Calling Card

This weekend, I sent out an SOS via tweet to the Writing Community because I was struggling with what to blog about. It has been a while since a good topic has come to mind–that wasn’t about an upcoming book. Lots of great ideas were suggested, because the people I follow and who follow me back are great. I’ll probably end up using all of the ideas eventually, but I can only use one per blog post, so…

Writers often have a style or thematic elements that make their writing instantly recognizable. I think I have a few things about my writing that identify it as “Chase Connor,” though I think I attempt different styles from time to time to challenge myself and keep things fresh. However, one thing that is almost 100% consistent from one book to the next is that I mention food. In some books, food is almost a character itself.

My relationship with food is…complicated. Not to say that I’ve ever had an eating disorder or a severe problem with eating, but I’ve experienced both abundancy and scarcity. Food insecurity in my youth and early adult years was something that had a major impact on who I am today. It’s a huge motivator in how hard I work and hustle. Food insecurity is something I never want to experience again. Other than losing someone I love, it is one of the things that terrifies me the most.

Needless to say, food insecurity is a major problem in the world, and if you’ve experienced it, you know how traumatic it can be. Not just in the moment, but it really shapes your future. It’s one of those lasting traumas that becomes a specter in the back of a person’s mind. I probably tend to indulge a lot more than I want due to fear of food insecurity. When you’ve had to worry about where your next, not even meal, but even bite of food, will come from, it’s paralyzing.

When you have ready access to good, whole, nutritious food, life is good. Obviously, food being a basic need, having easy access to it, and the means to acquire it makes life so much easier. It relieves anxiety and lets a person focus on living a better life and achieving their dreams. Like shelter and water, basic needs being met, and not worrying about them, is critical and should be a basic right for all human beings. Even so, it doesn’t just have to be viewed as simply a necessity.

Food is also a great luxury and indulgence. A great plate of cheesy pasta, a juicy steak, pastries–crispy, creamy, crunchy, chewy, spicy, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth, sour, umami–there are few foods that don’t make me happy. If you’ve ever read one of my books, you might have noticed that already.

Our race, nationality, ethnicity, and religion are sometimes identifiable through our use of food. Don’t misunderstand–I’m not talking about hateful stereotypical correlations bigots spout. I’m talking about common ingredients, dishes, and preparations that are specific to certain cultures. A creamy, crispy, velvety (yet humble and filling) cassoulet in French cooking. The expressive and exciting use of a variety of chili peppers in Mexican foods. The earthy spices and vegetarian options in Indian foods. The variety of noodles, rices, spices, sauces, and meats used in other Asian foods, not to mention the stocks and broths with so much depth you can hear choirs of angels sing when you consume them.

Food, its availability, our relationship to it, the ingredients we favor, and how we cook it is intertwined with our human existence.

Because food has shaped who I am, how I behave from day-to-day, and how I think of the past and future, I feel that it helps flesh out my characters. It informs the reader about what their life is like, their geographical location, or simply lets a reader know some of their likes and dislikes.

But you don’t have to take my word in this blog post. Let me break it down for you:

JUST A DUMB SURFER DUDE series – The food court at Dextrus Academy has a coffee bar, a taco cart, and an Indian option. Donuts and bagels make an appearance frequently. A date between two characters and a celebratory dinner take place at a Thai restaurant. JUST A DUMB SURFER DUDE was my first published book and it proves I was all about the food from the beginning, mentioning some of my absolute favorites.

GAVIN’S BIG GAY CHECKLIST – Mexican and Tex-Mex food, as well as some Jewish and Polish (by way of Ukraine) foods, are mentioned frequently throughout this book. From menudo, to chilaquiles, to tacos, to matzo balls and pierogi, food informed the reader about the main character’s likes and dislikes, as well as explored his racial and ethnic identity.

A SURPLUS OF LIGHT – When Ian and Mike “meet” for the first time, they share Cheetos and Cokes, though we later find out that Ian prefers sunflower seeds and half-lemonade-half-tea. The Cheetos and Cokes were an “in” for Mike to get Ian to drop his guard and talk to him. Food loosens everyone up, right?

JACOB MICHAELS IS… series – Oma makes heartwarming, stomach-filling, stick-to-your-ribs breakfasts and German meals. This not only informs the reader about Oma as a character, it also helped set the Midwest backdrop of the series.

WHEN WORDS GROW FANGS – Jude and his family are of Italian descent, so pasta and other Italian dishes are mentioned frequently. In fact, the book opens during Christmas and all of the foods that comprised their Christmas dinner are written about at length. If you don’t start that book with your mouth watering, you’re probably not human.

A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF NORMAL – several scenes in the book take place in the main characters’ favorite diner where Noah always gets pancakes and sausages. Food texture was used to explore an ASD character’s identity and explain a relationship to food many people don’t experience.

BRIEFLY BUDDIES – A lot of the book takes place in a hamburger/ice cream joint. Need I say more?

These are just a few of the examples of how food appears and plays a part in my stories.

For me, writing about food is just as natural as writing about being LGBTQIA. Or human. It’s (hopefully) a common element in all people’s lives and plays a role in who they are. As long as a person has a healthy relationship with food, it is comforting and elicits memories of family dinners, or dinners with friends, or an amazing meal they had on vacation, or a new food they tried that changed their whole perspective. It reminds them of times and places and memories–that were hopefully good–and helps them settle into the setting of the story and identify with the characters who inhabit it.

Beyond that, I just love food. Writing passages describing foods I love make me happy as a writer. So, my characters loving food is one of the ways that I inject myself into my characters. It grounds the story in reality and makes it easier for readers to accept the characters as fully fleshed out individuals.

I’m certain many of you are wondering what my favorite meal is, or what a perfect meal for me would be. There are just too many wonderful cuisines, ingredients, and preparations to give a specific answer. However, humble, warming, gut-filling dishes made with good ingredients by someone who loves to cook will always leave an impression on me. The dish doesn’t have to include anything exotic or expensive–it just has to be prepared with love and good ingredients that go well together. If it also contains a shit ton of carbs and fat, even better. Additionally, having at least one wonderful person to enjoy it with makes it a slam dunk.

To appease everyone, one of my favorite meals is spaghetti carbonara. It’s simple, humble, easy to make, and comprised of ingredients that are available almost everywhere. However, when my husband and I sit at the table and enjoy it together, it feels like home. For the record, we make it the “easy way” with bacon and parmesan since guanciale and Pecorino Romano are not always readily available here.

Until the day I stop writing, food will be a calling card in my books. And I can’t wait to write about more delicious things…

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

Don’t Speak

Out of all of my writing skills, I think I excel at dialogue. How people communicate naturally and effectively is something I can convey well in my writing. Even as I type this out, I feel kind of like an asshole for patting myself on the back. However, I’m trying to get better at admitting my strengths and weaknesses without feeling egotistical or shitty.

It’s a skill I’m trying to hone. There’s nothing wrong with saying: “I do <this> well.” And there’s no shame in admitting: “I need to do <this> better.” It’s a skill every person should have and use. It’s the only way we can lean into our strengths and work on our weaknesses, right?

Regardless, my strength at writing dialogue has not been much help recently.

I’m currently in the final rewrites and edits of my next book, and the two MCs don’t actually talk to each other much. Most of their communication is done without talking. As you can imagine, that’s a bit of a challenge for any author, but it’s particularly arduous for an author who feels that dialogue is one of their strengths.

So, what does an author do when they have to convey communication between two characters if they can’t rely on direct dialogue between the two?

The first thing I had to do was unlearn all of my writing skills I had as far as making two characters interact was concerned. I couldn’t have two characters speak directly to each other? Okay. Then, that’s a skill I need to push to the back of my brain when those two characters share a scene.

Then what???

It took some time, but I realized that I need to pay attention to non-verbal cues when interacting with others, or watching two people interact. If someone became angry during a conversation, how did their body show it? What did their face do? Did each person react to the body language of the other person?

Even though watching two other people interact–and paying attention while I was interacting with others–there was talking (or dialogue), so it’s not quite like the scenario in my book, clearly. However, if I ignored what was being said, I could focus on what was going on physically with the participants in a conversation.

How do two people physically address and respond to each other when meeting up for a romantic evening at a restaurant? Seeing each other for the first time in a long time at the airport? Greeting each other for a chat over coffee at the coffee shop? Run into each other on the street by chance outside of a store?

There are a million and one different ways that people’s bodies and faces respond to someone they like, love, or don’t like or love. It’s clearly obvious from watching a person’s body language if they are around someone they despise.

Since I couldn’t use dialogue to convey these things in the book, I had to rely on descriptions of body language. And that was what I needed to study and familiarize myself with while writing.

After this book, it’s unlikely I’ll have another scenario where characters can’t speak directly to each other–at least none that I can foresee–but this exercise and education will not be a one-off. Even for authors writing normal dialogue, learning to describe a character’s body language is an invaluable skill.

We’ve all heard “Show. Don’t tell.” so much when it comes to writing our stories, right?

Well, challenge yourself to not have a character say: “I’m angry!

Show me that they’re angry. Are they clenching their teeth? Tightening their jaw? Balling their fists at their side? Is their face turning red or their mouth twisting up churlishly?

In my opinion, great dialogue makes a book worth reading. However, it has to be broken up by narrative and description. A book of just dialogue is, well, a script. It’s meant to be used to put on a play, or make a television show or movie. The people who see it will not need to use their imagination as much.

With novels, we have to help immerse readers in our worlds. Help them to understand the characters inside and out. Sure, forcing the reader to use their imagination is important as well–we don’t want to give them everything. However, it’s hard for someone to care about a world or its inhabitants if they don’t feel connected to it. The physicality of the characters and what is going on around them does a lot of the work.

So, tell your characters: “Don’t speak.” At least sometimes. Let your narrative and descriptive passages–your showing–drag the reader into your world.

If nothing else, it will help you become a better writer. However, it might even help you become a better communicator in real life, too.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,
Chase

Shameless Self Promotion & Sex Positivity

Since BRIEFLY BUDDIES drops this Friday, August 6th, I thought I’d scream at you all, once again, to…GO PREORDER YOUR EBOOK COPY NOW!!!! *whispers* Paperbacks and hardbacks will be available to order soon.

BRIEFLY BUDDIES, if you haven’t noticed me pimping it like the rent was due yesterday, is an LGBTQIA New Adult Erotic Comedy. Dustin has just graduated high school and has never been laid. Slightly tipsy (okay, drunk) after a few celebratory beers with his best friend, he decides to hire a sex worker. That’s where everything starts to go wrong.

This comedy of errors is about becoming comfortable with one’s own sexuality, how sex work should be normalized, how friendships develop from the strangest circumstances, how some allies can be problematic but still be great, and, of course, ice cream.

It’s not a Chase Connor book if there isn’t food, amirite?

Luckily, another Chase Connor signature–death and grief–does NOT make an appearance in BRIEFLY BUDDIES. It’s all friendship, laughs, sex, and ice cream. Promise.

If you haven’t preordered an ebook yet–and you want to do so–you can find it on Amazon here. This is also where you can buy a paperback and/or hardback when they are available.

Other than begging my readers and friends and reader-friends to give me money, I wanted to talk about sex positivity. BRIEFLY BUDDIES, at its core, is also about being comfortable with one’s sexuality and sex itself.

It took a long time for me to be sex positive–hello, growing up Catholic–but now that I’ve discovered the term, what it means, and learned to embrace it, there’s no going back.

Sex, though it stirs up a lot of internal turmoil, is a natural and healthy function of the human body. Of course, we all have different abilities, desires, sex drives, and methods of expressing ourselves sexually. We’re not all the exact same when it comes to sex, how we view it, and how we do it. We’re not all the same in who we love and how we love.

Sex positivity is embracing all of this. Normalizing sexual expression and celebrating that it is natural and very fucking human to have sex if we so wish.

As long as consenting adults are involved, honesty and care is given to all partners, there is nothing shameful about the act of sex. Sex is a release. It’s joy. It’s destressing. It’s exercise. It’s love. It’s human.

Choosing not to have sex or not wanting to have sex is perfectly human as well.

Both sides of the coin are beautiful. However, shaking off the taboo of sex–or no sex–is important. Shame is a wasted emotion when it comes to having consenting sex with another adult, being open and honest about our needs and desires, and not feeling bad for it.

I hope BRIEFLY BUDDIES touches on that enough to make people consider how they view sex and how they should feel good about having sex.

I’m not much of an erotica writer–this is only my second erotica novel to date–but sex plays a role in a lot of my stories. I’m usually more delicate and precious with my descriptions of sex in my other novels, but sometimes erotica is fun–especially if you have a good plot idea.

I hope those of you who read it enjoy the story, the characters, the spicy scenes, and you feel good with the sex positivity, the normalization of sex work, the bi-rep, and are prompted to think about the “problematic allies” in your life.

At the very least, I hope you swoon at Dustin’s and Max’s story.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,
Chase