I feel much cleaner after it rains

Winter Rain, being the second RAINN anthology after Summer Rain, as masterminded by Audra North, is now available to buy.

Here are all the links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PPC8F8M
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00PPC8F8M
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id941882008
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/winter-rain-delp…/1120788608
kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/winter-rain-1

I, um, I hope you will buy it. Really, if you buy anything, you should buy this. First off because it’s currently 99c, which is practically no money, and second of all because all the proceeds go to The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, which is an important thing.

And, honestly, should you buy the first anthology (Summer Rain) as well. Just sayin’.

There’s some wonderful stories here.

Um, one of which – Behind the Mask – is mine.

I actually tied myself in about a dozen awkward knots over this. I was just so incredibly honoured to be invited to participate, and while RAINN is US-specific, it’s doing work I very much believe in, and am delighted to be able to support. The theme of the anthology is, of course, rain – which is intimidatingly broad so I flailed around for ages wondering what sort of thing I should be writing. I knew I’d be part of a predominately het anthology so I wanted to make sure I was writing queer in a way that would be accessible to readers who might not naturally incline towards same-sex romance stories … but then worrying about that just made me feel weird. Like I was worrying about something I shouldn’t have been worrying about. Anyway, my first attempt was a quiet, melancholy contemporary about a book conservator and a civil engineer in a flood in Oxford – but it ran too long, and my attempt to cut it down to the required 15k left me with something that felt unsatisfying and pieces-missy (yes that’s a technical term). Then I wrote and Sand and Ruin and Gold, except that pretty substantially missed the uplifting part of the brief. So finally I sat down, let go of all my meta-worries, unchained my heart, and wrote Behind the Mask, which is a queer story, a love story, and a superhero story.

Here’s the blurb:

Winter. Hope City.

A man in a mask waits for a ghost.

They were never friends, but they were not always enemies.

On a rooftop in the rain, the scourge and the savior of the city come face-to-face.

After tonight, there will be no more heroes and no more villains.

It was a bit of a daft endeavour, really, attempting to turn a visual medium into a non-visual one – but I’m weirdly okay with how it’s worked out. Also I got to write American, since I’m not sure what an English superhero would look like. Polite Man, and his arch-nemesis Dr Peeved.  (Tangent: something that really troubles me about all the lol!British memes is how much I genuinely use peeved to mean unspeakably furious).

I also learned a few valuable lessons about writing to work count. My attempt to write a 15k story led to a 25k story so I came up with a concept I thought would take 5k and rolled in at a comfortable nearly-9k. Underwrite, all the time, underwrite. At least if you’re me.

But it feels like a clean story to me. Hope and renewal and recognition and transformation. Like, cough, the rain.

Yeah, I’m not a subtle man…

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8 Responses to I feel much cleaner after it rains

  1. Pam/Peejakers says:

    You make me smile, because after all the tying yourself in knots & worrying, once you “unchained your heart” I think you achieved every bit of what you were trying so consciously to do – simply by letting all of that go. It’s kind of like – you probably couldn’t walk across a room if you were trying to consciously control all the muscle contractions & nerve impulses that make that happen. But when you don’t think about *how* & just move, your body knows exactly what to do,

    I just read your story today – it was really lovely, by the way – so my reactions are very fresh. I didn’t think about any of this consciously while reading it, I was swept up in the story, but when I went to write a review all these impressions surfaced. And I wrote the review kind of stream-of-consciousness because I . . . sort of tend to intimidate myself when I try to review your work, always fearing whatever I say won’t do it justice or else is so fan-girly people will just roll their eyes & laugh 😉 So I wanted to get it down before I psyched myself out this time, which seemed to work. In a weird way, maybe I kind of did the same thing with my review that you did writing the story, stopped trying to control it & just let it be what it needed to be 😉

    Anyway, my first impression was that what you wrote came across very visually, like a comic book or a movie based on a comic book. The way the action was described, the almost staccato rhythm & shorter sentences & the immediacy of the present tense. The narrative style reminded me a bit of stage direction or a screenplay & that theme was continued with the movie backlot setting & the one character being an actor.

    And the other thing that occurred to me, after I’d finished both story & review & set them aside, was that the subtle romantic scenes felt just right for the story, but also probably worked particularly well for an anthology like this, as a sort of gentle introduction to queer romance for readers who might not have read it before – and I wondered if that had been intentional.

    Well, there were lots of other that impressed me, it’s just both of those sort of echo what you were saying here, so I thought that was really interesting 🙂

    On, “Polite Man & Dr. Peeved”: Okay, that really made me laugh 😉 But I’m curious, what troubles you about the peeved/furious thing? That you don’t want to be a stereotype? Or that you do it in the first place?

    On word count, hmm, I wish I thought I could do something like that when I write. But I literally seem to have no clue how long anything will end up being. Numbers are sort of meaningless to me. Kind of like time. Heh! Which is really bad. But people are always asking me to estimate how long it will take to do something, and I kind of have no idea; I just take a wild guess. Or is that what you do – just sort of have it in mind that there’s a limit & that (hopefully) makes you more conscious of it?

    Lastly, I *like* your rain metaphor. Subtle, shmubtle. Okay, that looks funny. Shmuttle? Anyway, it’s good, so no need to worry about that 🙂

    • Alexis Hall says:

      I always find writing reviews of things I like hardest of all – I get self-conscious as well. I think it’s because dislike is a primarily intellectual reaction whereas liking is much more emotional. So disliking something inspires analysis whereas liking it inspires outpouring. But… generalised points aside, I’m so happy you liked my story 🙂 I was quite pleased with it, honestly, after all the angsting. It felt like … what I wanted to say. It felt true 🙂 (And I’m happy the flood story is still happening, but elsewhere).

      Rightly or wrongly, I was definitely sensitive to the fact the majority of readers buying the anthology might not be natural or experienced readers of queer romance … and so it wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to hit straight away with in your face gay sex so much as I wanted to address some of the broadest and most universal themes I knew: love and recognition and hope and loss. And from the few comments I’ve seen, it seems to have been successful. Like nobody is flinching from the queerness, they’re just responding to the ideas.

      Also I feel very strongly that eroticism and romanticism should be right for the story. A kiss was entirely enough for MASK. Other books I’ve written have been much more graphic and explicit but it seemed to suit them. I hate the idea of putting sex in, or having a scene sex, simply for the sake of it. And what’s sexy, what’s romantic, strikes me as almost more about context than what’s actually happening.

      As for peeved … I just feel faintly embarrassed when any of the British memes actually reflect my behaviour, which – honestly – they often do. I mean really: when I’m annoyed I should just say annoyed. Back in the early days, I had quite a few miscommunications with RP because I’d say I was mildly concerned about something, or somewhat peeved, and being American they assumed that meant I was basically fine, rather than incandescent with stress and fury 😛

      • Pam/Peejakers says:

        Aww, well I don’t think you have anything to be embarrassed about, but in that case I will try not to tease you about anything related to those British meme things 🙂 Though honestly I do find them pretty amusing, mostly because despite the fact I’m *not* British, I recognize myself in a fair amount of that. And that sort of delights me, y’know, that it isn’t just me 😉 Plus, I really find some of it quite endearing, for some reason 😉 & of course when any of it reminds me of *you*, dear, it’s always in that light, never anything bad, ok? 🙂 I do that thing of understating feelings sometimes too; I use “upset” a lot, when the truth is more like deeply hurt or devastated , or maybe angry, and then stick all these qualifiers on there like “kind of” or “a little”, when there isn’t anything “kind of” or “little” about it. You’re right, I’m sure it is better to say what you really feel. But I think – for me, anyway – it’s a distancing thing, to talk about emotions without actually tapping into & (horrors!) feeling them right in front of people, so to speak ;P And also I guess it’s a way of trying to appear “reasonable” if you think your real reaction is too extreme. However, now I *am* going worry if you ever tell me you’re “mildly concerned” 😀

  2. Mel says:

    To not repeat everything that Pam as already said, I’ll keep it short and want to mainly focus on this one point.

    I was especially wowed by your attempt to turn a visual medium into a non-visual one. Because this worked so well. I saw the visuals in my mind like I would read a graphic novel. In single pictures, black and white, sketchy in parts, close-ups, and all. It felt like reading V for Vendetta, for example. Also the atmosphere you projected with your writing was really rich. So gloomy, in the rain by night, so flashy with the setting changes, so tender and hopeful.

    You surprised me and I absolutely loved reading Behind the Mask. So much so, I’ve already read it twice.

    • Alexis Hall says:

      Thank you, Mel. I honestly thought trying to a turn a visual medium into a non-visual one was kind of a daft arse endeavour but I’m glad it’s worked. It was an opportunity to work in a very different style – you, uh, may have noticed I tend to be pretty florid and word-flingy, but this require a simplicity and boldness that I actually found rather satisfying. It did mean I dithered a lot over single lines, peering at them for all angles – but I’m so glad the words managed to convey the atmosphere I was going for. That kind of grainy comic grimark like, as you say, V for Vendetta or Sin City and the latest Dark Knight movies.

      • Mel says:

        I have noticed that you are a very versatile author, that so far everything you’ve written is unique. Can’t say that about many authors, actually, because many have their style and that’s it.
        And so far, I’ve loved all your books, as different as they are. I love your language in all of them!

        I’m still awed that you wrote this visual-non-visual story and what it did with me while reading.

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