Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Description in Love on the Boil

Description Blog
To celebrate the release of Love on the Boil, my newest M/M romance from Loose Id, I went over the manuscript to look for some good examples of description.
I’m lucky that I was able to head down to South Beach to do some observation, and a couple of the people I saw ended up in the book. In this case I’m trying to showcase the character’s attitude while describing:
“A skinny man in his forties walked by, wearing a T-shirt with one of those motivational slogans and a ball cap turned backwards, as if he didn’t know that it made him look like a douche rather than a young guy.”
I read The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt a while ago and noticed that she always used three things when describing, layering on those details. It's a technique I use now and then-- that business of the power of three, you know, from fairy tales and elsewhere.
“Eddie and I stepped out onto Lincoln Road, past a beauty store specializing in mascara, concealer, and beehive wigs for drag queens.”
Description can be more than just what something looks like. I hope that this sentence conveys some sense of the melting pot on South Beach:
“Next door was a restaurant run by Argentine immigrants featuring kosher vegan cuisine for Orthodox Jewish women pushing strollers and trailed by little boys with curls hanging in front of their ears.”
And this description of food shows the history between my two protagonists, former lovers who now have to work together to make a business succeed. Once again, I’ve named three things on the platter, and used the verb “jumped” to convey action at the same time.
“The antipasto platter arrived, laden with roasted tomatoes, tiny bites of salami, and wedges of focaccia. As I expected, Eddie jumped on the marinated artichoke hearts. I was happy to let him have them as long as I could eat the prosciutto and melon.”
And I often use comparison as a way to get the looks of the first person narrator in-- at six foot, he was almost as tall as I was, and though our hair was originally the same dull brown, his was threaded with more silver than mine.
Or a more general view. “I was the stud, after all. The butch one nobody suspected was gay. I worked out, I tended bar in the evenings. Darren was the queen who made a big deal out of everything.”
Tio Eduardo
Sometimes I look for images on line, like the dapper gentleman to the left, who epitomizes Eddie's Tio Eduardo, and then I just have to describe what the picture looks like.
And finally, an example of how their different living spaces reflect their personalities.
“The more I thought about it, the more his business seemed to suit Darren. He was fussy that way, an elderly man in a young guy’s body. Everything had to be just so. As I looked around his apartment I saw his Japanese fixation clearly. A single futon in the living room, with a Hokusai reproduction positioned exactly above it. His glass-fronted kitchen cabinets were neatly organized and everything was sparkling clean.
“Not the way I lived at all. My studio was jammed with souvenirs, and the posters on my walls hung haphazardly. My kitchen was clean, sure, but not immaculate like Darren’s. And while I did have a couple of different teapots and infusers, they were all jumbled together in one cabinet.”
If you like these examples I hope you’ll check out Love on the Boil.



Friday, May 26, 2017

Writing Cats and Dogs

When I was a kid, we’d occasionally go to visit my mother’s childhood friend, who had an adorable dachshund, I loved playing with. I began pestering my parents to get me a dog, and my seventh birthday present was Pierre, a black miniature poodle puppy. (My mother, who had grown up with a Chow, was determined not to get stuck vacuuming dog hair every day.)

Me and my puppy
Although like every kid, I tried to duck out of some chores, I did walk Pierre almost every day, he sat on my lap on car trips, and he was small enough that I could carry him around. Pierre set me on my path as a dog lover, though I didn’t realize that I could write about dogs until my partner and I adopted a golden retriever puppy we named Samwise, who became my constant companion, just as his namesake did in The Lord of Rings for Frodo.

But dogs weren’t the only animals to show up in my fiction. I am allergic to cats – but that has never stopped me from writing about them. The first significant cat in my life belonged to my friend Vicki’s mother. Rajah was a regal black Persian who owned that house, and I was intrigued by his personality, so different from Pierre’s eagerness to be petted and loved. Vicki and I would sit on her living room floor, calling for Rajah to come to us—and we were usually ignored.

A six-toed Hemingway cat
That wasn’t the case with my friend Pam’s cats, though. When we both moved to Miami, she got interested in Hemingway cats – the six-toed ones that lived around Ernest Hemingway’s house in Key West, or were descended from those.  She adopted a six-toed Abyssinian she named Hemmie, and Hemmie and I became good friends. I used her, and her characteristics, for a couple of short stories I wrote for collections of romantic stories sold at grocery store checkouts.

The cat in those stories is named Pilar and she’s as quirky and inquisitive as Pam’s Hemmie. I admit I used both those cats as the basis for Sheba, the tiger-striped cat in my story “Riding the Tiger,” included in the Happy Homicides 5 anthology. I needed a smart cat, one savvy enough to go out seeking the crime-solving duo of Rochester and Steve. Of course it’s Rochester who first notices Sheba, and takes off after her down the street.

So far, cats and dogs are the only animals who’ve populated my fiction. But a neighbor of mine has a couple of brightly-colored parrots who often stand out on the wall at the edge of his house, and my own goldens, Brody and Griffin, are very interested in those birds. So who knows how my criminal menagerie will expand?

Today (May 26) is the last day that the Happy Homicides 5 collection will be discounted to 99 cents.