Pondering the Genre

I’ve been kicking around a few thoughts for a while. Most of them have to do with the divide in the M/M genre amongst readers. Basically, what is a reader’s expectation for a book classified as M/M?

This has been an interesting discussion because there are definite undercurrents within the readership that require sex to be in any book marked M/M. I could go into historical reasons, most of them being the M/M genre appears to have risen up from the likes of John Preston and others who wrote erotica with a plot.

But there were others as well in that mix… like Joseph Hansen and Michael Nava who leaned more towards the story. If there was any sex at all.

The main question seems to be; is there room in the M/M genre for a story with no or little sex? And will a readership accept that?

Someone recently told me—and I’m still not sure if they were serious—that the current M/M offerings were like a bucket of Mill and Boons or Harlequin romances. Lacking in any true substance and pretty much written in a formula.

Now, I can’t disagree that is true about some books but I’d say the genre is a far cry from cookie-cutter boy meets boy then HEA, although it DOES appear as if that is the desire for some readers.

Does the perception lie with the reader or the genre? Truthfully, there’s kind of no divide in the genre. Anything written with a gay character is kinda tossed into the pot of M/M, regardless of the content or “heat level”. It does appear as if everything is judged on the basis of the romance in the work.

Is romance the only place a gay character is acceptable?

Stick with me here. *grins*

When I wrote Black Dog Blues back in the early 2000s, I was told by countless agents that it couldn’t be published as a sci-fi/fantasy because the main character was bisexual. It wouldn’t sell. Some hated my writing but the majority were of the opinion Kai wouldn’t take because well… he’s male and with alternative views on sexuality.

But see, that wasn’t the main part of the book. It never was meant to be. Especially in the first book but there it was… Kai would probably sell if I made him female. That would be acceptable.

I balked. Not because I felt like I’m this precious snowflake artiste but because it felt wrong to lop off his dick and femme him up to sell the book. So I shelved him. But I fully intended to wait out the wave of no-gay-bisexual-characters.

It’s an urban fantasy. Not a romance. I knew that going in. I knew that coming out. Pure. Urban. Fantasy. Will he get a relationship later in the series? Yep. Just not now. But I waited and as many of you know, I pubbed Black Dog Blues out and waited.

And got some pretty angry emails that there wasn’t any sex in the book and that it wasn’t a romance. That people were disappointed in the book because it wasn’t like the mystery-romances I’ve written. Others liked it because it was an urban fantasy and pretty much follows that formula. Low build up, world establishing and a bit of a broken-crazy main character.

I tried to be very upfront about the urban fantasy part of it. I didn’t want anyone to go into the book thinking there was going to be sex in it at some point during the first book. But then I realized about a week ago, we’ve kinda come to really expect sex in a book with a gay main character.

Hell, I do too. I admit it. So I had to stop and think about it.

This isn’t going to change Kai’s story. He’s still going to be going about his world but the separation of the genres in my mind is distinct. When I say M/M, am I meaning a gay romance element in the storyline or a gay main character with the potential to have a relationship?

The name of the genre pretty much spells it out… Male-Male. It’s a pairing. But can it be more? Should it always have sex in it? Is it expected? Is it warranted? How much is too much sex to the point where it becomes erotica?

So what do you all think? I’m interested in discussion on this. What’s your opinion? Mostly because I’m waffling and still stumbling about.

Do you think there should be a divide in all genres for “GLBT” characters or should the GLBT genre divide up to different categories of books besides romance?

And what ARE your expectations for a book with a GLBT main character?

91 thoughts on “Pondering the Genre

  1. This is a tough question Rhys. I love a good romance or I wouldn’t read most of the books I read. That said, I think sex scenes should fit the story. In “Black Dog Blues” I think a sex scene would not have fit with the way you told Kai’s story. I loved that we got to know Kai personally and learn about his past. We also got to see him fight his demons. Both internally and externally. I like that there is a build up between him and Ryder. I know I am hoping he ends up with Ryder and I will most definitely read the next books in the series to find out what happens. I don’t think there has to be a cookie cutter formula for it to be a good book. I have read most of Etienne’s books and there is little to no sex in them and they are great books. I find it refreshing when two men build a relationship before they hit the sheets. Now, don’t get me wrong, I also love hot smexing, no doubt, but I don’t see anything wrong with a little build up. Ya know FOREPLAY is sometimes better than the instant gratification we are all used to. I guess what I am trying to say in this long-winded comment is, write what seems right to you. Some will love it and some won’t, but isn’t that true with every book? If you bow to the demands of others you will lose yourself and your voice, that would be worse than a few people complaining about the heat level of your novels.

    1. Isn’t it a tough question?

      I wasn’t even sure how to pose it. It’s kinda sitting in my head burbling about. Kai was going to be Kai. I wrote it before I wrote Cole and Jae and just sat on it. So it’s even more interesting to see how people react to this “new work” which is really an older piece.

      The question of sex was tossed around but the book had already been finished and I really looked hard at where or why I’d throw in a scene. I decided not to because it just wouldn’t have fit into the story 😀

      The question really is… how do we DEFINE a book with a GLBT character in it? Does it go into its base genre…say urban fantasy with GLBT marked all over it or should there be a GLBT category will all the genres listed. Whatcha think?

      1. I think there should be an all encompassing GLBT category, with all the genres listed. Unfortunately I don’t think mainstream has broadened their minds enough yet to welcome in GLBT characters. It sucks, but I think it is true. I also believe that some readers don’t understand the difference between Urban Fantasy with a M/M twist and M/M Romance. Honestly I didn’t really understand it until I read a few UF titles. Not all, but most, M/M readers are looking for those cookie cutter, boy meets boy, hits the sheets and falls in love then HEA story. There is nothing wrong with those stories, I love them too. But, that is not what happens in most UF. There is so much world building and back story which is much more important than the smexing. Ofcourse not everyone will agree with me, but that is my 2 cents, lol.

    2. It’s an interesting discussion. Would we follow/read a spy thriller if the main character was a lesbian? And where would that book be shelved/placed? How does someone market that to the readership who’d want to read it?

      It’s been a puzzle, no?

    3. Patamar2

      Well, said! I get confused when they jump into bed, but I get frustrated when a relationship builds & builds & then nothing. A good story is always a must because one sex scene after another is tiresome.

      1. It’s been a ponder since I know there are fantastic authors out there with GLBT characters but aren’t romances per se. Now I read a hell of a lot of the genre and enjoy nearly all of it. But I also know that there’s kind of a growing bubble of books that don’t fit into the common niche… so where do they go? And how do we find them?

        I wanted to see what everyone else thought and how they felt. *nods* Discussion is good, no?

  2. Interesting that you should bring this up now. I just reviewed a book yesterday that while there was a little ‘on screen’ physical love between the MM characters there was not much of it and the focus of the story was on just that, the story, and not the romance element. it was much more of a fantasy with a MM back story than an MM romance with fantasy elements. it was a lovely little story and I will be looking into the previous books in the series.

    I think more readers need to look at the heat level of a book, and not whine about it if the book matches that heat level and doesn’t have enough sex for them as they had that information before starting to read.

    Violet. x

    1. It’s going to be a topic that comes up more and more as authors explore the boundaries of what defines a GLBT or M/M book. 😀 Romance? Does it need it? Right now the genre is kinda muddy in definition to include those off-shoots. I was at the pondering 😀

  3. cherylburns84@yahoo.com

    Rhys, I did not mind that Kai and Ryder did not have sex, we were getting to know Kai and understanding why he is who he is, as for him and Ryder having sex sure I want them to as any good romance should evolve to having great sex ( I know I would like to get me some great sex too!). But the Author should have sex be a good addition to a great story but not be the whole story! I like great sex in m/f stories also not just m/m. But we do like to see two hot men getting all sexy and romantic!

    1. Oh I do too…. I’m just pondering the inclusion of the book in what genre? Not necessarily Kai but kinda any book. Where do we place non-romance GLBT? And should there be a GLBT category to put them? 😀

  4. It’s so interesting that you posted about this. I am just starting to think about a new WIP and I really want it to be NOT all about the romance…but it’s scary. Especially for me, as I have very few “readers” so I don’t really want to lose any.

    I think the issue is in the label. M/M means romance, not necessarily graphic, but sex should be included. It is what you are promising when you label a book M/M. Think about it this way, if you read an urban fantasy with a female lead, and it was described as “an M/F urban fantasy”, you would expect there to be a M/F sexual (or somewhat romantic) element to the story, because “M/F” was mentioned.

    The only way to combat this, I think, is to simply drop the M/M label, just call it what it is: a sci-fi, or a fantasy, or a mystery, or whatever. Hint in the blurb that the lead is gay if you want, or don’t. Don’t categorize it a romance in any way. People might be upset, they might not accept it, but you never know. And really, I think we need to “be the change we hope to see in the world”, and simply create the characters, worlds and stories that we want to, without explanation or apology.

    1. Your book is pretty much the benchmark of what I’ve been pondering. How will I find this book among the countless others? I’d WANT to read it because it’s UF or Mystery and the added bonus would be having a gay character but how would I find that book? I’d want that extra inclusion so I could read someone’s take on a GLBT character without having to sift through the masses to get to it.

      Mostly it was a pondering. It’s been an interesting ponder and I thought I’d throw it out here to see what other people think 😀

      1. Yes it is an interesting ponder, and a good point about finding such books as a reader. I guess my stance is, I question the point of GLBT as a “category” in general. Although I am sure there are many people who would be drawn in to a story because of GLBT characters, and many others who would be put off by that same element, I feel that the label further marginalizes the group. Calling something a “gay mystery” is somewhat like calling someone a “lady doctor”, in my mind.

        I don’t question the usefulness or necessity of the designation in our world right now, I just wish it weren’t an issue at all.

      2. Yeah, there’s a huge quandry there. I would want to be in the “general” genre but I know that it won’t happen. Not just yet. I think I have to be realistic in that I have to plaster… GLBT character on the book/blurb. We’re not quite there yet. I would love us to be but like in your case, I wouldn’t want your book to be lost to a readership that’s tune in to a GLBT character.

        On the flip side, I was incensed for some reason when I realized the movie Burglar starring Whoopi Goldberg…whom I love… was supposedly the Bernie Rhodenbarr books… mysteries about a heterosexual white male cat burgler.

        It felt…odd. Weird even. So… I think I’m kind of sniffing around the maybes of the whole thing so I can sort out my brain 😀

  5. On the whole I’d rather have a strong storyline than sex scenes – I really enjoy Andrea Speed’s Infected series and I don’t recall much if any sex in those. I do like books where there’s a lot of sex, but they’re something I’d pick when I’m in the mood for that.
    Then again I read a lot of different genres – if I’ve picked up a romance story (and it wasn’t labelled bittersweet or similar!) then I prefer it if the hero/heroine makes it to the end mostly in one piece and with the love interest still alive and interested 🙂 So a HFN or HEA. But as to whether they had sex? Don’t care.
    If it’s not a romance then pretty much anything goes 🙂

    1. So the question comes down to… do we have a GLBT category say like on Amazon? Or how would I find that particular non-romance book?

      And heh. I love HEAs. I do! I swear! 😀

  6. You love HEAs, but you make us work for them!!! 😀
    You are asking the toughies today Rhys, I think a GLBT category would work best. Then list books in their subgenre.

    1. I think we as a group of readers are reaching that tipping point of SOMETHING happening. I dunno why I feel this but I do. We’re at the curve. 😀

      1. Something like that may have come out of some meetings at Nationals this past weekend. I heard second-hand, so don’t quote me, but there may be some news soon.

  7. Patricia

    Kai’s story ranks with my favorites…Though he didn’t have a partner in this book, it didn’t matter. His bond with his mentor/boss is great. Kai intrigues us so we follow, and want more of him. I’m so glad “Black Dog Blues” has arrived. The MC’s profession must seize me. His job is key. Rhys, you blend strong detective elements with loving, vibrant, passionate men, (and humor) You build a special world with your male and female characters, the characters’ professions and the plot drive the stories, but you know how to paint the lust and romance and swirl them into a tasty meal.
    Flavors, food, colors, mood, are all part of a good story. Great humour and dialogue…Quirky individuals with faults and tics. The sexy antics must match up with the characters. But we like surprises!

    1. See for me, I want good strong characters but ah, will I be able to find them if they’re buried in genres that don’t fit them? I’d want to be able to support authors who took that step in spotlighting a GLBT character but I’d need to be able to find them. So I wanted to drop that discussion in here to see how people viewed it 😀

      Heh. Thank you for liking Kai. He’s… a pain in the ass 😀

  8. I think like any classification in the book world. M/M is going to have to have subdivisions, something I see already in some publishers. Personally, I want romance and a bit of erotica in every story, but I won’t turn down a good story regardless of sex, or non-sex. I would imagine in younger readers, they would want sex for sex sake, screw the story line or development of characters.As an older reader, I want a complete package. I want characters I get to know and a plot, please for gods sake, a plot. Having said all this, I love man on man action, but it doesn’t need or have to be all that is in the story. I like it best when it is used to further the characters relationship. I, also like all the “warm fuzzes” and the problems of relationships.
    In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with “Harlequin type romance” or honest to goodness, stories. Just add classifications, so that others will not read what doesn’t interest them, and the rest of us can make intelligent decisions about what we want to read. I don’t read to read, I choose what I read, therefore, I am seldom disappointed. It’s true that I will like some more than others, but that is true about everything in this life…
    Love your work lady, you know what a plot is. 🙂

    PS I hope that M/M writers will invest more time in humor. Humor is a clincher for me.

    1. I love quick dirty HEAs and complex storylines. All depends on my mood. Now the question is… what to do with books without romance or perhaps a long-term buildup. Say a spy thriller but one that has a GLBT main cee. I WANT TO READ THAT. But where do I find it? Should we throw everything into the same pot and hope for the best or work to establish a GLBT genre with categories within in?

      And thank you love. *grins* I appreciate it. God there are so many fricking great writers out there. 😀 And I wanna read them all.

      1. Me, too. I’ve been seeing categories like erotica, romance, gay, when I go to buy books now with certain publishers. I feel like it is headed in the direction of say “gay mystery”, or “erotic mystery” in other words, a refining of the defining content. The more that publishers, whittle it down,to a finer description, then I think the public will go with it. Maybe then few folks will be less angry if there is not an exorbitant amount of bjs in a story.

    2. You have no idea how happy I am to read that you’re looking for more humor in stories. I’d like to write humor (although I’m not sure how successfully I do it). 🙂

      Speaking of humor, thank you, Rhys, for making me laugh like an idiot on public transport today, reading about Mike’s eyelid tic. The line about the potential for setting his eyeball on fire made me lose it completely.

  9. Lissa

    You know I think all stories need and have romance. I mean look at the Star Wars novels, they are sci-fi first with a side of romance. I’d like to read more books like that with lgbt characters. I wish there was more of a differentiation in the genre like this is gay romance, this is gay fantasy, etc etc. Those quick hook up books I avoid like the plague.

    1. I think relationships are a definite plus to any storyline. Relationships of any sort. My leanings are that yes, we need a GLBT genre with clearer definitions… but maybe only for the time being? I dunno. When will it not matter? But then it will kinda always matter because I want to be able to know if I’m grabbing a light read or a heavy one 😀

  10. To be fair, my impression is a LOT of urban fantasy books have sex in them; it’s one of the things I think of when I read the label “urban fantasy.” Not necessarily a romance or a relationship, mind you, just that there’s a much higher than usual chance of sexy times compared to plain-old fantasy. So that may also be part of it.

    But I think the label itself, M/M, implies romance with or without on-screen sex, since it originated (AFAIK) to denote here are two male characters falling for each other or at least having sex. Calling it gay or LGBT, to my eye, leaves a more open door as to whether or not there will be romance or sexual content, although I’m not sure if that’s a widespread opinion.

    In the long run, as times change, LGBT may not even remain a “genre,” but turn into a subcategory of romance, like interracial, and not even be a category at all in fantasy, sf/f, etc. because everything is shelved together equally. Heck, when I reduced Widdershins to $0.99, I tried to buy a promotional spot on Bookbub’s Paranormal Romance list, because isn’t that what it is? (FYI: Bookbub apparently says “no, that isn’t what it is” because they responded that they don’t “currently have a GLBT list” so couldn’t take my ad. Because if JR Ward’s last book showed anything, it’s that paranormal romance readers can’t handle and won’t buy pnr with gay characters. OH WAIT.)

    1. Funnily enough, your book was one of those that I included in my ponderings. Your books fall firmly into the fantasy realm and should be shelved with the mainstream. They’re not paranormal romances per se. Which have their own formula. But at the same time, they’d be lost in the Fantasy categories because we wouldn’t be able to find them amid the others.

      And I would be a very sad kitten if I had not found your books.

      Should there be a GLBT category and have divisions there or a tag somehow so we can find a GLBT steampunk? It’s something to wonder over and decide if that’s a way to go? Because while I enjoy the “relationship” part of a book, I know that some authors want to go with a straight thriller with a gay character. No pun intended. And I’d want to read that.

      But I want to be able to FIND it. 😀

      Yeah, I had that problem with Black Dog Blues. It crosses lines like yours do but really, there are countless others out there that kinda fall into those buckets. And God, you need to be read. I shall pimp you like a mad thing.

      1. *smooches* Historical>POC to find Barbara Hambly’s Benjamin January series, but I can do a google search for mysteries with protagonists of color and find reader-compiled lists.

        I’d keep an eye on what Amazon is doing, at least for now. If nothing else, they are very, very savvy when it comes to making things as easy and convenient as possible for people to buy stuff from them. This may change, because companies turn stupid all the time, even when it hurts their bottom line in the long run, but for now I see their categories being the influential ones.

      2. Fucking hell, why did that cut off the first half of my reply?!

        Here’s what I was trying to say:
        My books have way more sex and romance than allowable in mainstream fantasy, especially when written by a woman (see the recent SFWA meltdown if you doubt it’s still an old boys club). Beat my head against that wall for years, so now I wave the “romance” flag proud.

        As for finding stuff, I suspect reader lists will come in. For example, if I want to read a mystery with a black male protagonist, I can’t go to Amazon and look up Mystery, etc.

      3. Heh. I agree. There are subcategories built up inside of a readership but let’s face it, mainstream and sorting isn’t keyed to those components. There still is separation of romance along racial lines in a lot of instances.

        Ah, there is always a SFWA meltdown. Those are some very entrenched male dinosaurs.

        The female protags in urban fantasy are getting a hell of a lot of sex… to the point of being paranormal romances. 😀

        So how do we change all of this? How do we drift everything back to inclusion rather than separation or do we separate out totally and categorize books according to genre… in which case, shouldn’t the GLBT romance section also have breakdowns too such as western, contemporary, suspense romance…etc. ?

        😀

      4. Now that is the million dollar question! And yes, if GLBT remains as a “genre” it should have the breakdowns, and will need to. But at this point I think it’s a “wait and see” approach with occasionally forays against the bastion of traditional categorization.

  11. You know, Rhys, it might be a matter of reader expectation based on which publisher issues a book. Dreamspinner, Loose Id, Carina, Ellora’s Cave, Samhain, and others we’re familiar with are known primarily as producers of erotic romance, Therefore, readers look forward to both those elements — sexual encounters and HEA or HFN love — in the stories they buy. In addition, an author’s backlist also determines what readers expect.

    Now, publishers like Riptide and some of the smaller, newer presses (God, I can’t think of their names!) are trying to turn attention to the LBTQ in the alternative-sexuality alphabet soup. And they’re also willing to consider stories with less or no emphasis on sex and romance.

    So . . . what to do if your reputation is built on being an m/m romance author and you want, at least occasionally, to diverge from that path? Well, maybe adopt a new pseudonym for your “nonconformist” work, and/or submit it to a publisher with a broader range.of offerings. Or publish independently. In any case, do make the book’s content clear in its blurb. Your sales might suffer, but hey, readers won’t have a reason to complain about anticipating a certain kind of story and ending up with something else entirely. It really is a matter of shaping their expectations.

    1. I wanted to flip this over to a reader’s perspective when I started pondering because really, it was I as a reader that said… how the hell am I going to find the “off-shoots” of the GLBT characters that aren’t necessarily slotted into a romance genre.

      I knew by pubbing out Black Dog Blues, I wouldn’t hit necessarily the entire following of M/M genre but pick up the peeps who read urban fantasy too. There would be some hits and misses but really, it was okay. But how to get the book out to the mainstream while at the same time, communicating that it’s a GLBT character.

      The same could be said for Jordan L Hawk’s series because really, even more in the fantasy genre than BDB. There are a few others that I can’t place right on the tip of brain but I as a reader would want to be able to find those and at the same time, know that they’re not going to be romance-romance.

      So I tossed it out here so see what other readers felt or thought. Because really, I wanna read really good authors, regardless of what genre they fit into 😀

  12. faye01

    FIrst off, I’d like to agree with many of the statements above. I don’t want to echo everyone. I would also like to add I’ve come across many readers of f/m fiction who complain about the lack of sex in some books. Certainly not all of them, but there is a definite group of readers who want sex in their books. While moderating a readers’ forum I would see regular warnings for people to be aware of or avoid a certain book due to the lack of sex. I can say in some of these instances they meant either on the page sex or penetrative intercourse. All manner of intimacies up to penetrative intercourse weren’t considered “sex.”

    Personally, I don’t need sex in my books. I prefer it but don’t need it. Love triangles are right out. I know that wasn’t part of your pondering, but I had to add that lol.

    1. I read a lot of genres and it’s kind of reader expectation derives the flavour/tone of a genre. So yeah, there’s a bit of… what do we want included in every debate of a book’s place in a genre.

      And God I’ve read some M/F that I felt like… dude, get out of the bed/closet/carriage and do something besides sex 😀

  13. Clancy Ellis

    Sometimes too much sex becomes boring I stopped reading a lot of M/F romances because I found them a yawn, and much as I love M/M sometimes less is more, I have read quite a few without many sex scenes and if the story is good enough (and I think that is the important part) you don’t miss the lack of actual sex. But I should go on to say I still find those scenes hot! Nothing like two gorgeous hunks making love. I would also hasten to add I have never read any Mills & Boon, Harlequin or similar in my life and never will.

    1. I’ve read some that I’m all… Okay stop fucking and find something else to do 😀 I admit it. But what about a book with no romance/sex? How would I find that on Amazon? Or B&N?

      Because I want to promote the inclusion of GLBT characters in novels…but damn it, how do I find them if they’re not in romance? 😀

  14. I hope you don’t mind me throwing in my two cents on this subject. At the risk of sounding self-promoting, I’ll use my books to make my point, but not mention the titles.

    I’ve written a number of erotic MM books. However, my personal bestseller (an MM comedy) that’s still selling a copy now and then three years after being published contains no sex whatsoever. My MM suspense novel that won Rainbow and EPIC awards doesn’t have any sex either. In fact, there are only two kisses in the book. The first occurs while one MC is unconscious, and the other is a Judas kiss of betrayal. Yes, I did hear from readers who wanted active sex, but I also heard from readers who liked the fact there wasn’t sex and the stories focused on the characters and plot. Both books do contain a budding romance between the MCs and HFN/HEA endings.

    So, I’ll still produce erotica from time to time, but my focus is leaning more toward stories without active sex unless the scene calls for it. MM sex sells, but there is an audience for MM without sex.

    1. No no no, toss in more than a couple of pennies because YOU are the author type I am speaking of. How do I find your type of books through the selling portals because from a reader standpoint, it would be a bit of a struggle.

      And I LIKE M/M sex scenes…. in the appropriate book. But ah, what about the ones without? 😀

  15. Patamar2

    It is extremely upsetting & frustrating when you get into a M/M book with building heat between characters with no sexual payoff. I have had that happen & won’t read that author again.

    1. Now the question here is… is this a long-haul build up with eventual happening in a series or is it a one-off and you’re just left there? Did you go into the book thinking it was a romance or would you have grabbed it knowing it was say… a traditional detective book? And yes, that would be a level of frustration for you…and rightfully so… if you thought you were grabbing one thing and got another. But how do we define that so it doesn’t happen again?

  16. L.M. Brown

    The best book I have read recently was a m/m romance with no full on sex scenes in it at all. Memorizing You by Dan Skinner. I could not put it down and thoroughly enjoyed it. I don’t believe romances have to be pornographic and enjoyed this refreshing change of pace.

    However, with heat ratings/blurbs/genres etc at most publishing houses it is usually clear as to what you are getting at the outset. If I buy without checking first then I only have myself to blame if the book turns out to be something I wouldn’t normally enjoy – though I am pretty easy to please and read most stuff anyway.

    As for gay characters being in genres other than romance. I believe they can be in any genre, because homosexual people are in every walk of life, just as heterosexual people are. I actually don’t think they should be split off from the main genres at all, even though they are. It hardly helps equality to have the genre sidelined away from the other books. I think a fantasy with a gay character should be right there in the fantasy genre. Same with the mystery. In fact, some of those are – Diana Gabaldon’s Lord Grey series are quite clearly in my local store in the main section, not sidelined into the gay section.

    My own books are pretty hot for the most part when it comes to sex scenes, but I do have one in the works that I plan on being a lot tamer. I know I will lose readers over it (and goodness knows I can’t really afford to) but if that is what the story calls for, that is what I’ll write.

    1. I think for me the crux of the matter are the portals…the selling portals like Amazon, Apple, Sony and B&N. If you wanted to read a steampunk novel that has a GLBT character in it but don’t know the publishers…which are primarily romance… how would you find that book? As so many authors are stretching into other genres, or authors are writing books that aren’t necessarily romance… how do we find them? And how do we promote their inclusion into the GLBT realm. I’m not going to say genre because really I think the word “genre” in this instance has come to mean M/M romance…of which I read a lot of. And Like. But ah, what of the others? And how do I find them? 😀

  17. I didn’t have time to read all the previous comments, so forgive me if I repeat something. First, thank you, Rhys, for posting this thoughtful, thought-provoking blog on a subject that needs talking about. I want to start by saying that to me, when we say M/M or just slash, we are implying that in the story there will be some sort of male + male romantic or sexual involvement. Notice I said “or,” because yes, you can have romance without much sex. Recently, I learned that M/M stories are “classified” as erotic even if there is no sex, and I immediately responded, ‘WTF?’ Because really, WTF? That’s like saying all silverware goes in the fork bin. On the other hand, yes there is some cookie-cutter Harlequin-style romance in M/M genre. I’m not wild about it. But apparently a goodly number of readers are. I say that because the authors are among the most published, most read, most revered in our genre. So, if my wand wasn’t broken, I’d wave it and make it so M/M books could be erotic or not, and that would mirror mainstream romance. I’d leave the cookie cutter, but have the publishers use an imprint that would communicate Harlequinesque for lovers of gay love fiction. And then, the question of whether the presence of a gay character makes a book M/M, well. That’s just silly. And there are quite a number of mainstream published books that belie the assertion that it has been assumed to be so. And, I’m glad you pubbed BDB, and I’m going to read it soon. I happen to love urban fantasy. And the way you write. =D

    1. Smooches and hugs, love.

      Now I love the fast and dirty smexing books as well as a good damned detective book or fantasy. And yes, the M/M genre is automatically considered erotica. Because that’s kinda been the past perspective. But ah, let’s face it, we are growing and how to find a GLBT book as a reader? Because that’s what I’m looking for. Where is the sci-fi book wiht a gay character? Where am I going to find it? Karin Lowachee wrote the Warchild series and it kicks ass but most readers of gay novels might not be able to find them. And they are fantastic!

      Or Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series which features a gay couple but in a fantasy setting. They are clearly under fantasy in Amazon but so many of our fellow readers would LOVE them. No on page sex but still fantastic series. Dancers of Arun by Elizabeth Abbey is another. Or Gossamer Axe by Gael Baudino.

      I don’t want erotica per se. But damn it…good stories!

      I wanted to see what others thought and if they’ve pondered this. It’s really a reader kind of discussion. How and what has to be done to promote the GLBT character, regardless of genre? 😀

  18. Sarah_Madison

    I’ve been thinking about this subject all day, waiting for the chance to come back to this post and put my thoughts into words. I think this is a difficult and interesting question because it comes back to: what are we writing when we sit down to tell a particular story?

    Craig Ferguson is in the habit of saying ‘everything is better with a gay subtext’, and much as it makes me giggle every time I hear him say that, I do understand what he means. Sometimes it’s more fun to watch a movie like Top Gun or a TV show such as due South for the implied relationships than the actual ones.

    I love the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy Sayers–which are often described as detective storied with romantic interruptions. I like that–I like the fact that the romance between Lord Peter and Harriet Vane grows as the series progresses, and yet ultimately, the stories themselves are mysteries first and foremost. Most of my favorite stories aren’t romances per se, but stories in other genres that have a strong romantic subplot.

    When we write romances, however, the romance is the main part of the story. I still prefer my romance to carry a strong plot–I want that mystery, or that sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal element as well. Undiluted romance doesn’t hold my interest as well in most cases. But I think we have to consider the genre (and reader expectations) when we write within it.

    That having been said, I really do believe that there is room for a broader definition of M/M romance. My friend Anna Butler is currently shopping for a publisher for her six novel sci-fi series that, while it does have a M/M romance within it, is largely a hard-core sci-fi story. This has made it hard to find a market for this series. I believe it has the potential to be a crossover series–that readers will come to if for the science fiction aspects, and oh, right, the two main characters just happen to be men in a relationship together.

    I tend to have only one or two major sex scenes in any given story. I like sex. I like writing about it, and I think it can reveal a lot about a character–but I believe in putting in the scenes as the story demands, and not simply plugging them in to satisfy genre expectations. My most recent release has been getting stellar reviews, but I have had one reader list it as an almost DNF because it was so ‘boring’. I can only assume that this was because my characters didn’t jump each other’s bones the minute the plane crashed on the deserted island (hello, injuries and the need to survive, thank you very much). For me, the characters having sex before they were rescued, before Rick’s serious injuries had been dealt with, was unrealistic. And yet I risked disappointing at least one reader because of this.

    I can’t help it. I’m going to continue to tell my stories the way I think they need to be told. The longer I’m at this writing game, the less important I think sex is to the overall story. So I do find myself wondering if I’m writing in the ‘right’ genre or not… 😉

    1. See Anna Butler’s books are the kind of the type I’m talking about. Where do I as a reader, find that series? Should there be a GLBT category on the selling portals so I can find them? Publishers aside, how do I get access to those characters? Regardless of genre?

      I think we’ve grown in interest in alternative *sorta* characters being spotlighted in books but how to get that information out to the reader? To me?

      The genre of M/M is really based in romance…and that’s okay. Great even since well you know, I read and write that too. But suppose I wanna read a steampunk novel with a character who happens to look at men’s asses instead of female ones? He might not be in a romance but because he’s gay, that book might be slotted into M/M or get lost in the fantasy bucket with me having no hope of finding him 😀

      So perhaps it’s not that you’re writing in the wrong genre or not but should we have a genre expansion? And how do we go about that?

  19. Sharon Cox

    I want more than romance in my mm books. A good storyline is essential for me but I want to see a mm pairing as well. I want romance but I don’t need to have the ins and outs of a sexual encounter. That being said, I have no problem with reading a steamy encounter as long as it is part of a good book.
    These days, I find that I am only reading in the mm area. I am not reading het at all although I am going to make myself move back into this area.
    I have over 2000 books on my ereader and 90% of these mm.

    1. For me, this is a readership question. Because I as a reader kinda want a sci-fi, fantasy, detective or thriller book with a GLBT character in it. If I want romance, I know where to get that because the genre is called out on Amazon but what about the others? Should there be a GLBT category with romance, detective, mystery etc categories? Or should all genres have a GLBT category under them? what do you think?

  20. Mary

    Ok if I am looking for a book I am going to head to the “section” that interests me the most ( and yes it usually has sex in it) but I honestly feel we have to lead the way in making the world the one we want to live in and if that starts with a small thing like labelling a story then so be it. To me MM MF MMM etc means that there is sex and/or romance and/or eroticai. So I would expect that there would be sex (or at least the building of a relationship) as well as story (at least in a good one). There are sub genres and I accept that it makes it easier for the reader to find something they would like read. But if I went looking for a thriller or even an historical thriller, the sexual orientation of the characters should not matter, because it’s the story that I am looking at NOT his/her partner choice. Maybe we need to lead the way in saying that we will not pigeonhole even further the QLGBT community or women or different races, at least in the literary world, take a stand, let our blurbs say it for us.
    As a reader I would never have gotten into MM if I hadn’t have been introduced thru a mainstream romance series, then thru dedicated fans who sent me off into a whole new world. That’s my opinion anyway..

    1. I think I feel kinda of out of sorts with the mainstream publishing world because while there are people writing characters of different sexual orientations, they aren’t being published into the mainstream. It’s a struggle for those authors to get their works out there. So how to make it easier? What can happen? What should happen to show the publishing world that yes, we want those characters as well.

      I would agree that I’d like us all to be in the same buckets but right now, on Amazon and the like, Gay romance is categorized out as GLBT and not by the type of romance it is… like historical or western… contemporary etc. So, should that be categorized out as well? Or should we have an entire GLBT section and have clear categories beneath it marked fantasy, sci fi, romance etc?

      I posed this as a reader because I think there are great authors out there with GLBT characters that are getting lost. How do we make ourselves aware of these hidden authors?

  21. Yes, I would agree that LGBT should have the sub categories listed for readers. That said, I’m aware there are folks who would like to see the LGBT category removed completely, as they don’t believe sexuality should be a factor, and all books placed together for readers to sort out whether the book’s characters are people they care to read about. I don’t think the reading world is ready for that. So, for now, readers deserve to make their buying journey as easy as possible for them.

    A reader interested in FF Sci Fi should be able to open the LGBT category, click on FF, and scroll down to Sci Fi. There isn’t any reason not to employ today’s technology in making a reader’s buying ability a piece of cake. Let’s face it, if a reader can’t find what they’re looking for they will move on to a place where they can. Currently, that includes web sites devoted to FF, MM, etc. Mystery and horror sites have been doing it for years. Unfortunately, the books listed on those sites don’t always include the vast number of titles available on sites like Amazon and ARe.

    Ironically, I’ve seen a few pirate sites that have indeed broken down the sub genres of LGBT in order to make stealing the books that much easier.

    Regarding mainstream; times are changing, albeit very slowly. Kensington Books, who has signed some of the best authors and biggest names in the business, accepts LGBT for their print division, though I suspect they’re hoping for that groundbreaker novel to arrive. But I do know they’re actively looking for it. USA Today recently reviewed Rick R Reed’s latest novel – not just a mention, but a full review. GateHouse News Service (a small news service of 500+ newspapers) isn’t shy about running interviews with LGBT authors. Little by little it’s all coming together.

    1. Heh. Well done. On the name. 😀

      And yes, I think we’re at that point of…change. We need change of some sort. We want more choices. More exposure. If that means separating out books so we can find them, perhaps that’s good for now. Let’s work towards inclusion definitely but I don’t think we’re there yet. I want to find the books now. 😀 Not dig for them 😀

  22. I’ve been hunting for LGBT books for years. Working in a library I had easy access to review publications and used to buy anything that even mentioned homosexuals. Eventually I discovered authors who wrote in my favorite genres and became a more selective collector.

    I prefer reading novels with LGBT characters. If a gay character isn’t mentioned in the blurb chances are I won’t bother with the book unless it’s a favorite author. For me, a perfect listing would include not only the mention of gay characters, but the specific genre as well.

    As a lesbian, I see the M/M and F/F listings in a very broad perspective. Whereas most heterosexual readers may assume (not always correctly) that anything they pick up will be about other heterosexuals, I look for the M/M and F/F labels to see if a book will be about “my people.” 😉 Once I have my book pool I begin looking for the specific genres: Mystery, romance, erotica, science fiction, etc.

    As for the actual amount of sex in each of these genres…it depends. If you took out the actual sex scenes (not romantic scenes) in “Sinner’s Gin” I’d still think it was among the best mysteries I’ve read. I picked it up because it was a mystery with gay characters, not for hot man on man sex. Conversely, if I picked up a book that was classified as erotica and there was only one sex scene in the entire novel I’d be very disappointed.

    I’ve learned to really dig into the online reviews if the book is by an unfamiliar author. I appreciate other readers posting things like “HEA,” “hot man on man action,” “lots of sex, very little plot,” “great story with just a little bit of spice.” Other reader comments are what help me decide if I want to venture into the unknown. If we started seeing these types of notations along with m/m or f/f it might help readers make better selection choices with fewer complaints.

    1. I would like a better way to classify book. Because really, I want to support the smaller releases… you know? And yes, it’s always going to be het assumed. So, how to boost that up?

      I think it has to be at the seller level. That’s where the parsing needs to be.

      For me, the sex doesn’t really count unless there’s too much of it then it becomes erotica… but that would be for any book 😀

      And aw, thank you.

  23. To me m/m signifies that the main character is a gay male or, if a relationship/romance story, a bi male but the romantic relationship is m/m. After that, the broader genre is subdivided. Erotica obviously does have to have on page and graphic sex, probably a fair amount of it, too, lol. Tis is the ONLY sub genre I would have an absolute expectation of on page hot and heavy sex. Romance I would usually be expecting on page sex to some degree or other, although if the blurb indicated that the character may have heavy issues, I’d realise and accept that there may be no actual sex in the book. Sci Fi, UF, historical, speculative, etc. I’d really have no expectations one way or the other. If it doesn’t fit the characters, the story or the writing style then on page sex shouldn’t be plonked in there just because. If the story’s good, it’ll be good. Do I like on page m/m sex? Sure. Absolutely. But I’d prefer it to be there for the right reasons (story/character development, writing style, fits in with the story and character personalities). I am over this idea of reader entitlement. As long as the blurb is indicative of what the story is about, expectations should be broad enough to just enjoy the damn story for what it is.

    1. Yes, erotica should be the smex bucket *laughs*

      I’ve kinda kicked around the idea that I’d like to see a GLBT category under Amazon and the like so I can find GLBT books in any genre. And under romance, have the categories like they do for het… like western, contemporary, historical, etc. 😀

      But damn it, I don’t wanna dig 😀 Heh. See? It’s all about me being lazy. 😀

      And I like what I’m writing. But oh, I wanna see other authors’ stuff get spotlighted which they aren’t because it’s hard to produce an “alternative-sexuality” character under mainstream categories. So… yeah. Sighs 😀

  24. Two words, Lynn… Lynn Flewelling. 🙂 I think she hit the mark with the Nightrunner series, and there is only the “fade to black” kind of sexual references there; nothing graphic. I absolutely adore her work.

    Your books are pretty damn awesome, too. I love reading the plot line, with the occasional mix of both erotic and implied sexual scenes.

    1. Heh. I just had coffee with Lynn Thursday. 😀 Well iced tea really. She had a diet Coke. It was good to catch up.

      I adore her. We talked about future projects and her schooling. Really, I simply adore her.

  25. Random thoughts here…it’s late…I’m out of potato chips and the Benadryl hasn’t kicked in.

    First, I’m beginning to think that the whole idea of “genre” is outdated. In the old days, you wrote within publisher established specs with a bit of wiggle room at the outer edges, and there were a manageable amount of categories. In the old days, a reader could confidently rely on the concept of an “implied contract” between the writer and the reader.

    If I picked up a Regency romance, I would expect manners and wit, conflict based on social class distinctions and absolutely no explicit sex. If I picked up a mystery, I’d expect a logical storyline and a Big Reveal at the end. If I picked up a young adult book, there would be little to no graphic violence, no overt sex and only the bad example characters would be allowed to curse. History could be romantic or romance could be historical, but they were clearly different and we all understood the distinctions.

    Now, with only a few exceptions, the implied contract is whatever the reader says it is. And that’s based on assumptions that the writer really has no control over. Those assumptions could involve the picture on the cover, the previous books by the same author, and individual ideas of where that fine dividing line falls between romance, mystery, urban fantasy, historical, steam punk or sci fi. All the publishers are doing when they corral works into groups is trying to promise a certain kind of experience…to meet a broad spectrum of similar implied contracts.

    And good luck with that, nowadays.

    I think that books labeled as GBLT face a somewhat peculiar situation. Simply by categorizing them as that, a publisher is defining the book with an overtly sexual label. The whole point of labeling a book as such is to point out that this is NOT a straight story. The label is different than calling a book a “historical” or a “Science Fiction” read. When we put a label like “women’s” or “African American” or “GLBT” foremost on a book, we’re pulling what should be a secondary categorization up to the top level. We are being told to make the assumption that both the characters and the story/romance are based on a sexual orientation and a sexually-based perspective, regardless of what “genre” it falls into. And that’s where I think it gets confused. I also think there’s where a strong sense of an implied contract rears its head. A lot of people assume that if you’re pointing out that it’s a sexually defined genre, well…there should be SEX in it!

    I have to admit, when I see anything slash anything…M/M, M/M/F, F/F, Kirk/Spock, you name it, I am programmed to assume a romantic and sexual relationship will be the primary focus of the book.

    When I see “GLBT plus X”…historical, literature, mystery…I assume the romance will be secondary to a primary story delivered through a homosexual lens.

    I also think that out of all the genres, romance and mystery still have the most strongly ingrained sense of implied contract. The structures are elemental and the outcomes are pre-ordained by definition. Screw around with that and you risk major backlash and 1 star reviews.

    A writer who puts out several successful and much enjoyed M/M romances, and then comes out with a GLBT Urban Fantasy (a completely random example, of course) has kind of set him/herself up because her readership now has an implied contract in their heads. The story could be Gone with the Wind and The Hunt for Red October with a side of To Kill A Mockingbird, and a significant contingent of readers will be so torqued by unmet expectations, they won’t be able to evaluate the work on its own merit. Genre distinctions be damned.

    And I don’t see how a genre system can cope with the incredible bleed across traditional lines that is now happening. Authors now take experimental risks and have ways of finding audiences that would never have emerged a decade ago. Old taboos have been systematically plowed over and through until there’s virtually nothing that can’t be explored. If you write it and put it out there, someone will eventually come.

    I think it does a disservice to a lot of works to put any but the most broad sort of label on them. It sets up conditioned expectations in a reader’s head…conditions that a writer has no control over but who has to bear the consequences of.

    What I’d like to see on Amazon is a kind of database check list. When a writer puts a book out there, he/she can check up to, say, 50 different elements that are contained within the story. In effect, use the meta data to categorize books. Then I, as a reader in search of a GLBT mystery with a black protagonist, wouldn’t have to give a flying fuck about what genre it is.

    The idea may be half baked…I haven’t given it a whole lot of thought…but this is how I search my Calibre database to find the books in my library.

    I can’t think of any other way. *Yawn*

    Bed.

    1. I’m about to head out to pick someone up from Comic Con so I’m right there with the brain bleed.

      You and I have the same kind of construct in our heads. But ah, how to move the SELLING portals to our way of thinking?

      And can an author stretch and/or write something off genre without creating a semi-backlash? Dunno. I’ve seen it happen to a few authors in the M/M circles and it’s been a sad thing to see. Because the books are great… just not to a certain framework. I’ve got no answer to that one. 😀

      I’m going to go with two lines. The Mystery/Suspense-romances and once in a while, a traditional formula urban fantasy featuring a bisexual elf.

      I believe we’re at a kind of crossroads along reading lines. For some reason. It’ll be interesting to see where we go as we change how we decide what to read. 😀

      1. Well, for starters, I’d say…start small. Looking at Amazon’s left listings, they sort books by “Department” rather than genre. Certainly, this widens the possibilities for how to categorize a book, and it’s a good middle of the road step toward divorcing themselves somewhat from the old, publisher-defined “Genre” definitions.

        My first question is, can a book fall within more than one department? Could I find the same book by drilling down through two different departments? For instance, could I find “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” by searching through the “Mystery/Thriller” department or the “Romance” department?

        My second thought is, if nothing else, we need to mass a request to Amazon to add a “Romance” sub category under the main “Gay & Lesbian” department…and under the “Romance” department, we need a sub category “Gay & Lesbian.” This alone would help a lot of people navigate and avoid unpleasant surprises.

        I think Amazon is the most flexible and progressive in continuing to evaluate and adapt to reader needs. Mainline publishers tend to be monolithic dinosaurs in my experience, now squeezed and reactive, rather than proactive. As Amazon goes, so goes the industry.

        I can’t help wondering what the barriers would be to setting up an additional search/sort function in addition to the existing Department structure. I can’t see that it would be that terribly complicated. Amazon already has the metadata information for nearly every book in its inventory, so there’s no retroactive data collection process needed…and even if there were, start with what you have and collect backwards as you go. Since the metadata is already stored, it wouldn’t take massive amounts of additional storage to do this. Building an interface with simple check boxes is something anyone with one database programming class under their belt could do, I’d think. Every author or publisher who submits a work would take three minutes to check the boxes that fit that work (perhaps a limit of five or six boxes would be appropriate, to avoid spamming) and then any reader could visit, check the boxes that fit the type of work they are seeking, and then be presented with a tiered list….Books that match all your parameters, Books that match 75% of your parameters, Books that match 50% of your parameters.

        It wouldn’t replace the Department listing on the left of the Amazon home page. It would just be another entry “Choose books by feature” or some such.

        Let’s form a Committee and put on a show!

    2. The romance category has Gay and Lesbian under it but EVERYTHING goes into that bucket. Regardless of book. So it’s a bit mass-mingled. I’d say let’s separate everything out and yes, dual listings! Because it’s a romance AND a western. But those don’t get counted under the main listings because you know gay.

      But ah, we do need to figure something out? Because dude, I’m missing great authors!

      1. Okay, now THAT’s really interesting. When I click on “Gay and Lesbian” in the left column of Amazon’s home page, I then get a list of sub genre that doesn’t include “Romance.” And when I click on “Romance in the left column of the same home page, I don’t show “Gay and Lesbian” as a sub genre. There’s nothing there to indicate that it even exists.

        I wonder if my home page is being tailored to me, in which case, their algorithm sucks.

        Can anyone else pipe in here? When you go to Amazon’s home page (with you logged in as you), click on the department “Romance.” Do you get “Gay and Lesbian” in the sub listings?

      2. I know they were in the process of changing things up… which was kinda on my mind when I wrote this. So woooooot-ish if they have 😀

        If I go under Kindle>Romance there is a section called Gay Romance.

        Kindle Store › Kindle eBooks › Romance › Gay Romance

        So… yeah it’s kinda an odd listing because that category doesn’t exist in Sci-Fi/Fantasy or Mysteries.

      3. That’s the difference then. I hadn’t even looked in the Kindle section. I was going off the main Department section on the main homepage. Fascinating that the Kindle subset of ebooks garners that sub category under Romance, but under “master” Romance category, it doesn’t get a mention.

        That just further muddies the waters….I”m an avid ebook reader, but when I go hunting for something, I start from the home page departments and then when I find it, I look to see if a Kindle version exists. Not the other way around.

        If you look at the main Amazon homepage left column, Gay and Lesbian books account for the smallest number of books in any category (the number in parentheses) but it’s enough to get a mention. I wonder what that number is for G & L books just in the Kindle group. It’s got to be higher…I wonder how much higher.

        I know the M/M group on Goodreads is a big one. I’m wondering how much e-Clout we might have?

      4. Odd isn’t it? 😀

        And I would suppose a lot. Or maybe some? It’s one of those HUH points in this discussion. What is happening on the portals? And how can we influence change?

  26. crookedriver

    I have never felt the desire to post till now. As a reader – and I really do love to read, I read nearly everything & anything I can get my hands on. Where I was once limited by the library and the local bookstore, now the internet makes it possible to search and choose anything my heart desires. Most readers who access the internet to fulfill their addiction know how and where to search for the stories they most love to read – by author, by publisher, by various websites. Amazon has gotten quite astute at helping a reader find what they seek. Feel like fantasy with gay characters, Type in the search: Fantasy Gay and up pops everything your heart desires in the fantasy range with …tada…gay characters & themes. Same with any other genre. It is what makes Amazon so successful.

    As far as sex scenes in a book, I can take them or leave them. The question is does the scene make sense or I should say is it relevant to the story. I want a story, I want to sink into the tale, become engrossed in what is happening, care about the characters, I crave that connection and if it isn’t there; I may finish reading the story (kind of like not being able to stop watching a train wreck) – but I will put it in the “never to be opened again” file or the circular trash and never pick that author again. I shy away from the shorts, they leave me unsatisfied, I want more, I want to know the characters and understand them, become immersed in their world. I love series for that very reason.
    A written sex scene has to be more than who is doing what to make it good, it is the emotion behind the actions that makes it so worth reading. When the sex has more meaning to it than “I’m horny, let’s do it” then it is worth writing about and definitely worth reading!

    1. I think Amazon’s search engines do the best job of it. Definitely. I would like to see a more structured category list but I think that’s for further discussion. 😀 And kind of really why I pondered because it was sort of one of those… hey how do I find stuff without having to dig through lists and hashtags?

      I agree with you about the sex. I want the story to be strong first and I kind of balk when any two characters stumble over their own shoes and fall into bed together. 😀

      Short stories are fucking difficult. Not enough space! And that’s me as a writer speaking. God so hard. 😀 *grins* Heh.

  27. Löni

    For equalities sake I would say you shouldn’t split off the genres, because that way they keep their “exceptional” “not the norm” characteristic – it shouldn’t matter what the detective does at home, it can be part of the story but it shouldn’t classify the story. It’s a detective story – as long as the crime solving is the important part it’s a crime novel …

    And sure if there is a market for it and demand keep the romance stories, but they are romances that happen to have 2 men in them … which makes them uninteresting for some (ok a rather big audience) – but if the focus of the story is on the romance and the sex then heck it’s a romance and it should be sorted in there.

    Hmm not sure if I’m making that much sense – I always would plead for not selling a book by the characters sexual orientation but by the “story” – of course that’s my opinion and I don’t mind what orientation the characters have – because I always feel the story plot and the writing style are the more important part. You can add somewhere the sexual orientation, but then do it for every book.

    I would like to get some more stories where it is not high lighted in any way that they are not seen as the “norm” by the majority . Anyway by giving the books the sex-orientation labels you separate them from the other books. You could add them at the end, after you used up 5 or 6 others …

    But then I’m an open minded bookworm – I read enough stories with hetero characters and don’t mind that there’s no sex in them … a good story doesn’t need it to have them to be worth reading.

    I would go so far as to say yes there are a lot of sex-stories, that have very “flat” plots and characters … I guess they can work for some ..

    What I really find troublesome is the whole “content warning” stuff that’s going on but that is another topic …

    Ok I think now I might start repeating myself … yeah it would be nice to see at some point that GLBT is not a “genre” anymore. But that might be a bit too radical for the moment …

    1. See the main reason I’m bringing it up is because GLBT IS separated out in romance but that category contains everything. Regardless of type or content. There’s BDSM mixed in with sci-fi mixed in with westerns. So, where to divide or not to divide? Should we mingle all of the gay romance into their proper categories? Or should GLBT have its own genre with categories spread out?

      How would we find a non-romance book featuring a GLBT character and support that author’s writings? The mainstream publishers shy away from anything off the norm and indie presses struggle to get their books noticed in that big bucket. Is there a way we can spotlight these main characters and their stories in such a way to make people understand that they are acceptable and the norm?

      It’s been a pondering. 😀

  28. I want the author to convince me that what I am reading is real (even if its got elves in it) by real, I mean real emotions, real fear, real love, real problems. You can put it in any genre, any world, any setting you just have make me believe.

    Sex is not needed for my enjoyment if the author convinces me that its not needed.

    If an author has failed to convince me completely with their words I then fall back to what a genre is in order to explain why I was not happy enough to rate it 5 stars.

    There is far to many reason on what I think makes a great book and what makes a bad book lol

  29. edmondmanningmpls

    Rhys, thanks for the fun conversation. I enjoyed the blog and even moreso all the discussion – it really helps fill in a perspective I’ve struggled with: what makes a M/M romance? The sex? The love? The promise of HEA?

    I’ve written two books now and both include a lot of sex. I think the sex is integral to the advancement of the story and the reviews seem to agree. But at the same time, some of the most loving, wonderful reviews have said, “This isn’t really a romance story…” and I struggle. I don’t think the sex makes it a romance, but two characters spend the whole book falling in love – how is that not a romance?

    This whole conversation of what is – and is not – romance, GLBT fiction, etc. is really intriguing. I think you’re observations were dead on – the ‘genre’ (for lack of better word) is growing. Expanding. With that comes some growing pains around defining what fits and does not.

    I’ve been looking to explore this conversation in a non-judgmental, positive way. I’m not invested in making a rigid definition or saying who is right and who is wrong. I just wanted to read various readers/writers perspectives. I feel like I got that here. Thank you.

    Edmond Manning

    1. Hello love! Adore your books. *HUGS*

      I’m definitely not in any position to come up with the RIGHT ANSWER! Hell, I’m floundering just to capture what I’m thinking at this moment. I think I’m at a half-step of… how can we get gay characters accepted by the mainstream as the norm? What steps do we have to take in order to spotlight indie or self-pubbed or niche authors featuring gay characters? And hell, even the authors with GLBT characters published by the BIG publishers struggle for recognition.

      I wanted to start a discourse to see what everyone thought. It’s been a good discussion. And yes, I think the inclusion of GLBT characters as the MAIN character in a book is starting to pick up, and not all of it can be classified as romance. Traditionally formula anyway. So what to do? 😀 Where to go?

  30. hnnaah

    When I finally realized “sex’ was not forthcoming in BDB’s…I tabled the book for a few days. I beat myself up…does the book really require” sex” before I complete reading? Damn…how shallow is that???
    I went back…completed the book and ABSOLUTELY loved the story.
    What also helped? I’ve read all of Ur other books…all awesome…Why would this book be any different?
    I would also read books by Josh lanyon that does not have sex written in….
    I believe it shows your natural talents as a story teller in creating a story that doesn’t follow the mainstream.

  31. Ah, not having sex in Black Dog Blues was deliberate. I thought about it. I did. Really. But it didn’t seem like it would fit. Kai just wasn’t ready to jump into bed with any of the characters *coffsRydercoffs* and well, it just…wasn’t happening. 😀 I’m glad you continued and I hope you enjoyed it. 😀

    Thank you for taking that risk. 😀 There are so many KILLER authors out there. I kinda wanna find them for everyone, you know? 😀

  32. If I love a book, it isn’t explicit sex scenes that make me love it; it’s the character development, the world building, and whether the conflict is risky for the characters and if motivations are exciting and interesting. I don’t need sex in m/m for it to be a good read. I do like a physical pay off for the characters especially if the entire story is built about whether they will get together, but a good hot kiss and morning after scene can be just as satisfying.

    I’m relatively new to m/m. I didn’t even know it existed until a couple years ago. The books I read before were things like The Persian Boy by Mary Renault, Maurice by EM Forester (love that movie, BTW. I can watch Alec and Maurice’s kiss at the end over and over.) the Nightrunner Series by Lynn Flewelling, the Wraeththu books by Storm Constantine. All with gay male characters (well except for Storm’s magical post-apocalyptic hermaphrodites) and all pairings. No explicit sex but I still enjoyed them.

    So when I discovered the m/m genre, I read everything for a while but over time I’ve found a lot of unimaginative sex scenes that are formulaic and could probably be copied out of an online sex writing template- blow job, condom and lube, 1 2 3 fingers, penetration, (insert character’s name here) oh you’re so tight/hot. I’ve gotten more selective in what I read these days. (Hopefully, it goes without saying that you’re on the list of authors I buy automatically.)

    Any way my point is that what I want in an m/m story is that it is about something, not a story solely about someone doing someone and how. I don’t care if there’s explicit sex or not but if there is I want it to mean something or be surprising somehow. I think it was in Ginn Hales’ Wicked Gentleman when the main characters have sex for the first time and the next morning pretend it didn’t mean anything but one of the characters stole the others hat and he didn’t know why he did it. That said a lot about his character and feelings at that moment and it was an interesting detail.

    I was fine with Black Dog Blues not having sex in it. Kai wasn’t in a mind frame for it and it would have been against his character with what we’ve seen do far.

    1. I would love for the genre to be very… exposed… for more people to know the authors who are struggling to bring GLBT characters to the forefront. Literary Equality is SO far behind the curve. The strongest presence these characters have is in Romance which is good but it leads to the perception that a GLBT character isn’t welcome/acceptable in other genres.

      And you’d miss someone like Lynn Flewelling or Karin Lowachee.

      Like all genres, Gay Romance / Blends are a fantastic platform for writers. And god there are some KICKASS authors. God SO many to list. Really.

      And thank you for reading Black Dog Blues. Really. Thank you. *grins*

  33. I’m a little late here, just got around to reading the post. I like sex in my M/M just like the next person. But as with het MCs, there are genres within the genre. I know that some books are going to be Sci Fi or Dystopian or Mystery/Thriller or YA or whatever. They all won’t have mucho caliente sex. That’s ok. I read what I am in the mood for. If I want smut, I seek that out. I often just like to see a gay character in a role traditionally held by a het guy or woman. There are, indeed some formula pubs just like Harlequin (hurts my brain to even type that word!) but so many more offer up books that just happen to feature gay characters. The more people realize this and spread the word, the more this will help the growing public acceptance of LGBT people. They don’t just have random sex all the time. Some are cops, teachers, bar tenders, bounty hunters, ranchers, authors, detectives. They are you and me, just gay.

    1. Ah, I actually have fond memories of Harlequins. My grandmother read them and I’d send her BOXES of them because there were no bookstores where she lived. Good Memories. She passed them around my aunts and other sundry relatives. So yeah, I’m good with them. *grins*

      I would like the word to be spread about GLBT characters being okay. I’d like to see a better representation of everyone in every kind of book, you know?

  34. My issues with Black Dog Blues have nothing to do with the lack of sex. You said it was urban fantasy and UF DOES NOT have sex and rarely romance in those stories.

    I have now read a few M/M romances that IMO are pretty much PG.. PM me and I’ll give you the list.

    Truthfully, I find M/M romance a lot “cleaner” than most M/F, RS M/F romances. The language is less crass, the sex scenes more emotional, the interaction between couples more real… remind me again what took me so long to try the genre… 🙂 I’ve also found that there are a lot more sequel’s written after couples get there HEA… in M/F romances that never happens.

    Is sex necessary… No. But I am a fan of romance and I like my HEA’s. But as I said BDB was UF, and I wasn’t expecting a relationship to develop but I do hope in the future one will.

  35. I just read some of the comments and had a nickel’s more to add….

    M/M relationships have been around a long time and not in their own genre… my very first…

    Vanyel… http://www.mercedeslackey.com/biblio_series.html Scroll down to the Valdemar series… Magic’s… etc… Also, her Valdemar books even have a trio and many F/F. M/M pairings. They’ve been around since 1984 and are still my absolute favourite Fantasy books. http://www.goodreads.com/series/50054-valdemar-chronological.

    BUT, the need to be read in printed order, not chronological.. just an FYI.

    1. I’ve read The Valdemar books when they were fresh off the press. I felt a bit cheated that she retro-sexualized Eric in the Bard books but hey, those are her books.

      The discussion here really wasn’t about Black Dog Blues or anyone’s issues with it. I wanted to bring up a discussion about how to find books with GLBT characters in genres other than Romance and if the Romance section marked Gay/Lesbian should have more divisions… all of that. Just that we’re at a bubble of sorts in how we classify books and how can we spotlight more GLBT characters and buy those books to show the larger publishing houses that yes, we’ll buy them.

      But it’s been a good discussion.

      1. farmwifetwo

        I have all the Valdemar books in first print and I bought them all off the book store shelves… makes me feel old 🙂 I’ve attempted many of the other series’ and given them up,

        I think you will find divisions are hard to come by in all genres with articles and comments around about the lack of ‘pure’ fantasy, UF etc but in the last 8 yr of book-land it has improved and e-readers IMO have a lot to do with it. Add in places like Goodreads and different stories are getting told and read. Before I use to gripe at the ‘same old’s’ that were getting mentioned, now there is the opposite problem of too much choice and getting readers to remember your name. 8 yrs ago m-m was fringe, now it’s mainstream with that comes choice and diversification. It’s already started… patience.

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