Monday, April 13, 2009

Guest Blogger - Alex Beecroft

Guest blogger, Alex Beecroft, author of wonderful gay historical fiction shares her thoughts as
M/M Romance takes on the World!

LOL! Perhaps I'm inclined to overdramatize there, but that's a little what it feels like to me today.
Today is the release date of my new book, 'False Colors', conveniently subtitled "an m/m romance" by the publisher so that nobody will think the two good looking young men on the cover are sailing off in search for brides.
Actually it's conveniently subtitled because it is one of two new releases coming out today from Running Press which are being packaged and promoted as mainstream romances. The other book in this new series is 'Transgressions' by Erastes, set during the English Civil War, with an equally gorgeous cover, and also with the helpful subtitle "an m/m romance".
What is going on here then? Well, simply this; Running Press are making a bid to make m/m romance mainstream – to make it as respectable as m/f romance. No more confining m/m fiction to a little ghetto on the internet where the uninitiated can remain ignorant that it exists at all. No more being treated as second class citizens by RWA and Romantic Times because we don't fit their notion of what is a 'traditional' story about people falling in love with one another.

It's an all or nothing attempt. These books are only being released in print, and their tasteful covers are partially there to make it easier to pick one off the bookshelf and take it to the till without feeling self-conscious. Easy to read on the train or in the dentist's surgery (I've tried this myself, with an author's review copy, and not one person looked at me oddly! Result!)

It's… quite a bold move, I think. The publishers (and I too, I admit) are hoping they will succeed like Brokeback Mountain, because the thirst for m/m romance is out there among a lot of women who don't yet know the m/m publishing business exists. But is the world ready to treat same sex romance as if it's the same as opposite sex romance? As if the love stories between hero and hero are as 'normal' to write about and as 'normal' to read about as love stories between hero and heroine? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

I hope it is ready, not only because this is my book and I want it to do well. Not even because if this succeeds it will open up new opportunities for m/m writers, readers and publishers that we haven't had before. But mainly because I want to be part of a world in which gay romance and lesbian romance and bisexual romance and transsexual romance is there on the bookshelf next to heterosexual romance. I want to be part of a world that values all people's love stories equally, and I see this as a small first step towards that world.

After all that, you might want to know what False Colors is actually about! So here's a quick run down:

For his first command, John Cavendish is given the elderly bomb vessel HMS Meteor, and a crew as ugly as the ship. He’s determined to make a success of their first mission, and hopes the well-liked lieutenant Alfie Donwell can pull the crew together before he has to lead them into battle: stopping the slave trade off the coast of Algiers.
Alfie knows that with a single ship, however well manned, their mission is futile, and their superiors back in England are hoping to use their demise as an excuse for war with the Ottoman Empire. But the darker secret he keeps is his growing attraction for his commanding officer—a secret punishable by death.

With the arrival of his former captain—and lover—on the scene, Alfie is torn between the security of his past and the uncertain promise of a future with the straight-laced John.

Against a backdrop of war, intrigue, piracy and personal betrayal, the high seas will carry these men through dangerous waters from England to Africa, from the Arctic to the West Indies, in search of a safe harbor.
Eighty pairs of eyes watched John as he came up the side and strode stiffly to the Météore’s small quarterdeck. Taking off his hat, he turned to face his crew, noting the slack, bruised faces of men with scurvy, the nose-less, crusted features of those whom pox was slowly consuming from within. The Master was barely being held up by his mate, his linen drabbed with wine-stains. The single midshipman picked his nose as he slouched by his division, then spat over the side. Only the new lieutenant stood straight and alert, in newly laundered dress uniform, his wig powdered, his buttons gleaming and his pale brows arched a little in amusement as he watched John struggle with hat and paper in the increasing wind.
John fumed inwardly at the slackness, the disrespect as well as the waste of lives. Opening Admiral Saunders’ letter he read it aloud in a firm, positive tone, reading himself in as captain, telling them whence his authority came and warning that he had the right to govern and punish as he saw fit. Some of his anger wound its way into his voice, making it snap like the cat, and the more alert members of the crew stood straighter by the end of it.
Hoping to find at least one other person aboard competent to do their job, John was about to quiz the volunteer, when his thoughts were instantly dashed as the huddle of warrant officers parted to reveal the modest black dress and white lace bonnet of an elderly lady. John bowed over the twigs of her fingers, reeling. ‘The Doctor’s wife, Mrs Harper’, a voice informed him, and ‘charmed’ he said, mechanically. They’d sent a woman on board! In God’s holy name—knowing what they knew—they’d allowed not merely a woman, but a lady on board! The blood drained from his face, then returned, thundering and stinging in his ears. A victim. Are we to put up a plucky resistance and then be sunk, so that the outrage may provide an excuse for war? So that the First Lord may say ‘see, we don’t scruple to spare even our women in the pursuit of this menace?’ It was despicable.
His head throbbed suddenly, pain winding up from his clenched teeth to lance through his temples into his eyes. Giving orders to set sail, to clean the decks, and paint a properly anglicized Meteor over the name on the stern, he waited until the life of the ship around him settled into its routine, then ducked into the captain’s cabin to think. But the ruin he found seemed to mock him. The French captain’s cot lay slashed on the floor, stern lockers and all the chests broken open and ransacked.
“A right fucking pig’s ear they’ve made of this, sir,” the voice of his steward grated along his spine, making him straighten up, instinctively. Turning, he found Japheth Higgins looming behind him with John’s portmanteau propped against his hip and his sea-chest dragged by one handle from the other hand. An orange brute, Higgins had a tendency to appear out of random shadows, like the Borneo wild man.
“I thought I told you to stay on the flagship, Higgins.”
“You was having a little laugh, though, right sir? ‘Cos you wouldn’t leave me behind, not was you Admiral of the White.” Higgins dropped the sea-chest by way of final punctuation and scratched his ginger sideburns with a tobacco-stained finger.
John laughed around the queasiness in his throat. An unusual fairy godmother Higgins made, to be sure, but it was true. Assigned to him as a sea-daddy on his first ship, set by the captain to teach the infant young gentleman the ropes—and to make sure he was not too homesick, too lonely, or too much picked on—Higgins had been with him ever since. Now he couldn’t even say “I was trying to keep you safe, you fool,” without spreading rumors he did not need the rest of the crew to hear.
“Not a very good joke, I’m afraid,” he said instead. “I’m sorry Higgins. I’m glad you’re here. See what you can do to sort this mess out, would you? I’m going for the tour.”
Choosing not to notice as he passed the Master retching into a bucket, John paced the length of the gun-deck. Lighting the lantern he had taken from the midshipmen’s berth, he descended to the lightless lowest deck, past the carpenter’s workroom and the gunner’s stores, and so back again to the grated area where the anchor cables were laid to dry. Trying to calm his mind, he strode out nervous and filled with a lightning of energy he had to out-walk before he could think.
On the cable tier, absolute darkness pressed inwards around the circle of his light. Water trickled, glistening, down the Meteor’s flexing sides, the sound of it sweet in the silences between waves. A stench came from the hold, seeping up through the holes of the deck. Below the latticework of planks on which he stood, the ballast of gravel below stirred with a great hiss, like the tide rolling over a beach. Not all the anxiety in the world could prevent him from making a note to order the pumps set working at once.
Around him, on either side, the anchor cables lay coiled, water dripping from them, falling as an indoor rain through the gratings to join the water in the hold beneath his feet. Footsteps knocked on the deck above him but, down here, dark, quiet and solitude calmed him. Breathing in, he sighed, the spring of his anger easing enough to allow thought. It was too early to despair. Somehow, he would complete this mission and return as the hero Saunders described. Or at the least, he would complete the mission while keeping his crew alive, from the old lady to the youngest powder monkey. Here in this waiting space, this space between worlds, as he thought of it, it was easier to believe.
Straightening his back even further, an ache like a fist between his shoulder blades, he picked his way back through the coils of hawser. They rose like cliffs on either side and, as he walked, his lantern light mingled with a growing brown gloom that spilled in from the doorway. There, in the narrow gap between John and the main companionway, stood the volunteer--Lt. Donwell, he reminded himself from the orders--with his wig off and his bold eyes glimmering gold as John raised his lantern to look at him. Walking forward, John expected the man to yield, to step back and let him out. Mere inches separated them by the time it dawned on him that Donwell was not going to move. Confusion striking through him, obliterating even the dread from moments ago, he pulled himself back from a collision only just in time. The skirts of their coats brushed, sending a jolt of invasion through him from thigh to shoulders. What the devil?
His mouth dried as a wave of prickly embarrassment swept over him, bringing guilt in its wake. Yet what had he done wrong? It was Donwell who should flinch, who should feel guilty, who should not be smiling so! John could not wrench his gaze away from Donwell’s face. Limned with gold, it was perfectly nondescript; round, pleasant, and completely lacking in self-conscious guilt. Donwell’s mouth quirked up at one side into a slow, charming smile. And his presence! It was extraordinary. It beat on John’s skin like strong sunshine. He fought the urge to close his eyes and bathe in it. His pulse picked up, waiting, waiting for something....
Returning sanity hit him in the face. He snapped, “Get out of my way! Don't you know who I am!”
Donwell’s smile only broadened. John thought the man would at least salute, but he just passed a hand through the loose blond curls of his hair and stepped away. “I’d know you anywhere, sir.”
“I’ll have a little more respect from you in future, Mister.”
“You may have whatever you like.”
Speech deserted John once more. Aware he should act now to regain the initiative, he had no idea what to do. Instead he pushed past, feeling the man's gaze on the back of his neck like warm breath, and tried to tell himself that he made a dignified exit. But if the truth be told it was a flight, spooked as a partridge from the covert
* * * *
Please check Alex's presence on the Internet at the following links:
Her LiveJournal:
Her Blog:
Buy Link: False Colors
Buy Link: Transgressions


Jeanne said...

Wonderful scene, Alex!

Victor J. Banis said...

Beautiful! I'm hoping I get to read the whole thing one of these days. In the meantime, I have fingers and toes crossed for its success.


Jardonn Smith said...

Easter Sunday was a banner day for M/M Romance. You, Alex, and Erastes played no small part in fixing Amazon's "glitch."

Both of you, along with Charlie Cochrane, are trailblazers who will open doors for others, but let's cut to the chase: it is your writing that has made it so.

This excerpt, its language and careful composition, instantly took me to the time and place of your ship. I won't say I'm envious (I am) of your talent, but simply want you to know this little snippet from your book was a joy to read.

Thank you, and best of luck with your book.

Alex Beecroft said...

Thank you so much Jeanne for hosting this!
Thanks Victor! I really hope you enjoy it if you read it :) (Maybe I can prove that a woman can really write like a man? ;) ) I think you were very right when you predicted that there would be a lot of backlash against these books. I never expected something like Amazonfail, though I imagine that would seem quite tame compared to the horrors you have confronted to keep writing what you have to write.

Still, Amazon may well have done us all a favour in the end, now even the NY Times is spreading the word :)

Thank you!

Alex Beecroft said...

Thanks, Jardonn! It's been a funny old book release, because it was so subsumed in the larger problem of Amazonfail. While Amazon was stripping ranks from all gblt books, there really was no point in promoting FC and Trans as a separate entity. We're all in this together.

On the one hand I'm almost reluctant to talk about False Colors at all, with *everyone* suffering as we are. On the other hand I want FC and Transgressions to blast the m/f romance world out of the water, just to show them that m/m romance is here to stay. So my feelings are ambivalent at the moment, but yes, I want to do well to open those doors and nail them open after for everyone else to come through too.

Thank you!

Alex Beecroft said...

I've just sent you the buy links for the books from Barnes & Noble, as I'm currently boycotting Amazon until they restore *all* the books from which they stripped ranks :)

I should probably mention that since I wrote this post Running Press have announced that there will be an ebook version (though I don't know when), and there is currently a Kindle version too. But as far as the Kindle version goes, see above ;)

Jeanne said...

Hopefully after the dust settles, we'll have more visitors to the blog.
As long as folks buy the books, we'll do the happy dance!

Erastes said...

Wonderful statement Alex - yes, that's the world, and the bookshops that I want too.

Will promote this post - I've just about caught up with my emails!

Alex Beecroft said...

Thanks Erastes! It'll be a long while before I'm caught up with mine, but I'm hoping to get there by the end of the day :)

Alex Beecroft said...

Thanks Jeanne! Yes, although the Amazonfail thing has royally messed up the book launch, it would be churlish to complain given the amount of free publicity it's given the m/m romance genre as a whole. If people didn't know it existed before, they certainly do now that it's been in the NY Times and the Channel 4 news :D

MadamRenfield said...

Really wonderful, Alex, and congratulations to you and Erastes on the release of your books. I wish you every success!

Erastes said...

Thank you, Madam R

*hands you some flies*

MadamRenfield said...

"Flies? Who wants to eat flies?"

"You do, ya loony."

God, I love the original Dracula. ^___^

Alex Beecroft said...

LOL! The blood is the life :) Thanks Madame R!

MadamRenfield said...

I'm loyal to you Master...! Master! :)

Anonymous said...

When I looked at the Amazon bestseller list last night, False Colors and Transgressions were #1 and #2 in gay romance. And I hope you don't feel guilty about your good fortune -- first, because you are a damned fine writer and you deserve recognition, and also because this tide is likely to lift the boats of everyone in the genre, and I think outside the confines of glbt romance.

I forget which one it was, but one
First Nations tribe says that a strong enemy can be your best friend, by making you grow stronger to survive. I think whoever was at the root of Amazonfail did us that kind of favor.

MadamRenfield said...

Quoting Lee Rowan:

also because this tide is likely to lift the boats of everyone in the genreAbsofragginlutely!!! (has Babylon5 flashback) What benefits one benefits us all...

Alex Beecroft said...

Thank you, Lee! I do feel a little guilty, but then I make up for it by also feeling terribly anxious in case I let everyone down :) But yes, someone's got to do it, and I certainly hope that if it had not been me, I would still be behind the attempt 100% for the sake of the genre.

I really hope it catches on!
Thank you!

Jeanne said...

Thanks again for sharing the day with us, Alex.
It wasn't until after the Amazon flap was in full blast that I realized how eerily prescient the title of your post!
Amazing :~D weekend...

Alex Beecroft said...

Thanks Jeanne! I admit I had hoped we could take on the world a little more quietly ;) What a weekend!