Hello February! By the time you read this, stores will be full of red and pink decorations. Chocolates and love cards will be prominently displayed everywhere. Florists will be busier than a one-armed wallpaper hanger in a windstorm would. And GA readers will be searching for love stories to read. Our focus this month is on the authors of three such tales.
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I was not aware of Rip Skor’s Boy Story until one of its fans sent in a question for the author. The story’s description and Rip’s reply to the question have led me to adding it to my reading list. Moral of the story? If you are an author, how you describe the story when you post it can gain or lose you prospective readers.
I happened upon Boy Story a while ago, and it was hard to resist Matt and Parker. It was great watching their romance unfold and seeing them live their lives.
You mentioned the story is semi-autobiographical, so, why was this the time to tell it and how hard was it to separate fact from fiction?
And since it is the month of Romance, what is the best love advice you’ve received?
Being an English Major, I've always written well, but I hate to write because it saps a lot of my energy. So the fact that I put pen to paper seems perplexing even to me.
I was sitting at home with Parker one night and we watched another horrendous gay-themed movie. They always seem to end up sad, as if it's some kind of penance for being gay. Just look at Brokeback Mountain for example. Can't a gay love story have a positive ending, yet still be entertaining? Can't a gay love story keep itself from getting mired down in gay culture, which turns off most straight people?
Parker said, "You're a good writer, why don't you show them how it's done?" That started the ball rolling.
Only problem is I had no idea what to write about. I find it easier to use real events even if just for a framework to build around. But once I turned the faucet on, things came flooding out, like I was watching a movie.
One of my college professors said "Write about what you know." So I wrote about what I know...my life. Specifically, when things drastically changed for me, yet kept me feeling alive and happy and thankful. Parker had become like a drug that I could not live without. Being with him fed my soul and I guess that's where the term soul mate comes from. Others have experienced the same kind of all encompassing love.
I didn't change much of the events. I did compress the timeline a bit to keep it moving. Otherwise we'd be on Chapter 247 by now. I kept most of the names the same where I used only first names, I changed my last name and Parker's last name to protect our privacy. So there was not a lot of fiction to separate from fact. Like Parker winning the car in a drawing that Aunt Helen entered him in really happened!
My Grandmother hit the nail on the head when it comes to relationships. She simply said "Be good to each other." I found that's how you keep romance alive.
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Headstall began posting Cards on the Table three years ago, in January 2015. Since then, the story’s sixty-three chapters and over 300,000 words have attracted nearly 180,000 views, 2,700 comments, and over 300 followers. I think it is fair to say Gary’s story about two hockey-playing friends taking their relationship to a new level struck a chord with readers. This has to be one of the all-time most popular love stories on the site.
How difficult did you find it returning to Cards on the Table after a long break? Had your writing style noticeably changed since you'd last written a chapter? Did you have to alter anything to get back into your previous style?
There was a lot of emotion/angst involved with my return to Cards on the Table. The biggest thing that made it difficult was the guilt I carried for being away so long, and the pressure I put on myself because of it, at a time I really needed a good extended rest.
I had no intention of taking such a long absence. This new, strange story was making a heck of a racket in my head, and I had already taken breaks in the past to write two other stories (Song and Dance and Treading Water), and both had gone quickly. But, Morningstar: The Malaise, my shifter story, turned out to be a different animal (sorry... couldn't resist).
I really thought I could write the bulk of it and then return to CotT, writing both at the same time, but it was such an intricate undertaking, it became impossible to go back and forth between these two epic length stories. I found I could write anthologies during that time (four of them), but only because they were relatively quick endeavors.
Consequently, I was nervous about returning to my original story. Morningstar was still living in my head, even though Book One? was complete, and after a year and a half of living it, it was hard to let go. That whole time I had been barraged with requests to get back to CotT, and I felt a very real pressure. I learned a huge lesson.
As far as altering my writing style, I will say this: my writing is always evolving. It has from chapter to chapter and book to book. The first chapter of CotT is much different from the latest, and eventually I will clean the whole thing up. A better question might be whether I could fall back into Michael and Kendall's world with ease. It was the question I had, and I found the answer as soon as I started writing the 'Christmas Cards' chapter. It was a huge YES.
It was like I never left these guys at all. Every character was right there waiting for me, and I can't begin to tell you how relieved I was. I had Kendall's inner voices and sense of self in my head and on my fingertips, and Michael's sense of humor and fearless approach to love were still a part of me. Even Nate and Bodie were every bit as nuanced as they've been from the beginning. So, even though my skills may have improved while being away, I don't think it has altered the essence of Cards on the Table in any way. Thankfully, judging by the comments, the readers agree.
I hope my long-winded reply answers your question. Thank you for your interest.
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Our final author this month is Renee Stevens. I suspect the woman does not sleep a lot. How the heck else is she able to have a life and still serve as part of GA’s staff, coordinate weekly blogs, anthologies, author promotions, and who knows what else. From personal experience, I will vouch for her support of rookies; she is always willing to share what she has learned. Of course, she is an author first and her love stories about rugged, working men enjoy huge popular support.
I read Puppy Love after it was featured in a recent blog. When compared to your other love story I've read (Studly Ranch Hands which I loved) both have a similar feel. Kind of an open country atmosphere. As some of the blog comments mentioned, the quality of the old story is not as good as your most recent work. Why? How did the changes come about? How long and how hard was it to get to where you are now as an author?
Thanks for the question! Puppy Love was only the third novel I’d ever written, and the second M/M novel. The first was Eternity and that has many of the same issues as Puppy Love does. (We won't even get into the issues that my first ever novel Life After Loss has). I looked at my files and the earliest files I could find on Puppy Love dated back to 2007. It could have even been written before then, I can’t remember, and that’s just when it was first saved in my current files.
The “Why?” is simply because I didn’t know any better back then. I didn’t have the community of support back then that I had after I came to GA just over 8 years ago. Sure, I had friends who read over what I wrote and they helped improve the story line, but there are so many things that none of us knew. Once I came to GA, I developed some wonderful friendships and really started to get some assistance in improving my writing.
It’s taken over ten years for me to get where I am now, and a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it and I hope to continue to learn and improve. The one thing that helps me is I make note of repeated mistakes and now I check all of my stories for these issues prior to posting.