on m/m romance, baking, knitting, and occasional smut

Man On (Black Jack Gentlemen #1) by Liz Crowe

Man OnTitle: Man On (Black Jack Gentlemen #1)
Author: Liz Crowe
Publisher: Tri Destiny Publishing
Length: 131 pages
Genre: m/m Contemporary Erotica
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 4 – Very Often
Keywords/Tags: As the tags are very spoilerish, I don’t want to put them here but if you really want to see them, check them out at the bottom of this post but beware! They contain spoilers!
Rating: Not Feelin’ It

Reviewed by Nikyta

*****This review contains major spoilers to the contents of this book*****


Bad boy of European football, Nicolas Garza is about to hit American shores with a vengeance. Signed by the Detroit Black Jack Gentlemen as lynch pin for their expansion club, Nicco only half believes he’s making the right move. But with a past full of ghosts and rotten behavior chasing him from his homeland, he has no real choice.

Parker Rollings is a college soccer superstar, but his parents’ plans for their only son do not include professional athletics. When the Black Jacks approach him to finalize their roster, Parker leaps at the chance to keep playing, leaving behind medical school, stability and his first and only college sweetheart.

Nicco and Parker face off as bitter rivals for a coveted starting spot at midfield and are forced to channel their negative energy into something positive for the sake of the group—and themselves.

All eyes are on the fledgling team in its debut season. It’s crucial that the Black Jacks prove all the doubters wrong. They must make a good showing in the league and with new fans. But player drama, club dynamics, and misplaced priorities may tear it apart before it even begins.


The first thing I want to say is if you’re coming into this book thinking it would be a real sports story, you won’t get what you expect in this one because it follows Nicco through his journey to finding love in Parker but doesn’t contain many scenes regarding the actual sport.

I liked Parker because he was so innocent, naive and vulnerable. He comes from money but he’s not an obnoxious spoiled brat. He’s very sweet, dedicated to soccer and just wants a simple life where he can be himself. I adored the fact that he blushed so much at the littlest provocative comment. I found it so cute. Nicco is a different story. I won’t lie, I didn’t like him at all. He’s arrogant, stubborn and doesn’t give a crap about anyone else but himself. He does what he wants to and won’t care if someone objects to it. His reaction to Parker is instantaneous and intense. The lust he feels for Parker consumes him to the point he can’t stop thinking about Parker. However, Nicco is a sex addict and he’ll take that lust out on anyone.

The biggest issue I had with this story is that the blurb is very misleading. Coming into this book, I was expecting some intense sexual tension of enemies with a lot of sports related scenes, showing the rivalry between Nicco and Parker, the aggression and face offs for the same spot and ultimately the soccer season that they play together in. Unfortunately, that is not what this book is about and you don’t actually see any of those scenes but are told about them in just a few short paragraphs throughout the story.

To be honest, I didn’t like a majority of it because it is so focused on showing Nicco’s sex addiction (which is not mentioned in the blurb and considering it is SUCH a huge part of the book, I have to wonder why). I struggled to get through at least the first half of the story because Nicco would do anything that had two legs, even indulging in threesomes and orgies with women and men. I will say that while Nicco does have a lot of sex, thankfully most of it (especially with the women) were either glossed over or fade to black. Even with that, however, the constant talking about his conquests and how many he did last night, the orgies he partook in, the soft flesh of so and so grew extremely aggravating and annoying. I kept asking myself, “Why is this in here? Shouldn’t we be focusing on more of Parker and Nicco?”

A lot of the book revolves around that aspect of Nicco and I can’t say that it endeared me to him. It made my opinion that he was selfish and couldn’t understand the concept of monogamy nor be able to uphold it even more intense. It also made me think that even if he did get into a relationship with Parker, that he wouldn’t be able to keep it in his pants long enough to not break Parker’s heart. Regardless, the physical showing of Nicco’s clubbing and conquests took away from the actual Parker/Nicco story, IMO. By the end of the story, we are told and somewhat see the love and supposed devotion (as I said, it’s hard for me to believe Nicco won’t cheat eventually) but we didn’t see the lead up to this love and devotion. Out of the whole story, Parker and Nicco only spend maybe a third of it actually together that we see. The rest is either told to us (such as the time they spend on the field, their teamwork together and this long vacation they took) or of Nicco and Parker getting some action from other individuals.

Personally, that is not something I’m fond of. I like to SEE the development between characters but this book didn’t have any of that until the very end and I found that disappointing. I wanted to like this book but it started off really bad for me because I don’t appreciate seeing to this extent how much of a whore a character is. I want to see the connection between the main characters not between ONE main character and other people. We aren’t shown the connection between Nicco and Parker until very far into the book and at that point, many months have already past between them, none of them where we see them together and this happens more than once where weeks or months pass without us seeing any of what I believe were crucial moments to these characters relationship. More than anything, I really wished we had seen them play together on the field, during practice, at a game, anything to show that not all these boys have is lust because the emotions of love they share, I didn’t see and couldn’t FEEL.

In the end, I will freely admit this isn’t the type of story I like. I prefer to have stories that focus on the emotions that characters share and seeing them NOT on the physical releases of the flesh. Readers that enjoy books that have layers of sex and decadence will enjoy this but if you’re looking for a story about sports and love, this won’t exactly fit the bill. I will say that while I didn’t enjoy the story as a whole, there were pieces that I adored but those happened at the very end and by then, not enough was focused on that to lift my overall opinion. Still, I encourage readers to make up your own mind about this one because I know others will enjoy it much more than I did.

One last thing I want to say is that this book seems to be somewhat of a spin-off of another m/f series by this author. I say this because a few times it was hinted that we should already know a side character’s background and having looked up the author after reading this book, I can say that some of the secondary characters have books of their own in other works by this author.

“Let’s Talk Music…” a few questions and answers from SE Jakes + Giveaway!


Thanks to The Armchair Reader for hosting me today as I finish up my first official Riptide Books tour for Catch A Ghost, which is book 1 in the Hell or High Water series. Today, I wanted to talk a little bit about music and how it affects my writing process, so I answered some questions below.

1. How do you come up with your book titles? A lot of my book titles for my Riptide series come from song titles. The lyrics play a big part in my choice—it’s typically a song I’m using to write to as I write the book. Music’s always ben a huge part of my process. Sometimes, an entire book can be inspired by a single line of lyric. To me, music is like poetry, and it sets a mood that you can’t really explain. If you play me a song I used to listen to in college, I’ll still get that same feeling I had when I was first listening to it—and I can picture where I was when I first heard it. I’ve had that relationship with music forever. I can still remember the first songs I asked my parents to get me—I used to make them play them loud on the radio. Loud.

2. What music do you write best to? It depends on the book, but it’s never classical music. Usually, it’s a mix of some classic rock with rap, disco and those embarrassing songs you refuse to admit you own thrown in. I try to set the playlist so that it will immediately drag me right back into that book and characters, so I don’t waste a moment of precious writing time. Music is so amazingly visceral that way.

3. Doesn’t music distract you?
I’ve heard that some authors can’t listen to music at all, or can’t listen to music with words because it yanks them out of their story. For me, that doesn’t happen. The entire thing—the song, the words and my thoughts kind of blend together. And I get to lose myself. And that’s the key to good writing, letting yourself get lost in that fictional world. If you’re not exhausted at the end of your writing session (albeit, it can be a good tired) somethings’s wrong. You didn’t dig deep enough.

4. Can we see the songs you write to? Sure! If you look at my website, I’ve got a list of songs I wrote Catch A Ghost to (and trust me, it’s a partial list) but I included some of the lyrics that are most important. I think, once you read the book, you can go back to the lyrics and see why I chose that particular song. And sometimes, I’ll play a song over and over during certain key scenes, so much so that I’ll forever associate that song with that moment. Not a bad thing.

I’m having a contest that will run through the end of this blog tour on my website. In order to be eligible, you just need to leave a comment here! Actually, you can comment on my blog and any other blogs along this tour and you’ll be entered separately for a chance to win with each comment.

So just tell me in the comments—what’s your favorite kind of music to listen to. Or your all-time favorite song—or favorite song of the moment. Please share, because I love discovering new music!

About SE Jakes:

SE Jakes writes m/m romance. She believes in happy endings and fighting for what you want in both fiction and real life. She lives in New York with her family and most days, she can be found happily writing (in bed). No really…

You can contact her the following ways:

You can email her at authorsejakes@gmail.com

You can post to her Facebook page: Facebook.com/SEJakes

You can Tweet her: Twitter.com/authorsejakes

You can post on her Goodreads Group: Ask SE Jakes

You can follow her Tumblr page: sejakes.tumblr.com

Truth be told, the best way to contact her is by email or in blog comments. She spends most of her time writing but she loves to hear from readers!

About Catch A Ghost:

20130913-070757.jpgThe past can only hold you hostage if you let it…

Everyone knows that Prophet—former Navy SEAL, former CIA spook, full-time pain in the ass—works alone and thinks only about the trouble he can cause. But his boss, Phil Butler of Extreme Escapes, LTD., has just assigned Proph not only a new partner but also a case haunted by ghosts from Proph’s past. Suddenly, he’s got to confront them both head on.

Tom Boudreaux—failed FBI agent, failed sheriff, full time believer in bad luck—is wondering why the head of a private contracting firm has hunted him down to offer him a job. Still he’s determined to succeed this time, despite being partnered with Prophet, EE, LTD’s most successful, lethal, and annoying operative, and even though the case is also resurrecting his own painful past.

Together, Prophet and Tom must find a way to take down killers in the dangerous world of underground cage matches, while fighting their own dangerous attraction. And when they find themselves caught in the crossfire, these two loners are forced to trust each other and work together to escape their ghosts . . . or pay the price.

You can read and excerpt and purchase at Riptide books! Book 2 in the series, Long Time Gone, is also up for preorder from Riptide here.

“Grimm and Grimmer” — Leona Carver visits to introduce her book “Piper” + Giveaway!

Of all the fairy tales available, few are as unromantic as The Pied Piper of Hamelin, with its plague of rats, avaricious mayor, and the death or disappearance of the town’s children by a potentially paedophilic piper dressed in an outlandish costume and out for revenge. But wait! It’s do-able … so long as we toss in space travel, mutant space rats, and a shadowy League with the power to save or destroy the pearls of humanity strung about the galaxy.

That is the backdrop for Piper, a space age version of the Pied Piper with the added bonus of a May/September MM romance. My name is Leona, this is the first stop on Piper’s blog tour, and I am trembling in my armchair just to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Piper’s plot and many of the details are based on the versions of the fairy tale by the Brother’s Grimm and Robert Browning, wherein a struggling community hires a piper to rescue them from a rat blight and then sends him away without paying him. The piper then teaches them an important lesson about commerce: If they do not want to pay him, he will extract his due another way.


There are a few minor differences. Instead of a town, Piper has a space station. Instead of a mayor, a Station Commander. The piper, Atmosphere, is not a lone traveller, but part of a League. This League is responsible for protecting humankind from the ever-present threat of rats that have adapted to thrive in the hostile environments of space ships and stations. On the side, the pipers put on glam rock concerts and support a thriving community of fan clubs. Where the fairy tale does not even attempt to explain how music entrances the rats and children, Piper explains the method at great length, delving into the ramifications of a technology that can control minds.

Most importantly, where the Pied Piper of Hamelin mentions nothing of love, Piper revolves around the relationship between Atmosphere and Jacob Tucker, son of the Commander and a rewritten version of the “one little lame boy” who survives the wrath of the piper for no other reason than that he cannot dance to the tune.

So, why write a fairy tale romance? I adore fairy tales. The grimmer, the better. There’s always someone dying or meeting a terrible fate because they did something stupid. It’s delicious and so very different from modern fantasy.

I chose the Pied Piper first and foremost because it seemed like a terrible idea for a romance. Where would you even put it in? Of all the tales out there, I think it’s the most gruesome based on body count alone. Terry Pratchett does a fantastic job in The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, with a cute relationship between a boy piper and a town girl. I wanted something directly related to the tale, though, with a character who is specifically mentioned in the original. That left me with the mayor, his advisors, or a young person with a mobility disability. Enter the May/September and a whole slough of other issues that could be addressed within the narrative.


Too soon, Atmosphere finished one tale and didn’t immediately launch into another. He performed his usual check on Starlight, who had turned onto her other side and curled into a tight ball, then said, “I’m getting carried away. My apologies, Jacob.”

“It’s all right.” Jake slouched, anticipating his impending dismissal. “I enjoy listening to you.”

“And I enjoy talking, but I’m sure you came up here to do more than listen.”

“I …” Jake’s initial purpose seemed so far away, but, as Atmosphere brought the interview back on course, he realized it might have been his only chance to ask. He rummaged in the chaos that Atmosphere had made of his mind for the exact wording he had settled on earlier: an innocuous start that would hopefully lead to a well-balanced and convincing argument. “I’m doing some research and I need your help.”

“Let me guess. Research on pipers? No. Research on me. And you want to experiment.” Atmosphere’s perfect white teeth flashed. In a smooth movement, he closed the space between them. “I’ve never been happier to partake of science.”

Another reason for the choice was the challenge of making the piper a sympathetic character. Granted, he was taken advantage of in the tale, but who murders children just because people don’t make their payments? Crazy people, that’s who. Well then, Atmosphere would need to be a little bit unstable, too, which would be accompanied by another bushel of issues.

After some thought and extrapolation, Piper almost wrote itself while I tried to fill in the gaps to explain what happened and why, and put it into the framework of a romantic narrative. I tried to stay true to the details in the original tale, with some exceptions here and there, and I am excited to know how I did. I’ll be giving away a copy of Piper, either electronic or print format, at the end of this blog tour. Every comment on this and the other four posts will be another entry into the draw. I will write them onto little pieces of paper and put them into a legitimate top hat, pull one out on September 15, and email the winner.

Come and join me for stop number two at It’s Raining Men [link: http://rainingmenamen.blogspot.ca%5D, where I will regale you with my thoughts on writing a character with a mobility disability opposite a character with inhuman power and very human frailties.

Junk or Treasure? The things people hoard, by Josephine Myles

Junk Blog Tour Banner

When the idea first struck me to write a romance with a hoarder as the central character, I almost sent it packing. It sounded like a unique hook as I’d never heard of another romance featuring a hoarder as a love interest, but then again, there was probably a good reason for that. After all, isn’t hoarding disgusting? Who would want to read about someone who’d filled their house with random stuff to the point where it had become a health and safety hazard? It ain’t romantic or sexy, that’s for sure.

However, as I have a terminally rebellious urge it was this inadvisability that really attracted me. I’d managed to write a successful erotic romance with a hero who was on dialysis (Ben in Handle with Care), and another with a dole scrounger (Cosmo in Screwing the System). For some reason I’m pulled towards unconventional but ordinary folk, complete with all their myriad physical and mental health issues, along with some juicy character flaws. Perhaps this is because these are the people I know in real life, and I’m resistant to the idea that only dedicated cops, billionaires and ripped firefighters deserve a happy ending 😉

garden junkOnce I’d decided I was going to welcome the hoarder plot bunny with open arms, I had more difficult decisions to make. What could my hero hoard that wouldn’t revolt readers? I’m utterly fascinated by hoarding television shows where they investigate people’s homes–particularly when there’s a proper therapist working with the hoarders to effect a transformation. That said, it’s one thing to watch it on television where only the visual element is involved, but to write it I’d have to call on all the senses. I decided I needed to investigate further, and delved into a wonderful book called “Stuff, Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things” to find out more about the different types of things people collect, and why.

Antisocial hoards:

Animals – Just when does a mad cat lady turn into an animal hoarder? The answer seems to be when the number of animals exceeds the owner’s ability to care for them, resulting in ill health and a house full of excrement. Animal hoarders are a distinct group of hoarders and according to the authors of Stuff (two experts in hoarding disorder), they are the most problematic to work with. While it’s obvious to outsiders that conditions are utterly insanitary and the animals need rescuing, their owners often believe that they are the ones saving the animals from a life on the streets or being put down.

rotten bananasFood – People who hoard perishable food are perhaps the next most antisocial group. They are usually located by their neighbours reporting roaches and rats, and this type of hoarding is likely to result in forced clear-outs by an environmental health team–something the hoarders find extremely traumatic.

Bodily waste – this is a really unusual one and definitely a sign of a severe mental health problem. There are people out there who consider everything that was once a part of them–toenail clippings, hair, feces, etc–to be in some way imbued with a magical property, and they cannot bear to let it go for fear that harm will befall them.

I knew Jasper, my hoarder hero, couldn’t collect anything too revolting or have mental health problems that were too severe, so fortunately all of these were out of the question.

Less antisocial hoarding:

pile of bikesWhen the objects hoarded are things like clothes, toys, furniture and books a hoard is far less antisocial. Yes, it can still be a health hazard for the person who lives in the house–at risk of having their possessions bury them alive–but it’s unlikely to annoy the neighbours unless it spills out into the garden, or the exterior state of the house lowers the value of their own.

I knew Jasper would have to collect something, but I liked the idea of it being a themed collection more than a random mix of objects–which becomes the stuff of nightmares when it’s piled up everywhere. At first Jasper was going to collect old electronics, but then I took a look at my dad and realised what it had to be: books. It was the perfect hoard for readers to be able to relate to. After all, aren’t most of us bookworms just a step or two away from becoming book hoarders ourselves?

That’s why I wrote the dedication for all of you:

For everybody who’s ever bought a book they know they’ll probably never get around to reading

I just hope Junk isn’t one of the ones you buy and don’t read!

Readers, have you ever bought a book you know you’ll never read, and why?

Prize giveaway: In addition to the grand prize of a sexy book tote (entry details on Jo’s website) there will be a $5 ebook gift voucher awarded to one commenter from every post during the tour, up to Monday 9th September, 9am GMT (full details also on Jo’s website, including the blog tour itinerary)

Junk coverJunk

Letting go is the first step to healing…or bringing it all crashing down.

When an avalanche of books cuts off access to his living room, university librarian Jasper Richardson can no longer ignore the truth. His ever-growing piles of books, magazines and newspapers can no longer be classified as a “collection”. It’s a hoard, and he needs professional help.

Professional clutter clearer and counselor Lewis Miller thinks he’s seen it all, but even he has to admit he’s shocked. Not so much by the state of Jasper’s house, but by the level of attraction he still feels for the sexy bookworm he remembers from school.

What a shame that Lewis’s ethical code forbids relationships with clients. As Jasper makes slow but steady progress, though, the magnetic pull between them is so strong even Lewis is having trouble convincing himself it’s a temporary emotional attachment arising from the therapeutic process.

Jasper longs to prove to Lewis that this is the real deal. But first he’ll have to lay bare the root of his hoarding problem…and reveal the dark secret hidden behind his walls of books.

Warning: Contains a level-headed counselor with a secret addiction, a bespectacled geek with a sweet tooth, a killer “to-be-read” pile, embarrassing parents, a van called Alice, and deliciously British slang.

Junk is out now, available from the following retailers:

Kindle US | Kindle UK | Nook | Samhain

About the author:

English through and through, Josephine Myles is addicted to tea and busy cultivating a reputation for eccentricity. She writes gay erotica and romance, but finds the erotica keeps cuddling up to the romance, and the romance keeps corrupting the erotica. Jo blames her rebellious muse but he never listens to her anyway, no matter how much she threatens him with a big stick. She’s beginning to suspect he enjoys it.

For more information about Jo’s published stories, regular blog posts and saucy free reads, visit JosephineMyles.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/josephine.myles.authorpage
Twitter: http://twitter.com/JosephineMyles
Newsletter signup: http://eepurl.com/hrQ4s

Photo credits: Garden junk by msmediadesign, bananas by dhester, bikes by xpistwv, all from morguefile.com

Welcome to Marguerite Labbe who is here to talk about her new book Make Me Whole!

Hello everybody. The wonderful Cole has allowed me to invade his space this week to talk about my newest release Make Me Whole and to get a little nerdy. Because let’s face it, I love to get nerdy. This week is a celebration for me. All the hard work is done and the book is out, so let’s party on top of being nerdy and have a giveaway too. Because those are just fun. 😀

I have a fascination for old things. I prefer ancient history over modern history. My son is the opposite, he’ll discuss WWII until my eyes are glazing over. I love old stories the most. Beowulf, Gilgamesh, Chaucer and Shakespeare were the books I loved in high school and when I went to college I ended up browsing through half a dozen different majors, Classical Studies, Ancient History, Medieval History, several different English specializations, and then I discovered Art History and I almost went that way too. It wasn’t until I realized I would never graduate that I settled on Comparative Folklore and Mythology because I had the most credits in that.

My poor parents. Lol, probably every choice would’ve led me to where I am now, legal secretary by day and writer every dang spare moment I can.

So when I heard about the call for short stories with a museum setting all of those old loves came together. There had to be a bronze statue, made in the old way with copper for nipples and lips, and the eyes inset with stones for a more lifelike appearance. Though they didn’t have to create it the painstaking hard way with hallow wax casting in parts before putting the sections together in a way that seemed seamless. No, instead my statues came to be from a curse and an angry Goddess of Love, one who did not like having her blessings thrown back at her in a fit of pique and heartbreak. All too soon my short story didn’t stay short, but I had fallen completely in love with both my characters and the little world I’d created within the museum.

I hope you enjoy Make Me Whole as much as I enjoyed writing it.


After a grueling battle in ancient Greece, lovers Dexios and Lykon committed their lives to each other in the name of Goddess Cythera. After the war, fearing the strength of his love for Dexios, Lykon abandoned his vow and returned home. Heartbroken, Dexios called on Cythera, who changed him into four unfinished statues. In that form he would wait for his fickle lover to return, break the curse, and make him whole.

Thousands of years have passed when Galen Kanellis finds the disassembled pieces in the storeroom of a Seattle museum and makes them the focus of his new exhibit. Needing information, he contacts his ex-lover Nick Charisteas. Nick has a lifelong dream of finding the Dexios Collection, and the last thing he expected was for it to wind up in the hands of the man who broke his heart. As both men search for answers about the statues, worries of abandonment and fear of loss test their renewed relationship, threatening to separate them again—this time permanently.

Ebook: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4113

Print: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4141

“The Spec Fic Nerds Strike Back!”, guest column two, in which Carole Cummings & J Tullos Hennig discuss the Multiple POV trope, Unreliable Narrators, & Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung

The Spec Fic Nerds Strike Back!

Two old Speculative Fiction Nerds met in a bar…
No. Really. We met in a bar and realised we had one major thing in common: words. Preferably wrapped about fantastic worlds like some insane crazy quilt.

JTH: Well, I must say, my introduction to the world of m/m romance (and we will talk about that ‘slash’ very soon, we will, preciousss) is really making me realise how many things I have always taken for granted, not only as a writer but a reader. Witness this recent phone conversation with my dear comrade-in-crime, Carole:

CC: …and so they wanted to know why I kept telling the story from the PoV of the other characters.

JTH: *drops mop and stares at phone* WTF?

CC: Yeah. That I squandered too many words and pages on those ‘useless other people’.

JTH: *looking at mop on wet floor, trying not to drop phone* W…TF??

CC: That I should only be telling the story from the two main characters.

JTH: *Ginormous Air Quotes of* W… T… F……?????

CC: Because, obviously, the only ones who count are the two guys doing it.

JTH: *snatches up mop* Bloody hell. Like two shagging protagonists would be reliable narrators?

CC: And then they’re griping because they didn’t understand the book.

JTH: Well, maybe if they HAD PAID ATTENTION TO THE OTHER CHARACTERS they would have done!

(And yes, we do talk on the phone whilst doing housework. Otherwise MY house would never get clean… though Carole’s would, she’s better than me at that stuff.)

CC: You wanted to say ‘more anal’ there. Admit it.

JTH: *whistles and refills CC’s margarita pitcher*

CC: Ah, see, if I’d had this during that phone conversation, maybe I wouldn’t have been quite so bewildered about the OMG WTF MULTIPLE POV AUGH! thing.

…Actually, maybe I wouldn’t have even noticed. 😉

JTH: So. As might be obvious, I was rather astounded that you were getting flak for the audacity of… having more than two points of view. Multiple Point-of-View (PoV) is not only a widely accepted way of telling a story in many genres, but in SF it is one of the trope-iest (and perhaps trippiest) Holy Mothers of SF Tropes.

CC: Well, before we wax rhapsodic about the many advantages of this particular Storytelling tool, let’s define Trope, via the O.E.D.:

–1. Rhetoric. A figure of speech which consists in the use of a word or phrase in a sense other than that which is proper to it; also, in casual use, a figure of speech; figurative language.

Or, to use the more specialised Cambridge definition:

–Something such as an idea, phrase, or image that is often used in a particular artist’s work, in a particular type of art, etc: human-like robots are a classic trope of Science Fiction.

You can also mosey over to the TV Tropes site, but prepare to spend an involuntary and inordinate vastness of time perusing the archives. You Have Been Warned.

We touched on expectations last month, which begins, in truth, upon the Road of Tropes. Each genre has its own set of tropes but there’s a lot of crosspollination too. And there are also some tropes that are common to one genre and almost unheard of in another. Multiple POV is apparently one of those tropes not terribly widespread in the Romance genre, but so universal in the Spec Fic genre that it’s almost expected. So, we should maybe start with why that is and how it can enhance the reading experience of a Spec Fic story.

*fetches JTH a fresh bottle of wine*

JTH: *glomps on it, then scowls* Goddammit, where’s my corkscrew?

CC: *holds up corkscrew, whistling*

JTH: I have to perform for my wine. I see how you are. All right, well… First: no one exists in a bloody vacuum. The most internal head-stuck-up-own-arse character might live in their own world, but unless they’re Robinson Crusoe, they aren’t in a vacuum. In fact, it can be gainfully argued that R. Crusoe isn’t in a vacuum any more than any other character, because what is occupying said castaway’s mind? Survival, natch, but also, getting back home.

Second–and this is extremely important–a secondary or peripheral PoV will usually be a dark glass in which to view the main character. And often a more realistic glass, because usually a main character is that because they are in some sort of mess. Which means they are likely not reliable witnesses at some point.

CC: And in the book referenced in the above telephone conversation, that second reason is exactly why I chose to write the story through multiple points of view. There is such a thing as Unreliable Narrator. And in that particular story, both protagonists were unreliable, both protagonists saw the events of the story through too-personal lenses, and neither protagonist could be relied upon to interpret the truth of the events for the reader, only their own skewed perceptions of them. And while those perceptions may have been entirely honest from the PoVs of those protagonists, it still didn’t make them the truth.

JTH: But it makes them interesting. There can be this amazing subtextual conversation happening around, betwixt and beneath Supposed Truth, if readers pay attention. And if writers are skilled enough to impart it.

CC: A lot of ifs. And a lot of people wondering, I’m sure, why bother? Why tell a story through an Unreliable Narrator in the first place? Why not let one of the protagonists be omniscient and always right, and make it easy for everyone?

JTH: Um… *scrutinizes wine glass* It’s boring? Like an empty glass… *makes sad eyes at CC*

CC: *snorts and tenders a refill* Well, I write what I like to read, and as a reader, I definitely find it much more interesting when the story and the characterizations aren’t spoonfed to me. But more importantly, Unreliable Narrator is just how things work in general when you’re dealing with human beings.

Think about it in terms of real life: Put ten people in a room, make them watch two strangers act out an argument, and see how many different stories you get as to what the argument was about, whose fault it was, what started it, who made the best points and who eventually won it. Know how many different stories you’ll get? I’m betting on ten. Know which one you’re going to believe? Yours. You’ll probably listen to everyone else’s opinions first, you’ll compare it to your memory of events, and you’ll probably even adjust your opinion as a consequence, but in the end, you’ll walk away from it with your truth, and that’s the one you’ll swear to in front a jury of your peers. Or your friends on Facebook. Whatever.

So, why would characters in a story be any different? Every character has (or should have) a different POV and interprets events based on that POV. You can’t know what the real essence of a complex plot is until the pertinent characters show you their POV so you can assess accordingly and decide for yourself what the truth of the story is.

JTH: See, to me that is what takes a trope from tired into brilliant. It’s the experiences being had, and the little connect-the-dots between those experiences that give a full, rich picture. When you’re dealing with well-written Spec Fic and its complexities of other worlds and realities, you need all the info. You will be soooo screwed if you don’t have the full picture.

CC: Yes! There are, of course, disadvantages to the Multiple PoV trope. As a Spec Fic reader/writer, I’ll confess I wasn’t aware that multiPoV is apparently not the done thing in the Romance genre.

JTH: Well now everyone knows how taken aback I was. And quite frankly, it’s not a must in Romance, either. The Thorn Birds, anyone?

CC: Well, that’s an older book, too.

JTH: Classic! Back in the days of novels that took me longer than two hours to read. Those *raises glass* were the days, eh? But now… it’s not done?

CC: It seems more common now that people like their PoVs drawn very tightly, and limited to one or two. Which is okay, don’t get me wrong—especially when the major arc of a story exists to answer the question of whether or not the two protagonists will end up together, as it generally is in a romance. But when it comes to Spec Fic, the keyword there is ‘limited’. And yes, in most Spec Fic you need all the info. When you’re dealing with detailed world-building and multifaceted plots, it’s unlikely that only one or two main characters can be personal witness to everything that’s pertinent to the story as a whole.

The thing is, when dealing with a multiPoV story, it is absolutely possible that the various opinions put forth by the PoV characters can confuse a reader, especially if the main character is an Unreliable Narrator. The reader isn’t given an obvious character telling them what to think, they’re not given an obvious character stepping forth to proclaim This is the truth, the only truth, the foundation upon which you should build your opinion. And some readers might object to that.

JTH: Well, perhaps Spec Fic designed as Spec Fic is not their cuppa. To each their own and all that. But you know, I think its the stakes that often make the crucial difference in how authors choose to tell a story. Another tropiest of Spec Fic tropes is the High Stakes Endgame. In this, the characters are often sympathetic, personal representations of a ginormous conflict, one often being waged on a land-wide, planetary or cosmic scale. You can’t figure the stakes if you don’t know the players–and there are, often, many players in such a game, each with a very valid PoV.

CC: And the players themselves can be understood through another trope that’s very important to the question of multiple PoVs: Archetypes. If you know them and can recognize them, find the Witness in the story and stick with him/her. That’s where you’ll generally find the truth.

JTH: Archetypes hit the nail on the trope head–they are the instinctual expression of experience. You don’t have to be a student of Jungian theory or read Joseph Campbell to know them (though I would recommend Joe Campbell’s Power of Myth tv series with Bill Moyers as Myth 101 to everyone, particularly writers), but even if you think you don’t know them, you probably do. Everyone recognises the Callow Youth, who with the help of a aged Mentor/Wizard is revealed to be the Chosen One who will lead his people. From Arthur to Moses to Luke Skywalker, it’s all there. There’s the Innocent who walks into the enchanted forest and literally falls into the Adventure, sometimes kicking and screaming. There’s…

Gah, I could go on, you know…

CC: *pats JTH* I know, dear.

JTH: I think my Freudian Slip of Myth Geekiness is showing. It needs more wine to lull it into complacency.

CC: *offers more wine*

JTH: But you were speaking of the Witness in particular. The Witness is not strictly a Jungian archetype, but s/he often slips into the role of Storyteller, is often a uncomplicated sort with an uncomplicated view, the Everyman or the Survivor. Archetypes can also be thematic, or situational. But we all put them into use, one way or another. Particularly when telling a story that nips the heels of myth. They’re our key to the enchanted lock of Story. Which means they are both the bane and boon of storytelling, If you don’t have a solid archetypical foundation, or you’re relying too heavily on a trope without broadening and personalising the experience?

The latter is kind of like George Lucas did with the Gawdawful Trilogy of Utter Crap Backstory. I really dig backstory, but that? *shudders* Give me The Empire Strikes Back, any day.

CC: People also have to be invested in the PoV characters. Precious few were invested in The Phantom Menace characters except the marketing wizards selling toys.

JTH: Just for that, you deserve another pitcher of margaritas. And cabana boys fanning you.

CC: Jen! You got me a cabana boy! Just what I’ve always wanted! Sentimental wench.

JTH: Drink makes me sloppy. And a bit chatty.

CC: Good thing we’re supposed to be chatting. *pats* Okay, I want to go play with my new present, so let’s start wrapping this up.

As we talked about last month, there’s an expectation in the M/M genre that every story should be a Romance. A tightened one or two PoV narrative suits Romance perfectly, because Romance is all about the two main characters and the development of their relationship. That’s not always the case with Spec Fic. Basically, I think what we’ve been dealing with here is the difference between a Romance with some Spec Fic elements, in which case the SinglePoV would be most applicable, as opposed to a Spec Fic with a subplot love story, in which case the MultiPoV generally works best. When you’re building a complicated world, and populating it with complicated people, and giving them a chewy plot to gnaw through on the way to their high stakes endgame, a SinglePoV can be more of a detriment than a favored storytelling tool. And while M/M Spec Fic can certainly contain romantic elements, that doesn’t make them Romances and they can’t be read as such.

JTH: Well, they can, but that seems, more and more, to end with a disappointed cadre of Romance readers. It disrupts the expected trope… only in some cases, the expected trope isn’t truly the one the story was aligned with. It’s what Joe Campbell would call a ‘mistaken reading’. And also, perhaps, mistaken marketing–but that’s a whole ‘nother can of sandworms…

We’ll deal with one of the more thorny tropes of Spec Fic: World Building. The ins and outs of cussing, of how anachronism aren’t–‘cept when they are, how to groom a unicorn if you aren’t a virgin, and how Gay is often… not.

[And CC and I are often on opposite sides of the fence on these topics, so it should prove interesting. 😉 ]

In the meantime, Fair Readers, what is your favourite Spec Fic trope? What would you like to see discussed, or discuss with us?

Thanks, everyone. See you in the comments section!

Carole Cummings lives with her husband and family in Pennsylvania, USA, where she spends her time trying to find time to write. Author of the Aisling and Wolf’s-own series, Carole is an avid reader of just about anything that’s written well and has good characters. She is a lifelong writer of the ‘movies’ that run constantly in her head. Surprisingly, she does manage sleep in there somewhere, and though she is rumored to live on coffee and Pixy Stix™, no one has as yet suggested she might be more comfortable in a padded room. Well, not to her face.

J Tullos Hennig is suspected of having written since in utero. JTH was a professional writer 30 years ago, but Very Bad Luck prevailed so the publishing ground to a halt. JTH also tried to stop writing, but resistance is, yes, futile… and here we are. JTH has recently re-imagined the legend of Robyn Hood in a duology of Historical Fantasy; Book 1, Greenwode was published by Dreamspinner Press in January 2013. The second book, Shirewode is due out September 9th. JTH is presently working on finishing the introductory book of a Speculative Fiction series.