Thursday, July 12, 2012

On Crossovers, Lyrics, and Writing What You Know, by T.C. Blue

(There just might be a contest if you read far enough! Ha!)

I never know quite what I'm going to write here until I actually sit down to do it. In this case, I had a few ideas rattling around in the largely empty cavern I like to call my skull and when I finally did sit down (around 12:15 this morning), none of those things came to mind. Instead, I've decided to yet again be overly wordy and address one of my pet peeves, plus ask those of you reading your opinions on two separate, but connected, subjects.

First, I want to address 'writing what you know.'

Now, as a female writing gay romance, I frequently hear "How can you write about gay men when you aren't one?" I have yet to hear a gay author of het romance -- and there are a good number of them -- asked how they can write about heterosexuals falling in love and having sex and getting good and dirty with each other, but that's beside the point. (IMHO, it's a rather silly double standard, but again… so not the point.)

My standard response to the 'how can you write this' question is pretty much that we're all human and thus I do know what it's like to want love, fall in love, and have sex with the person I love. I also -- surprise, surprise -- know exactly what it's like to have sex that's simply fucking, because -- again, surprise, surprise -- straight folk do that too. A lot! Oh, and we even have anal sex from time to time. (That's a whole other topic, possibly for a different post. Haha!)

Sex and gender aside, though, I also contend that I do write what I know.

A little background on Tis: I have a widely varied history of jobs, occupations, and careers. I've been a hairdresser, a motorcycle courier, a singer (which I did badly), an actor (I was equally tragic at this), an accounts receivable manager -- this was actually weird because I suck at math… also a waitress more times than I can list, a retail clerk, chef, pastry chef, accessories designer, and now a writer. And I write about people who do these things.

I also grew up in a very white collar family. My father was a fairly high-ranking lawyer with the federal government for the majority of my growing up years, until he decided to go into corporate law with a private firm. Many of my other family with whom I was close were or became doctors, dentists, and so on. So I also write about people who do those things. Perhaps not as easily as I do with professions I've actually taken part in, but still. I think that counts as writing what I know.

Part of the reason for this is that it requires me to do less research. Haha! (Research is the bane of my existence. There's so much information out there and most of it contradicts what I just read five minutes earlier. It confuses me and that makes me cranky. Cranky Tis is no fun for anyone. Trust me on that.)

So… why does this matter, right? It's sort of a fluffy take on a contentious subject. I know. But there is a method to my madness. I swear. (This is where we get to the other topics in the subject line of this post. Are you ready for it?)

I'm working on a new book. I have a sneaking suspicion it's going to be a novel, which should shock absolutely no one. I tend to write long. I like story. It makes me happy. J

In this book, one of my main characters has appeared in two other of my stories, though not as a primary participant. The two stories in which he appears are not in any way related to each other, aside from this character.

In this new story, the second main character has also appeared in two other books and other characters from those books are either mentioned or have secondary roles. And I'm even confusing myself here. Heh-heh. The point is, these characters do appear in other of my stories but it's not necessary to read those for this one to make sense, as far as I can tell.

Okay, so here's my question (the first of two, actually… the other will follow) and I'd love it if some of you could take just a few seconds out of your days to answer in comments.

Is it off-putting to you, as readers (or reviewers), for a writer to do that? Does it make you feel as though you need to read the other books if you haven't already? Will knowing that a book is basically a crossover between other novels or short stories make you more or less interested in reading the book in question? (I personally like it, but that may just be me.)

Now, in this book I've been talking about, one of the lead characters, Andrew, is a musician. A fairly famous one, at that. As such, he has a couple records out. There may or may not be lyrics included at the beginning of some of the chapters. Is that something that sounds good or weird or what? Does it add or detract from the process of reading? (Again, I like it, but mostly because I think it gives some insight to the character. Opinions will obviously vary.)

I would really love to hear your thoughts, guys, so if you have a moment, please do comment. In fact, I'll even run a wee contest if you like. How about… I'll randomly draw a name from the list of those who comment and that person can choose any of my currently available e-books for their very own. (I only have these in .pdf, by the way. Sorry about that!)

As always, thanks for taking the time to read this. And sorry for making this all about ME. I really do want to know what you guys think, though.
Next week… either something about Adam Lambert or something about the societal disdain for sluttery. Or possibly something completely unrelated to either, because… I just don't plan that far ahead. Hahaha!


  1. My opinion is that having side characters cross over in books that aren't continuations of each other is great.

    I think true sequels (where you need to read one to understand the next or where the same characters appear) are good if you really, really love the characters and plot line and don't get bored. As a reader, there are some books I enjoy that fall into that category (Mary Calmes, for example, is a master at that). But that's the exception, not the rule.

    Series that have side characters who show up as main characters without a need to have read a previous book, however, are something I love. I think it's fun to revisit characters you know in new books and it's fun to read a book and meet a character who you find interesting and then see that this character has his own story.

    All of that said, I'm biased because I like to write series where the side characters get their own stories. It's my cup of tea, so take my opinion with a heaping of salt.

    Oh, and about the lyrics, if you can write good lyrics, I think that'd be great. If the lyrics suck, scrap the idea. Helpful, aren't I?


    1. Haha, CC! Most of my series are like that, too! There's something about secondary (or even tertiary) characters that usually has me wanting to write their stories. And they ARE stories that can be read on their own or as part of the series. (I only have one series in which the same characters are the main ones for all the books, and that's only a trilogy!)

      As for whether I can write good lyrics or not... well, that's a very subjective thing, isn't it? Good to me may not be good to someone else, and that's where the problem lies. LOL

      And yes, Mary is great when it comes to continuing characters. *nodnod* She's sucked me into reading more sequels than I can name. Hahaha!


  2. Hi Tis. I love stories where secondary characters from other stories get their own story, or even just appear. Andy and I have several. It didn't start out that way, but now we have a whole community with characters - both gay and straight. The hardest thing is keeping those side characters straight in your head and knowing what you've already said about them in previous stories, because people do notice, especially reviewers.

    Making up your own song lyrics is a great idea. I know I'm going to try it for the book Andy and I are writing now. It's basically poetry, no-one is going to hear the music... only you... ;)

    Ali Wilde

  3. Hey Tis,

    First, great post, as always.

    I don't think readers would have an issue (I know I wouldn't) with characters from one story appearing in another, unrelated story, providing they don't have huge changes in personality (for example, your famous singer suddenly becoming tone deaf). If they stay true to the way you wrote them the first time, with their backstory intact, then I think its fine. It's what made me fall in love with Stephen King's early works, when all his stories centered around the town of Castle Rock and neighboring communities. Characters from one book were mentioned in others(for example, the characters from Cujo were mentioned in Needful Things).

    Lyrics (real or made up) are fine at the beginning of the chapter. Dean Koontz did it well by quoting the "Book of Counted Sorrows" at the start of chapters in several of his books. BoCS was an imaginary text, until he finally decided to write the damn thing.

    Just MHO, of course. :)

  4. I am totally ok with the crossover characters. Yes, I would feel compelled to read the other books, because I am incredibly nosy, err, insatiably curious and I want to know EVERYTHING! As a reviewer, I'd like the heads up because so often when you haven't read the previous stories you get the sense they've been in other books. So I'd want to know that it wasn't necessary to read the previous novel. LOL, if all that convoluted mess makes sense!

    As for lyrics, I confess. I skim them occasionally, but most of the time, I skip them. Unless they are from a real song that I look up and listen to, I just do not connect to them.

    1. Kathy! :) Congrats, you've won the random drawing.

      Any one of my currently available stories is yours in .pdf. Please email me ( with your selection and where you'd like it sent. :)

      Thanks for playing, and I agree about the heads-up.