Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Welcome to A Bear On Books


…on what makes a good book, and what I hate to see.
     I appreciate that Sue has asked poor little old me to guest on her big scary blog today.  Throw me in that briarpatch!   It’s alwas fun, scary and crazymaking to figure out what to talk about that won’t bore the bejesus out of the readers.  And that’s especially true when it’s a reviewer you are reading, not a professional writer.  All I can think about are those cowboys on the salsa commercial – “New York City???” and I am the salsa in question.
     So I thought I would talk about what I look for in a good book, what makes we want to review it and what drives me up the freakin’ wall.
     A good book – that is probably the easiest and hardest thing to pin down.  But I can tell you, every single book that I have reviewed, when I go back and look at the list, has a few things in common with other great books.
·         Characters.  I am drawn to authors that know the characters they are writing about, take the time to develop them and most of all, make ME care about them.  It doesn’t take War and Peace to make it happen for me either.  Rowena Sudbury did a very short work called Blue Moon, and she made me fall in love with Brad and Scott.  I got curious, then invested in the guys.  And  JR Barnaby has a six book series, Little Boy Lost, about two boys who fall in love and get separated.  I hate waiting for the sixth book, but I will buy it the first day it’s on sale and read it that very  night.  I CARE that much!
·         Plot.  Yeah, most of the books in this genre, when you take all the shifters, angst, and whatever else away, tell one simple story.  Boy meets boy.  Boys fall in love.  Boys live HEA.   And I am fine with that.  But the spaces in between finding out who the boys are, why they love each other, and were they will pick out china patters, that’s what keeps me interested.  Connie Bailey’s Moonlight, Tiger and Smokebuilds a complete world of underground societies, assassinations and children trained from age six as operatives.  Completely sucked me in from the first page.  Now, there are exceptions to the rules of HEA.  Wade Kelly’s When Love is not Enough breaks all the rules and grabs me by the heart and never lets me go when one of his three main characters commits suicide.   I had to know, WHY??  And as to the supposed big no no – cheating.  If it is real to the characters, why not?  Don’t add it just to be gratuitous, but men cheat, women cheat.  It’s real life.
·        Voice. Your style.  How you say what you have to say.  Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through here.  If I am reading something a computer could have generated, and it is cold, removed and inaccessible, you can count on it never making it to my blog.  Amy Lane is a champion of showing her personality.  Really any of her books, but my favorite lately is Truth in the Dark, and try to remain separate from the narrative.  RJ Scott is a master, I think.  She writes in a clear voice but adjusts it to her audience.  The Christmas Throwaway sounds and feels different than Oracle and it is different than The Gallows Tree.  But ALL of them are strong and present.
     And that takes me to my pet peeves.  In no particular order, things over done and/or STOP!
·         “Padded”.  My dogs pad down the hall to be let out.  Babies pad when taking their first steps.  Please let men walk.  I bet 8 out of 10 books I read have men padding into the next room.
·         “Smirked”.  Really?  Grown men smirk during sex, during arguments, in the drive through lane at Taco Bell?  Really?  Really?
·         “Keened”.  I am going to get in SO much trouble her, but one writer used it and then EVERYBODY started using to describe a sound of need.  I always think of think of women rending their garments in grief when their men and sons come home on a shield from war.  Sorry.  A.  Personal.  Preference.
·         Alpha shifters six and a half feet tall and five and a half foot tall twink mates.  Shoot me now.  Always makes me feel like a perv and not in a good way.  More like in a, is he a daddy (not Daddy, daddy) and this is his son?, kind of perv.  And now I need a shower.
·         Straight guy gay for you lust at first sight.  Gonna get my ass kicked again.  I am a gay man.  I am 50 years old.  I have been with straight men.  I have had my heart broken by straight men.  I know many many gay men who have gone down that rabbit hole (so to speak).  It 99.99% of the time does not end well.  They don’t just fall in lust suddenly then have a HEA.  It takes time.   
      And please remember, all, these are just my personal preferences.  None of them kill a book for me.  I just notice things.
     So, Sue, ready to hide me from the angry mob?
Tom

82 comments:

  1. Well said! Love you Tom!!!

    Sue, thanks for having your Bear on your blog today. I think in another life he was a writer. He ceratinly has the soul of one.

    Hugs,
    Sharon

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    1. Thank you Sharon! I try to make what I have to say nearly on the level of those great writers I review!

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  2. *gets out the torches to pass around* Wait...why are we angry again? Wonderful post, Tom! * Runs off in hysterics to see if there's any padding going on in the WIP*

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    1. Angel is taking her vorpal sword to me now!

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  3. One of my characters smirked as we read this...LOL!

    Great read! I really enjoyed reading what you had to say, because it is something I wonder about...what makes a good book in the mind of a reviewer. Great insight here. Thanks!

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    1. Thank you so much Rowena. I appreciate great writing! And you are a great writer!

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    2. Thank you so much! That means a lot to me!

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  4. Heh...about that padding...You know editors don't like walking...they want more descriptive words and you can't use the same one twice in one page or they frown. Frowning editors are scary.

    This is a great post, Tom.

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    1. Eh, editors. You know what I think about editors? ***Edited for content** THAT'S what I think about editors.

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  5. Wonderful post, Tom! I'm a Bear on Books fangirl! ***runs to remove "padded" from latest manuscript***

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  6. Clomp. Stomp. Creep in on golden arches. Don't pad. LOL And they are usually naked when they pad. One exception. Sam Elliott can pad into my my bedroom any darn day.

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    1. Oh wait! There is padding you don't mind? lmao
      I'm sorry, TomBear. You've already said no padding, so Sam's going to be delayed *mutters* at my house.

      hehe...No...I'll bring him on over. I wouldn't want him to get lost!

      *smiles innocently*
      Loved it, Tom. Thanks for a great post.
      Amy

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    2. I think Sam Elliott could 'pad' into anyone's bedroom...even with a smirk on his face and still get a warm welcome. Just sayin'

      BTW, you officially have two fangirls, cause you gotta count me too.
      Cherie

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    3. Woohoo! I love me some fangirls. Hey....where are my fanBOYS???

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  7. Squueeee! Another Sam Elliot fan!

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  8. Well, McTom, I have committed every one of your pet peeves. Not only have I had men pad across a carpet...well, not naked but with a robe on...lol.

    I've had them smirk. Not during sex, but they have smirked.

    And...the worst of all..my men have been very big men with very small 'twinks'....namely Honor and Rai. Although Honor is not a shapeshifter. Does this only refer to shifters?

    LMAO!! I cannot resist giving you a hard time. I adore you too much NOT to. (((HUGS)))

    I truly did enjoy your post. Glad we have you in our corner, baby doll.

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    1. Always in your corner McCarol!

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  9. This is great stuff, Tom. I'm sure at least some of my guys have padded and/or smirked on occasion. And I am quite sure some, if not all of my brothers smirk often. It think it has something to do with their superiority complexes....As for keening, I have some very, very large pet peeves when it comes to the sounds men make during sex in books. In all of my wanderings, not once has a guy ever screamed. Or Keened, for that matter. Grunted, yes, absolutely. And lots of swearing. No keens or screaming, though.

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    1. Thanks Jamie. I have had men scream - Let me go! I'll call the cops! But thank you!

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  10. HI, Tom!!!

    As a writer who has committed at least one of those (my men do tend to smirk, I'm afraid) I want you to know how very much I appreciate you taking the time to let us know what you think. I always, always, ALWAYS want to know what readers think, or feel, or what hits them wrong. Writers should want to know. We're creating a product for consumption; if thing about it bother the very people we are creating it for, then we're failing. So, again; thank you. I'm c/ping this to the first page of the book I just started, and committing it to memory!

    Thanks again!

    Diana Copland

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    1. Thank you, Diana. Just my humble opinions!

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  11. "But To-om!" Amy keened, "I LOVE the word 'padded'! It suggests the unguarded vulnerability of bare feet!"

    "But A-my!" Tom smirked, "It still sounds like women rending their hair in grief during a Greek tragedy!"

    *hearts Tom muchly* Nice article, baby-- I'm always honored to get mention:-)

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  12. *hearts Amy hugely* Thanks, Amy. I always try to picture Deacon padding. Just...no. Crick maybe, Deacon never.

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    1. Deacon? In his bare feet, and jeans, frayed at the bottoms, and now shirt, padding into the kitchen to make coffee? Crick, getting up and throwing his own jeans on, smacking his oversized feet on the tile behind Deacon, wrapping his arms around Deacon's waist and nuzzling his neck? Doesn't work for you? Because... dayum. Doin' it for me...

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    2. Um um um I need to go think about that for a minute. Maybe two. *pads away*


      Okay, the judges (the two nuts and the dick they live next to) voted Deacon can pad. Exception granted. And Crick gets a pass too.

      *Bear grumbles, damn Amy Lane and her sexy ass men*

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    3. I'll go tell Deacon-- he'll be gratifyingly appreciative, I'm sure:-) (Tell the nuts to be nice to the dick--he can rise to the occasion when it's called for:-)

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    4. Maybe they can invite me over for Sunday dinner sometime. :)

      And I'll tell them. They need to get away from the asshole more anyway.

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    5. You'll have to excuse me, I'm snickering like a third grader, and while I think I've thought up a good reply, it is actually too filthy for prime time and involves a pun on lubricant and opening... minds. I'm going to go giggle to myself while I cook dinner now... and dream about Deacon and Crick:-) *big hugs & giggly smishes*

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    6. I was wondering how far I could push it. I lobbed the soft ones and you knocked em out of the park. LOL Have fun!

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  13. My men don't pad, they saunter, they walk, they slither at times, but never pad. They do smirk when the moment calls for it, though my guys grin, frown, or form their lips in a perfect moue more often than not... lol. I admit, I like six and a half foot men paired with twinks on occassion, my bad... but I love my bears more... *wink wink*

    Loved the post Tom!

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    1. Thanks Patricia! I like em big too. Just bot with little boys who they treat like their kids. Now with me, GRRR!

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  14. Yay Tom, great blog post. Well done

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  15. Thanks - glad you enjoyed it!

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  16. Tom, I really appreciate the post. Not sure about the padding, but I have had a dude strut when he's in stilettos. You are spot on about keening. Unless it's a story about a banshee or a cat in heat, that's one helluva loaded word.

    You really hit one of my own pet peeves, the mammoth dude and the dainty partner. I appreciate a good twink story but... well hell, if I keep on blathering, I'll receive the torches.

    Thanks for being here for us. I'll always treasure your review of Divine Devine's Love Song.

    xoxo
    S.A. Garcia

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    1. You're the best! And Divine was just that. I'm so glad you liked what I had to say. Thanks!

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  17. Global search and replace: Find: Keen Replace: howls... nah, too much of a were/shifter vibe. How about hollers? Nah, not sophisticated enough for Milan. How about "screams?" Maybe...

    Opens Thesaurus.com: bark, bawl, bay, bellow, blubber, clamor, groan, growl, hoot, keen, lament, moan, outcry, quest, roar, scream, shout, shriek, ululate, wail, weep, whimper, whine, yell, yelp, yip, yowl.

    I'm kind of enjoying this! No "padded" in sight, though... Lots of smirking, though. 17 times in my WIP! *hangs head* Okay, okay. Back to Thesaurus.com. ;-)

    Finally: *grins* I enjoyed the post, Tom!

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    1. 17????

      Okay leetel ladee, time for ze spanking...

      LOL

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    2. Oooh, sounds fun! ;-) Yes. Guilty as charged. Frankly, any expression/word I use THAT many times is suspect. I've been a very bad girl...

      Search/replace is a godsend!
      Shira

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  18. ::puts hands on hips:: Now listen here, Mister - every bit of my 4' 9" frame goes very well with my 6' 2" bear of a man, and I'm NOT a twink!! ::sticks out tongue:: So there!

    LOL Although you should've heard the uproar when I used that same size pairing in a story. "It's not doable!" they shouted. ::raises eyebrow:: Up until I offered to send them a video. ::cough:: They declined...not sure what that means...

    Is now when I mention I changed a character from walking to padding and my editor loved me?

    I'll give you the keening thing, though. I always think of overly hysterical women when I hear that word. Usually either pulling their hair or on their knees in the middle of a field or something. ::shrugs:: I've watched way to many historical movies. LOL

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  19. ROFL... I was gonna say, does your bear turn you over his knee and...then I stopped. Cause Deacon and Crick already got me in trouble once.

    And I stand beside what I said about editors above. LOL

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  20. I love your way with words, Tom. Thanks to Sue for giving you a place to share them.

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    1. Thank you - I appreciate it! And I thank Sue also!!!

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  21. Great post! Tom, you always make me think twice and laugh.

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  22. You are way too kind. And thanks! Now tell that to Angel and Sue *frowns*

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  23. Ah hell, bring on the torches. I've had my men smirk, pad, and keen. *looks shameful* However, I have never had a small twink paired with a big bear. The logistics just don't work for me. *follows others back to Thesaurus.com*

    And kudos on giving Deacon permission to pad. He can do anything he damn well pleases *sighs dreamily*

    Great post Tombear! So wonderful of you to keep us writers on our toes! Love your review of Phoenix. *grins cuz she knows Hayden is a smirker*

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  24. LOL Yeah, Hayden is TOTALLY a smirker. And Deacon, can do whatever the hell he wants.

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  25. Great article! I can't say I've ever used the word 'keen'. Whenever I think about it, I imagine a banshee's wail, so I avoid the term like the plague. I do use smirk, since I have an arrogant ass for a main character who thinks the sun and moons(it's a fantasy novel, so there are multiple moons) rise and fall for him. Very cocky guy.

    Still, it's good to know what readers like and what they don't. And it sounds like your list is more along the lines of pet peeves that are abused than if you see it once you ragequit the book entirely. All of your points were nicely presented and thought provoking. ♥

    - Catriana

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    1. Exactly. I can't think of a book I quit and throw my Kindle across the room over. Weeeelllll, there was one...

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  26. Tom, why would you need to hide? As always, you wrote an eloquent, succinct opinion piece and made it clear it was your opinion (one I've come to value a great deal).
    I'm glad my men don't generally fall into your pet peeve categories, although if they did, I probably wouldn't change them ;-)

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    1. Zahra, don't you change a THING!!! I love your characters and stories just the way they are.

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  27. I'm totally there on the 'keening'. That's what the family Banshee does when someone shuffles off this mortal coil.

    My own personal teeth-grinder is the rolling of eyes. It does my nut if I see that in a story. It's just a little quirk of mine,

    *twitches*

    I love your reviews, Tom. it's obvious that you've not only read a book but you've totally 'got' it too. My to be bought list has grown considerably since I started reading your reviews.

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    1. I appreciate that, Sue. I hope some of my favorites never disappoint!

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  28. Thank you Tom...That is a lovely thing to say...

    I don't *think* I have used keening... *needs to check all my books now cos I'm worried*... Hell, i think I may have smirked once or twice... GAH...

    HUGS Rj x

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    1. Well, darlin', in my book you can practically do no wrong anyway!

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  29. Great job, Tom! Although I'm joining everyone else in their trip to the thesaurus. Thank goodness for my flip dictionary! I'm guilty of keened and smirked. :D

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  30. I'm a snark, so my characters smirk. Hope you're enjoying Hard as Teak and I look forward to a classic Tom review soon. Thanks for a thoughtful and somewhat brave post.

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    1. Just starting it and you can count on it! And thank you, Margie. Congrats again on being named Best of 2011.

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    2. I hope when you've finished reading Hard as Teak, you'll find it and me deserving. Enjoy.

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  31. Tom, where do you stand on men cooing at each other mid-coitus? Because I have to admit, that's one that makes me want to throw my poor defenseless eReader at walls (or windows; the smash would but MUCH more satisfying...) :D

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    1. Cooing is for turtledoves. Gag me. LOL

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    2. Thank you!! Turtledoves and tiny little baby things -- but only if the cooing is limited to a softer, higher pitch. Baby talk irks me even when I'm talking to babies!

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  32. Well I don't think my characters have ever "keened", one might of padded across a cold hardwood floor, and maybe one or two may have smirked but never during sex!!

    Augh now you have me thinking about men keening and smirking while having sex in a padded room!!

    hehehe great post Tom Bear!!

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    1. LOL Jo, your characters yell and shout and grunt. They don't keen. And thanks!

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  33. First things first: I love the look on your dog's face! (And you ain't so bad yourself, Mr. Webb. :))

    Isn't it funny how certain words and expressions get under our skin? I'm still wondering when and how quirk became a verb. Mouths have been quirking for a long time, but now eyebrows are quirking too. What's next? "Bob's dick quirked at the mere sight of Steven." AAAAAACK!

    Smirk is useful, though. I'm keeping it. ;-)

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    1. That's my little Gracie - she was left tied to the vet's door. She is an attention whore.

      Smirk has it's uses, but not twenty times in a book, and NEVER in bed. If my lover smirked, I am doing something wrong!

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  34. Hi Tom!

    Great post on what to expect/not like! *mutters do I have some of those issues in my WiP? Darn laptop still broken to check* I will check, I promise!

    Hugs!

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    1. Thanks Nicole. I don't keep score Well, mostly.

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  35. There is an awful lot of smirkage in this genre, but I think that's because there aren't a lot of good words to describe the eyebrow action and the corner of lip action and the...

    But it does make me think of twelve year olds.

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    1. Me too. And by the way, I was never twelve! I was born forty.

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  36. I loved your comments, Tom. For a writer, like me, I can only learn from what other writers and readers say.

    Thanks

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  37. I'm a straight female reader (and writer) of m/m fic and the things you noted drive me insane too.

    But what I really appreciate are the recs; who you enjoy and why. I now have several new writers to investigate.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts.

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    1. You are very welcome, and thanks!

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  38. Love the post. Great to see some insight, though worrying for me as to how many of those pet peeves I do.

    I just went to get an excerpt to post somewhere and the very first sentence had a man padding down the stairs. And smirking is definitely something my editor has brought up with me.

    I think I might be safe on the others, but give me chance, I'm still new at this.

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    1. Reading back what I put in my other comment, I guess I should clarify, I meant give me a chance and no doubt those other peeves will appear in my work as well. LOL You'd think I would pick my words better all things considered. *rolls eyes*

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  39. I'm jojning is late on this, as I was travelling all day yesterday and organising stuff on the 30th. Thank you, Sue and Tom, for a great and very useful blog! *g*

    You highlighted one of my turn-offs - the big butch hulk paired with the tiny fey twink. Never gonna happen in my books. I might have padded, though, to illustrate a barefoot, big cat kind of approach or stalking... and smirking does happen, but not during sex. Before or after, maybe, and certainly during banter.

    Anyhow, I am going to copy this and keep it in my Useful Points folder *nods*.

    Oh, and by the way, will you accept a fan-granny among your fangirls?

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  40. Hey - loving me some Chris fangirl! Anytime.

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