Monthly Archives: February 2014

How to Write About Love Like a Man: Dan Rhodes and Flash Fiction

Posted by February 13th, 2014

I read Women’s Fiction more ardently than almost any genre, but even I sometimes get tired of the pink frilly covers that come with it. That’s what makes the cover of Dan Rhodes’s story collection MARRY ME feel fun and a little subversive: It plays on a lot of the Women’s Fiction (or chick lit) tropes and turns them on their head.

Spend an evening–perhaps tomorrow evening, if you don’t have other plans–with this book, and you’ll be delighted to read about marriage and domestic coupling from a fresh–if often rather cynical–perspective. Dan writes “short shorts” or “flash fiction”–extremely brief stories not much longer than a page, even just a paragraph. In honor of Valentine’s Day, Dan shares my favorite of his stories with the Book Country community, and stays for a chat about how to write about love like a man. Read his story “Science,” and try writing your own short short to share on this Book Country Discussion Board or in the comment section below.



I was delighted when my scientist girlfriend agreed to become my fiancée. “This is the happiest moment of my life,” I said.

“Mine too,” she replied. “I’m experiencing an unprecedented rush of dopamine and norepinephrine. Of course the production of these particular neurotransmitters will decrease over time, but I have a pretty good feeling that our vasopressin levels will remain adequate, and we’ll be fine for the long haul. But never mind all that,” she said, taking off her goggles and unbuttoning her lab coat. “What do you say we release a bit of the old oxytocin?”



Dan RhodesLS: MARRY ME is a collection of short shorts about marriage—and almost all of them (spoiler alert!) have unhappy endings. Anyone going through a breakup this Valentine’s Day will gladly embrace the book, but give us your best pitch why the romantics among us might want to read your book, too.

DR: Even the most happily coupled people tend to have excruciating romantic histories, so even if you live in a world of hearts and flowers it won’t do you any harm to be reminded of what might have been. But quite honestly, this book is more likely to be appreciated by those who find Valentine’s Day to be a crushing ordeal. Thwarted romantics, in other words. I was one for years, and I still harbor a residual dislike for February 14th – a day when incredibly fortunate people are further rewarded with pink treats. Continue reading

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“Why I Write M/M Romance” by Z.A. Maxfield

Posted by February 12th, 2014

The following is a guest post by romance writer Z.A. Maxfield, who writes gay romances for InterMix/Penguin and whose first The Cowboys novel MY COWBOY HEART has us completely captivated. 


The second The Cowboys novel, MY HEARTACHE COWBOY, came out on January 21st!

I’m probably the very last person who should tackle the subject of writing M/M Romance because writing gay romance wasn’t really a conscious decision on my part. I’ve always wanted to write in the romance genre, and m/m stories were simply the stories that spoke to my heart when I took on my kids’ playful challenge to write my first full-length novel.

From the very beginning, I felt I had a responsibility to eschew stereotypes and tell a realistic story within the confines of the romance genre. I have always seen romance as a form of fantasy. If romance novels were based on reality, there would be more characters waking up in pools of drool with bad bedhead. They’d have morning breath that could peel the paint off a car.

While romance is fantasy, the emotional lives of its characters must resonate for the reader as true. The best romances have high emotional stakes, good tension, and the breathless wonder of passionate love.

That’s what I was reading romance for, at any rate.

I went into my stories believing I should avoid relying on coming-out drama and homophobia as my main plot points—although these are facts of life for the LGBT community—because my goal was always to write a romance novel featuring a protagonist and a love interest who just happen to be gay, rather than to make the story about being gay.

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A Writer’s Valentine by SHOTGUN LOVESONGS author Nickolas Butler

Posted by February 11th, 2014

A Writer's Valentine by Nickolas Butler

I remember the first time I saw my wife.  I was eleven or twelve years old.  I remember where she was standing, where the sun hovered in the sky, the color of her hair, the glint of light on the frames of her pre-adolescent glasses.  That moment was over twenty years ago.  Between then and now, we were married in a barn in rural Wisconsin.  We have lived in two houses, and two apartments.  We have changed jobs.  We have created two new people – our son and daughter.  We have almost been killed by elephants in Africa, and once, we were forced to outrun a freight train in northern Alberta.  At times, we have broken each other’s hearts.  We have acted foolishly.  But almost always, we have been there for one another and we have known each other in such a familiar and beautiful way that I do not expect you as the reader to understand because I don’t understand: my great fortune to have found this partner, the chemistry of my heart or brain, the physical proximity of two people on a planet, the notion of destiny, of love – of what love is . . . How people find one another – that mystery.

Shotgun Lovesongs coverA friend asked me to write this valentine because she knew that during the course of writing my novel, SHOTGUN LOVESONGS, the relationship between my wife and I was stressed by long-distance travel, by money, and by a commitment to art. All of that is true. It was a terribly lonely time for me, and this is because I was away from her. Away from her smell, our bed, the pattern of our lives. I apologize if this writing rambles.  It is hard to vector in on love.  To summarize a marriage.

I don’t believe that we accomplish great things by ourselves.  I could not have written a book without my wife.  Not just because she managed our household while I was gone, or because she cared for our young son, or because it was her job that was keeping us financially afloat. But because when the going became difficult, when I could not imagine how I would ever frame in the narrative structure of my novel, my wife rather matter-of-factly said, “You can do it. Keep working. Don’t complain.” Continue reading

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Member Spotlight: Meet Writer Alex Rosa

Posted by February 10th, 2014

alex rosaWe’re happy to welcome Book Country member Alex Rosa to the spotlight today. The 25-year-old writer from San Diego experiments in different genres — from mystery to romantic suspense to New Adult — and has had some pretty interesting jobs on her resume: she’s worked at a zoo, as a coroner, and more recently as an exec assistant. 

Her New Adult novel on the site, TRYST, is about a young co-ed who moves in with her brother after a bad break-up. The challenge: her brother’s hot roommate is off limits! We’re talking to Alex about her book, the NA genre, and writing romantic books.


NG: Valentine’s Day is later this week and love is in the air! Will you share with us, what is your personal strategy for writing a good romance plot?

AR: Oh, this is a tough one to start with. Haha. First, I’d have to say I am madly in love with ‘love’, but what romance author isn’t? It’s a driving force when I write because I just can’t get enough. For me, with writing romance I always go back to the basics and build up from there. Jane Austen is always my go-to when I need a fresh outlook, ironically enough. If I hit a wall of writer’s block, I will pull out my copy of Pride & Prejudice to read, or put in my DVD of Sense & Sensibility, like a true romance fanatic. Austen just got it so right. She got the basics of amorous affection; she was clever enough to never make love too easy, which I adore. Love is beautifully complicated, and as long as I remember that, and stay focused, periodically turning to Elizabeth Bennet or Marianne Dashwood for advice, my attempt at a romance plot usually flows pretty easily. Oh, and to help add a bit of steamy inspiration, I may or may not pull out my copy of Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James or Bared to You by Sylvia Day.

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Keeping the Romance “in” Erotic Fiction by Roni Loren

Posted by February 7th, 2014

RoniLorenAuthorHeadshot2With Valentine’s Day just a week away, we’re in a romantic mood. Today, erotic romance writer Roni Loren urges us to create a space in our hearts for erotic fiction. Because erotica can be romantic, too.


Often when I tell people I write erotic romance (otherwise known as those books to the general population), I can see what pops into their heads first when they imagine what my books must be about. Sex, sex, and more sex! After all, there is that big glaring “erotic” word to let you know, right?

But it seems they miss the second part of that genre title—romance. I have to hold myself back from saying—wait, no, they’re sexy books, but it’s really about the characters and their journey. Erotic romance and erotic fiction aren’t like adult movies where the supposed “plot” is only there to give scene transitions before the pizza boy and housewife get naked again. Unfortunately, not everybody understands this, and there’s a lot of crappy stuff getting thrown out there and labeled “erotica” by people trying to make a quick buck. (Don’t be one of those people! lol)

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For the Love of Friends: Author Interview with Memoirist Julie Klam

Posted by February 6th, 2014

Julie Klam author photoAuthor Julie Klam is well-known for writing about her love of dogs: not one but two of her books chronicle her experiences rescuing Boston terriers in New York City. However, Julie’s newest book, FRIENDKEEPING, explores her relationships with her friends, many of whom who are also writers. I went to her to find out more about how to support friends who write, and how to write memoir about those you love most.

LS: So, do you consider yourself a memoir writer? How is the memoir genre changing?

JK: I definitely consider myself a memoirist. Even when I’m not telling about an event in my life, I still manage to insert my big butt into whatever I’m writing. I think the genre has exploded in the past several years. People realize it’s a way to tell a personal story, but it doesn’t have to be a whole life. When I wrote my first memoir (PLEASE EXCUSE MY DAUGHTER) in 2008, a lot of people said, “Aren’t you a little young to write a memoir?” Now people seem to get it more. It’s not an autobiography, it’s a certain aspect of a life and can take place over one year or 30 years. Of course, no one thinks I’m too young to do anything anymore, because, you know, I’m old.

LS: You write about your loved ones with affectionate candor. How do they react? Continue reading

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Loving You: Writing in the Second Person by Mohsin Hamid

Posted by February 5th, 2014

Mohsin HamidWas there ever a more intimate way to narrate a novel than to use the second person? Riverhead Literary Fiction author Mohsin Hamid has written three award-winning novels in the second person, and all to great effect. Here he tells us why he loves using “you.” This post will inspire you to try “you” in your own writing, too.


I think I’ve always been drawn to the second person. When I was growing up and playing with my friends, the usual way we interacted with imaginary worlds was as characters: a bench was “your” boat, leaves on a lawn were the fins of sharks out to get “you.” Make-believe storytelling, which is to say fiction, wasn’t exclusively about being an observer—not for me, at least. There was this other strand as well, of being a participant.

As a nine-year-old in California, just before my family moved back to Pakistan, I encountered Dungeons & Dragons. That fantasy game was spellbinding for me. To understand the rules, you had to read books. But then you were free to create. It was collective imagining with a shared narrative. The Dungeon Master—a figure somewhere between an author and a referee—set in motion a tale that players spun together. It was as a DM, I’m pretty sure, that my proto-novelistic skills were first honed. Continue reading

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“Do Try This At Home: Reflecting on My First Year as a Self-Published Writer” by Evette Davis

Posted by February 4th, 2014

Evette Davis author photoNot long after I self-published my first novel, WOMAN KING, I sent out a tweet promising that I would “try never to make the same mistake twice.” If you count the fact that I frequently fall short of my goal to tweet daily (oh the irony) to keep up my social-media presence, then I have made many of the same mistakes more than twice.

Welcome to the world of self-publishing!

It’s a place of vast opportunity, but also great potential disappointment. The roadmaps for self-published authors are newly inked, and all of us are the cartographers of a future that is still taking shape. On some days I feel like an intrepid genius, on other days, not so much.  As I embark on the new year – and Book Two of my trilogy – I thought I’d share some food for thought about the lessons I’ve learned and some fun tools I’ve discovered:

WOMAN KING coverDon’t be in a hurry. In traditional publishing, books can wait years for publication; self-publishing has the opposite problem. The ability to click the “upload” button without any gatekeepers whatsoever to stop you means that many stories reach the public before they’re ready. I did take time to have my first novel WOMAN KING edited, but I should’ve given myself more time. Now as I work on a second edition of WOMAN KING with an editor, I’m contemplating a longer timeline for editing and review of the second book in my planned trilogy.

Free, or nearly free, is often the norm. I used to think that being rejected by an agent was the most humbling experience I could have as an author. I’ve actually encountered something vastly more discomfiting: the frugalness of consumers on the Internet- especially for untested writers. It wasn’t until I made WOMAN KING free as an eBook that I began to see any interest.  My advice? Don’t be afraid to give a certain amount of your work away to build a readership. Continue reading

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Member Spotlight: Meet Writer Ellie Isis

Posted by February 3rd, 2014


Today I am happy to welcome Book Country member Lisa Iriarte, who writes science fiction and fantasy as Ellie Isis. She’s penned several books — many of which well-reviewed on Book Country! — and is currently seeking representation for her work. Her book THREADBARE was recently an Editor’s Pick on Book Country — so be sure to check it out if you’re looking for some original romantic science fiction


NG: I was impressed to read in your Book Country bio that you try to write a thousand words a day and read a book a week. How do you keep yourself on task?

EI: Hah! The key word in there is “try,” but I do a pretty good job with it. For one thing, I am one of those hyper-organized people. I make to-do lists. Reading and writing are actually on that list, along with chores and such. I go down the list, alternating reading a chapter with doing a chore like laundry, then I write a page on my manuscript and do another chore. Reading and writing end up being rewards to myself for completing other tasks. If I finish all my chores, then I alternate reading and writing for the rest of the day. Of course that doesn’t take into account things like my full-time job, two kids, two dogs, and a husband (they are not on the list :)), so it doesn’t always go according to my grand plan.

NG: You’ve penned four romantic science fiction manuscripts! Tell us more about what draws you to the subgenre and what is, for you, the most important aspect of writing about love in a non-romance  novel?

EI: I’m more character driven than anything else when I write, so the emotional element is vital in any manuscript I work on. When I add a romance in as a subplot, the most important aspects are making sure the balance is right between the romance and the science fiction, and also capturing the feelings/emotions/reactions of the characters in a believable manner. When they suffer from broken hearts, I want my readers to suffer, and when they feel joy, I want my readers to experience that emotion with them.

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