Tag Archives: Reading Unicorns

Men Who Read Romance: Joe Alfano aka Zombie Joe

Hi friends! Back to our new for 2013 feature on dudes who read romance! So whoo! And of course, I have always featured women in the community  – in fact Ms. Jenn aka Squenn’s post was this past Saturday! So let’s see what Joe had to say. 😀

Bio: Joe Alfano always said that a nickname is something you cannot choose, it is given to you. By someone else. Always. Fast forward nearly 35 years and a friend not only starts calling him Zombie Joe, but introduces him this way. To comic book artists. Which has lead to more people knowing him by Zombie Joe than his given name. And yes, his parents are so happy they spent all that time mulling over what to name him when he was born.

Zombie Joe is a writer, reader, gamer and now a book reviewer on the Wicked Lil Pixie team. And by gamer we aren’t talking the “pew pew” gamer, but the full on Dungeons and Dragons geek gamer. Tread lightly on the gamer jokes though, as he is also a hunter who has the ability to hit a moving target at 60 yards. Just sayin’.

Though fairly new to the romance genre, he has been an avid reader and storyteller all his life. But that is more for the questions found below…

1. What’s the first romance that you ever read?
First romance? Fully it would be Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead. Though I did read the first couple of chapters of the Sleeping Beauty trilogy (the first book), and then handed them off to my wife. I didn’t (and still don’t) consider Anita Blake paranormal romance – even with the cuddle piles that hit around book seven or so.

2. How did you get started reading romance?
Two different authors suggested it. Alex Bledsoe (who is local to my area) suggested joining a monthly writing group that (at the time) was associated with RWA. Sitting in with them lead to being given a few romance books and meeting up with some of the local authors who wrote paranormal romance as well as urban fantasy, such as Lori Devoti. My initial push came from Mark Henry who came at me with the suggestion that while I may not be writing romance stories in nature, that reading and learning from romance novels will help strengthen the romantic themes in my stories. Both of them were incredibly spot-on with their advice.

3. Who is your favorite author and what is your favorite romance novel?
Favorite author? Favorite romance novel? Are you trying to get me hurt? Some of the authors I know are proven marksmen! Besides, that’s like choosing your favorite child… or favorite grandchild. It simply isn’t done!

If you see me talking in a snarky manner to them on Twitter or Facebook, odds are they are a favorite of mine. This includes all of the League of Reluctant Adults. Not included in the snarkfest is Steven Barnes. From my early days of adult novel reading, his are the stories that stuck with me the strongest. To the point of looking for a replacement copy of The Kundalini Equation.

Favorite Romance Novel. Did I mention at least one of the romance authors I know practices Mixed Martial Arts? You’re killin’ me, smalls! I’ll throw out some examples…

Burning Alive (first in the Sentinel Wars series) by Shannon K Butcher had one of the best opening lines ever. “The man who would watch me burn alive took his coffee black.” That is a story in and of itself!

Tarnished by Karina Cooper, while not really a romance had a really strong romantic element to it. And the character really struck me as being Victorian and an empowered woman at the same time. Both sides of the coin at the same time, as it were.

Recently (thanks to the Barbara Vey Reader’s Luncheon) I have been on Angie Fox’s Accidental Demon Slayer series. This series strikes me as a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Stephanie Plum series. Who wouldn’t love a Grandma Mazzer who rode a Harley and cast spells? Seriously. Which shows another of my greatest draws towards a book – humor. (Which psst, the first in the series is free on kindle right now! If you click on the cover below it’ll link you. In fact, did you know all the covers always also double as links? :D) If it is truly funny, I’d read a phone book transcribed by e.e. cummings.

4. What would you like to see more of in romances? (What are your most and least favorite sub-genres?)
I like the amount of humorous romances that I have been hitting. I fully believe humor to be one of the sexiest traits a person can have. Additionally, I love seeing that humor and snark taking front seat in a lot of the paranormal novels out there. I loves me some monster. Which leads towards horror. I don’t think horror and romance are incompatible. In fact I think there might be a market there. Take Megan Hart’s Ressurected serial for instance. Horror, but with some strong romantic elements as well.

Least favorite? Historicals, Inspirationals… anything with the “Surprise Baby” plot in it. Contemporary isn’t my normal, but I have been know to read one here and there (see aforementioned humor statement).

5. What is something you hate (or dislike strongly) in romances?
Listed above. The “surprise baby” plot. Anything dealing with weak characters. I find strong women attractive, so therefore do not respond to weak women in books. I don’t mean she has to be able to bench press her body weight or be able to beat up an ogre-like linebacker. For instance, my Nonna was a short, stocky Italian grandmother – and you didn’t cross her. Seriously, I’ve seen “made men” (you know, the gentlemen with the thin, red ties) quake at the thought of crossing “The Nonna.” Like I said, strong women.

6. Do you browse the romance section at bookstores? If you saw another guy there, would you offer recommendations, or ask for any?
Hell yes, I do. I walk boldly down the erotica section, romance, YA… any damn aisle I feel like. Then again, I am a gamer. There is little in this world that can embarrass me.

Though not really embarrassing, I would only offer recommendations to another man if they ask for them. It’s like coming across a deer in the field. You make to many quick movements and they’ll bolt. I don’t want to scare them out of the section. I have had a male friend ask for some titles for a gift exchange at a family function. He was hooked up with some top-notch smut. (The author’s words, not mine.)

At the same time, while picking up a Shiloh Walker book on release day at Borders (dating this story a bunch), the bookseller who reminded me this was a romance novel gave me the oddest look when I said I knew that. Like I had just asked him if he liked flannel jammies and long walks on the beach.

7. How involved are you in the romance community?
I attend that monthly meeting in my home town of primarily romance writers. The group is about 75% romance at this point, but the sub-genres blur the lines. I attend Romantic Times and Authors After Dark when I can afford the travel and the vacation time. And I do full reviews on Wicked Lil Pixie and submit book blurbs to Barbara Vey for her Publisher’s Weekly blog Beyond Her Book. And the more I talk about it the more tired I feel. Who needs sleep when there are more books to read, right?

8. Do your friends/family know you read romance novels?
Indeed. I don’t hide it. Some of our older friends are a bit stuck in that old fashioned “guy mode” though. They still don’t understand that I do the cooking and baking in the house. One of them still insists that the cupcakes we bring to events are baked by my wife. Though to be fair, she decorates them. I suck at piping. So while I don’t hide it from them, they tend not to bring it up around me. Most of my family and friends are fine with it.

9. What other genres do you enjoy reading, if any, and what are some of your hobbies aside from reading?
My main wheelhouse is Urban Fantasy, Horror and Spec Fiction. This is definitely what I write, though my wife has me starting on a murder mystery – we’ll see if any monsters show up in that one. As that is what I mostly write, it is also what I mostly read. I flavor it with paranormal romance as well as epic fantasy from time to time.

In addition to reading, writing and reviewing, I am chair of a science fiction convention in Wisconsin as well as part of the committee running an Italian heritage festival in Madison (run through the Italian Workman’s Club). I also run a Dungeons and Dragons game night for friends at my condo once a week. Most week include my cupcake experiments that I bake with my wife. Many of those are book themed cupcakes like the Iron Druid, the Trampire and the Hornicorn. (Bonus points if you can guess all three of the series represented there.)

In my free time I favor psychotic breaks (clearly as I have no free time). The workload listed above (as well as an old spinal injury) has lead me to put deer hunting on hiatus for the foreseeable future.

(Did I mention that long-winded answers were a trait in the English department I learned under in college? The half page “welcome to the department” letter I was given on acceptance to the program was a page and three quarters. Thanks Dr. Folsom.)

Thanks so much for visiting with us, Joe, and for kindly answering my questions! Does anyone want to ask Joe anything? Cuz this could be fun. 😉

Men Who Read Romance: David Kentner

I found another one! A man who reads romances! If you know of any more, please send them my way. Hey – these guys could form a reading unicorn club! ;D [My apologies on the weird scheduling – internet woes, you know. So thanks also to David for his patience!]

But the point is what he has to say – so let’s get to it!

ABOUT ME: David Kentner is first and foremost a reader. He also writes stories. When asked the proverbial chicken or the egg question, he is quick to respond that reading opened his mind to writing. A husband, father, and grandfather, he annoys his wife at every opportunity, knowing she loves the attention and the fact he actually enjoys washing dishes. His love of romance novels at all heat levels opened doors to books his wife had never considered reading. He still isn’t sure that was a wise decision as her pile of boxes filled with books is now constantly growing. David can be reached through his blog or his website.

1. What’s the first romance that you ever read?
Though not a true romance in the traditional sense, it was Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie. What stood out for me was the relationship, the love, between husband and wife. To be fair, I know I wouldn’t have read that book if it weren’t for my high school world lit teacher, who also taught my creative writing class. She set me up and made the book required reading solely so I would have to read it. And, as they say, the rest is history. I was hooked on love stories in any flavor…except for Romeo and Juliet. There’s an “ick” factor I can’t get past about a fictional thirteen-year-old girl who kills herself over a guy. My granddaughter is approaching thirteen, and I assured her I would shave her head if she brought home a sixteen-year-old boyfriend, right after I had a private conversation with young Mr. Studly out behind the grain bin.

Thank God romance requires a happy ending, which isn’t necessarily so for love stories. Now, it depends on my mood whether I reach for romance or a love story.

Before I left high school, I’d even read a few category romances. I made the mistake once of checking out the romances in a discount store when I was with my then girlfriend. At the time, she giggled in that female way of questioning a man’s sanity without need of further comment. But, she married me, so maybe it wasn’t such a mistake after all.

2. How did you get started reading romance?
Answered above.

3. Who is your favorite author and what is your favorite romance novel?
I’m not avoiding the question, but I really don’t have one. I revel in the different styles authors use to write their stories. Cookie cutter anything, regardless of genre, makes me cringe, and I’ve been known to throw a book in the trash after the first page if I don’t find the writing original and compelling. I’m a tough crowd when it comes to reading; probably because I read a lot.

That said, my current favorite opening line in a book is, “I woke up to the smell of Lysol and the end of the world.” That’s from Erica O’Rourke’s Torn, a young adult fantasy romance novel.

4. What would you like to see more of in romances? (What are your most and least favorite sub-genres?)
I have had my fill of sexy, organic, run of the mill vampires. Please, please, please…STOP! A body is finite. That means there are only so many spots from which to suck blood and I’ve read all of them multiple times. Naturally, if an author can present a romantic vampire I haven’t seen before, a character who oozes originality and a level of sensuality beyond trite, I’ll be there from the first to the last page. In fact, I’m aware of a book just completed by a seasoned ebook author with an actual new twist on the romantic hero vampire. I’m anxious to read it. If the book is as good as I hope it will be, I’ll be spreading the word.

I adore whimsical twists on well known concepts such as Saranna DeWylde’s Desperate Housewives of Olympus. Loved Lauren Fraser’s The Geek Next Door. How can you not enjoy an insecure guy who finally grows a set of balls and risks everything to pursue the woman of his dreams, who only recently started to realize what a hunk the geek has turned into? A new writer for me is paranormal romance author Lexi George. OMG, her book Demon Hunting in a Dive Bar is hilarious. Then, of course, there’s Victoria Alexander. I think she’s a romance genius, regardless of the era she uses as a backdrop for her dramatic tales.

I guess it should be clear by now that I don’t have a favorite subgenre. =)

What I would like to see more of are authors willing to take risks and break away from what they know ‘works.’ I understand diehard fans might disagree, but authors shouldn’t be afraid to push their limits, even in romance, and give readers something they haven’t seen before.

5. What is something you hate (or dislike strongly) in romances?
Romance by its very nature has certain requirements. These include the development of a romantic relationship and a hope for the future conclusion, regardless of the journey and/or hardships the characters have to travel/endure to get there. It would be easy to say I’d like to see romance novels deviate from these requirements, but genres already exist for those kinds of stories. The romance genre exists because readers know what to expect. It was the readers who created the romance genre, not the publishers. Readers want the hero and heroine to overcome any obstacles in their path and find happiness in the end. And there isn’t a thing wrong with that.

6. Do you browse the romance section at bookstores? If you saw another guy there, would you offer recommendations, or ask for any?
I used to. Now I haunt the internet listings and go to the local bookstore to buy a hard copy only to support my local bookstore. If we don’t support our bookstores, we will lose them.

As far as recommending books, I write a weekly column in which I interview authors both established and new to the business. Many of those authors write romance. I’m not shy at all about letting folks know what books and writers I’m enjoying at the moment.

7. How involved are you in the romance community?
Very, I suppose, though some might disagree. I don’t hang out in chat groups, though I do show up in scheduled live chats for authors and readers from time to time. The Romance Writers of America probably haven’t heard of me. But, let me toss this out for thought: Any reader who buys and reads books contributes to the literary community, including its various genres. Readers are the glue that holds the community together. Writers write out of love. Readers read out of love. And when readers and writers get together to share their love, it’s the perfect romance.

8. Do your friends/family know you read romance novels?
Oh my yes. That’s not a secret at all.

9. What other genres do you enjoy reading, if any, and what are some of your hobbies aside from reading?
I still buy and sell antiques, though after nearly twenty years I’ve slowed down considerably as it’s gotten very expensive and time consuming.

I read almost anything. I really do. Out of all the genres I have the strongest affinity with suspense/thrillers and historical fiction and nonfiction. I suspect Curious George and the suspicious man in the yellow hat had something to do with formulating my reading interests in the impossible. Davy Crockett made me want to separate fact from fiction. Pocahontas and John Smith first taught me that romance can be educational. Jules Verne showed me it’s okay to step beyond the known and set my imagination free.

There is something personal to be gleaned from every reading experience. We only have to have the desire to find what that something is.

So – anyone have questions for David? (It seems the sole reader not writer romance reading man is still eluding us.) So you better get those questions asked while you still can!

Debut of Men Who Read Romance: Enter Rock Star James Fox

YOU GUYS!!! I am so flipping excited to finally be able to debut this new ALBTALBS feature, after you know, talking about it for more than a year. I found our reading unicorn! 😉 Our first awesome guest is James Fox. He also writes. And more than that – what I care about – it being all about me 😉 is that he is the newest addition to the ALBTALBS review crew! (See?) So James Fox has been saving my bacon all week. He gets about 50 gold stars.

Without further ado… James.

Hi Everyone I’m James

I’m a Farmer living in Oregon. I have a wonderful Wife, and two great kids.
I have loved reading ever since I picked up my first copy of Calvin and Hobbes.
I would spend hours hidden in the crawlway beneath the stairs of our house reading by flashlight.

1. What’s the first romance that you ever read?
It Had To Be You By Susan Elizabeth Phillips

2. How did you get started reading romance?
When I was in middle school, my Grandpa would babysit me a lot. He was addicted to General Hospital, but wouldn’t let me watch it. Instead he told me to go grab a book off the shelf. There were only two kinds of books in my Grandparents house. It was either Louis L’Amour or Romance Novels. One day I was tired of reading about cowboys, so I picked up It Had To Be You. I remember that it had a lot to do with football, which I liked. It also had a great female lead character named Phoebe. In my head she always sounded like Madeline Kahn.

3. Who is your favorite author and what is your favorite romance novel?
Water For Elephants By Sara Gruen would be my favorite romance novel.
My favorite author is Joseph Heller who wrote Catch-22.

4. What would you like to see more of in romances? (What are your most and least favorite sub-genres?)
Miss Havisham from Great Expectations needs a reincarnation! What I’ve been reading has lacked that sort of punch.
I enjoy romantic suspense the most, but I hate it when the suspense swallows up the romantic storyline.
My current least favorite sub-genre is Vampires, with a permanent pass awarded to the Swedish novel Let The Right One In.
That book was a paranormal romance with young characters done perfectly.

5. What is something you hate (or dislike strongly) in romances?
I dislike it when a characters’ issues are magically solved by the end of the story.
Especially when a characters’ career makes a sudden U-turn. I think authors work too hard at a total happy ending.

6. Do you browse the romance section at bookstores? If you saw another guy there, would you offer recommendations, or ask for any?
This is a secret I’m not supposed to tell you. At the back of every book store there is a hidden room. Inside it’s wall to wall tough guys smoking cigars reading Nicholas Sparks aloud to each other. We haul out our new bodice rippers in hollowed out Harley Davidson coffee table books.
That way the ladies will never suspect us.

7. How involved are you in the romance community?
I follow a bunch of authors on twitter, and chime in on Goodreads.

8. Do your friends/family know you read romance novels?
It amuses my Wife who will point out to any visitor what I’m reading. She’ll point at a romance novel laying around, and then back away like its a hand grenade dipped in hot sauce.

9. What other genres do you enjoy reading, if any, and what are some of your hobbies aside from reading?
I enjoy thrillers, scary stories, and the occasional historical fiction.
Outside of that I enjoy hiking the trails here in Oregon with my kids. I try to run a marathon once a while, and I try to write novels.

Heh. He has a sense of humor, too. So! Let’s give Mr. Fox a warm welcome. And do you have any questions for him? I’m going to say – grill him! 😀 Anything is fair game!

Where’s the Romance, Man? (paging @TheRomanceMan3)

Hi friends! So, this is supposed to be the start of my “Men Who Read Romance” feature! Fun times! I figure, it’s good to start with an introduction. Also, as usual, the best laid plans are for naught, and this is no exception.

So I wanted to ask you – what would you want to know from a dude who reads romances?
Obviously it’ll be a monthly thing where I lure an unsuspecting maleask a guy who reads romances some questions. It’s just another counterpart to my Reader Posts (where I feature a reader monthly) and learning more about the diverse group of people who enjoy this genre.

Here is what I’m thinking so far.

1. What’s the first romance that you ever read?

2. How did you get started reading romance?

3. Who is your favorite author and what is your favorite romance novel?

4. What would you like to see more of in romances?

5. What is something you hate (or dislike strongly) in romances?

6. Do you browse the romance section at bookstores? If you saw another guy there, would you offer recommendations, or ask for any?

7. How involved are you in the romance community?

I’m playing with the last one. And I’m thinking nine questions (at least?) is good…

What do you think?

Incidentally, RM was supposed to have another guest spot, but I don’t think that’s going to asked him. I emailed him to ask him what was up and he said “FUCKED.” So, you know.

Maybe I should have used that as a post. Just

“Presenting: The Romance Man”

In his own words: Fucked. And left it at that.

Anyway, if you know any guys who read romances, please send them my way. I’d love to chat with them. I even have a contact form. And thanks for people who already have – please do let them know I’m having major internet problems though. I’m about to stab something. Myself even. Ugh. As always, “my posts” have tags indicative of current place in life. Enjoy.