Hughes - Night

On All the Better Part of Me as a coming-out book

All the Better Part of Me is a coming-out story, a story where a lot of the focus is on sexuality and identity. But it’s probably the only one of that category I’ll ever write.

I have written and will continue writing characters who happen to BE queer (along with straight ones), where the story’s focus is on other things, but it’s true that a focus on LGBTQ issues feels like “not my story to tell.”

Some have told me so. Usually straight liberal friends concerned about appropriation or “getting it wrong”—never my actual LGBTQ beta-readers and friends, who have been enthused and encouraging, while also helping fix my awkward wording in stories dealing with these topics.

I was moved to write a story about coming out and having homophobic parents because of the many, many true stories I keep hearing from LGBTQ folks still being needlessly damaged by the attitudes of others, even in our “tolerant” era, even in “blue states.” 

I wrote ATBPOM to say “I see you and I love you and support you” to them, and, sure, maybe to hope I might change a few homophobic minds if they’re open to changing (ha, well, I can dream). But having written it, there, I step back and leave the issue-book field.

I’ll move on to the cheerier scenario: LGBTQ characters getting to have cool adventures alongside the straight cis characters without sexuality or gender identity being an issue. The way things should be; the status quo we can aspire to. 

It’s daunting as a cis-het white person to write diversity, even when we long to for the sake of fairness and variety and having more interesting stories, even when we get lots of sensitivity readers for it, even when we get a green light from them. We’re going to make someone mad on book-Twitter regardless.

But I know perfectly well it’s scarier to BE any of those minorities. I want it to become un-scary. I want that shining future. I hope well-written diverse books, no matter who writes them, can help open mindsets so we can get there. 

(…Because believe me, if I only wrote characters who matched my own identity—middle-aged white happily-married-to-a-guy stay-at-home writer/mom in Seattle—you’d rightfully gag and then die of boredom.)

Froud - bad faeries

Madame d'Aulnoy and contes des fées

When it comes to historically significant fairy tale writers, you've heard of the brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and maybe even Charles Perrault, but have you heard of Marie-Catherine d'Aulnoy? Writing at the same time as Perrault, she composed and adapted traditional fairy tales, retelling them in literary style to publish and share at salon gatherings. She was in fact the one credited with popularizing the term "fairy tales": "contes des fées."

She was forced into an unhappy marriage at age fifteen, tried to get revenge a few years later by conspiring to have her husband imprisoned, and, when that failed, was forced to flee France for many years, although according to Wikipedia she MAY have worked as a spy for France while living abroad.

Upon returning, she charmed her way back into good social standing with her romantic contes des fées, "where love and happiness came to heroines after surmounting great obstacles." And she ought to know about those things.

Raising my cup of coffee to you today, Madame.

Froud - bad faeries

The Four Tendencies: which one fits your character?

In her books about happiness and habits, writer Gretchen Rubin describes the Four Tendencies, the personality framework she created. I realized in studying them that these tendencies are not only a fabulous way to learn about ourselves and our friends, but to flesh out our fictional characters too. 

Brief description of the Four Tendencies:

Upholders are people who respond readily to both outer and inner expectations; that is, expectations from others as well as expectations they set for themselves.

Questioners are people who meet inner expectations, but question outer expectations; they’ll meet others’ expectations only if they think they make sense.

Obligers are people who meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves.

Rebels are people who resist all expectations, outer and inner alike, but can do nearly anything they truly want to.

Since this framework deals with people’s response to goals, it’s related closely to motivation—which, as every fiction writer knows, is crucial in understanding characters. What are we advised to decide right away for every main character in every scene? Their goal, their motivation. Thus knowing your character’s Tendency will help you know how well they will perform under various challenges.

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Harry Potter and the Flux Capacitor

I finally read The Cursed Child. Thoughts:

1) Wow, people weren’t kidding about Albus/Scorpius being practically a canon couple. I’m going, “sweet! we finally get an on-page HP gay relationship?” …haha. No. Of course not. Truly Johnlock levels of Suspiciously Close Friendship. It’s like Rowling wanted people to write All the Fanfic but didn’t want to actually go so far as to include the gayness in canon.

2) I do not see Cedric Diggory turning Death Eater because of losing the tournament. Hufflepuffs roll with humiliation, plus EVERYONE at Hogwarts gets embarrassing spells put on them, like, daily.

3) I know wizards aren’t that into Muggle stuff, but honestly, they haven’t heard of DNA tests to put this “Voldemort’s your dad” rumor to rest?

4) If you are going to bring Time-Turners back into it, and you feel you must save someone, YOU CHOOSE FRED.

5) Scorpius is darling. Seriously. He makes this whole Harry Potter and the Flux Capacitor episode worth it.

6) I feel so much better about my own plot flaws now.

Froud - bad faeries

Best male/male romances read in 2018

(a.k.a. "If this doesn't get my LiveJournal deleted by the Russians, I don't know what will!")

Looking over my Goodreads list from 2018, I realize I have read a lot of male/male romance. So I figured I’d better make you a list of all the good stuff. 

I’ll only include the smaller-press or indie titles, because, like, yes, I did read The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, and they were great, but everyone already knows about those and they don’t need a plug from me. So here are others!

On the short side, a few novellas:

Defensive Play by Jamie Deacon: A closeted English football (soccer) player reconsiders that closet when he runs into a cute out player on the opposing team. 

Return to Sender by Roberta Blablanski: A pair of men who last saw each other as teens and had love letters go astray reconnect at last.

Peter Darling by Austin Chant: A Peter Pan/Captain Hook pairing, retold in a way that actually might work better for me than the original, by taking some of the disturbing creepiness out of Neverland and replacing it with lovely sweetness. Fantastical and awesome.

Cinnamon Eyes by Nell Iris: Childhood friends reunite to find there’s something more now, with a lovely music-story backdrop.

And the full-length novels:

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sleazy fandom

An old sonnet and a new title

I've had a busy November, but delightfully so: I've begun revisions on the guy/guy modern romance featuring a character named Sinter, whom some of you may remember from earlier versions and other posts of mine. 

This book was formerly titled different things over the years through its various revisions: Dramatically Inclined, Boy in Eyeliner, 32 and Raining... And in discussion with my wonderful editor Michelle at Central Avenue Publishing, we came up with yet a new title for it this time around: All the Better Part of Me

This quote comes from Shakespeare's sonnet 39, which begins:

O, how thy worth with manners may I sing,
When thou art all the better part of me? 

It's a love poem, which is apt; and it's one of the many, many sonnets thought to be dedicated to the mysterious Fair Youth (or Young Man), which is also apt. (You can read here, among other places, about the speculation behind Shakespeare's romantic life and the people he wrote the sonnets for.) And of course, my novel's main character, Sinter, is an actor, and lots of Shakespeare references were already in the story, so the apt-ness just keeps on coming.

We'll be doing edits and cover art and other prep work for a while here, but one thing you can do if you're on Goodreads is put the book on your to-read shelf there, as it now has a listing. Here is its back-cover synopsis:


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Buxom Angel of Freedom

(no subject)

I had a quasi-conservative phase a long time back. It was as you’d expect: I watched Fox, read National Review, listened to friends who were avid conservatives, parroted their points of view online to other people, picked the most extreme liberal articles I could find and held them up as examples of how crazy liberals were and how they had no sense of perspective or humor.

As should be obvious if you’ve listened to me lately, I gradually got over this phase and am nowhere near it now. But it did take years. And what I want to do today is thank the many people I knew who, despite being liberals throughout, stayed friends with me during that phase. Even while I was repeating arguments I am now ashamed of, they disagreed, but they didn’t give up on me. They somehow kept seeing something in me that was worth being friends with, even at my most obnoxious. These people are awesome for this. I haven’t forgotten.

I’m thinking of them now especially, because I see other friends or family trying on a similar phase, or perhaps not a phase at all; they’ve always been conservative. It’s just that being conservative or liberal in the modern day feels more than ever like taking sides in a deadly war. It’s important to remember that it doesn’t actually have to be that way.

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London Underground

I finally went back to Britain!!

Hello all,

I have been not getting a lot of work done lately, since our household was on vacation for two weeks in England and Wales! I had not been there since 2004 and it was fabulous to be back, despite the heat wave. (Luckily a "heat wave" in Britain only means temperatures around 85 F/ 29 C. Still, I would have preferred a bit of iconic British rain or mist.) 

If you're the kind of person who enjoys trip photos, I spammed Instagram with mine:

At this point you'll have to scroll down a little to get to the Britain ones, but I'm sure you'll be able to find them. For those unfamiliar with Instagram: you then click on each one to bring up the post, and click on the arrows on the photo itself (not on the edges of the window) to see the other photos in that post.

Nonetheless, writing work does progress: 

The audiobook for Summer Term is in production and should be ready in a few weeks. 

I should also be having more editorial discussions about Dramatically Inclined in the fall, and will keep you informed on news there too. Part of that story takes place in London, which made me especially happy to see that city again in person!

And I'm deep into the writing of my next book, which involves fae and royals and a fictional country and a male/male love story, and I'm quite taken with it at the moment.

For now, feel free to retaliate with your own vacation photos--after all, I need ideas for where to go in future years.
Take care and enjoy the summer!


Mean girl karma payback story

This morning on the wonderful KEXP, the equally wonderful John Richards was talking about the nasty effects of bullying and mean kids, and sharing stories listeners had sent in, which made me decide to write up this little anecdote. It’s not as dramatic or harrowing as many a mean-kid story, but it’s ultimately rather satisfying. And maybe it’ll make some other fellow nerd feel better.

So: in middle school, in the late 1980s, I was probably the shortest kid in my class, due to being also the youngest. (I had skipped first grade. I don’t recommend anyone do this to their kid, especially if the kid is already small and shy.) Nonetheless, I had a sweet friend—we’ll call her Sara—with whom I hung out at lunch break. As you know perfectly well, having someone with whom to hang out at lunch break is EVERYTHING. 

In seventh grade, this savvy popular girl, whom we’ll call Jen, befriended Sara, and with her flankers of popular friends, started hanging out with us at lunch too. Cool!

Or maybe not cool. Because one day during lunch break, Jen said to Sara, “We need to talk about…” and made a friendly wince, which somehow I knew was about me. Indeed, she then turned to me and said, all apologetic, that while we were still friends, “they” just didn’t want to hang out with me anymore. Sara, to her credit, was looking unhappy and mumbling, “I don’t want to do this.” 

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Caillebotte - Rainy Day

Guest post: Aaron Schwabach on movies and TV getting the law right (or not)

Inspired by this episode of the Writing Excuses podcast, in which a legal expert discussed what writers get wrong about the law, I recently asked on my e-newsletter: "Those of you with legal know-how: what bugs you that fiction (books, TV, etc.) keeps getting wrong when it comes to law? Or do you let it all slide in the name of entertainment?"

My longtime online friend Aaron Schwabach, who is not only an exuberant fanboy of many of the same things I love, but also a law professor, gave such a wonderfully detailed and entertaining answer that I asked him if I could run it as a guest post. He agreed, so here it is, for the edification of all us writers, or just for anyone who's curious. Thank you, Aaron!

Law in fiction: I tend to overlook most of it for the sake of storytelling, especially in a movie where time is limited.  The same is true for police work, medicine, espionage, or most other “exciting” professions.  Most cops never shoot anyone or get shot by anyone; doctors don’t discover cures for previously unknown diseases and halt epidemics within 48 hours; real life work at the CIA involves hours, days, and months of sitting in a cubicle looking at documents and photographs.  All of those make for a boring story, as would watching a real life lawyer practice law most of the time.  

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