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While all of us love a good romance, I’ve come to the conclusion that we read them for different reasons. One reason is no better than another, but I’m going to suggest that it’s important for an author to be aware of what basic reason they seek to serve when setting out to write a romance. Through that authorial choice, we extend an invitation to a reader as to how we expect them to enter our story.

I’m not claiming to be encyclopedic about this, (so let’s assume my list is incomplete) but I’ve identified three primary emotional invitations to a romance reader—that is, three distinctly different reasons why a reader might want to read a romance starring two men. I’ll be brief about the first two, because I want to spend more time on the third.

  1. Reader as Stand-in. 

The first is the most obvious—the traditional romance invitation, inherited unchanged from straight romance. This psychological structure invites the reader to enter the story through one of the main characters, and presumes that the other half of the romantic bond or pairing is considered legitimate relationship material, at least in fantasy: the powerful billionaire, the good-hearted veterinarian, the construction contractor, the youth pastor volunteering at the homeless shelter for queer youth, the geeky computer expert, the coffee shop owner, and so on. There’s a long list.

If one of the main characters doesn’t represent a satisfactory fantasy partner for the reader, the reader can’t relate to the other main character as an acceptable placeholder. The emotional premise of this kind of love story won’t work for a reader on that wavelength. I think it’s fair to acknowledge that this invitation is for a reader of the same gender identity and sexual orientation as the characters. How else could a reader identify as a stand-in for one of the characters?

For sake of full disclosure, this is the emotional approach I’m most inclined to take when reading a romance featuring two men. I’ve frequently finished one of our romances dissatisfied, and that’s what forced me to examine what other emotional invitations might exist for a reader. After all, our genre is full of wildly successful love stories that don’t use this basic premise.

  • Reader as Empathetic Cheerleader. 

The second premise presents a romance between two men without that explicit invitation to enter into this story through one of the main characters, or share their gender identity or orientation. Rather it presents the couple as legitimate relationship choices — for each other. We cheer for them and their happiness, but would never marry one. That presumption is unnecessary with this invitation. The reader then enjoys the story through watching the unfolding relationship. Alpha shifters, strippers and sex workers (depending on how they’re characterized), Navy Seal assassins, spies, and so on. Again, there’s a long list. 

I began to understand this dynamic better through a conversation with Poppy Dennison. She told me that she’d given up on het romance because she didn’t find much to identify with in the heroines she found there. As a result she was drawn to romance between two men, where she could appreciate both the unfolding relationship and the sexual heat without any of the expectations that go with being an emotional stand-in for one of the characters.

  • Reader as Healer/Caretaker. 

This third structure is significantly different from the first two, psychologically speaking. It invites the reader to engage emotionally with the characters without requiring a reader to think that one of the main characters as relationship material at all when the story begins, even though we know they will eventually find love. Instead, we want to rescue or heal them. The characters are, in a sense, entrusted to the healing care of the reader. 

This territory includes, amongst others, hurt/comfort tropes, starting with utterly safe, predictable wounds (he’s been cheated on and he doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to trust/love again – gasp! Clutches pearls…), and culminating in “the impossibly broken hero” who is so emotionally or psychologically damaged he’s incapable of being a love partner – when the story starts.

I believe this dynamic invites a reader to a completely different emotional experience, centered in the heartfelt conviction that everyone – even the most catastrophically damaged – deserves healing through love and a happy ending. 

In this case, I suggest the Relationship, with a capital R, so profoundly central to the concept of romance, takes a secondary role to the healing of one of the characters. Sure, the healing almost certainly takes place because of love, but I argue (and you’re free to vehemently disagree with me) this kind of story is about healing first, and love second.

I am suggesting that for this kind of story, the reader’s point of entry is not the legitimacy of the characters as relationship material, but the woundedness of one of the main characters. This story invites the reader to connect empathetically with one or both of the characters as a rescue or rehabilitation project. The reader helps nurse a good but wounded creature back to health and happiness, and that’s the real emotional payoff of this kind of story. The resulting relationship simply becomes the proof of the healing.

After thinking about this for a long time, I’ve come to the conclusion that this dynamic draws on a different kind of love in us – specifically, the maternal instincts present in women and gay men. Many of us, I believe, are hardwired to be nurturers, helpers, and healers. Indeed, if we’re not careful we can easily become chronic rescuers – which is not always healthy for us, or anyone around us. 

For better or worse, we nurturer-helper-healers are suckers for things that make us go AWWwww: skinned knees, wanting to save the baby bird that has tried to fly too soon, the hopeless hero who struggles to cope, broken by personal tragedy, or broken on the rack of heartless society in general.

So our maternal instinct allows us to feel love on a very different basis from the traditional premise of a romance. This psychological difference is significant and I think it’s valuable to explore some of the strengths and pitfalls of this approach. 

The most obvious strength of this approach is the emotional power it can pack for us caretaker/healer/maternal types. A deeply wounded, compassionately written character can set even a routine romance plot on fire. But here’s a serious caveat: if the tragic woundedness is used just for the emotional hook, I say that’s cheating the reader. Healing is far too significant and complex a human experience to be used just as a form of emotional kindling to make a story catch fire. For me, the healing has to have a real and believable arc.

The most obvious risk for these stories is crossing a line between writing a romance about wounded character(s) and losing credible claim to being a romance. A wounded character is one thing, being truly broken is another. If the character can’t logically sustain a romance relationship for a believable HEA, then it ceases to be a romance. Maybe the story turns out to be a terrific psychological thriller, or a mystery, or general fiction instead. But if such a story is presented as a romance, romance readers will subjectively feel the difference and be disappointed.

The first red flag for me in this kind of story is whether the story focuses more on the woundedness rather than on the healing. Take it from me, pages and pages of “battling his demons” is not the same as healing. Suffering does not necessarily equate to internal conflict. Conflict produces a change, no matter how small. Sure, there has to be some orchestrated set-up to show how wounded the character is, so there can be an arc. But his healing has to be a real arc, not a hundred and eighty pages of depressed, agony-laced self-loathing and twenty pages of miraculous, magical transformation into a viable relationship partner. In this kind of story, I suggest the hero’s decision (and real efforts) to heal must begin in act one — long, long before the “all is lost” moment.

In the real world we know that love alone is not always enough to save someone from themselves. They have to want to be saved, and have to accept help. In romance novels, the same is still true, even if some of the lines can be softened. Is there room for some compassionate tough love in a romance featuring a broken hero? I think so. It can help keep the story on track, instead of bogging down in a toxic quagmire of pity and angst.

My biggest beef with these stories is that too often the broken hero is passive – even resistant (perfectly understandable at first, increasingly loathsome as the story progresses) – toward his healing. Does he want to be able to sustain a HEA with someone, or is he just going to wallow defiantly in being unworthy damaged goods until someone else magically fixes him? That is, is it rational to expect even a dedicated romance hero to stick around for someone who won’t try?

So authors – show your wounded character as proactive in wanting to heal. Does he seek help? Does he try to grow and change over and over? Does he fight for his relationship? A passive hero is a limp hero, and there’s a big difference between being wounded and being limp. In romance stories a limp hero is unworthy of love.

Another question for authors to think about is how the healing comes. Psychological help is often given the briefest lip service if mentioned at all, but there’s a reason those folks are called therapists. Good ones help a client find a way to heal. If the hero is impossibly broken, love alone is not enough. He needs professional help. Can a deeply wounded protagonist ever earn an HEA? Absolutely. But it takes more effort than many MCs seem able to summon in order to get there. 

There’s no shortcut around that healing, and an author writing an impossibly broken romance hero needs to understand that. So authors, I beg you not to hike out into “impossibly broken” unless you’re willing to work as hard and as realistically for his healing as your hero must.

(This article first appeared May 2017 in my column “Through My Lens” for Genre Talk at http://www.thenovelapproachreviews.com.)

I’ve been writing winter solstice poems for close to fifty years. Not every year, but this profound solar event seems to present itself to me over and over as a moment to take seriously, in reverence. It’s become my year-end, and the morning after my new year’s day.

I haven’t written a solstice poem for a few years, and with all the discordant forces at work in our world it seemed a good time to ask if there was one this year, to close out a year that has been filled with creativity, growth, pain, loss and disillusionment. This poem pretty much wrote itself in a few hours.

Winter Solstice 2016

Time to strip naked again,
be empty and innocent.
Pile actions, belief, hope, vision
onto the Solstice fire.

Trusting the furnace is hard.

Burning the wreckage
of insufficient dreams is easy,
pieces of broken furniture
not worth mending, discovered
in the wistful dim attic of my soul.
I’ve done it before.

But the other dreams?
If it’s insufficient, it will burn.
Trial by fire.

I risk losing the good dreams,
the ones I might fix up one day and re-upholster,
the dreams beloved people now dead sat in at night,
settled in their warm comfort and imperfections,
dreams I’d rather keep — losing them
hurts long before I let go.

The last gift
of an insufficient dream
is essence, light
set free as it burns.

Throw everything in.
Then climb in and trust,
like the three men in Daniel.

Search in the morning, as the sun rises,
with a heart knowing ash
as well as fire,
find what remains
untouched among the bitter ashes:
a small obsidian goddess;
seeds cracking open with new life;
a pen that still works.

Find what remains
in the light of day.

Lloyd A. Meeker

Happy Holidays! Join me in welcoming my friend and fellow author Ash to my blog today with his newest novella, Heartifact. It sounds like a fascinating story!

heartifact-cover-401x609By the way, net proceeds benefit the The Trevor Project in the US, le Refuge in France, and Arcigay in Italy

Heartifact is available from Men Over the RainbowAmazonAmazon UKAll Romance eBooks, Barnes & NobleSmashwords

 

THE MYTH OF ATLANTIS

A very special thank you to Lloyd for hosting me today. It’s great to be here!

The myth of Atlantis (Greek, Atlas) stems from two Dialogues written by Plato in 360 BC, Timaeus and Critias. The dialogues speak of an island utopian society destroyed by a cataclysm of some sort. It is correct that these Dialogues represent the written record of the myth of Atlantis, but it is incorrect that they are the source of the myth.

Egyptians told the story of Atlantis to Solon, one of the seven sages of ancient Greece, during one of his pilgrimages to Egypt. The Egyptians showed him several records of antiquity speaking to the incomparable power and prestige of the utopian empire which dominated the world 9,000 years before; and further pointed out that the Greeks had been wiped off the face of the earth alongside the people of Atlantis, with whom they were at war. Few survived, and the Egyptians purported that this is why Greeks had no memory of Atlantis. Solon passed the story on to Socrates. Socrates was Plato’s mentor, and one night at a dinner party when Plato was a youngster, he snuck in to listen to the tale told by Socrates. He recounts Socrates’ retelling of the myth in these Dialogues. It is important to note that the hieroglyphs of Egypt represent some of the most accurate historical records in existence today (and the story of Atlas does not mention the Atlantic Ocean).

In 1453, the Turks invaded the Holy Land cutting off Spain’s land-faring trade routes with the Far East. Along came Christopher Columbus who had a secret desire to find Atlantis. Under the auspices of finding seafaring trade routes for King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, he sought to find Atlantis and, instead, bumped into the Americas. But his belief that Atlantis was in the Atlantic Ocean lingers in the myth today.

In 1665, Don Carlos de Sigüenza, set out to demonstrate that his Mexican ancestors had formed a civilization to rival Rome by proving that the pyramids of Teotijuacan were like those of ancient Egypt. To make a long story short, he ultimately believed he’d found Atlantis because the wipeout of the Teotijuacan civilization corresponds to the biblical prophecy that people disbursed around the globe after the flood, the flood purporting to correspond to the destruction of Atlantis. (No mention of Noah’s animals.) But his belief that Atlantis was destroyed by a flood lingers in the myth today.

In the 17th century, a dude named Sir Francis Bacon writes a fable entitled The New Atlantis. This is the first reworking of Plato’s Dialogues and sparks renewed interest in the search for Atlantis. In this fable, he ascribes advanced technology to the people of Atlantis. From this point forward, people believed Atlantians were extremely advanced, so much so as to exceed the advancements of today.

Along comes John Dee, a magician and astrologer to Queen Elizabeth who, through crystal gazing and a series of horrifying occult experiments, claims he can communicate with the spirits of Atlantis. From this point forward, people believed the Atlantians were to have had all sorts of special abilities such as mindreading, prescience, etc.

In 1870, a French guy by the name of Jules Verne writes a fabulous tale, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and credits the story to the myth of Atlantis. At that time in history, most people didn’t know how to swim, hadn’t been in the ocean, but somehow knew sea monsters existed that may eat ships and most certainly ate people. Verne paints a picture of a utopian society beneath the sea (no sea monsters included). From this point forward, people believed Atlantians lived beneath the sea.

Around the same time, German businessman, Heinrich Schliemann, discovers the ruins of Troy by reading a literal translation of Homer. Homer’s works are fiction, but Schliemann’s discovery confirms the fact that all fiction is based in some truth. From that point forward, people deemed Plato’s Dialogues to be a reliable source to locate Atlantis.

In 1880, loser politician, Ignatius Donnelly, finds himself with time on his hands and, galvanized by Schliemann’s find, becomes obsessed with finding Atlantis. He performs all manner of armchair exploration and learns a mountain range stretches from Iceland to South America deep beneath the Atlantic Ocean, the highest peaks of which are the Azores and Canary Islands. Thereafter, people believed one could walk from Egypt to South America at one time and this explained how like pyramids, cultures, hieroglyphs, etc. ended up on opposite sides of the globe. He writes a pseudoscientific book, Atlantis, the Antediluvian World, and has now added fodder to the idea that Atlantis was once above the sea, but sank into the depths during a flood.

Around the same time (1873), Helena Blavatzky, a penniless Russian grandmother, self-proclaimed occult guru, and confirmed nutcase, alleges that only Arian Hindu’s retain Atlantean racial superiority and are the oldest people in the world. It is her attribution of a fair complexion and blue eyes to the people of Atlantis that survives in the myth today. The Third Reich later seizes upon this idea. You know that story, so I’ll move on.

In 1899, archeologist Arthur Evans unearths the remains of a hidden civilization on the island of Crete. These mysterious sea-trading people worshipped the bull, built labyrinthine buildings, and painted incredible frescos. Having nothing to do with Atlantis, this civilization was named Minoa (after Greek mythological figure King Minos, who happened to be the father of the minotaur). What is unique about this civilization is that it demonstrated highly advanced water technology thus lending to Sir Francis Bacon’s theory of Atlantians having advanced technology. Minoans are the single greatest mystery in all of classical history. We don’t know where they came from or what happened to them.

Thirty-five years later while excavating on the island of Santorini, Greek archeologist, Spyradon Marinatos, uncovers a mysterious civilization buried beneath thirty feet of volcanic rock lending to the idea that the destruction of Atlantis occurred as a result of a massive volcano eruption and not a flood. He excavates the village in 1967 and headlines around the world read “Atlantis Found!” This civilization was not that of Atlantis and was named Akrotiri. Yet, anyone who lives on Santorini will tell you that the beloved island is Atlantis.

Along comes another clairvoyant who claims Atlantis will rise from the Caribbean island of Bimini in 1968 or so. Expeditions occur only to learn that many Spanish Galleons wrecked on the coral reefs and dumped giant Corinthian stones used for ballast, thus creating what is now known as the undersea Bimini Road, and not a long lost road of Atlantis. This story adds more fodder to Atlantis having sunk into the Atlantic sea.

What is important to note from the above is that each event involving Atlantis has added something to Plato’s original description of nothing more than an island utopia destroyed by a cataclysm.

All fiction is, in part, based in truth, and everyone reads the accomplishments and reasons for destruction of Atlantis differently. As people, we tend to project the things we most admire (highest aspirations), and at the same time, the things we’re most afraid of (dangerous fantasies of perfection). All said, we can’t resist the notion that somewhere in the gloomy deep, Atlantis exists.

Thanks for having me on your blog, Lloyd! Go read Heartifact! It’s a great book. Besides, you can enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card and two signed books from me!

FOLLOW THE BLOG TOUR AND ENTER TO WIN

TWO SIGNED BOOKS AND A $25 AMAZON GIFT CARD!

ENTER THE RAFFLE!
About Heartifact

Harper Kidd is a highly respected marine archaeologist. Yet, with the economy in a slump, he’s trapped working in an oil company’s exploration division. Now, at the ripe age of thirty, Harp is disgusted with his employer’s damage to the undersea world he loves, tired of his ATM-card-filching ex, and tormented by beautiful dreams of an undersea lover. It’s time for a change and when his best friend, Stick, pleads with him to assist on a deep-sea dig in the Mediterranean, he jumps at the chance.

Harper’s spirits are high when they discover the ruins of an ancient civilization, and soar to the heavens when they discover a statue of an ancient pelora, a mysterious hybrid creature said to mediate between the worlds of reality and fantasy—and the very lover who holds the starring role in his dreams.

When the crew discovers the site is teeming with unexploded ordnance from the conflicts in the Middle East, and the excavation turns deadly, Harper must choose between saving his best friend and saving the pelora he’s fallen in love with.

 

Heartifact is available from Men Over the RainbowAmazonAmazon UKAll Romance eBooks, Barnes & NobleSmashwords

Read an excerpt on Love Bytes Reviewsen français

 

About Aisling Mancy

Ash is an author who lives, most of the time, on the West Coast of the United States. Ash writes mystery thrillers, fantasy, science fiction, romance, and fiction for gay young adults as C. Kennedy.

Raised on the mean streets and back lots of Hollywood by a Yoda-look-alike grandfather, Ash doesn’t conform, doesn’t fit in, is epic awkward, and lives to perfect a deep-seated oppositional defiance disorder. In a constant state of fascination with the trivial, Ash contemplates such weighty questions as If time and space are curved, then where do all the straight people come from? When not writing, Ash can be found taming waves on western shores, pondering the nutritional value of sunsets, appreciating the much-maligned dandelion, unhooking guide ropes from stanchions, and marveling at all things ordinary. Ash does respond to emails because, after all, it is all about you, the reader.

Find Ash on blog, Twitter @AislingMancy, Facebook, Google+Goodreads, Booklikes, Dreamspinner Press Author Page, and Amazon!

 

A week ago I returned from a trip to Argentina. I’d never traveled to South America before, and since it was the only continent (not counting Antarctica) I had yet to visit, I was excited. Even though I know South America has far more to see and experience, Iguazú Falls will remain the highlight of my trip — a profound spiritual experience.

On landing in Buenos Aires we took a shuttle to the other airport and flew directly to Iguazú. In planning the trip we’d learned there was a moonrise trek every full moon to the Devil’s Throat, the most dramatic section of the falls, and we managed to get tickets our party of ten. After a briefing by a park ranger we took a little train to the beginning of the walkway across branches of the river. The moon rose, and after a kilometer or so we came to the lip of the falls. I have no photos, but it was spectacular. We stood dripping and awe-stricken in the jungle night, and I’m glad we did it. But the following morning I realized how little we had actually seen.

IMG_0758Nothing prepared me for the sheer size of the cataract. A million gallons a second, I was told. 275 distinct waterfalls across almost three kilometers, the brochure said. Identified in 2011 as one of the planet’s seven wonders of nature, a plaque said. Data became meaningless. It was overwhelming. Over the next day and a half, I evolved through three ways of experiencing what it was.

The first phase was the most obvious: Spectacle. Immense, breath-taking. Every few IMG_0718steps I encountered a new vista to photograph. I was one of dozens recording the spectacle.

IMG_0738As I hiked the trails and catwalks, I gradually adapted to the magnitude of the spectacle. The falls became a kind of New-Age Inspiration. To my amazement and profound embarrassment I caught myself thinking psychobabble banalities and projecting them onto the natural beauty surrounding me. “Even this tiny rivulet is part of the massive river.” “We spent IMG_0726thousands of dollars to be here, but this tiny orchid lives here for free.” As I said, embarrassing. When a sophomoric slogan with Biblical overlays, “bloom where you’re planted,” came spewing out of my old ministerial subconscious, I had to turn away from the water in shame. Fortunately, that one also broke the spell which had me believing I was in charge of what my experience meant.

I abandoned my desire to project petty human IMG_0743“lessons” onto whatever this immense force of nature was doing. I finally stopped taking pictures to simply stand still and be open. It seemed to be roaring at me to listen. So I did. It became my teacher. I can’t put what it taught me into words, but I did feel its message enter my IMG_0738body, which shivered and swayed to receive it. It changed me. That is its enduring gift to me.

If you’d like to read the opening chapters, I’ve got Blood and Dirt excerpts sprinkled around the internet, plus a few blog interviews. Here’s a map to get around:

August 21st with Clare London – Interview and first half of Chapter One

August 22nd with Jon Michaelsen – second half of Chapter One

With more to be added! You’ll be able to read at least the first two chapters this way, maybe more.

Next stop, August 28th with Elin Gregory

Blood & Dirt 02 -Ebook FinalIt’s been a long time coming (because it took months longer to finish than I had originally planned), but the digital version of my new Russ Morgan mystery Blood & Dirt is scheduled for release from Wilde City Press on August 19th! The print version will follow within days. I’m happy to say it will include Enigma, the first Russ Morgan story, which was too short to have a print run of its own.

I’m thrilled it will be out in time for UK Meet 2015 in Bristol. Thanks to Wilde City Press, I’ll have print copies there to flog. Um, I mean, sign.

I’m also grateful that readers spoke up about Enigma, which I envisioned as a one-off story, never imagining that Russ might have more stories to tell. Sometimes the author really is the last to know that a story might be the beginning of a series.

I like Russ a lot, too — and only partly because we share the similarities of being a Colorado native with psychic sensitivites and long-term sobriety. So thank you, readers, for saying you wanted more of him!

 

In 2009, Arsenal Pulp Press published a collection of essays framed as intergenerational advice to queer youth, called Second Person Queer, edited by the inimitable team of Richard LaBonte and Lawrence Schimel.

I was glad to have an essay in the collection, “Letter to a New Generation of Gate Keepers”, in which I sought to address what I see as the sacred, spiritual gift of same-sex wiring. It was the first time I’d raised these thoughts in public, and they helped clarify my sense of purpose in writing fiction: to explore the power and beauty of same-sex attraction, and the possibility that gay men hold a particular responsibility within the spiritual ecology of humankind.

It would be presumptuous of me to speak on behalf of those wired differently from me — I’m a cisgendered gay man — but I can speak up as one such. I do hope others will take up the thread, though, and write from the sacred place they occupy in the wisdom circle.

At any rate, in the wake of celebrations for the US Supreme Court ruling of June 26, I am prompted to offer this essay from 2009. It was already clear to me then that the tide had turned in acceptance of non-heteronormative orientations and gender identities, but I had no idea the rush of that tide would be so swift as it has become.

I’ve posted the essay under “Free Reads”, the second menu item under Publications in the menu bar. I hope you’ll take some time to read it and see whether it rings true for you or for your queer friends as you know them. Or you can use this link here.

 

After a week of dithering about whether it was “the sensible thing to do” (Of course it’s not! It makes hardly any sense at all, financially or logistically.) I’ve decided to attend the LLF-sponsored finalists reading in L.A. on May 15th. I had a big coupon from Southwest Airlines and deccided to splurge. Even if it isn’t the sensible thing to do, it feels right and I’m excited at the prospect of meeting and reading to a completely new audience.

So if you’re in West Hollywood, or feel like driving distance to attend, I’d love to see you there!

It’s on Friday May 15, 7:00 pm at the County of Los Angeles – West Hollywood Branch Public Library, 625 N San Vincente Blvd., West Hollywood, CA, 90069

It feels deliciously extravagant to be flying from one coast to the other to read from The Companion, as if I were a famous author with hundreds of thousands of adoring fans clamoring for an appearance in the city of stars. Still, the event is for 2015 finalists for the Lambda Literary Awards, and I are one. I have to remind myself of that every now and then.

L.A. is simultaneously seductive and repulsive to me, and I’m looking forward to being back in the Endless City. It may not be Emerald, but it sure seems Endless to this reclusive writer. It’s been a couple of years. And The Companion is set in Los Angeles, just a few miles from where I’ll be reading. That ought to count for something!

I hope to see you there. There will be at least seven other finalists reading from their nominated work, too. I haven’t read all of them, but I can tell you that the ones I have read are stellar, and I’m willing to bet the others are, too. You’ll have a feast of good fiction excerpts, and admission is free!

Just coming up for air after a wildly eventful two weeks. Not sure what happened astrologically or in some other energies I don’t manage, but it was like a dam broke and washed down my river without doing a stick of damage. Instead, cycles that have been in “pending” mode for months all sprang forward as if the Cosmos had flipped a switch.

Unnerving — and exciting! So here’s the executive summary:

LammyFinalist_Small_Web_v3Wednesday, Mar 4 I learned that my novel The Companion is a finalist in this year’s Lambda Literary Awards. A week later I’m still giddy about it, and probably will be for months to come. For someone who writes gay fiction, this is huge, and would have made a stellar week all on its own. It’s the equivalent of being nominated for an Oscar for us. Bob and I immediately bought tickets to the awards ceremony June 1st in New York.

An hour after receiving the news, I was in a rented a car driving to Orlando for the Dreamspinner Author Retreat. Not sure I needed a car, it felt like I could have floated there on my cloud of euphoria. Come to think of it, I could have saved twenty bucks on road tolls each way if I had!

March 5-8, I had a chance to immerse myself in the Dreamspinner community. Many authors I hadn’t met in person, but I felt right at home. Moreover, Elizabeth North, the Publisher, gave a truly visionary speech, outlining events and sales performance of last year, and the plans for the year coming. In a publishing environment where reported sales have leveled or declined, the increase in sales at Dreamspinner was breathtaking.

Later, in a meeting with Elizabeth and her Editor-in-Chief Lynn West I was thrilled to learn more of DSP Publications, their new publishing arm dedicated to mysteries, fantasy, horror, thrillers, anything that isn’t strictly romance. Best news of all was the gearing up of Itineris, their imprint focused on heroes undergoing spiritual or metaphysical growth in their stories. Since that is my core interest, I was thrilled that I’d found a home for those stories.

Needless to say, I left feeling like my spiritual journey stories like Traveling Light had finally found a place to land, and that was like having a door open onto a spectacular new garden for me.

On the 9th I got a call from Wild Rose Press, and learned that they want to contract Blood Royal and its sequels. Another huge leap forward! I wanted to re-release the story under my own name instead of Rowan Malloy, so I pitched the story to Wild Rose Press in February during the Florida Romance Writers conference. It happened fast, and I’m thrilled with the outcome!

Then on the 10th we closed on our house. Whew! A process begun back in October of last year. It’s been a fragile, erratic process, with lots of problems. But it happened! On the 11th, the movers arrived and we pulled up stakes. Can’t wait to set up my new writing nook! Will post pics when I can.

Still lots to do before we’re settled, but I wanted to post this update. Must take some vitamins…

What’s the best thing to happen in your week?

For years, I had a quote pinned up on the wall of my workspace attributed to congressional historian Daniel J Boorstin: “The greatest obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents, and the oceans was not ignorance, but rather the illusion of knowledge.”

With Mercury about to station retrograde October 4th, this is the ideal time for me to deliberately relax my grip on certainty, check my reality compass and make some room for discovery.

I’d like to share with you something of my respect for disillusionment – the loss of illusion. Discovery is an essential part of any plot, from clues in a murder mystery, to trust (misplaced, real or withheld) in a romance, geographic exploration in an adventure, or finding inner strength in the Hero’s Journey. While the need for profound discovery is always present in our stories, the context for the discovery is infinitely changeable.

Perhaps the first important variable is the protagonist’s own attitude toward discovery. That could be the beginning of his character arc: he may believe he doesn’t need to change, or that he is self-sufficient. He may believe a situation is hopeless. He may believe he is not worthy of love. Discovery is where the story gets really interesting!

An altruistic young person, full of optimism and naïveté, might believe that his altruism is a good thing, and should never change. He approaches the world of commerce as if everyone were as honest as he is. That person soon finds out that altruism, if it is to be a kind influence in his life must be tempered with realistic caution.

While I rhapsodize about the profound value of cognitive dissonance, I don’t enjoy the pain and sadness (or embarrassment!) I can feel when a cherished belief proves to be false. I believe emotional pain is probably the worst teacher of reality – certainly one of the harshest. The problem is that so often it’s the only teacher left to us because we’ve rejected kinder ones. We can be so damn stubborn about what we’re certain is true.

When faced with a discovery that disrupts his personal view of reality, a character can stay focused on his lost belief or welcome his new knowledge. This is great material for the character arc, because the transition is seldom easy, in novels or in real life.

In the case of Shepherd Bucknam, the protagonist in my new novel The Companion, disillusionment is a great but pain-inducing ally, in two particular instances. When the story begins, he doesn’t see any need for him to change. Privately, he carries a bitter disrespect for his dead alcoholic mother, believing that she didn’t really love him. He is also afraid that a recurring nightmare foretells his violent death.

In both these matters he discovers that what he thinks is true is not true at all, and the shock of discovery opens him to new experience and real growth as a human being. What happens next? Well, you’ll have to read the story to find out!

And I sincerely hope you do…

An earlier version of this post appeared first on Tara Lain’s blog.