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SWEET *AND* SEXY?

Today's guest is the author Jaime Samms, known on Live Journal as dontkickmycane. As her portfolio and popularity grow steadily, she stops to ask: how well does sweet romance sit with our male/male genre?



Bio: With most of the hours in the day taken up by a part time job and the full time occupation of raising and schooling two kids, writing is somewhat of an indulgence, but it's the indulgences that keep us sane, right? When not otherwise occupied, like most writers, reading is my relaxation method of choice, and you can find links to reviews at Dark Diva Reviews to let you know what I liked (and occasionally, what I didn't). And just in case there are an extra few minutes in the day, I also help out the admin team at a writer's critique group: Dreaming in Ink. After all, idle hands and all that.

Jaime's website: http://jaime-samms.net/
Jaime's blog: http://jaimesamms.blogspot.com/



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Sweet!
 

Or not. 


I've been told by people who know much more than I about these things that m/m romance can't be sweet. Without a healthy dose of Hawt sex, you're left with a less effective story. Hmmm.


The real questions is can a romance between men be told--with or without detailing every sex act--and still be sweet? Or is that just a construct we female writers created because that's what we want? We want the romance and the hot sex. Yeah baby. Gimme my cake, and gimme my fork, cause I'm eating that sucker too!



My opinion, which might be obvious, after the orgy of cake eating, is that yes, men can be madly in lust with each other, and their love story can still be sweet.




I give you Andrew Grey's writing as an example. I'm currently in the middle of Children of Bacchus.
Who knew satyrs could be so bloody romantic. And I'm told that isn't even his sweetest romantic effort.







I don't know that I write as sweet as all that, but I do dose my guys pretty liberally with a tender side and as far as I'm concerned, they come by it honestly. I know more than a few guys in my life who don't speak up a lot about how they feel, but they do convey it in other ways. Don't ever tell any of them they're sweet, though. They'll just grunt at you and wander off to do something suitably manly.



What does everyone think? Does too much tender spoil your enjoyment of a good m/m romp? How realistic do you really want these fantasy guys? Really?



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AND JUST FOR FUN, A FICTION PROMPT CALL...!!

Like to stretch your writing fingers after Christmas' excesses? Take the prompt "A NEW RESOLUTION" and write something for the visitors this month. It can be anything from a flashfic 3 sentences to a drabble of 100 or so, or even more. Any genre, any theme, any rating, any character(s). Maybe ones you already love, maybe the chance to try on a new character for size.

I'm holding a FREE FICTION DAY on the 28th, so send me new fiction - links to your existing work also welcome! - to clarelondon11 AT yahoo.co.uk and I'll post it all then :).




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Follow this month with Clare - and the goodies so far:

JAN 15: Favourite worldwide travel with cdn_tam.
JAN 16: 10 cautionary tales from ZA Maxfield! zamaxfield.
JAN 17: The business/pleasure balance of writing from libby_drew.
JAN 18: Why M/M? And who wants to know? from jordan_c_price.
JAN 19: What makes fiction short and sweet for jenre.
JAN 20: The pursuit of beautiful things by wrenboo.
JAN 21: Bawdy and brazen humor in the new release from Rick R. Reed.



JAN 08: A great new novel and sequel from mickieashling.
JAN 09: Fiction and beautiful illustrations from essayel.
JAN 10: Forthcoming menage release from lc_chase.
JAN 11: Fabulous mix of SF and erotic romance from Sloane Taylor and Robert Appleton.
JAN 12: Follow the bizarre photographic history of Wind in Hair Guy with egret17.
JAN 13: When only your family understands the joke, with charliecochrane.
JAN 14: A top 10 of gay books you should read from erastes.



JAN 01: A FREE short from me, revisiting Nic and Aidan from Sparks Fly.
JAN 01: Delicious m/m icons from luscious_words.
JAN 02: Why I want to be a Bond villain! by chrissymunder.
JAN 03: The world of inspiration between 'historical' and 'contemporary' with stevie_carroll.
JAN 04: Some fascinating Swedish proverbs from 1more_sickpuppy.
JAN 05: A round-up of a great year just gone from angelasstone.
JAN 06: The countryside and history that inspires author sandra_lindsey.
JAN 07: The challenge of trying to balance edits, with diannefox and anahcrow.


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Check up on the original post and the Guest Schedule for January HERE.

Want to join in but missed the original call? Email me at clarelondon11 AT yahoo.co.uk and I'll happily find you a space ♥

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Comments

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
sandra_lindsey
Jan. 22nd, 2011 11:41 am (UTC)
Admittedly, most of the guys I know / have known are straight, but in my experience men are far more romantically inclined than I am!

...maybe that says more about me than them though?
dontkickmycane
Jan. 22nd, 2011 02:56 pm (UTC)
Sandra, that's exactly my situation. Most of the men I know in my daily life are straight. Most of them would move the earth for their spouses or kids, but would never want anyone to point out that fact. God forbbid they should seem...soft. Take my Hubs as an example. He's got that hard, candy-coated chocolate outer shell with the soft, gooy caramel insides. Yum!
(Deleted comment)
dontkickmycane
Jan. 22nd, 2011 03:01 pm (UTC)
Absolutly, Alex. Sad indeed. Makes me wonder why we put such emphasis on those Alpha heros, and why so much pressure to be the strong one? I think the idea that a m/m romance can't be successful without a lot of f****** and grunting is a load of hooey.

Sure you can use sex in a story as a substitute for verbal communication between men not used to expressing emotions, but the underlying sentiment, I think, is what really matters.
darklove_zorg
Jan. 22nd, 2011 03:17 pm (UTC)
I think that to say m/m romance can't be sweet is feeding to a stereotype, one that says that two men together must by necessity be rough and tough and only about hard sweaty sex, which isn't the case, of course. Men can be just as romantic as women, it's not gender specific.

I'd rather read about two guys who care about each other for more than their bedroom hijinks. There's a time and a place for everything, after all, and sweetness is never out of style.
dontkickmycane
Jan. 22nd, 2011 03:27 pm (UTC)
Exactly my thinking, darklove. The fact that a guy wants to shower the persone he loves with care is just as true whether the person is a woman or another man.
tracyrae
Jan. 22nd, 2011 03:21 pm (UTC)
I think m/m absolutely can be sweet and I like it that way at times. Men can be terribly romantic. I think that the story just has to fit the characters - Don't try to sell me that Man A can be a sweet romantic man when he's been an ass for the entire story. :)
dontkickmycane
Jan. 22nd, 2011 03:31 pm (UTC)
Tracy, you're right about that. There's no denying that some men just aren't sweet. Some women just aren't emotional, too. Now, if you try and sell me a story where man A, the Ass, discovers and struggles with his sweet, romantic side when he meet Man B, that, I might biy. :) But you gotta do the work and prove to me he's got it in him. I like to believe all people have that capacity for tenderness when they meet the person who touches that 'special place' in them :D
tracyrae
Jan. 22nd, 2011 03:34 pm (UTC)
I will definitely buy the inner struggle - as long as it's shown that there CAN BE that softer side to the Ass. :)

Great post.
egret17
Jan. 22nd, 2011 04:59 pm (UTC)
Yes! I think the stories in which that struggle is conveyed convincingly are some of the very best.
dontkickmycane
Jan. 22nd, 2011 09:50 pm (UTC)
Well, to me, that's what story telling is all about: growth. Mr. Ass can start out an ass, but if he grows a spine and a heart as well, that's where the story is. But the seeds must be there to begin with, for sure.
stevie_carroll
Jan. 22nd, 2011 04:44 pm (UTC)
I think any combination of people can be sweet or not, so long as it fits with how the characters are portrayed. That can change in the course of the story too as the characters and their surroundings/situation rub off on each other.
dontkickmycane
Jan. 22nd, 2011 09:52 pm (UTC)
Yes, exactly. As they get to know each other. Isn't that where so much of the juicy conflict comes in? When the unlikeable guy starts to reveal why he's unlikeable and the his love interest begins to uncover the core of him and decide if he's worth the trouble, that's where teh true love story is.
cdn_tam
Jan. 22nd, 2011 07:34 pm (UTC)
I like variety. I do like sweet romantic stories sometimes when it just makes you go all smushy and "awwww" at the end, but not EVERY story otherwise like any trope it becomes blah and boring. But I think there is definitely a place for those stories and even sweet stories without explicit sex have a place. As others have said, if it fits the character then sweet is perfect sometimes.
dontkickmycane
Jan. 22nd, 2011 09:54 pm (UTC)
I agree, and I've written all across the genre, from first kiss and no sex stories to couple searching for why they fell in love in the first place, who fear sex, however good, is all they have left. I don't think I could tell you which I prefer to write. They just come out how they come out, and I don't often question it.
angelabenedetti
Jan. 22nd, 2011 08:31 pm (UTC)
I've been told by people who know much more than I about these things that m/m romance can't be sweet. Without a healthy dose of Hawt sex, you're left with a less effective story. Hmmm.

Complete and utter bullshit. :/ I mean, good grief, if the whole point of a romance is to show two (or more) people overcoming obstacles to form a stable romantic relationship (and that's the basic definition of genre romance) then no, obviously you don't need to show explicit sex in order to tell that story effectively. Heck, if it were true that you have to have explicit sex, then gay YA romances wouldn't exist.

What I hope whoever told you that actually meant is that the readers expect sex and you can't sell very well if your story doesn't have any. That might well be true, although IMO there's a boatload of self-fulfilling prophecy about that. Everyone knows sex sells, so what's advertised is the sex. Marketing of m/m books heavily emphasize hot, smexy, nuclear-lava level SEX!!! with fireworks and chili peppers, because that's what the readers want. It's gotten to the point where any non-sexually oriented marketing idea you share with your publisher is likely to be misunderstood in the direction of how it relates to pushing the sex in your books, and yeah, I have experience with that one. :/

But what that means is that any potential reader who wanders by to see what we're about is very likely to run into promo and marketing material emphasizing the hot, thrusting, spurting SEX!! (cue the fireworks and chili peppers) and if that's not what they're into, they're likely to shrug and wander away. So the sexsexsex!! promo is filtering the audience in favor of people who are into sexsexsex!! books.

Mainstream het romance has a small but fierce subset of readers who prefer sweet romances and will get snarly at anyone who suggests that all romances should be hot and sexy. I have a hard time believing that there isn't a similar group of m/m fans -- or people who'd be m/m fans if they ever tried it -- who'd be similarly attracted to sweet romances over sexy ones. Unless they have a friend who's already very well read, though, who can point them to the few sweet m/m romances out there (and most of the ones I'm aware of are YA) then these potential readers are likely to take a look at our advertising and decide there's nothing here for them. And for the most part, they're right.

It has nothing to do with the required elements of an effective story. It's a marketing issue, bottom line.

I don't know that I write as sweet as all that, but I do dose my guys pretty liberally with a tender side and as far as I'm concerned, they come by it honestly.

If I'm getting what you're saying here, I think this is a completely different issue. We can write guys being tender and romantic while still showing every detail of their sexual activities. And we could write a romance that's "sweet" in the sense of not having any sex in it but where the characters go around grunting and farting and acting like stereotypical D00dz.

And yes, guys can definitely be tender and romantic. :) I think there's been enough of a problem out on the fringes of m/m with the Chicks With Dicks thing that there's a considerable backlash about how guys "really" are, which is claimed to be all about the aforementioned grunting and farting, along with burping and watching lots of sports on TV. My husband doesn't do any of that stuff (well, all right, I'm sure he burps and farts [cough] but he doesn't do it when other people are around) and he's a sweet, romantic guy, and not at all into sports. My brother doesn't burp or fart in company either, and while he'll watch a football game if it's on, he's not really a fan. I think the backlash is going way too far in the other direction, especially when someone (even a guy) is claiming that this is how All Guys Are. That's ridiculous, just as bad as claiming that all women are into cute shoes and manicures and pink cocktails, and pitch a fit if they see a speck of dust in their house. Ridiculous, no? [sigh]

Hopefully the back-and-forthing will die down soon and we can be left alone to write our characters as individuals. [grin/crossed fingers]

Angie
dontkickmycane
Jan. 22nd, 2011 10:14 pm (UTC)
Hi, Angie :) You have a few thoughts on the subject, I see :)

I absolutely agree with you on the marketing aspect of sex in the m/m genre. I have released a few m/m titles with no sex, just love stories about rediscovering lost love, or learning to love when life seems to have ground the desire for real connections out of you. If I studied the sales numbers, I would probably come up on the side of agreeing that they haven't sold as well as the stories with sex. But then, there are so many other factors to consider like whether I felt like promoting them on the right days in the right places and what publisher they're with, blah, blah, I'm sure you get the point. Some publishers would never have published them in the first place. Kudos to those that do, and did. (And as I think about this, I will argue that my best selling short story to date has no explicit sex. Is that the publisher, the timing in my career, the full moon? Who knows...)

I think the backlash is going way too far in the other direction, especially when someone (even a guy) is claiming that this is how All Guys Are.

You understand. :) I've read some very, very sweet romances that include the sex, but are about the romance, and softer side of what love does to a guy. (Yes, they get all mushy inside, whether they all admit it or not) I think the only way the pendulum is going to slow it's swing is for writers to take a good look around at the men in their lives and see beyond the surface. Maybe they didn't go out and shovel the snow drift at the end of the drive because it was the 'man's job', but because they knew you needed to get out in time for work and wanted you not to have to worry about it. Because they love you. :) You know, stuff like that. Sweet romance comes when the reasons behind the actions are explored, I think, whether we're talking about roses on your birthday, a shovelled drive or hot, sweaty, pumpin' sex.
angelabenedetti
Jan. 22nd, 2011 10:35 pm (UTC)
I have pretty strong opinions on anything that tries to limit what I can write or how I can write it. [wry smile]

One of the things I like about Torquere is that their heat level ratings go all the way down to Bell Pepper. :) There aren't all that many books with that rating, which means no graphic sex, but they do have some. Heck, even Sean Michael, the king of the sexfest, has a bell pepper rated book out.

There are other publishers with better sales records, but my understanding is that most of them explicitly identify as erotic romance houses, and they require a certain (fairly high) minimum for number and frequency of sex scenes. I've heard from multiple writers that this or that publisher liked their book but wanted them to add sex, as much as every other chapter. O_O I couldn't do that, period, and Torquere will never ask it. To me, that freedom to include sex only when I want to, when I think the story requires it, is worth the smaller royalty checks.

I've read some very, very sweet romances that include the sex

Okay, that's where I was misunderstanding you. On the mainstream side of the genre, a "sweet romance" says nothing about the personalities of the main characters, but rather specifically means a romance with no on-stage sex.

And I like romances about sweet guys too. :D I can get into a John Preston when I'm in the mood, but I like guys who can be more tender or emotional or romantic, too.

Angie
dontkickmycane
Jan. 22nd, 2011 11:07 pm (UTC)
I've written to both extremes myself, for publishers who require it, and have asked me to add it, and for publishers who's only requirement is a good story. For me, being flexible in what I am or am not willing to change about my stories has always been a benefit, though I am careful where I send the stories I don't think I can change too much. It all comes with experience and being open to all the possibilities, I think.
angelabenedetti
Jan. 22nd, 2011 11:13 pm (UTC)
I'm sure it's a personal failing, but I can't add sex that doesn't pull its weight in the story. :P I don't even enjoy reading pointless sex -- I skim until the actual story starts up again -- and someone would have to pay me a LOT more than we make in this business to get me to write it. :)

If you want to write lots and lots of sex, or if the story itself requires it (as true erotica generally will), then cool. There's certainly a huge market for very sexy books, and there's nothing wrong with them, even if they're not something I care for personally. But for me, to just be told to add some arbitrary number of sex scenes? Nope, not even close to being worth the aggravation.

Angie
dontkickmycane
Jan. 23rd, 2011 02:14 am (UTC)
I can't imagine adding arbitrary sex, either. I've never met an editor who wants me to put pointless anything in a story, and if I did, I would certainly make my arguments against it. (And I have done just that when asked to add a masturbation scene where a character wouldn't realistically be thinking about sex at all). That said, there can be leeway in a story or a character's development to turn things in a different direction. Like I said, being open to possibilities is part of my writing experience. Even when I can't change an existing story, sometimes, the thought process sparks an idea for another.

I certainly don't think it's any sort failing at all, personal or otherwise. Everyone has their own process and style that works for them.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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