Friday, July 26, 2013

Looking for Weekend Reading? You Might Want to Try These

This is the post I was going to write yesterday, but I was pulled away by the lure of the sea. Now, however, it is time to recommend a few things I've read that I can recommend highly. As you know (or maybe you don't know but are finding out now) I am a voracious reader, but most of what I read is either Gay Literature or Gay Erotic Literature. These books are no exception, but are exceptional.

The Happily-Ever-After ending is often discussed as mandatory for romance
novels whether M/F or M/M. The authors I'm discussing today don't do HEA.

It's far too easy to fall into the thought mold of "It's just about the sex" when reading M/M literature. But that's not the case. Oh, there are many books that do qualify for that definition, but those are the ones that usually end up on my 'trash' pile, and certainly aren't the ones that I read again and again or that I would recommend to others. I look for books where the sex is necessary because it is a part of the characters. The situations have to be sensible and work into the plot instead of having the plot massaged to fit the actions. The characters have to work together and, above all, the characters have to be believable. I have a few that fit that criteria, so if you are brave enough to pass the boundaries of M/M plot and theme, listen to these voices.

There's a lot of very good information for aspiring M/M
authors in this book, but sometimes going against the
grain can make for powerful reading.

I remember reading Josh Lanyon's "Man, Oh Man" more than a year ago. In that book he details how to write for the M/M market, structure a plot, develop a character, pace a plotline, and at the top of his list - have a HEA ending. What is an HEA ending? It is a "Happy-Ever-After" ending. It is allowing your characters to ride into the sunset with their problems behind them and a life of love, happiness, and bluebirds ahead of them.

While this is a really nice thought, and is a central element and goal of much M/M writing, it is the occasional writer who takes the HEA idea and deposits it on the curb for the weekly garbage pickup who can really be effective authors and craft the books that I think about again and again for months on end. At the top of this list (after TJ Klune) is Brandon Shire. Wow. ... Wow, wow, WOW. Here is a voice that you will never forget whose characters rarely have any hope of a HEA ending. His characters are bruised and beaten, yet still proud men.

The cover looks bleak - the storyline is powerful and
will get under your skin like the dust of the plains
is all-pervasive.

I first read "Listening to Dust" in December 2012 and couldn't pull it from my mind. Recently I came across reviews for "The Value of Rain", "Cold" and his 2-volume set "Afflicted" and "Afflicted II". If you insist on a HEA possibility, the "Afflicted" series is your best bet. But if you don't care that things may not work out well or don't work out well at all...try the other three.  "Listening to Dust" has the characters coming to terms with their homosexuality in a sense, but then they are also facing their homophobia and finally each one hears what their souls have been trying to tell them. It's a beautifully crafted story of coming together and then being torn apart, finally coming together once more. It has plot twists, suspicion, violence and honor. It's a great read. .

What happens as a child has repercussions throughout
life as an adult. No HEA here, just a lot of psychological
manipulation, actions and consequences.

That craftsmanship pulls through in "The Value of Rain" where the main character is forced into a mental institution by his mother to 'cure' his homosexuality and the resulting life that he leads because of that action. Although it sounds grim (and in truth, it is grim in many instances), it is again a beautifully crafted book. Steller and highly recommended!

I only read this because I had developed such a respect for
the author. But he surprised me again with a novel that'
I can't stop thinking about weeks after I finished reading it. 

"Cold" amazed me. I couldn't see myself having a personal interest in a story about prisoners inside a penitentiary. What did I know or care about a man who is imprisoned for life? But the story pulled me in, and by the end of it I was hoping that the one small hinted spark of an unrealized HEA might come true beyond the covers of the book and several years in the future.

The covers for Afflicted and Afflicted II are the
identical photo. These are as close to a HEA ending as
Brandon Shire seems to come. They're good, but not
quite at the gut-shaking level of 'Dust' , 'Rain' or 'Cold'.

"Afflicted" and "Afflicted II" should be read together since II continues where "Afflicted" left off. This is as close to a feel-good story as Brandon Shire seems capable of writing, and it is actually a good one. Oh, there are plenty of problems and past history that form the main characters, but the HEA is very possible here. So why aren't I happy about it? Because he doesn't write HEA endings and I feel a bit cheated that he actually did one for these two men.

King Perry is like riding an out-of-control amusement
park ride. You sit at the edge of your seat, hope that
you will come out OK at the end, and hang on for the ride.

Finally, sometimes a book comes along that keeps me reading just because the main character is so idiosyncratic and so bizarre, the events are so off-kilter and the goal so murky, that I just have to read and read just to see where the author is leading me. The character of Vin Vanbly in the book "King Perry" by Edmond Manning is phenomenally crafted. I've been taught that if you do dialog, to make it believable. That dialect should be limited and not take over. But the thought processes of this character are amazing! From his fascination with letters to his calculated stalking of Perry for a weekend of Kinging, it is an extraordinary premise and job of writing by an author I had not heard of before. There will be six books in the series and the second one is out for Kindle. I'll get it when it is available for Nook, but I'll wait until then. In the meanwhile, those of you trying to craft an amazing character with all of the stops and starts of thought could do worse than reading "King Perry".

So, there you have it - two authors and six books to look at with nary a Happily-Ever-After in the mix. Don't forget that these are M/M gay literature and that sex will be part of each book. If you're uncomfortable with graphic sex in a novel, you may not want to read them. But I guarantee that you'll be missing out on something very special if you dismiss them from your possibilities list just because of the sexual component. So allow yourself to indulge a bit, spread your wings, and learn that a HEA ending is NOT always necessary in M/M literature and that some very powerful voices are out there.

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