbf could be straight, or even the gbf wishing he could be straight for his best girl friend, or gbf wishing sbf could be gay, like Cranberry appears to start, but this dealt with the straight male friend wanting to be gay for his best friend. And why does just knowing the fact Griff wished he could be gay for Vince give the happy sighs and make it easier to accept for Vince and (most of) the readers?

I think part of the pain of unrequited love is that it makes us feel a little silly, maybe a little invisible. We go around feeling like, “I love him and he has no idea and wouldn’t care even if he knew.” Unrequited love makes us feel small. So when Griff takes Vince to the lighthouse, it puts them on equal footing for the first time in their friendship. Griff recognizes everything Vince feels and welcomes it, and values it, and is envious of it. That helps Vince realize that what he feels isn’t even quite unrequited, it’s requited in its own way, it’s just something that’s not going to work out. And that’s sad, yeah, but it’s a lot easier to deal with. It’s a lot more affirming. One of the most important realizations of Vince’s life is that he hasn’t been being silly.

And, if you will, settle a personal debate between J and M. How much of Griff wishing he could fall in love with Vince was altruistic – he just truly wanted to be able to love Vince – versus being somewhat selfish and wanting to belong to someone, to go back to the salad days of college. He just broke up with what he thought was his One (and tried to get back with her – tried to sleep with her when they stayed), which he considers to be the end all, be all of life. Who is really the one fooling himself, so to speak – Griff or Vince? How much was all that Griff honestly trying to figure out if he was straight or gay, or how much was trying to get back to what he considers his comfort/goals? Maybe M read way too much into it (and maybe J let her own personal history blind her).

Griff is a guy who’s maybe too eager to be in love. This is part of what draws him to Vince, because he’s entranced by the idea that Vince as a bi guy can love anyone. Griff sees that as having endless possibilities.

Griff is very earnest, and as a result he gets his heart broken a lot. Every person he invests all his emotion into ends up breaking his heart. His breakup with Beth comes at a pretty fragile time in his young adulthood and he feels totally adrift afterward. So he reaches for the person he knows would never break his heart. And maybe that would be a little selfish if Vince didn’t need so badly to be reached-for by Griff, but he does. And it’s not altruism on Griff’s part—he’s not trying to do Vince a favor. He needs Vince and Vince needs him. That’s just love.

I never meant to suggest that Griff is questioning his straightness, though. What he’s trying to find out is whether his love for his male friend can override his straightness, if it can become everything he needs in his life if he’ll let it. He wants to test it.

Ben Monopoli author interviewThe details of Mateo’s graffiti painting in Porcupine City were so vivid and detailed. What did your research for that aspect of the story and his character entail? You did such a great job of making the reader feel his compulsion, his need, how itchy and unsettled he was when we wasn’t painting, when he tried to stifle his need and attempt to prioritize his “hobby” versus his real life, his day job, his relationship with Fletcher. Another example here how you take something most people would disdain—graffiti and defacing public property—and make it sympathetic. Make readers root for Mateo (and Fletcher) to get away with an illegal activity, cheer for him, while still maintaining the balance of “he really is breaking the law,” not going too far in either direction. That’s an amazingly difficult balance to achieve. Did you set out to show that or did it just grow from the story?

Mateo and Fletcher basically have the same compulsion, which is to put words on things. For Fletcher it’s paper, and for Mateo it’s… anything. I did some research into graffiti but it was for the technical stuff. I felt pretty confident that I understood what would make someone do it. Who hasn’t wanted to do it?

As for making Mateo’s graffiti sympathetic, I think street art lends itself to that because it’s romantic. It’s one of those things that, OK, it’s technically a crime, but it’s morally ambiguous. Like, it’s more OK in certain places than in others. It’s more OK if it’s pretty and not just scribbles. It’s like jewel theft or some other glamorous crime. I tried to make a distinction between types of graffiti—sometimes angry people just want to make a mess, but other people are artists. One person’s “defacing public property” is another person’s “enhancing public property.” I don’t know. I can argue both ways, which I think comes across in the book. I’m not saying I’d want it on my car or my house, but I also can’t say I’d rather look at a blank concrete wall in a subway station.

I think we all know by now Jen is a huge Holden Caulfield fan, so we have to ask. Vince in Cranberry seems very Holden-esque. On purpose?

No, not on purpose. But I think Holden is like a god, the god of angst. He’s everywhere you look.

Ben Monopoli author interviewA reviewer of Homo Action mentioned what she referred to as the “non-monogamous” aspect, or more the issue of being faithful, that Boots didn’t wait very long to have sex with someone else after Ryan left. Do you think the different views on casual versus committed sex (for lack of a better term) is a difference between the sexes? Same sex versus opposite sex relationships? No relation at all, just personal reactions?

Boots definitely doesn’t wait very long to hook up with other guys after Ryan’s exile. Part of that was just practical from a storytelling standpoint. I wanted to write a sexy bodice-ripper, so the characters needed to be having sex. Monogamy would’ve been a narrative straitjacket, so for a book called Homo Action Love Story, I had no trouble throwing it overboard. This is not a serious book.

I’ve seen reviews like the one you mentioned. For some people non-monogamy will always be cheating. That’s fair, but I think life is more complicated than that. Boots sleeps with guys he thinks Ryan would approve of. So it’s safe to infer that they’re more monogamish than monogamous. On the other hand, he makes an effort to avoid guys Ryan wouldn’t approve of. There is a moral code he operates by. For some people it might be too loose, but I don’t feel there’s any cheating here.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to generalize about people’s sex lives, either, like by saying opposite-sex couples do this or same-sex couples do that. Sex is the most complicated subject in the world, and also the most secret. I don’t think most people, me included, have any idea what other people’s sex lives are really like. Some couples are monogamous, some are in open relationships, and there’s probably a lot of gray area in between. I think the gray area is where the best stories are.

Any unique, fun, exciting, or frustrating challenges as a gay fiction, self-pubbed, etc. writer you’d like to share?

Being a self-pubbed writer is awesome. People are reading my stuff, they send me nice letters, I get to do interviews like this. Being a self-pubbed bookseller, which is the flip-side of the coin—well, I don’t like that part. Back when I released The Cranberry Hush there wasn’t a whole lot of ebook competition. Word of mouth was enough to take it to #1. These days the ebook presses are rolling 24/7, which makes marketing way more important if you want to get attention. It’s not where my interests or strengths lie, though. I’d rather be writing than selling—which probably means I’m selling myself short. But hopefully if my books are good enough they’ll find an audience.

Ben Monopoli author interviewFUTURE BOOKS! Give us some scoop on what you might be thinking about next.

I’m working on a sequel to The Painting of Porcupine City, but it’s going to take a few years so it may not be the next thing I publish. Totally random—the other day I learned that the soldiers in the Spanish Legion have the sexiest uniforms in the world. Google them. I could imagine a sequel to Homo Action Love Story revolving around those uniforms. But who knows.

Feel free to add anything you’d like to mention, talk about, discuss, etc., and thanks so much for sharing with us!

Thank you! It’s been fun.

Follow Ben Monopoli

Want to check out these amazing books? You can find Ben Monopoli on Goodreads and Amazon.


J to tha M: What We’re Reading

Series, Serials, and Cliffhangers

series, serial novels, and cliffhangers

Dudley Do-Right, created by Alex Anderson

J: so, I’m currently about 50% through the fourth book in Elizabeth Hunter’s series

Elemental Mysteries

and our stalking paid off

she has agreed to a guest post

M: You read three books in a week? Woo-hoo! They must be good

J: um, yes

they’re really addictive

I know I need to read up on The Painting of Porcupine City so our interview with Ben Monopoli doesn’t spoil it for me

so that’s next. I promise

M: That’s one of the things that makes series so fun. If you like them, you can pick up the next.

fun for both the reader and writer to stay in an intriguing world

J: yeah, but I’m not a fan of the cliffhanger thing. There are a few reasons for a cliffhanger, and none are good

the first is that you’re too wordy to fit everything in one book, so you split at a vital point

the second is that you aren’t sure if you created a compelling enough story to keep readers coming back for more

so you have to trick them

M: Some cliffhangers are good, to build suspense, keep the reader wanting to turn the page. I love a good cliffhanger when used like that.

What I’ve found annoying is those books that are written to end on a huge “cliffhanger” for the sole purpose of getting you to buy the next. You get 130 pages for 2.99 and the story just ends in the middle of the scene, so you have to pay another 2.99 for the next 130 pages if you want to read the rest of the story.

And then you find out there are like four “books” in the series like that

to me, those aren’t really cliffhangers. Those are just ending in the middle of a scene.

J: there is that, too

M: There are the serial novels, which is a much better alternative

I mentioned a couple I’m reading a week or so ago

Where you pay one price and get installments automatically delivered to your Kindle

J: I could get behind something like that. Would be like a TV show

M: but you know in advance the (reasonable) full price and when you’ll get the next episode

J: yeah, instead of getting to the end and finding out you have to fork over more money

M: exactly. You can make a fully informed choice from the beginning

J: i love a good series, though. I love an epic story that requires more than one book to tell

M: I wonder if the new interest in the serialized novels is a reflection of the proven popularity of fanfiction. They do follow a similar format

J: I thought that, too

are they all dramatic and soap opera-y?

do you hear “dun dun dun!” in your head when you finish an installment?

M: some are, just like any book

J: She turned to see who was at the door and gasped.

tune in next time!

M: it’s like the ending of a chapter, though. They’re ended that way to keep you turning the page

whether it’s a serial or a traditional book

J: well, I can get behind it because you know what you’re getting when you go in

M:  In that format, a cliffhanger is, I don’t know, more accepted. Expected.

When one just ends only to sucker you into buying the next…I’m not 100% sure how I feel about that, but mostly no likey

J: accepted because you know the rest is coming

I really no likey

and usually enough to abandon ship

M: Yeah. I read one like that recently. Thank goodness the first one was free – which is a whole ‘nother subject, I think. And the story was fairly good, but then, it just ended in the middle of an action scene, and the next book was 2 or 3.99. And the next, and the next.

J: >.<

M: And even though I did like the story and would have liked to read more and see what happened – oh, hell no.

J: I feel you

M: I was annoyed

as both a reader and a writer

J: and I bet a lot of people agree with us

except, of course, the authors who exploit their readers in this way

M: and then there are those novellas – which are really popular right now – that just…end

J: oh, I’m a fan of the novella. bite-size fun

M: I like them, too. I mean, I understand the shortened nature of them and how difficult it can be to get in enough character and story development, but it’s just frustrating, to enjoy a story and characters so much, for the author to have done such a good job with the rest of the story, and then…

wah, wah, wah wahhhhhhh

J: but if you have to end without an ending, you probably should have made it a full novel

M: or, you know, come up with a better ending

J: oh, yeah

or that

what I think is a fun idea are the novellas centered on side characters in a series

M: Oh, I like those, too. It’s like a special surprise bonus to revisit a world you loved and characters you want to know more about. I think it’s cool that ebooks seemed to have opened that up as an option. made it more viable.

Oh, hang on. I need to see who’s at the door

brb

**gasp**

 

Tune in next week!


J to tha M on Reviews, Marketing, and Cheese

What We’re Reading…or Not Reading

book reviews and author marketing

© Sutashiku | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

J: I read a book! Well, I read a couple, but my recent history suggests this is a rare thing. Of course, there was Ben Monopoli’s The Cranberry Hush. Loved. I think I might have a reader-crush on him.

M: I thought you’d like that one. Vince is very Holden-esque

J: Holden, yes. Vince, yes. But mostly the authors who created them. Also, our stalking has paid off once more. Interview with Mr. Monopoli coming soon! (We should maybe clarify that our stalking is in no way shady and almost always welcomed by the authors in question…)

M: Read his books and prepare to ask questions. There may be spoilers in the interview, but we’ll be sure to warn everyone.

J: I have The Painting of Porcupine City queued and ready to go soon. I’m also reading Elizabeth Hunter’s A Hidden Fire.

I’m only half done, but I do not hate

not even a little bit

in fact, I think I’ll love and have to order the next three immediately

M:  I love that

finding something you like and being able to read more

J:  I think you would like this one

but I’ll wait to rec until I finish

M:  I’m not a huge YA fan

they have to be pretty good

J:  it’s a vampire one

but I did not know that when I started. It doesn’t necessarily read like a YA, either.

M:  I read the beginning of an erotica BDSM trilogy by Lila Dubois. The first book was free – Undone Rebel – not sure if it still is. It was good. Not annoying, sexy

but I like a well-written, sexy story

J: it looks kind of cute, actually

M: it was

I liked both hero and heroine

cute, sexy, and free

J: one of the reviews says geek-turned-dom

tell me it’s the hero

please

M: it is

computer geek ;)

J: *dances*

i have such a soft spot for the geeks

M: geek dom

and fun

J: siiiiigh

M: I was very pleasantly surprised.

J:  I’ve got it but haven’t started it

but I will

M:  it’s definitely BDSM-y

good, though

Started a romantic suspense – jury is still out. Started pretty well, but then…

got kinda draggy and now looks like it will succumb to the Silly Romance Overreaction and Misunderstanding

I need to catch up on my reviews

which makes a good segue

I’ve gotten a few emails from authors patrolling reviews of books similar to theirs on Amazon

Sending the emails to the reviewers and asking them to read and review their book. This last one actually sent the book as a pdf attachment.

J:  I actually got a review request to my email, too

I didn’t connect the two until you said something

M:  I find this annoying.

I mean, I understand coming up with new and creative ways to get your book put there. All authors struggle with marketing.

But I’m pretty uncomfortable with people picking up my contact info from Amazon and

using it like that

And it likely violates a number of Amazon policies, not that that means much anymore

Something like that would never occur to me.

Maybe that’s why I suck at marketing myself

But I could never do anything like that, something that I find so annoying and, well, just uncomfortable

J: liam and I had a discussion about marketing the other night

I want to try a few new things in the future

M: I’d love to hear. Honestly, the only thing I’ve found that really helps is write a better book

“better” in terms of something that really connects with readers

J: we had visual aids and stuff

M: haha – omg

would have loved to see that

J: it was actually pretty funny

over dinner

a container of romano cheese

there may have been a mess to clean up

“this container of cheese represents my sphere of influence. I have reached them all. This piece of lonely cheese out here represents someone who would love my book but has no idea it exists. how do I reach that piece of cheese?”

“well, all of this cheese–” he dumps a handful on the table “–has to go tell that cheese.”

“but they don’t know that cheese. no one I know knows that cheese.”

M: mmm, cheese

word of mouth is so powerful. that’s the best way to reach people

figuring out how to get them to talk is the thing

J: that was another point. “this cheese may EVENTUALLY reach that cheese, but do we want to wait that long? how do I go directly to THAT cheese?”

J: I guess the most important thing is for people to just keep spreading the word if they find a book they like. Goodreads helps, but not everyone is on Goodreads. Same with Facebook and Twitter. You think?

M: I do. That’s why I love talking about books I enjoyed. I want other people to have a chance to enjoy, too, and help spread the word for the author.

J: So, who do we stalk this week for the blog? Whose amazing skills do we want to learn about next? Suggestions? Maybe Elizabeth Hunter?

M: Sounds good. I’m off to spread the stalk–I mean love.

brb


J to tha M Give Two Thumbs UP

What We’re Reading (J Got a Kindle. It’s On.)

Discover new books

freedigitalphotos.net/anankkml

J: To honor Ebert, we should give a J to tha M spin on the thumbs up, thumbs down on the books we’ve read lately

M:  You want my list?

J: Hit me.

M: That might exceed our bandwidth. Maybe we should limit it to what we’ve both read. There’s got to be a couple, at least.

J: M, you know my recent history with books. Give it your best shot.

M: We both read Jeanette Grey’s Take What You Want this week.

J: I bought that one because you told me to. Thanks for that, by the way.

M: Really well written, great characters I fell in love with and could relate to

no big suspension of disbelief and that’s pretty rare lately. Especially after reading JR Ward. Heh.

J: I flew through it. Loved every second. Then I read the ending again.

M: I had an eyebrow quirk at the fact she didn’t recognize a cute guy in her class, glasses or not, but okay

but she made it all work.

Ellen was a great female MC and so well written to show her development and where she was at that stage of her life, trying to figure out who she was, what she wanted, and brave enough to go after it.

And Josh. So sweet and sexy. He was pretty confident and experienced for a somewhat nerdy college kid who lives at home

but it was super hot and really well-done, so again, it was only a fleeting “hmm”

J: i have actually been wondering about his confidence

I thought she might explain it

but I guess not

M: yeah. I mean, he’s too shy to even approach her for the past 3 or four years, but he has all that sexual confidence

There’s no mention of his past experience. A little about never bringing a girl home to meet his parents, like for dinner or anything, but that’s about it

but again, it didn’t bother me. I loved it. I loved Josh. Any book that sucks me right in, makes me feel for the characters, that I can’t put down until I’m done, I seriously love.

Big thumbs up for me. Read this. Go now.

J: I second the thumbs up. What’s next?

M: What else did you read?

J: Ummmm… I did end up reading a To Kill a Mockingbird again two weeks ago

it was an accident

I was looking for a quote for something I was writing and read the whole thing instead

M: Heh. I think we need to limit it to books written in the past decade or so.

J: Oh! I did read the Bride Series by Nora Roberts. I know you did, too. As a whole, thumbs up, but I’m not all the way convinced all the time.

M: Well, it’s been a while since I read that series – when it first came out – but yeah. I agree a thumbs up as a whole. I liked the Carter and Mal books. The one with Delaney was eh, and I don’t even remember who the other one was about. Guess that sums it up right there.

J: I thought Mal was kind of a caricature. I wanted him to be sexy, but I kept picturing Joey Buttafuoco. Not sexy. Also, it’s never more apparent that she writes the same story over and over than when you read four in a row. But still. She makes me feel. Even if it’s the same feelings every time.

M: That’s a good point. The Bride series was far from my favorite of hers. I haven’t had the same intensity of feeling from her books lately. I haven’t even read the new one – the Inn series. I’m telling you, though, try her JD Robb series. Still amazing. I haven’t gotten that same-story feeling from those at all, and she’s, what, 30-some in now? Besides, you’ll love Roarke. Irish boy.

J: I haven’t enjoyed anything by her as much as I did the Irish trilogies. Go figure. I do have a paper copy of the first Inn book. This will change.

as I had suspected, I have gone nuts on the kindle

M:  easy to do

J:  free! free books on kindle

it’s crazy

i mean, I know this is a thing, but I never made use of it

it’s all so exciting

M:  haha – yes. That’s how I was. Free books! And then, even when they’re not, you just press a button and it appears

J:  that’s super dangerous

M:  best magic ever

J:  I have to really restrain myself with music, and now books, too?

I don’t have enough self control for that

M:  it’s really made me think about my reading habits as a reader and apply that to my writing

I mean, with all that’s available, if I’m not caught up in the first few pages of a book, I move on to the next.

too many to try, you know?

and it really brings home how important that first line, paragraph, page, chapter is

J:  that makes a lot of sense

if you go through the trouble of going to the bookstore, picking among thousands there, standing in line to pay, driving it home…

you might give it more of a go than the first few pages, simply because you did go through the trouble

M:  and you likely did a lot more research into it to go to that effort

or at least put more thought into it. with the ebooks, it’s just so easy to skim the blurb and pile them all on. so you do your thought afterward instead of before, kind of

J: Well, next week we can talk about Ben Monopoli again, because I’m now reading Cranberry Hush. KC Beaumont is my hero for introducing me to him.

M: Me, too. We can talk about that next week – I read all his. Cranberry Hush and Porcupine City.

J: Maybe he’ll hear us talking about him and come guest blog for us… We could stalk him until he agrees. You should get on that.

M: It worked with Jeanette Grey. We’re excellent stalkers.

brb

 


J to tha M: Spring Cleaning the Brain

Finding Our Passion for Reading and Writing Again

finding passion for writingM:  Ugh. I’m coming out of the winter icks. Been so just bleh lately with all the expectations–mostly my own–and constant struggling to figure out what the hell I’m doing, what I should be doing, blah blah blah.

J:  heh. I’m in a blah mood about the time part of writing this week

well, all the time, really

M:  It just seems like we’re pushing so hard all the time. I’m sad it takes the joy out of reading and writing

but, it’s true for just about everything, so eh

J:  yeah. once anything becomes a job, it’s a lot less fun

M:  I’m going to take a couple weeks and see if I can’t just have fun with the stories and characters again

It’s like spring cleaning for my brain

J:  I need some kind of recharge, too

a reset button or something

M:  I used to get such a good recharge out of reading, but lately, I’ve been more or less forcing myself to read stuff, for whatever the reason, and it’s really blah’d me. So, reading is my personal thing, even if it is “business” related now. I’m not going to force myself to read anything if it doesn’t grab me, just like I’ve always done

J:  that’s exceptionally good

there’s not enough time in the day to read a crappy book

no matter who wrote it

M: and it’s about finding those gems

they’re out there, it’s just holding out until you find them

I’ve found a couple of good ones, but man, it’s depressing to see how many just don’t appeal to me lately

J:  it’s a lack of quality, for one thing

I used to be able to get past anything if it was a good story

but it’s hard to do that anymore

M: I can overlook some things if the story is awesome. Just haven’t found many of those, even

J: perhaps it’s just general discontent. it happens sometimes

M: My own personal tastes, I guess

I’ve found an awesome one every now and again, and those are those gems I’m talking about

J: right. I think that happens all the time, though. I’ve had some big pub books that just lost me

I have an Evanovich in my bag that I keep swearing I’ll finish

but meh

M: I like her Stephanie Plum ones

they’re easy fun reads

J: I kind of feel like I’m reading the same thing over and over, though

this is the Diesel one

the magic series

M: oh, I haven’t gotten into those as much

J: it just feels like Stephanie Plum with magic

and all those thing we pay such close attention to: show vs. tell and active vs. passive

it’s just not there

M: Yeah, I don’t like the Diesel storyline anywhere near as much as the Stephanie ones

I can overlook a lot if the story grabs me enough, but when it doesn’t – yikes.

J: So what isn’t “yikes” lately? Anything amazing? You made abundantly clear how much you loved Qhuinn, so give me one better.

M: I did love Qhuinn. There were some things I would have liked more or different, of course, but overall it gave me the happy sighs like I haven’t had in quite a while. But I’m head over heels for that boy, so having most of the focus on him was…sigh.

I read Ben Monopoli’s book that KC Beaumont reviewed (loved her review), and omg was that just a hell of a lot of fun. I loved it. Loved! I mean, Boots McHenry. That’s just all kinds of absurd awesomeness for a main character name, and the entire story lived up to all that and so much more.

J: I love hearing that!

M: I highly recommend. I went and got his others, started Cranberry Hush, and it’s amazeballs (so to speak, heh) too.

And then I’m reading a couple of serials I’m really enjoying. The stories are released in parts every two weeks until they’re complete, about eight or nine parts, I think. You pay one price and then get the installments automatically delivered to the kindle. Falling for Frederick by Cheryl Bolen and A Hero Lies Within by Patrice Wilton. I’m having fun with them so far.

J: See, Monopoli is a self-pub gem. Proof that awesomeness can happen without a big house. The serials sound like a good idea, too. Maybe small bites are what I need. I should go buy some books…

M: Whaaaa…?

J: I know. I know. I’ve just been waiting for the right book, and Mr. Monopoli wins.

brb


J to tha M: Spring Cleaning the Brain

Finding Our Passion for Reading and Writing Again

finding passion for writingM:  Ugh. I’m coming out of the winter icks. Been so just bleh lately with all the expectations–mostly my own–and constant struggling to figure out what the hell I’m doing, what I should be doing, blah blah blah.

J:  heh. I’m in a blah mood about the time part of writing this week

well, all the time, really

M:  It just seems like we’re pushing so hard all the time. I’m sad it takes the joy out of reading and writing

but, it’s true for just about everything, so eh

J:  yeah. once anything becomes a job, it’s a lot less fun

M:  I’m going to take a couple weeks and see if I can’t just have fun with the stories and characters again

It’s like spring cleaning for my brain

J:  I need some kind of recharge, too

a reset button or something

M:  I used to get such a good recharge out of reading, but lately, I’ve been more or less forcing myself to read stuff, for whatever the reason, and it’s really blah’d me. So, reading is my personal thing, even if it is “business” related now. I’m not going to force myself to read anything if it doesn’t grab me, just like I’ve always done

J:  that’s exceptionally good

there’s not enough time in the day to read a crappy book

no matter who wrote it

M: and it’s about finding those gems

they’re out there, it’s just holding out until you find them

I’ve found a couple of good ones, but man, it’s depressing to see how many just don’t appeal to me lately

J:  it’s a lack of quality, for one thing

I used to be able to get past anything if it was a good story

but it’s hard to do that anymore

M: I can overlook some things if the story is awesome. Just haven’t found many of those, even

J: perhaps it’s just general discontent. it happens sometimes

M: My own personal tastes, I guess

I’ve found an awesome one every now and again, and those are those gems I’m talking about

J: right. I think that happens all the time, though. I’ve had some big pub books that just lost me

I have an Evanovich in my bag that I keep swearing I’ll finish

but meh

M: I like her Stephanie Plum ones

they’re easy fun reads

J: I kind of feel like I’m reading the same thing over and over, though

this is the Diesel one

the magic series

M: oh, I haven’t gotten into those as much

J: it just feels like Stephanie Plum with magic

and all those thing we pay such close attention to: show vs. tell and active vs. passive

it’s just not there

M: Yeah, I don’t like the Diesel storyline anywhere near as much as the Stephanie ones

I can overlook a lot if the story grabs me enough, but when it doesn’t – yikes.

J: So what isn’t “yikes” lately? Anything amazing? You made abundantly clear how much you loved Qhuinn, so give me one better.

M: I did love Qhuinn. There were some things I would have liked more or different, of course, but overall it gave me the happy sighs like I haven’t had in quite a while. But I’m head over heels for that boy, so having most of the focus on him was…sigh.

I read Ben Monopoli’s book that KC Beaumont reviewed (loved her review), and omg was that just a hell of a lot of fun. I loved it. Loved! I mean, Boots McHenry. That’s just all kinds of absurd awesomeness for a main character name, and the entire story lived up to all that and so much more.

J: I love hearing that!

M: I highly recommend. I went and got his others, started Cranberry Hush, and it’s amazeballs (so to speak, heh) too.

And then I’m reading a couple of serials I’m really enjoying. The stories are released in parts every two weeks until they’re complete, about eight or nine parts, I think. You pay one price and then get the installments automatically delivered to the kindle. Falling for Frederick by Cheryl Bolen and A Hero Lies Within by Patrice Wilton. I’m having fun with them so far.

J: See, Monopoli is a self-pub gem. Proof that awesomeness can happen without a big house. The serials sound like a good idea, too. Maybe small bites are what I need. I should go buy some books…

M: Whaaaa…?

J: I know. I know. I’ve just been waiting for the right book, and Mr. Monopoli wins.

brb


Book Review: Homo Action Love Story! (a tall tale) by Ben Monopoli

Novel Review by KC Beaumont

Disclaimer: Many novels are provided for the purpose of review, but this particular book was not. KC Beaumont purchased Homo Action Love Story! on her own and not for the intention of reviewing. Then she loved it so much, she couldn’t help herself and had to let us know what she thought.

Book Review for Fight for Your WriteAs much as my love for Ben Monopoli makes me hate to admit it, if Homo Action Love Story! had been written by an author with whom I was not familiar (had to throw in a complicated bit of unnatural-sounding grammar to make Clemente proud), I might not have taken a chance on this fantastic novel. I love Mr. Monopoli’s honest writing style and the easy way he can suck the reader into a scene. His characters are realistic, flawed, frustrating, and perfect in their imperfection. Reading the blurb and the quirky title for his latest novel, though, I was expecting more slapstick comedy and porn than believable story and incredible intimacy. As an adoring fan of Mr. Monopoli’s, however, I just had to read it… and it was so zilla awesome, I read it twice.

Homo Action Love Story! kicks off with an interesting author’s note preparing the reader for a little bit of what’s to come:

Homo Action Love Story! takes place in a medically advanced future, where the only risk for two people who go to bed together is the risk of a broken heart.

This is not our world.

Always be safe.”

This tells the reader three things:

  • Sex scenes will not include condoms. While that’s not unusual in fiction, it gives the reader happy, fuzzy feelings at the possibility of a disease-free future, while at the same time, taking away any anxiety a reader may feel at characters putting their health at risk with not practicing safer sex. Blanket permission to suspend belief in such a way makes, for me at least, a more relaxing read.
  • Such a reality doesn’t yet exist, so fans need to take their health seriously.

…and

  • There might be flying cars in this bright and beautiful future.

Okay, so that last bit wasn’t the case in this book. Readers will expect, though, that other advances, apart from medical, will have been made, and other aspects of society at large could be vastly different.

Homo Action Love Story!  is packed with steamy romance, athletic guys, and tons of action… and not just of the bedroom variety. But, my favorite part? All the future tech. It makes my brain happy, okay? Flexiglass is a nifty material used for everything, from Jumbotrons, to TVs, to cell phones, to tablets. In its use with tablets in this tale, it’s paper-like in structure and can be smoothed out and snapped to a rigid state. Freaking sweet. Currency is no longer carried in one’s wallet—one can just “flick” money (and business cards, addresses, etc.) to others with their cell phone. And vehicles are powered with hydrogen engines… yes, please! I want all these things to exist right now. Mr. Jetson can keep his flying cars. Just give me a flexiglass phone that I can use to flick money I don’t have to people I don’t want to give it to.

Another delightful futuristic aspect of this story is how wildly popular the sport of paintball is. Football is a thing of the past, and the Splatter Cup is the new Super Bowl.

Hell to the yeah!

Much like present celebrity athletes, celebrity paintballers are paid exorbitant amounts of money to play the game. Unlike today’s athletes, these players can’t afford to make it big and later slack off on the field and get paid just for showing up. There are consequences to screwing up in a match. If a player suffers a kill shot, one that would be fatal if they’d been struck by an actual bullet, that player has been “simu-killed”. Simu-death, or simulated death, results in exile where a simu-dead player gets whisked off the field via helicopter and taken to a top-secret location to spend the next five years isolated from everyone and everything. Simu-dead paintballers don’t get cell phones, TV, or get to have any kind of contact from anyone back home. The threat of a five-year separation from everything one knows and loves is a pretty good incentive to do one’s best in the arena. And as Boots McHenry discovers, it’s something that can happen to the best of players, and it can turn one’s entire world upside-down.

This isn’t your typical “Boy meets boy, boy falls in love with boy, boy loses boy, boy gets boy back” love story.

(Whoa, that was a lot of “boy”s… how appropriate!)

…it’s more like a “Pro paintballer meets pro paintballer, pro paintballer falls in love with pro paintballer, pro paintballer loses pro paintballer, pro paintballer’s pro-paintballer best friend takes him on a fantastic adventure filled with mixed-martial artists and bitter exes and adorable fans and pirates and sharks and…” (have I mentioned this book is packed with tons of action?) kind of story.

If you love tales with loveable dudes, paintball, intrigue, plot twists, raucously fun sex, high-seas adventure, naked remote-control interviews, and lube wrestling… wait. I didn’t tell you about all that? Well, you’ll just have to read Homo Action Love Story! (more than once, because it’s that good) to find out how incredibly awesome this tall tale really is. You won’t be sorry.

5BrassMonkeys3

About the Book

Boots McHenry and his boyfriend Ryan are young superstars in the North American Paintball League, a high-stakes sport where losers face exile — five full years of it, on an island so secret no one can be sure it even exists. After Ryan has a tragic collision with an opposing team’s paintball, the rules of the game force the boyfriends apart.

Boots is shattered without Ryan, so when his best friend Clemente Santiago suggests a daring, high-seas mission to find the island and reunite the pair, Boots jumps at the chance. They assemble a crack team to join them, including fashion model and mixed-martial-arts champ Colby Kroft, hunky-but-shy sea-captain Marcus Tumble, and Piper Pernfors, the ex who’s aching to make Boots forget Ryan ever existed.

HOMO ACTION LOVE STORY! is a lighthearted, sexy adventure from the author of THE CRANBERRY HUSH and THE PAINTING OF PORCUPINE CITY. It’s a perfect storm of beautiful fishermen, murderous pirates, blossoming romances, and secrets that call almost everyone’s motives into question. Land, ho! This page-turner is sure to float your boat.

About the Author

Ben Monopoli lives in Boston with his husband, Chris. Visit Ben Monopoli’s blog or his Goodreads profile to learn more about his work and buy the book, or visit Amazon and Smashwords.

***

K.C. Beaumont resides in northwest Louisiana with a sweet man who pays her bills and two small people who continuously call her “Mama.” In addition to being a professional child wrangler and clothes ironer, she is an avid fiction reader, a sometimes fiction writer, and a horrible cook. Visit her website to see her great titles.

Buy her books here: Amazon | Silver Publishing