I’ve been under some stress the last couple of months, as my regular readers know. Back before I was writing for publication, when I felt like this I’d play mahjong by the hour or lose myself in my favorite computer game. Now, I’m reading m/m for distraction (both bought and on loan), and also to see what fellow writers are up to.
Two things stand out in this genre (and I know I’m gonna get a lot of shit about this from people, but I’m gonna say it anyway):
1. The books generally aren’t as well written as ‘mainstream’ novels are. I’m not talking about typos, though certainly they exist (I also find them, though rarely, in mainstream books). I’m talking about how the story is told, which may have something to do with editing, as well.
I read critically. I can’t help it. I’m used to editing my own stuff and AJ’s, and now I have a job as an editor. When I’m zooming along in the story and suddenly find myself fumbling to a stop because one section doesn’t flow right, that’s bugs me. (Let me point out that I do not consider my titles to be above such criticism; I ain’t perfect, either, and it’s much harder to edit your own work than notice the flaws in that belonging to others.)
While there’s nothing new under the sun, obviously derivative crap will make me roll my eyes, and y’all know how I feel about eyerolling. If the story is a take-off on something else, the author needs to make it as original as possible by bringing themselves to the telling. The characters can’t be cardboard cut-outs, and the way they relate to each other should be as fresh and new as the writer can make it.
I really, really want to like everything I read, especially when I’ve paid for it, but I’ve been disappointed in nearly everything in our genre of late. It could be so much better, so why isn’t it? When I plunk down that virtual money, I want to immerse myself in a great story well told. When I buy a mainstream book by an author I love, I know I’m going to get exactly that. I want to experience that same sense of sureness when I buy an m/m book, and at this point in time, it ain’t happening.
2. Some m/m books are obviously written by women. I recently pitched a m/m book because of crap editing, but the one thing I didn’t mention is that the tone was so female. I got really fed up with the childish sniping of the main characters. Men simply don’t relate that way. Yes, they may get the occasional dig in, but they take their shot and move the fuck on. They don’t dwell for half a damn book.
I realize the bulk of m/m books are written by females, and I have no problem with that. Let me repeat that, because I’m in no mood to be lynched today: I think it’s great that so many women are in the genre, and many of them produce quality work that is rightfully bringing attention to our titles.
I’m talking about a particular type of writing. There really is a difference in the way men and women see and react to things, and a couple of the novels I’ve recently read could easily be turned into the bodice rippers of old simply by changing one of the men to a woman. What I’m reading is how women want to see men, not how they really are.
When I pick up an m/m ebook, I want to read about guys. I get that they are filtered through the eyes of a woman when the author is female, but must they whine and cavort and carry on in a way few men would act?
Too strong a criticism? Are some of you cringing as you read that? If the book is about men, they should sound like men, not men written by women. I know this can be done, because I’ve read some terrific books written by female authors I love.
Now we come to the rec part of this post. AJ loaned me the PsyCop series, and I just finished Book #6. I highly recommend Jordan Castillo Price’s wonderful stories about Victor Bayne and his partner, Jacob Marks. I noticed some typos in the last three books, but nothing worth quibbling about, and again, there’s nothing new under the sun, but Price has managed to give a new and inventive twist on some very old material, and I admit I devoured each one with great pleasure.
I could nitpick a couple of “what the hell happened there?” plot points, but overall, I’m giving this series a solid B+. She’s developing the characters beautifully, and I admit to being just the slightest bit in love with Vic, a very human male with superhuman abilities. Ms Price told me via email that two more books are planned. I can’t wait.