Category Archives: Musings

In Memoriam: Niki Massey, aka Nicole Forcine, aka feminace

I first met Niki in 2013 at GRL in Atlanta, GA, where she was doing video interviews with authors and publishers for her vlog and video book club. Here she is interviewing me with Anne Tenino:

I remember the interview being a delightful experience, Niki was clever and kind and just a lot of fun. I also enjoyed going back to her YouTube channel and watching the video book club sessions, of which I wish there had been more.

I met her again in 2014 at GRL, which she had used crowdfunding to attend. The first night we were there, we had dinner together with four or five other people. I think Heidi Belleau might have been there? The whole evening is a bit fuzzy because–as I infamously announced to everyone, and you’d better believe Niki kept teasing me about it all weekend–I was plastered after one and a half margaritas due to the fact that all I’d had to eat that day was two pancakes and a mocha. But we hung out several times during the course of that GRL, since I attended as a reader and not an author and therefore had no particular duties, and really she was one of my favorite parts of the experience that year.

I admit, I didn’t know Niki incredibly well. I followed her on Tumblr for quite some time, until she stopped being active on Tumblr, and always found the material she posted and reblogged to be insightful and thought-provoking and sometimes just plain fun. She was a huge fan of Abigail Roux’s Cut & Run series, but I knew she was having financial troubles, so when the final book came out, I bought it and gifted it to her so she wouldn’t have to wait to read it.

After that, we sort of lost contact, mostly since she drifted away from Tumblr and that’s really the only social media platform I’m active on. If news of her passing last week has circulated in the M/M romance community, I haven’t seen it. So it wasn’t until today when I tagged her in the hopes of congratulating her on the release of her latest book (the release of which I hadn’t been aware of, most likely because we had fallen out of touch) that someone let me know what had happened.

I’m incredibly saddened, despite the fact that I didn’t know her well, because what I did know of her was so altogether wonderful.

RIP Niki. You’ll be missed in many communities.

Leave a comment

Filed under Musings

Yet another author misrepresenting themselves kerfuffle

Everyone knows my name isn’t really Amelia C. Gormley, right?

Right.

There. Now you know everything anyone who reads my books or has any knowledge of me through the world of m/m romance will ever need to know about me. Probably way more than you need to know, actually, considering how much 100% legitimately personal and TMI stuff I share on my blog and Tumblr.

In the past few months, the m/m romance world has had at least two instances of cis-(het?) women being exposed as having presented themselves to readers and reviewers and other authors in the genre as gay men.

Obviously, this is a problem.

I don’t think it’s any mystery why authors choose pen names. First of all, it’s totally a marketing tool. Throughout history, authors–especially women authors–have needed to misrepresent their gender in order for their work to be published or taken seriously.

In this day and age, that is still unfortunately true. And in all honesty male/male romance DOES have a problem where the readers and movers and shakers within the genre tend to elevate male authors above female authors. They get signed more readily. Their books get priority for editing and marketing. They get moved to market quicker and are a priority for reviewing or purchase by readers for no other reason than it’s a male name on the cover. That’s an issue we really need to deal with.

But these incidences are something else entirely.

This isn’t a woman representing herself as a white cis-het male just to get a foot in the door with publishers. In that case, the woman is part of an oppressed group just trying to get the same opportunities that come automatically and without scrutiny to a privileged group.

That isn’t the same thing at all.

If this were a white author presenting themselves as being black, we would clearly see why this is a problem. The issue here is the appropriation of an oppressed/minority identity by a member of a privileged majority in order for that privileged person to profit off the representation of an inauthentic identity.

These authors aren’t just using a male name. They are actually creating a gay male persona and using it for the purpose of essentially catfishing the entire genre.

Doing it just for the money is bad enough. But in the process, that privileged person also makes people in the oppressed group think they’ve found one of their own, someone they can relate to because that person is like them. And then it turns out to be a lie.

If you don’t understand why that’s an issue, refresh your memory about the Rachel Dolezal.

It not only hurts the people who have been deceived, it also damages efforts on the part of that oppressed group to be taken seriously.

A pen name? Pfft, that’s nothing. That’s business as usual. In a world where people as insignificant as local tv news anchors and newspaper reporters and even fucking baristas can get stalkers who think they have some claim on that person because they have a public presence, putting some distance between one’s public persona and one’s private self seems to be not only a notion worthy of consideration, but the only possible sane choice.

Especially when one writes in a genre that is dedicated to exploring the relationships and promoting/normalizing the acceptance of a subset of the population whose very existence happens to make another subset of the population ACTUALLY MURDEROUSLY ANGRY.

So yeah, I use a pen name and I am pretty certain exactly 0% of the people who follow me as an author are surprised by that fact.

However–I have never misrepresented WHO I AM AS A PERSON. Nor will I ever do so. I have never made up a fictional backstory for myself. I have never created a fictional reality to sell to my followers. I have never solicited donations for various causes under that assumed identity.

I am the gender I say I am. I am the age I say I am. I am the birthsign I say I am.

I, for the most part, have the same personality you see in my online and convention presence. I say “for the most part” because of course I do try to publicly present myself in the best light; I can be far more of an asshole in reality. (And considering how much of an asshole I can be online already, that’s saying something.)

I can promise my readers I will never lead them to believe the books or the blog posts they enjoy or connect with on a personal level, and the things I share or publish that make them feel they aren’t alone in the world for one reason or another, come from someone other than who I truly am.

I can promise the people I meet and befriend along this zany journey through this genre that they will never someday stumble upon the realization that I’m not the person they thought they had become close to.

I can also promise that if I ever say that the proceeds of sales from my catalog of titles will go to a certain charity or cause, it will go there. If I ever solicit donations for a charity or cause, they will go where they were meant to go.

If I ever solicit donations to meet personal needs–well, I’m reasonably certain I’ll never solicit donations that will go to me personally. Except, perhaps–and by “perhaps” I mean I can’t envision ever actually doing it but never say never–if I need some funding to produce and self-publish a title that I can’t contract with a press. (*side-eyes Swatted*)

In other words, with me, what you see is what you get.

Except my real name. Most of you don’t get that. Whatevs.

Leave a comment

Filed under Musings, Uncategorized

So much ethics: An anti-GamerGate rant @Veeren_Jubbal @INeedDivGms @ChrisWarcraft

Today, CypherofTyr, who started the #INeedDiverseGames tag on Twitter and eventual blogs and groups on various social media and gaming sites, posted this to Tumblr:

Please keep Veerender Jubbal in your thoughts. He’s been targeted by GG yet again but this could get him killed. A bathroom selfie was photoshopped to make it look like he was holding a Quran, wearing a bomb lined vest and for some odd reason, a dildo was added. An Italian news outlet has run the story as true sadly, but Buzzfeed (for once was useful) and called out the obvious photoshop.

It looks like a piss poor photoshop, and it’s a photo where he’s staring straight ahead which someone else couldn’t have taken. However news outlets are running this photo, and that piece of shit Milo Y of Brietbart/GG infamy is trying to harass him further by asking for an exclusive for Brietbart.

Veerender is a very young, sweet guy who’s only asking for equality in games and more representation of Sikh’s and brown men like him. For this, for his rightful anger he’s been targeted yet again. The incorrect party line of “he’s a Muslim terrorist” isn’t new but with the strong anti-Muslim vibe going on because of Paris right now, I am really, really worried for his safety. Not tagging him so I don’t bring hate to his FB.

If you follow him on twitter, please send some words of support, cute animal pics or something. I am very, very worried someone will believe that image is real and go after him.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/ellievhall/gamergate-photoshopped-a-canadian-sikh-man-to-make-him-seem#.iwWMapMo5

They did this this weekend, AFTER Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris, for which ISIS has claimed responsibility. They did this in a time when anti-Islam sentiment is boiling over and Muslims all over the world are in danger of hate crimes.

It won’t matter that this innocent man is a Sikh. Many Sikhs have been subjected to hate crimes, especially since 9/11, because most people are too ignorant to realize that they’re not Muslims.

This is especially troubling because GamerGaters have been known to attempt murder-by-cop, in the form of something called swatting. Swatting is something that is done to a person who has been doxxed. The harasser makes some form of anonymous report to emergency services that something urgently bad is happening at a person’s address. Like, they’re holding a hostage or they’re waving a gun or whatever. This is done in the hopes that police will show up and bust down the target’s door with guns blazing.

Not that they’ll admit that is the goal, they claim it’s just harassment. But who living in the post-Ferguson world believes that it isn’t actually attempted murder? Especially since the targets of several notable incidences have been black or trans people (such as in this incident last year in Portland) both of whom have every reason to be afraid of being murdered by police.

(Ironically, a few months ago I started writing the sequel to Player vs. Player, called Swatted. My protag is of Middle Eastern descent. Guess what happens.)

For over a year now, I’ve been posting occasionally about GamerGate. GamerGate became a thing last August, just as I was finishing up edits to Player vs. Player (a book which was inspired by harassment of Jennifer Hepler, a writer who used to work on the Dragon Age franchise at BioWare) and Anita Sarkeesian, a media critic who runs a site called Feminist Frequency and does a Feminism 101-level critique of the portrayal of women in video games.

I’ve posted before about how I wrote Player vs. Player a year too early, because it wasn’t, in fact, informed by GamerGate. It just happened to be timely.

GamerGate claims to be about ethics in gaming journalism–which they basically define as preventing any gaming news outlets from posting any articles that might suggest in any way that women and minorities should receive better representation in video games. But here’s the truth about how it actually started.

TL;DR version: posts speculating about Zoe Quinn’s sex life kept getting deleted from legitimate gaming boards, and harassment posts kept getting deleted from other places. So the harassers decided they needed to try another tactic. Here are some of the posts leading up to these harassers deciding they were actually about “ethics in gaming journalism.”

(Extreme TW: Misogyny, misogynist slurs, homophobic slurs, harassment, bullying)

GG Zoe Quinn 01GG Zoe Quinn 02GG Zoe Quinn 03GG Zoe Quinn 04GG Zoe Quinn 05GG Zoe Quinn 06GG Zoe Quinn 07

So it’s completely well-documented that the “ethics in gaming journalism” was a deliberate ploy on the part of these guys to put a veneer of legitimacy on their campaign of harassment of women. The #GamerGate tag was invented, coined by Adam Baldwin, and began spreading all over Twitter.

In the aftermath, the harassment spread to Anita Sarkeesian, who was already misogynist gamers pin-up girl, and to a woman named Leigh Alexander, who posted an article in which she asserted “gamers” are over. You can read the post and see for yourself what her meaning was, but misogynist gamer dudebros didn’t look beyond the title, which they decided was an attack upon them and their identity, and they attacked back.

Then a game developer named Brianna Wu created a few memes mocking GamerGate. For that, she was driven from her home by death and rape threats. (TW: death threats, rape threats, extreme misogyny.)

In the process of crusading for “ethics in gaming journalism”, there has been a flurry of awful behavior. #GamerGate co-opted antisemitic propaganda images to smear Anita Sarkeesian. (TW: antisemitism)

(that’s a caricature of Anita Sarkessian)

(Source: Weev: Gamergate is “the biggest siren bringing people into the folds of white nationalism.”

They equated gamergaters to the #BlackLivesMatter protesters in Ferguson, and equated male gamers to black Americans in the Jim Crow era:

The GamerGate photoshop

The original image

Source: Things #GamerGaters Actually Believe, Part 294: Gamers are as oppressed as African Americans in the Jim Crow era

They created the #NotYourShield tag, which was supposed to prove they weren’t all white males, and then created sockpuppets posing as minorities to boost its population. Internet blackface.

(White nationalists are also claiming GamerGate is boosting their numbers. GamerGaters also frequently reference a trumped-up concept named Cultural Marxism, which is pretty much the next generation of the Nazi buzz phrase Cultural Bolshevism.)

A man named Davis Aurini, who outright confesses to being a white nationalist “on paper” partnered with another GamerGater to make a documentary called “The Sarkeesian Effect” and sought $15,000 per month for their trouble.

(This while accusing Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu of being “professional victims” capitalizing upon their harassment for sympathy and money. The irony astounds.)

They have committed ACTUAL acts of terrorism. In October 2014 Anita Sarkeesian had to cancel an appearance at Utah State University because someone threatened a campus massacre if she appeared (in the process referencing the actual 1989 massacre of several women on a campus in Montreal.)

This is on top of what Sarkeesian deals with on a daily basis.

When Felicia Day, popular actress and geek culture darling, timidly spoke up condemning GamerGate, they doxxed her. (Doxxing, for those who aren’t aware, is the publishing of a person’s personal and financial information–such as address, phone number, employer, family addresses, social security number, etc, for the purpose of harassment.)

Former NFL player and LGBTQIA+ rights activist Chris Kluwe, who had a couple days later posted an absolutely EPIC rant about #GamerGate, was also eventually doxxed. It is pathetic to note, however, that while Felicia Day was doxxed less than an hour after her post, it took them months to dox Kluwe. #GamerGate targets women much more aggressively than it does men.

They even spoke of trying to dox Brianna Wu’s veterinarian in the middle of the night as Brianna Wu waited at the vets with her dying dog. And then, of course, rejoiced and celebrated and harassed Brianna about her loss.

Last year, a Canadian teenager was arrested for swatting female gamers all over North America.

That’s not even close to the end of it.

The Venn diagram of GamerGaters and so-called Men’s Rights Activists isn’t quite a perfect circle, but I’d call it a short oval, at least. Paul Elam, leader of the MRA website A Voice For Men, initially voiced his support for GamerGate, but later seemed to walk to back. GamerGate is also supported by Roosh V, notorious pickup-artist who advocates for the legalization of rape (extreme TW: misogyny and rape apologia) and even confesses to committing rape (TW: rape descriptions).

The person who threatened the massacre if Anita Sarkeesian appeared at Utah State University referenced both GamerGate and repeated a lot of MRA rhetoric.

GamerGate also has a tremendous amount of overlap with neo-Nazi ideology. This really isn’t surprising. All three groups exist for the purpose of upholding white male supremacy, and they echo a lot of the same rhetoric.

For instance, ranting against the concept of so-called Cultural Marxism. The only difference between the three groups is MRAs blame feminists for it, white supremacists blame non-white people for it (as well as feminists), and GamerGaters blame “SJWs” (social justice warriors) for it.

It should be noted that “SJW” is pretty much the “all of the above” option, seeing as how it encompasses any oppressed group advocating for equality, including the groups that MRAs and white supremacists hate.

Here’s where it gets scary though:

Murder in the name of white supremacy is pretty much so universal that I’d be here for weeks listing them. Anders Behring Breivik springs to mind as one, but honestly it happens nearly every day in the US, frequently in the form of law enforcement killing black Americans.

MRAs has a history of celebrating men who murder women in the name of anti-feminism. They have stated Elliot Rodger would have been a hero if he’d just killed women and no men. They have blamed feminists for Rodger’s actions, because Rodger was an “incel” (involuntarily celibate) and because feminists engage in “creep shaming.”

Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot accused of crashing Germanwings Flight 9525, was called an incel hero and his actions an indication of the “beta uprising.” Vox Day, fantasy author and all-around horrible excuse for a human being, opines that Lubitz wouldn’t have crashed the plane if women and just jumped on his dick. MRAs also celebrated the recent massacre at Umpqua Community College.

PUA RooshV is so convinced that one day his followers will commit a massacre that he’s already formulating his response to it.

GamerGaters are already trying to commit murder obliquely with tactics such as swatting, and “raids” on sites such as Tumblr to attempt to harass depressed trans people into committing suicide.

How much longer before they go for the direct approach? Will someone have to actually die before these guys stop being handwaved off as just trolls?

They’ve just spread images of a Sikh man photoshopped to make him look like a terrorist. In the aftermath of a terrorist attack when the entire world is on a hair trigger. How can this be anything but attempted murder?

1 Comment

Filed under Musings

Leftist ableism, misinformation, #GamerGate, and the deliberately constructed decline of critical thought

If you followed me on Tumblr you know that a pet peeve of mine lately has been progressives using ableist language when making their points. You would also know that several times recently, I’ve had to deliberately counter leftist misinformation that makes its way across my dash.

And if you have read Player vs. Player or even skimmed the book jacket, you can probably guess that the GamerGate debacle is something I take very seriously, though that book was finalized before #GamerGate became a thing.

Would it surprise you to know that #GamerGate is a movement comprised of a significant number of left-leaning and leftist libertarian people?

Seen in that light, it makes a certain amount of sense that a great deal of #GamerGate’s rhetoric (even when they’re not maliciously harassing people) defaults to the use of ableist language.

I admit, the last election cycle, I was not aware of the left’s frequent reliance on ableist language. In the years since, I’ve had my eyes opened to a lot of things I hadn’t seen before, and perhaps that’s resulted in a sort of hypersensitivity to it. Mostly, it’s that I find myself time and again having to choose NOT to share articles, opinion pieces, and memes that otherwise make very valid points because of the use of ableist language. Progressives have no problem dismissing right-winger’s as “idiots” and call right-wing ideas “crazy,” “insane,” “lame,” and “stupid.” For a group of people who pride themselves on their open-minded ideas, the left has been extremely reluctant to stop using this language.

Now, of course, we see that a significant chunk of leftist #GamerGaters call themselves libertarians, which is a whole other kettle of fish from actually being progressive. Libertarians are, on the whole, people who like to pat themselves on the back for being tolerant enough not to care about things other people do that don’t personally affect them–such as having abortions or marrying someone of the same sex–but don’t see any reason why they should give up their racism, sexism, classism, transphobia and ableism. They’re conservatives who are minimally self-aware enough to want to avoid the shame of being blatant bigots, but they don’t actually want anything to change, so attempt to slip their bigotry in under the radar with a self-congratulatory veneer of open-mindedness. So there’s that.

When confronted by someone who points out this disconnect, the illusion evaporates and they quickly default to blatant racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism, however. Which is #GamerGate in a nutshell. It’s a bunch of misogynists railing against the notion of change (specifically in the gaming industry and geek culture) while claiming they’re left-leaning because they generously permit women to have abortions. Meanwhile they spew a bunch of sexist vitriol, death threats, rape threats, sexual harassment, gendered slurs, and even deliberately organized campaigns to try to trigger dysphoria in at-risk trans people in an attempt to induce them to commit suicide.

Thus it would be really easy to dismiss them under the “no true Scotsman” fallacy, and give the rest of the left a pass on their more discreet forms of ableism. #GamerGate thinks nothing of using the r-word against people they disagree with–which for the rest of the left is just Going Too Far (though it wouldn’t be if, of all people, Sarah Palin hadn’t pointed it out very publicly–while unironically using the term “lamestream media.”) The r-word is basically a slur so offensive that the rest of the left won’t touch it. Instead, they default to more socially acceptable variations on the theme like “idiotic” and “insane.”

But here’s the thing. The right is neither idiotic nor insane. What they are is a group of people who are lacking in critical thinking skills.

That’s not a congenital deficit (unless it actually is, when taking into consideration people who are severely learning or developmentally disabled.) Critical thinking skills are something that are learned in the course of a well-rounded education, and thus can be acquired by anyone (except for those who literally lack the faculties to acquire them due to the aforementioned disabilities.)

And what we’ve seen for decades from the right–and this includes libertarians whose conceit is that they are “fiscally conservative but socially liberal”–is a concerted effort to deny people a well-rounded education.

They make a college education too expensive to afford without incurring enormous amounts of debt and then refuse to lower the interest rate on that debt.

They cut funding for educational programming on PBS, which poor families often rely on because they can’t afford cable. They cut funding for Head Start programs. They cut school budgets so that there are fewer teachers per student, and cut lunch and welfare programs that enable students to learn better because they’re not going hungry.

They construct curricula that neglect accurate and truthful education on the subjects of history and social studies and science. They are outright antipathetic to arts programs, despite the fact that scientific studies have repeatedly proven that children who receive arts education do better in most or all “core” subjects, particularly math, which then impacts the ability to learn science.

They continually, in ways both implicit and explicit, deride being educated or anything that smacks of “intellectualism,” dismissing it as being elitist.

It has repeatedly been demonstrated that educated people overwhelmingly tend to vote left. This is because educated people are people with sound critical thinking skills. They can look at the problems facing society, deconstruct what has created those problems, and promote rational, logical solutions that are backed by sound science. People without critical thinking skills tend to vote based upon emotion, scare tactics, and buzzwords, things that the right is very good at and relies on hugely in the absence of genuine solutions to our problems.

(Golly, that sure makes it look like the right’s attempts to prevent people receiving an education look like a well-choreographed, decades-long campaign to create a populace largely incapable of critical thought, doesn’t it?)

Which is why you get people outraged about Planned Parenthood is “selling baby parts” (which doesn’t happen) and then railing about their tax dollars paying for abortions (which also doesn’t happen.)

It’s why we can somehow pin all our fear of terrorist violence on Muslim people despite the fact that white American men are vastly more likely to carry out terrorist attacks on American citizens. It’s also why we can simultaneously scream to the high heavens that it’s unconstitutional to deny those white American men easy access to firearms but perfectly constitutional to detain, brutalize, and carry out invasive searches of Muslims and/or black Americans who have done nothing more illegal than buying an airline ticket or failing to obey a minor traffic law (if even that.)

It’s why people can convince themselves that a college-bound high school graduate who committed absolutely no crime is a “demonic” thug who deserved his own murder but the policeman who murdered him is a hero who deserves a million dollars in crowdfunding money.

It’s why the people who hold the vast majority of financial and political and media power in the US can unironically contend that they’re being oppressed because someone says “happy holidays” or suggests that they shouldn’t appropriate non-white cultures.

Which brings me the second subject I raised way up there in the first paragraph. In addition to the left’s not-so-subtle default to ableism, I’m seeing repeated instances of misinformation crossing my dash. Not nearly as many–or nearly as blatant–as the right, of course, but it’s very insidious.

Like this post from a couple days ago. A point of misinformation in the middle of an otherwise well-thought-out and factual argument is a rotten able that will taint the whole barrel.

Some may argue that, in a society that has deliberately been denied the ability to think critically, relying on appeals to emotion, buzzwords, and outrage generated on false premises–as opposed to accurately educating people about the issues–is the only way the left can win. But are we really still progressives if we do that?

TL;DR–if you pride yourself on being progressive but default to ableist language to further your agenda, you’re behaving no better than the sexist troglodytes of #GamerGate. And if you consider yourself progressive but you resort to tactics which bypass the requirement for critical thought (and would fail the test of critical thought if applied) you’re no better than FOX News.

Either way, knock it off.

Leave a comment

Filed under Musings

The Cult of Masculinity

Okay, folks, I’m going to the ranty place. Buckle up.

So, one of the latest bits of misogyny to make feminists on social media see red (and for good reason) is this commercial:

For the moment, let’s forget all the not-so-subtle subtext here. Let’s forget that something associated with being a woman is quite literally being equated to shit (he picks up the purse the same way a dog owner will collect their dog’s droppings.) Let’s forget that it’s saying that finding ways to cloak any un-masculine presentation is an endeavor worthy of applause, or that holding a woman’s purse for a couple minutes is so emasculating a task that he has to find ways to avoid being seen doing it.

When did carrying a purse become a purely feminine trait?

(The answer, for those of you who care about the history of fashion, is “sometime after the late 17th century, when men’s fashion started to come with pockets for carrying their coin, which was the only currency option back then.”)

Today, I was driving past the mall and I saw a man on the sidewalk wearing a very small backpack. Like, half as wide as a regular backpack and not as long. It looked something like this, but more canvas-like, not so padded and athletic:

In fact, in terms of size, it actually looked more like, well, this:

Titled on Ebay: “Cute women’s mini-backpack.”

Let’s face it, folks. He was carrying a “man purse.” And I hate that I have to call it a “man purse.” He wants the carry capacity of a purse, but he’s too manly to carry an actual, you know, purse.

Which is why I started wondering when carrying a purse became something unmanly. I mean, look at Scotsmen with their sporrans.

I mean, Liam Neeson here as Rob Roy is rocking long hair, a skirt, AND a purse, and I don’t care if you’re some freaky mutant hybrid made up of the combined DNA of Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vin Diesel and The Rock, your poor, teeny-tiny steroid-shrunken penis is curling up and weeping in envy because it knows you will never be half so butch as Liam in this picture.

Do I have a point here? Yes, of course I do. It’s the fact that ultra-masculinity is held up as such a gold standard for existing that anything which even hints at femininity is treated as though it will TAINT that masculinity by mere proximity. (Seriously, how manly are you really if the sight of a box of tampons can make you squirm?)

Now, as a woman, as a feminist, of course this bothers me because femininity is viewed as being inherently and by its very nature inferior. It’s even codified into our vernacular. A guy who feels he’s being treated like a woman will complain about the implication that he’s “less than” a man. Less than. I’ve heard femme gay guys use that verbiage. Men who were feminists and who love and support the women in their lives and claim to have no problems with femininity, especially their own manifestation of it. They use it without thinking about what they’re actually implying.

Less than a man.

Let’s say we’re getting away from this idea of gender as a binary and treating it as a spectrum. It’s still being treated as a VERTICAL spectrum, with masculinity at the top and femininity at the bottom. And that’s not good.

As a writer of LGBT romance (m/m for now but that may change in the near future) this affects me because a subject that comes up periodically in the m/m romance community is the trope that the roles a guy plays sexually correlate to his gender presentation. In other words, the femme gay guy is the bottom and the butch gay guy is the top.

Now, this is an absolutely 100% valid criticism. These heteronormative stereotypes are no good for anyone. The assumption that all gay men participate in penetrative sex is no good. The assumption that anyone has any business knowing what role someone plays in their private sex life is no good, unless the concerned parties are happy to share and not pressured by intrusive questions. There is a lot of BAD about that trope and I absolutely support dismantling it, so long as we can do so without committing erasure on or belittling the femme gay guys who DO enjoy bottoming exclusively, or the butch guys who do enjoy topping exclusively. We have to respect their presence in the community as well and not eschew them just because they slot into an uncomfortable stereotype.

But the TONE of the criticism sometimes bothers me as a woman. Because, of course, gay couples get asked (rudely and unacceptably) “which one of you is the girl?” So gay men are lashing back (justifiably) saying, “don’t ask me what role I play in sex. Don’t assume I’m the top or the bottom.”

Which is great if the end of that sentence is “because it’s no one’s business but mine” or if the answer were, “maybe I top and maybe I bottom, or maybe I do neither, it’s not your business and anyway, what difference does it make?”

But sometimes the subtext of that conversation isn’t “don’t assume I’m the bottom,” it’s “don’t assume I’m the girl.”

To which I would have to reply, “Wait. What’s wrong with being the girl?” I mean, why is being the girl fine for me (as a girl) but not for you, unless you think that “being the girl” makes you . . . less?

Unfortunately, just as straight women who purport to be friends and allies of the LGBT community can espouse homophobic and transphobic biases they might not even realize they hold, sometimes gay men, even those who claim to love and support women, can be misogynists, too.

But here’s the kicker: MISOGYNY IS THE ROOT OF HOMOPHOBIA/BIPHOBIA/TRANSPHOBIA. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it a million times again. There would be absolutely nothing threatening about men and women who cross sexual and gender lines if those lines weren’t in place as scaffolding to uphold this notion of masculinity being superior to femininity, and if the commingling of the two weren’t perceived as tainting that superiority.

So, guys–straight, gay, and otherwise–rock that purse if you need room to carry something. If you do to the store for your girlfriend/wife/platonic female roommate/BFF, slap those tampons down on the conveyor belt with an utter lack of give-a-fuck. Stop trying to uphold your masculinity by distancing yourself from the “taint” of femininity. Harmful stereotypes, damaging gender roles, and homophobia doesn’t end until the taboo of femininity ends. Work on dismantling that, rather than dodging it.

18 Comments

Filed under Musings

Some weeks there’s so much to say that you can’t say anything

So, last week I was mostly offline except for blog tour stuff. Nothing going on, I just felt the need to crawl into my hole for a while, and then my kid had Friday off as well as Memorial Day so it was a long weekend parenting. Except for checking email, I went totally dark. No Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, whatever.

The point being, I was a day or two behind the ball learning about the UCSB massacre.

How did I find out about it? Well, my husband emailed me a YouTube video, which I ignored for a day because he often sends me links to miscellaneous stuff he has found interesting so I didn’t think it was pressing.

This was the video:

I’ve spent the week wanting to say something about it, but honestly I think Laci says it all in that video. I’ve been following the posts on Tumblr and the #YesAllWomen hashtag and vacillating between being saddened to the point of tears and enraged to the point of wanting to do violence myself, particularly at some of the male responses (and even some of the female ones.)

We live in a world where women who are killed by men for rejecting a man’s advances are being held culpable for their own deaths in the court of public opinion. Honestly, what is there to say about that? I can’t even. My mind goes blank and I just want to go HulkSmash! all over everything.

I read the #YesAllWomen hashtag, though, and while each and every anecdote fills me with sorrow and impotent rage, I actually don’t share most of those experiences. See, I’m pretty much a shut-in. I go out into public only when I absolutely have to, maybe 2-3 times a month, and usually it’s just to run a specific errand and head home, interacting with as few people as possible. The thing that saves me from sharing the nearly universal experiences of women trying to exist in our society today is a nearly pathological level of reclusiveness. Which is ridiculous. Is that honestly what it takes to escape the invasive sexism in our culture? Living like a hermit?

It seems almost a portent that this should happen the same week I contracted Third Wave with Riptide. I was originally going to self-publish Third Wave due to some scheduling conflicts that wouldn’t allow it to be released when I was hoping to release it, but those got worked out and now my family can go on our first vacation in almost four years rather than paying the editing costs for the novel.

Why do I say it seems a portent? Because Third Wave is about misogyny and homophobia, wrapped in a whodunit set in the gaming industry and geek culture. The same week that Laci Green says in her video, “misogyny actually kills people” I signed a contract on a novel about exactly that issue. My MC, Niles, is a gay man, yes, but an equally important character is his boss, Rosena Candelaria, the CEO of Third Wave Studios, which produces video game titles with mass appeal that specifically make a point of giving equal representation to women, POC, and LGBT players. It’s a book about feminist politics (and make no mistake, homophobia is at its heart an issue about misogyny as well, because there would be nothing threatening about people who blur the line between masculine and feminine if masculinity weren’t considered a gold standard that needs to be defended from any taint of the “inferior” femininity) and the backlash against anything that threatens the status quo of white cis-het-male privilege.

And just when I feared people would sneer or think I was exaggerating the problem, that no one would actually KILL over something like that, well, look what happened.

So remember that when you read Third Wave. Remember it’s not blown up for dramatic purposes. It’s very, very real. In the book I show some of the tweets and texts that Rosie and Niles deal with, and I will say right now that every single one of them is a paraphrase of a real tweet or text shared by feminist activists like Anita Sarkeesian of FeministFrequency, or the Fandoms and Feminism Tumblr, or Fat, Ugly, or Slutty.

So, stay tuned for more about Third Wave in the months to come. And pray/meditate/do whatever you do for the victims of the UCSB shooting, their families, and the women living in daily threat of similar violence being visited upon them.

Leave a comment

Filed under Announcements, Musings

My final word on content warnings #unpopularopinion #publishing #contentpolice @StephenKing @AnneRiceAuthor @LKHamilton

There’s a disturbing trend in fiction today, particularly genre fiction published by smaller, niche presses.

Is it the prevalence of objectionable content? The normalization of the unacceptable? The crossing of taboo lines?

No. That has pretty much been happening since the dawn of literature. I guarantee you, the first time a cavewoman took a piece of char from the firepit and etched a story on a stone wall, another cavewoman clutched her animal-tooth necklace, gasped in dismay, and grunted something that would have vaguely translated to, “you can’t write that!”

No, this disturbing trend is far more insidious. It’s the infantilization of the reader.

The riff goes something like this: “Oooh, that content is objectionable! It might upset someone! We better warn people away! Quick, tag it! Oh, how dare that author not include warnings! What a terrible, insensitive person! I bet they wrote it because <insert ignorant and uninformed assumption of authorial motive>.”

Sometimes the content truly is objectionable. Like rape, extreme violence, sexual content including underaged characters, etc. And sometimes the content that gets the Content Police up in arms is as absurdly benign as lacking a nice, pat happily-ever-after ending.

Of course, the people usually howling to the moon about this usually aren’t the fragile flowers who would be disturbed by the content themselves. No, they’re a self-appointed, and moveover, self-important posse of content police dedicated to making reading safe for all.

Newsflash, sweethearts. Reading ain’t safe. It never has been, it was never meant to be, and that cavewoman with the char on her fingers knew it. It’s supposed to shake you up, to make you think, to push boundaries. In other words, to open up the world for the proliferation of IDEAS.

The problem here is that the content police have huge-ass savior complexes. They need to feel important, need to feel needed, need to feel they’re making a difference, and in order to do that, yes, they villify authors whom they feel transgress, but that is the least of the problems with this new system.

Where they truly, truly fuck up is in their utter, unmitigated condescension toward their fellow READERS. You know, the readers, the delicate, fragile, easily-bruised flowers who might be alarmed by encountering something that has been nebulously dubbed “objectionable” for reasons which are largely arbitrary and prone to change with the social and political climate.

As an author, I shrug these people off. They’re an annoyance. Misguided, yes, but nowhere near important enough to get steamed over or significant enough to engage with, thus making them in their own minds the long-suffering victims and martyrs they style themselves as.

But as a person who is also a reader? They infuriate me. It’s belittling and degrading to me, as a reader. How dare they assume that I, or any other person intelligent, educated, and motivated enough to pick up a book and read, need to be protected from anything, for any reason, much less protected by them? How dare they try to paint me a hapless and passive victim of the media I seek out? How dare they assume the authority to know what is objectionable and what isn’t, to designate some literature safe and other literature as something people need to be warned away from?

Talk about ego! I mean, woah! The sheer chutzpah is absolutely breathtaking. I mean, really, take a moment in the privacy of your own mind to imagine what sort of unbelievable vanity it takes for a person to assume they have the right, the moral authority, and the cultural license to do that.

No, apparently, not only are authors getting flack for not warning about content in their own books, they’re getting raked over the coals by the Content Police for recommending books that have what the Content Police consider to be objectionable content. So now the Content Police aren’t just going after ideas, they’re going after those who read, enjoy, and share those ideas with others.

Ridiculous.

Here’s where I stand on warnings (on and within books themselves, in other words, content labels): Unless and until I sign on with a press that includes content warnings in their books–which I almost certainly will never do–you will never see content warnings in my books. I may put them on a website listing or in a post, for those who actually care about such issues enough to do some research before they buy, but not in the book itself. Why?

Because “content warnings?” (again, within and on books themselves; aka labels). Are the mark of amateur publishers. Whenever I see a press that includes them, I automatically lower my expectations of the quality of the content I will find coming out of that press, because I know they are not approaching their craft as a professional publisher would. Content warnings are a standard that was born in fanfic circles that fanfic readers have carried with them and expect to see applied in professional publishing.

I’m not am amateur. I will not apply amateur standards to my books. It’s really that simple.

Did Stephen King’s publishers warn for domestic violence, extreme violence, child abuse, extremely underaged sex, attempted rape and attempted molestation in IT?

No.

Did V.C. Andrews warn for abuse, rape, incest, and underaged sex in Flowers in the Attic?

No.

Anne Rice?

No.

Why should I hold myself to a different standard from any other professional author? Because I’m not as well known? Because I don’t have their sales figures? Fuck that. I’m a professional author and I will handle my books as a professional author would.

But those are publications from a different time and political climate! you wail, wringing your hands anxiously at the notion that maybe readers don’t need to be warned away from iffy material. Need something less old-school?

Jacqueline Carey infused her Kushiel books with not only consensual BDSM, but also non-consensual situations that were extremely disturbing. Were there content warnings on those books? No.

Laurell K. Hamilton. Content warnings? No.

Do I need to go on? Because I could. I could list hundreds of authors present and past who write “objectionable” content and don’t warn about it in the book or on the Amazon product page or anywhere else.

The Big 5 publishers don’t warn for content, and if we, the self-publishers and smaller niche presses, want to be regarded as being just as professional, and producing content which is just as high-quality, we need to not start off from the get-go handling our product as if we were amateurs.

But more importantly? I would never, ever dare insult my readers by assuming they are fragile or incompetent enough to need to be protected from words and ideas. I may have the ego to consider myself professional enough to play in the big leagues, but I don’t have the ego to do that.

And those who do need to get over themselves.

(P.S. Unless you’re quoting me from an interview or have spoken to me personally, anything you say which starts off as “the author clearly wanted <whatever>” is almost certain to be wrong. You want to know my motives for writing what I write? Ask me.)

31 Comments

Filed under Musings

Interneting while Female: women and online harassment

Let me tell you a little story. Actually, let me tell you a few of them.

Let me tell you a little about Jennifer Hepler. She was a writer for BioWare, a gaming company known best for their Star Wars, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect franchises. She wrote some very popular characters, but one day she made the catastrophic mistake of creating a Twitter account. Within just a few days, trolls had dug up a quote of hers from years before about the direction of gaming (most notably that games would probably adopt a “story” mode for players who were playing for the narrative rather than the combat) and had declared war on her. They targeted not just her Twitter, but her personal life. If you want to see even just a fraction of the abuse she was subjected to in those few days, check out this entry for her at Encyclopedia Dramatica, where the trolls continue to take their pot-shots. (I recommend you take anti-nausea medication before you do so.)

Then, right on the heels of the Jennifer Hepler harassment, there was another major incident in gaming circles.

Now, understand that I don’t even know the whole of it, only what I’ve read in articles and blog posts. I would really love to sit down with Anita Sarkeesian and talk about it someday. If you’re a woman on the internet, particularly a woman in “male-dominated” communities like sci-fi and gaming, this woman is a hero and you need to be aware of her. She’s on the front lines fighting the fight so we don’t have to.

Anita Sarkeesian runs a website called Feminist Frequency, which is dedicated to analyzing the representation of women in pop culture. Instead of telling you what happened when she took on a project dealing with the portrayal of women in video games, I’ll let Anita do it in her own words:

The TED-talk in the video was over a year ago. The harassment it details was nearly two years ago. Now look at the date on that tweet at the top of this post.

It’s still going on. (Though Anonymous has disavowed any involvement.)

“Every day I’m encouraged by the women who persevere, who continue to engage, and who refuse to be silenced.” — Anita Sarkeesian

This. So much this.

Some of you may know I hang out on Tumblr pretty regularly, and I follow a number of feminist blogs there, particularly http://fandomsandfeminism.tumblr.com/. So every day on my dash, I see dozens of messages from the person running that blog, dealing with not only sexism, but minority representation, homophobia, transmisogyny, and racial issues. A lot of those messages are asks–messages sent directly to the blow owner–that are very hostile, and I don’t know if she responds to them all, but I know she responds to a lot of them. Enough so that I’m exhausted watching her do it.

I honestly don’t know how every day, she and Anita Sarkeesian go back out there and take on the fight. I’m not sure I could do it. I’d like to think I could, but realistically? I think I would get too weary and disheartened.

Homophobia is another issue in online gaming spaces, though I admit I’m not as conversant on the subject. But take a look at this video:

The tenor of homophobic harassment in gaming seems to be different, but it’s still quite toxic.

What’s the point to this?

About a year ago I decided I wanted to pay some tribute and shine a spotlight on these issues in a book I was writing. The book is called Third Wave, and it’s an honest-to-God whodunit, a mystery who’s main characters are a pair of gay twin brothers and their female boss at a video game production company called Third Wave Studios. The boss, Rosena, is a bit of an amalgamation of all the women I’ve mentioned above, dealing with the same sort of harassment as she attempts to run a studio dedicated to creating video game titles which are not only successful, but also present positive and non-stereotyped LGBT, POC, and female heroes. One of the twins is the lead writer on the studio’s most controversial franchise (controversial because of its LGBT characters and content) and the story deals heavily with the battles they face.

I’m almost at the end of writing the story, then I need to go through and make some revisions because the plot took a few turns that I need to account for earlier in the story. But I really want to present this story as a sort of homage to the people on the front lines of the battle of gendered and homophobic harassment in online gaming spaces, do my part, however small, to spread awareness of what is going on in the underbelly of our pop culture.

But this post isn’t to pimp my WIP. It’s about the people I’ve mentioned here, the ones who wake up every day and fight the fight I don’t know if I’d had the guts to. Read the links. Watch the videos. And just…be aware. Know that this is going on, even if it’s not happening in your line of sight, and that if you’re not in the middle of it, it’s almost certainly far, far worse than you assume it is.

Leave a comment

Filed under Musings

Humiliation #kink–getting the appeal #bdsm #amwriting #mmromance

So, apparently this is my week for rants. No, Mercury is not retrograde. Nor am I PMSing. I have no idea WTF is going on, but be warned.

I’m gonna come right out of the gate saying this: I don’t practice humiliation kink. I’m not a dominant at all, and I have a particular history and set of neuroses that would make anyone pulling humiliation kink with me as a sub pretty bad.

However, there’s this lovely little phrase that I’ve seen used in fandom circles–actually, it started in the BDSM community in the 90s–and I think it needs to be more widely adopted out here in the LGBT romance genre: YKIOK (Your Kink is OK–a shortened form of Your Kink is Not My Kink But Your Kink is OK–as opposed to its self-righteous evil twin, YKINOK, or Your Kink is Not OK.)

I think a lot of us in this genre have been forgetting that. I’ve seen a lot of kink-shaming and a lot of people savaging perfectly good books just for having kinks they don’t enjoy. And it pisses me right the hell off.

But, you ask, if you don’t practice humiliation kink, why do you write it?

Short answer: My characters are not me. They choose their own kinks. Sometimes those kink are things I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot bamboo cane.

Longer answer: My characters are not me. They have their own history, personalities, and neuroses that might make humiliation kink appealing, or even cathartic and healing. But what’s the appeal, you ask? It’s no different than masochism, really. It’s just masochism of a different sort. Instead of getting off on physical pain, one is getting off on shame or emotional pain.

Or, for those submissives who aren’t masochists (physical or emotional) it’s something else entirely.

It can be a removal from self. It can be a test of submission. This is how pain play works for me, in fact. I’m not a masochist. I don’t find pain to be pleasure. But if my dominant can do something to me that I find patently unpleasant, then I’ve truly surrendered, see? I’ve yielded myself, preferences, my will, to someone else and let them have complete control. If it pleases them to hurt me, then I’m pleased to be hurt, not because I enjoy being hurt but because it means I’m not calling the shots and my preferences are not driving the encounter (within negotiated boundaries, of course.)

It’s no different for humiliation kink (except that, for me, it falls outside the negotiated boundaries.) Instead of being removed from control of one’s physical self and preferences, one is removed from one’s ego. If a submissive has given the dominant the power to say or do or force the submissive to do anything the dominant commands, no matter how shameful or humiliating, there is surrender in that. And that surrender can be a beautiful thing.

My first experience writing humiliation kink came from the character upon whom I based Derrick from my Impulse books. It wasn’t in a story at that time, it was in a role-play. He and his partner were talking and trying to get an idea of his turn-ons, and the partner asked if proto-Derrick (who was named Garrick, in the role-play) would want to be nude or perform sexually in public. Garrick’s immediate reaction was “No” but even as Garrick was giving that response, I–being deep in Garrick’s head at the time–knew that if a partner made Garrick do it, he’d do it, even if it was something he would flinch away from or reject otherwise.

So, having made that discovery about Garrick, I had to ask myself why. Why would Garrick do that? And the answer was that his pride, his ego, his sense of self, was his final hold-out, the thing that would always keep him from surrendering entirely. And if he wanted surrender, then the dominant would need to break down that wall.

This is why you see Gavin, in the Impulse books, call Derrick names like “bitch” and “whore” and “slut.” Does he mean it? No, of course not. But it chips away at Derrick’s resistance, puts him in a position where he has to choose between surrendering his pride, or safewording. And once he surrenders his pride, that’s when he becomes truly open and vulnerable to Gavin and gives Gavin complete control, rather than just playing a part.

And in the complete paradox that only makes sense to those who truly understand BDSM, that total surrender becomes a source of even greater pride. On the other side, the sub emerges to say, “Look what I endured for my dom. That took a lot of strength.” It leaves the sub feeling even more confident and sure of themselves (assuming it’s done correctly.)

This is actually a bit of a recurring theme in my books, at least those dealing with kink. I have a lot of prideful characters, so finding various ways to slip past that pride to get to the vulnerability underneath becomes something the dominant must do.

There are lots of ways to accomplish this. Forced exposure and exhibitionism is only one way. Infantilism might be another. Or treating the sub as an animal (where do you think the collar and leash thing comes from?) Toilet play might be part of it, or even just taking away privacy where such bodily functions are concerned.

For example, I have a manuscript I’m working on (Risk Aware) where the dominant character, Robin, denies his submissive partner, Geoff, the right to close the bathroom (or any) door. On one level, it’s just a flat-out control thing. “You aren’t allowed to shut me out of wherever you are.” But on the other level, what he’s doing is depriving Geoff of the dignity of privacy, even when Geoff is using the toilet. Geoff is not allowed to hold back even his most embarrassing moments of biological functioning (arguments of whether basic biological functions should be considered embarrassing aside.) If he farts, Robin might hear it. If he makes a stink, Robin might smell it. If he pees, Robin might watch. Is it because Robin has some sort of toilet fetish and finds these things sexy? No. It’s just about denying Geoff the ability to hold back any part of himself from Robin (again, of course, always within negotiated boundaries, so keep that in mind if you’re going to try this at home, kids.)

We see some of this in The Professor’s Rule, as well. In the first book, Giving an Inch, we see James expose himself to Professor Carson in a way that he finds deeply embarrassing. But that is part of James’s submission, part of what he needs to do to get to the place of surrender he desires. He’s a masochist, so pain play isn’t going to break him down, at least not entirely. He has other hold-outs.

Leta Blake does something very similar in Training Season. The dynamics of Matty and Rob’s relationship and why this sort of play might be appealing and even beneficial for the two of them, I will leave you to discover for yourselves. But there is a moment in the book where, unless you get into the deeper intricacies of what submission and surrender mean in various circumstances, they could seem gross. I know a lot of people go off on “BDSM is not therapy” rants and that is, to a degree, very true. BUT. Just because it isn’t therapy doesn’t mean it can’t be cathartic or healing. Yes, a lot of people practice BDSM just because it’s fun and because it feels good for whatever reason. But we each of us come into it with our own unique set of life experiences and issues, and we each of us might find something within it that helps us in ways perhaps therapy can’t, because it fulfills a need or helps us face a fear, or for any of a multitude of reasons.

And here’s the thing: romance fiction isn’t real life. In romance fiction, people’s issues often infiltrate parts of their lives that in reality, might not be such a big deal. I mean, if I wrote a story about a character with A, B, and C neuroses, and I set it up so that those neuroses don’t come into play when he’s doing BDSM scenes just because he finds BDSM fun and pleasant, most readers would cry foul. Because we’re in his head. We want to know what affect this is all having on him emotionally and psychologically.

Sex isn’t just about tab A into slot B and BDSM play isn’t just about swinging a whip and “oh, ow, that hurts.” Those scenes would be exceptionally boring if we didn’t get into the characters’ heads and go deeper with it on the emotional level (as my esteemed editor Sarah Frantz likes to say, “but what is he feeeeeeeling?”) And going deeper with it includes figuring out how it plays off of and into the neuroses that are part of the character’s journey through the book.

So. Your Kink is not My Kink but Your Kink is OK. Does name calling or toilet play put you off? Yeah, me too. But I’m not my character, and neither are you, and you might find your reading experience enhanced if you look beyond “would I enjoy doing that?” into what the play in question is accomplishing for the character. Because the odds are that if an author has gone there, they’ve done so for a reason. Look for it.

InchByInch_TourBanner

In other news, Inch by Inch (The Professor’s Rule #3) is already available for download at Riptide Publishing, and will be available at most other ebook retailers later tonight or tomorrow. And Heidi Belleau and I will be on a blog tour this week discussing James, Satish, and the Professor, and what we can expect from them going into the last two Professor’s Rule books. This will include a couple sneak peeks at Every Inch of the Way (The Professor’s Rule #4) and a chance to win ebook copies of TPR books you might not have read yet, so be sure to check it out!

3 Comments

Filed under Musings

My books are not a PSA #bdsm #unpopularopinions #50SoG

Okay, so I’m a pretty social-justice conscious person. I’m well-aware of my cis-het white privilege, try to keep it checked as much as I can, try to boost the voices of my LGBT and POC friends to get their message across without speaking over them, and just generally try to live with as much sympathy and empathy and decency as I possibly can.

And here’s the thing. The majority of LGBT romance readers? Are also very aware of social justice issues, and aware of a lot of other sexual minority issues, such as those relating to safe sex and BDSM play. They don’t always handle them perfectly, but they can’t help but be aware of them by social media osmosis. There is not a single author or reader I follow on Twitter or Tumblr who doesn’t make posts or reblogs/retweets about social justice issues.

As the risk of being told “ur wrong” I would hazard a guess that the LGBT Romance audience is at least slightly more educated about these various issues than the common consumer.

In short: our readers are smarter than the average bear (the Yogi kind, not the leather-wearing kind.)

This is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a curse because it means that we, as writers, have to pay attention to the details of what we do and make sure we don’t screw up, and that if our characters screw up, it’s because of a deliberate choice we made as authors to go that route, not because we were ignorant. But it’s a blessing because it means that we are not obligated to use our books to educate our readers on social or safety subjects, because they already know the issues at play.

Unfortunately, sometimes the blessing and the curse happen concurrently. Like, for instance, when our characters make choices that are not necessarily safe or correct, and our readers are aware of what IS safe and correct and believe that the author should have had the characters do it right.

The problem is, we, as authors (and especially as authors with an informed audience) are not obligated to make our books Public Safety Announcements.

Let’s take BDSM, for an example.

I’ve been involved with the BDSM lifestyle, whether actively playing or just hanging on the fringes with other not-presently-practicing lifestylers, for nearly twenty years. I’m well aware of the danger of the play we may pursue, how conscious BDSM practitioners need to be about the risks and about consent issues. I’m well aware of the misconceptions the uninformed public might hold and how it can lead them to making unwise or risky choices.

I think there are approximately zero people who are actually informed about BDSM who thing that Fifty Shades of Grey portrays it well, or sanely, or consensually, or safely. And I know some of them feel like the book should be shredded and the author (figuratively) scourged because of how badly those issues are handled. But for me, the way BDSM was handled in that book is not the make-or-break issue.

What is the make-or-break issue for me in that book is that it takes a relationship that already has a metric fuck ton of abusive subtext (Twilight meets all 15 criteria for an abusive relationship, according to domestic abuse authorities, and so does 50SoG because the relationship is based on the one in Twilight), romanticizes it (“the hero isn’t being abusive when he jerks the heroine around, sends her conflicting messages, stalks her, blames her for things that are his fault, and controls her social contact and the information she’s allowed to expose herself to; he’s just angsty and conflicted and enigmatic!”) and then throws badly-done BDSM on top of it.

The result is that it packages BDSM with a romanticized abusive relationship and then markets it to an UNINFORMED AUDIENCE (note that word: uninformed.) The target audience for Twilight and 50SoG is not the same as the target audience for LGBT Romance. We’re talking primarily vanilla cis-het women, either very young or from an older generation that is not as current on social issues, who are often quite ignorant of sexual and BDSM-safety questions, and who are already at risk of mistaking romanticized abuse for romance due to being inundated by images of such relationships in the media all around them.

In other words: the BDSM in 50SoG is problematic, but it’s not THE problem. The problem is the whole package.

But the LGBT Romance audience is different. They’re savvier. They’re less susceptible to being inundated by romanticized abusive relationships from the media because they are not only more informed on the various issues at play, they also read books that largely side-step harmful gender-role tropes and problematic power dynamics prevalent in M/F romance. That means we LGBT Romance authors can relax a little more about the messages we’re sending.

But even if we couldn’t…

Books are not Public Service Announcements. They are fictional narratives intended for entertainment and perhaps even to provide escapist fantasies.

One large issue this particular topic comes back to is the use of condoms, a subject I’ve posted about before. Our audience already knows about the proper use of condoms, and our authors are as well. If the author chooses not to have a character use condoms, it’s because the author has made the choice deliberately, either to further a fictional, escapist fantasy where sex without condoms is sexier, or because it’s a choice they feel their character would make, even if the author doesn’t support it. Our characters are not obligated to live by our (the author’s or the audience’s) ethics and standards of acceptable practices.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Anyone who wants to accuse me of being a proponent of unsafe sex because my character chooses not to use a condom is cordially invited to read my upcoming thriller about the author who goes around ax-murdering self-righteous and moralizing critics who are too ignorant or full of themselves to get the difference between fantasy and reality. Because if my character does it, clearly I’m okay with it, right?

(That thunderous sound you hear is not a nearby bowling alley, it’s my eyes rolling. Yes, hundreds or thousands of miles away. I’m that over it with this subject.)

The same goes for BDSM practices. If my characters choose to do something that would be absolutely Not Okay in the BDSM community (issues of SSC vs. RACK aside) it’s not because I don’t know how to BDSM. It’s because I made a creative choice to have my character do something that I, myself, might not be a proponent of.

Authors who do not condone rape can still write non-con or dub-con escapist fantasy. Because they trust their audience to be sane people who recognize the difference between fantasy and reality.

So before you jump all over an author and savage him or her with URDOINITRONG! stop and ask yourself the following questions:

1) Is the character doing this because the author is ignorant of the subjects at play, or because the author has chosen to take that route for reasons specific to that author, that character, or that scenario?

and 2) Who gave you the authority to demand an author make each and every work a treatise on the safe and proper use of condoms, or BDSM play, or whatever?

It’s really that simple. Authors are under no obligation to pander to your person crusade on “how to condoms” or “how to BDSM” etc. Their only obligation is to tell a story. You’re under no obligation to like it. You’re under no obligation to read it. Just don’t get self-righteous about it or assume objectionable creative choices equate to ignorance. And recognize that you have absolutely no right whatsoever to expect or demand that they do so.

My books are here to tell a story, not to promote a social agenda–mine or anyone else’s. Full stop.

6 Comments

Filed under Musings

Maintaining Visibility: How Often to Publish?

I started 2013 with the intention of publishing one novel-length story every three months (this was when I thought Strain would be published in the summer.) It hasn’t quite worked that way, because Strain has taken longer than I first was led to believe, and I also have had several novelette/novella length books released. I’ll have five releases by the end of the year, but only one will have been a novel.

March: Velocity (novel)
April: Giving an Inch (novelette)
May: The Laird’s Forbidden Lover (novella)
September: An Inch at a Time (novelette)
December (I think): Inch by Inch (novelette)

Talya Andor

Conventional wisdom from authors attending the Gay Romance Northwest meet-up covered the subject of how often an author should publish in order to stay on the readers’ radar. The answer surprised me: there’s a push to publish quarterly to stay on top.

I am a prolific writer myself, but the thought of putting out something every quarter seemed pretty exhausting. After all, the process involves brainstorming, turning out a first draft, going back for the first edit, submitting, doing another, potentially more extensive edit for pre-publication that might involve re-writes, and galley approval. All of that for one manuscript–then the prospect of juggling four (or more!) manuscripts a year can be overwhelming.

That led me to take a look at my own experiences over the past year and a half. I started out submitting three manuscripts right out the gate. By the end of the year I’d submitted two more…

View original post 514 more words

7 Comments

Filed under Musings

A carrot vs stick imbalance

So I’ve spent the last week, since my huge whinge-fest in my last post, trying to find the momentum to begin moving my various projects forward again. I think at least part of why I’ve been having such a hard time is a preponderance of stick and a dearth of carrot. Since early this year, I’ve been working on some really big projects. A 103K novel (Strain). A 93K novel (Saugatuck Summer). I think Risk Aware came out somewhere about 75K. 40K and still going on the mystery. Two other novels begun and past the 10K mark already.

The problem is that none of these projects have been yielding tangible results, especially the ones I’ve already completed (Strain, Saugatuck Summer, and Risk Aware.) I dunno, maybe my inner 6-year-old believes she deserves a lollipop for every day of effort or something, but the fact that I had over 250K worth of writing just hanging in limbo, completed and yet not out in the world, felt very unrewarding. I know I’ve had smaller projects produced in the interim, but for some reason (probably due to my own neuroses) those don’t feel like they count.

The good news is, some of that is being resolved. I’ve had a couple people (namely my editor, Sarah Frantz, and the marvelous Leta Blake) help me with brainstorming which wasn’t so much about the results of the brainstorming so much as it was about the “oh, somebody cares!” boost, so I wasn’t feeling quite so much like I’m slogging along all alone. I’ve seen the cover art for Strain (ALMOST complete,) worked on a blurb and excerpt of Strain that is going in some swag we’re having made, and edits will begin in the next week. So, bottom line is, I’m getting a bit more carrot this past week, which helps. I feel more enthused about my WIPs than I have in a long time.

But I’m still not writing. I wonder if the problem might not be inertia. My biggest fear when I started slowing down on writing was that I was going to lose momentum, because boy does that “objects at rest tend to stay at rest” rule apply to me. So now I’m at rest, and somehow I have to begin all over again with motivating myself to write. I’m having ideas, I’m having more enthusiasm, I just still haven’t managed to make it across that line from inactivity back into activity.

Of course, part of the problem could be that my sleep has been all messed up the past couple weeks due to some trouble I have with my hip, so I’m pretty much exhausted and in an effort to combat the other sleep issues, I’ve cut out caffeine and now I’m in withdrawal as well. *sigh*

At any rate, things are looking up, somewhat. Amazing what just seeing some results, or some movement toward results, can accomplish.

4 Comments

Filed under Musings

The futility and frustration of waiting

(Disclaimer: I’m going to be talking about specific frustrating situations in this post. I won’t be naming names, but the people involved or in the know will know what I’m talking about. This is not any attempt to passive-aggressively call anyone out; there are extenuating circumstances often involved and I’m aware of this, and I love the people involved and I try to be understanding. I’m just trying to lay everything out chronologically to get a picture of what has led me to the place where I now find myself, to encompass the entire pattern of events. This is for me, not to find fault with anyone, so please bear that in mind before feeling like I’m picking on you.)

I don’t think it will come as any great surprise to people who know me to find out that I’m not a terribly patient person. Actually, that’s not true. I don’t mind waiting for something if I know when I can expect it to happen, and when I trust the people or situation I am waiting for. That last is a bit difficult because I’m a bit of a control freak and find trust difficult to maintain. Once it’s gone, that is when I get impatient.

For anyone who has been reading my emails and tweets the past six months regularly, it’s probably apparent that I have been slipping gradually into depression, and that it has gotten to the point where I can’t write. I’m working with my doctor to try to find meds to stabilize the slide, but so far it’s not going all that well.

The thing is, a lot of the depression is, I think, about writing. Specifically, it’s about a “why do I bother?” mindset that has crept in about my writing, and a large part of that goes back to issues to waiting and patience.

Continue reading

14 Comments

Filed under Musings

An anniversary and a year in review

As of yesterday, it has been one year since I self-published my first book, Inertia.

I will be the first to admit that I went into publishing all wrong. I had no idea what it was about. A friend told me “you should do this” so I commissioned cover art, hired an editor, and did it. I knew nothing about the finer points of self-publishing or book marketing or the genre. I was fortunate in that one of the first contacts I made when I found out that offering copies for review was the thing to do was Cryselle, who runs her own review blog and also reviews for Jessewave and a few other sites. She was absolutely lovely and sort of took me in-hand and nudged me in the right direction.

Amusing anecdote time:

I was advised to self-publish by a friend in gaming fandom, whom we’ll call D.R. Her words were basically, “what you write is as good as any other the other stuff I’ve been reading in this genre, so you should go for it!” So I went for it. And because of that, I met Cryselle, who told me I should introduce myself to P.D. Singer, which I did. Pam was totally delightful and hugely helpful, and she told me to introduce myself to Angela Benedetti, who is also wonderful.

Then one night on Gchat, Angie and I were getting to know each other and she mentioned some fanfic pairings she read, one of which was somewhat unique, so I said, “hey, I know someone who writes that!” And she said, “You know T?” And I said, “No, but I know her wife” at which point Angie was all “Oh, you know D.R.!”

So. Apparently it is, indeed, a small world after all.

After releasing Inertia, which did, I admit, end on a rather abrupt note, a fact which has been pointed out many, many times, there was a lot of furor for Book Two. Unfortunately, my editor had quite a backlog, though, so I wasn’t able to release Acceleration until the end of November. As an author, I felt like Acceleration was a much more solid book, and both my editor and the reviewers seemed to agree with that assessment.

Luckily, by that point I was starting to get into a pretty smooth production groove. I knew Acceleration would be coming out in late November, so the last minute push there was going to each into NaNoWriMo. So I time-shifted my personal NaNoWriMo and began working on October 13, giving myself 30 days (until November 12) to write 50,000 words on Book Three, Velocity. I finished on November 4, scheduled editing for January, and planned the release for March. The entire process went incredibly smoothly.

In the meantime, I was also working on other projects. In August after I finished writing Acceleration, I wrote an 8K short based on nothing more than a mention I had seen on Twitter that there needed to be some m/m Highland romance. I really wasn’t happy with the result, though, so I shelved the short and began working on Strain.

Strain was an interesting endeavor, because it was written in response to Riptide’s At World’s End open call. Submission deadline was Nov 1, and I didn’t discover the call and realize I had a story idea for it until August 31, which meant I had two months to write and polish a novel for submission.

I finished writing Strain on September 28, and submitted it on October 10. It came in at ~65K. In 29 days. I thought that was pretty spiffy.

In mid-December, I heard back on the Strain submission and the manuscript wasn’t quite there yet, so the lovely Sarah Frantz gave me some revision suggestions and brainstormed with me and from the last week of December to mid-January, Strain went from 65K to 103K and I resubmitted it.  In December, Leta Blake also did a beta read of the Highland story and gave me some suggestions (and also reassured me that a lot of my problem with it was my inner critic being too harsh) and that story went from 8K to 13.5K and I submitted it to Riptide as well in mid-January. Then I got my edits back from my editor on Velocity, turned those around, and began sending out review copies.

Then my brain got eaten by zombies a story. It started in the car on the way to pick up lunch for my son and I one afternoon. A single line of dialogue. That was it. Just one completely out of context line that I knew I had to write. So I began building the world and plot around that line. It was easy, because the character who spoke that line was the most amazing, clear, intensely vivid character to ever give birth to himself in my mind. And he did. I claim no responsibility for creating Topher. He created himself, walked up to me, whispered that line in my ear, and demanded I write about him. And his voice! Oh, God, his voice. Clarion-clear from beginning to end.

I actually deviated from my refusal not to write out-of-sequence working on Topher’s story, because scenes were composing themselves in my head so clearly and loudly I had to get them out to make room for other things. Honestly, I don’t know how to begin describing the experience of writing Saugatuck Summer. It was magic. I knew as I was writing it that it was the best thing I had ever written, and quite possibly would ever write. I completed writing the entire 93K novel in 15 days, edited, polished, and submitted it. I actually waffled on whether or not to submit it or self-publish. I knew I could turn it around a lot faster if I self-pubbed, and I really, really wanted to get it into the hands of the public because it’s just such an amazing story. But I knew going through Riptide, it would reach a much broader audience and have a lot more marketing support, and it’s a book that really deserves that sort of backing.

Velocity released in March, and I began working up another story in the Saugatuck universe and conceptualizing a couple more novels. I received an acceptance for the Highland story, which was then expanded from 13.5K to over 20K and became The Laird’s Forbidden Lover, and Heidi Belleau surprised me with an invitation to write a novelette to fill a void in the Riptide schedule, which became Giving an Inch (The Professor’s Rule #1). We quickly completed TPR#2, An Inch at a Time, which is currently awaiting edits and is, for my money, better than the first. We have TPR#3 mostly written. All it’s awaiting for is an audience participation element that will take place when TPR#2 is published.

Giving an Inch was published in April, and The Laird’s Forbidden Lover was published in early May. During April, May, and June I worked on the second book in the Saugatuck universe, and also began a new and somewhat different project: a murder mystery, an honest-to-God whodunnit, which is called Third Wave. I’d say it’s about 2/3 complete in its first draft, but it definitely needs some work. I also am now working on a third book in the Saugatuck universe and I have a few other projects just beginning.

I admit, I’m hitting a bit of a slump at the moment. I’m trying not to stress out over it, because I know I’ve been plenty productive, but I’m one of those perfectionist people who feels utterly useless if they’re not actively working on something, so this not writing thing is grating on me. But between drafting, revisions and edits, I’ve written almost 500K so far in 2013 (closer to 700K if you go back a full year to when Inertia was first published), and I’ve gotten contracts on both Strain (coming January 2014) and Saugatuck Summer (coming May 2014). I’m not sure I’m going to meet my goal of writing a million words in 2013, but I can’t say I haven’t kicked some serious writing ass the last 12 months.

When I get back into the groove, I’ll be working on Third Wave and Risk Aware, which is the other Saugatuck story I have completed, but which needs some pretty extensive revision.

So, that’s my first year in publishing. Not bad, if I do say so myself. Can’t wait to see what the next year brings.

3 Comments

Filed under Musings, Upcoming Releases

Some clarification on what is offensive about yesterday’s brouhaha

Okay, before anyone comes at me with the old “it’s so-and-so’s site, she can review what she wants” battle cry, misrepresenting what are the issues with this entire debacle over female-bodied-sexuality in m/m romance, let me get a few things on record.

Yes, people can read what they want. They can review what they want. No one is debating their right to do so. That’s not the problem.

The problem is that it’s misleading to cast ones site as being inclusive when it’s not. Don’t pretend to be a champion of all folk under the rainbow when you’re actually just a fan of the peen.

The problem is that it’s hypocritical to QQ about discrimination and disrespect while being discriminatory and disrespectful. It’s hypocritical to take readers and writers to task for making the genre about “the erotic needs of straight women” while maintaining a policy intended to pander to the erotic needs of straight women.

The problem is that it’s disingenuous to claim the issue is about het sex when what you’re actually frequently talking about is male-bodied/female-bodied queer sex, which is not the same thing. Worse, it’s extremely offensive to mislabel male-bodied/female-bodied sex as “het” sex because in doing so, you’re deliberately and repeatedly misgendering trans* folk and committing erasure against bifolk, intersex folk, and any number of other people under the rainbow.

The problem is that the m/m genre is a hotbed of gynophobia and internalized misogyny by people who ought to fucking know better, and to further that problem while patting oneself on the back for being on a crusade for representation of under-represented peoples is absolutely absurd. And worse! It’s hypocritical to hop on the feminist platform rail about how badly female characters are presented in m/m romance with regard to characterization archetypes and tropes, while simultaneously perpetuating gynophobia and internalized misogyny with regard to the mere mention of certain anatomy and sexual situations.

The problem is that it’s absolutely infuriating to act as though female reproductive anatomy and female-bodied sexuality is so shocking and off-putting on-page that it requires the same sort of warning usually reserved for controversial and triggering subjects as rape and graphic violence and abuse.

The problem is the entitled attitude behind behaving as though authors have a moral and ethical obligation not only to write what you want to read, but to protect your delicate special-snowflake eyeballs from anything they might find objectionable. Do you think Stephen King included warnings for underaged sex and domestic violence in IT? Did V.C. Andrews (or her publisher) warn for incest and underaged sex and rape in Flowers in the Attic? They didn’t, at least not in any of the editions I’ve read. I don’t see anyone weeping big crocodile tears over the lack of warning labels there. Labels and warnings are a courtesy, not an entitlement. You are not owed them. When you pay for a book, you aren’t owed anything but pages with some text on them. that’s it. There are no guarantees you’ll like it. There aren’t even any guarantees it will be well-written (Dan Brown, I’m looking at YOU.) You’re not owed a book that is to your taste and specifications and has nothing within it that you don’t find objectionable and warnings if it has something you might. In fact, the use of warnings and labels is generally considered to be a form of censorship and to have a chilling effect on free speech, which is why there have been huge legal battles over warning labels and age restrictions on music and video games. You’re lucky to get them when you get them. So be grateful authors and publishers include them at all from time to time.

So. Read what you want. Review what you want. But don’t be hypocritical, offensive, or an entitled princess in the process.

16 Comments

Filed under Musings, Politics

A warning about fair warning

So today, a popular review site posted a predictable and very, very tired rant about girl parts in m/m romance. Over on my Tumblr, I responded with my own rant calling them out on trans*phobia, biphobia and internalized misogyny.

But what gets me more than anything else is the sense of entitlement. The entitlement of the audience to tell the artist what to create. The entitlement of the audience to claim disrespect and even discrimination for daring to create something some members of the audience might not want to see.

You know, in gaming circles, we get a fair number of rants on that nature, only they go like this:

Dude, the majority of the gaming audience is men and we don’t want to see games about chicks and fags, and omg! if you make a game featuring chicks and/or fags, or if you complain about misrepresentation of chicks or fags, you’re discriminating and oppressing TEH MENZ!

Sounds pretty absurd, doesn’t it? The rational and reasonable response would be “the majority of games feature and appeal to “teh menz” so you shouldn’t begrudge the small minority which represent and include woman and gay players. We would rightfully call the authors of such rants out on their rampant blindness to their own privilege, which allows them to perceive even the smallest step toward representational parity as discrimination and/or oppression.

The majority of m/m romance features dick and only dick, and I’m okay with that. I like that gay men are being portrayed as heroes in books. But don’t trans*folk and bifolk deserve portrayal as well? And how freaking absurd is it to claim that readers of m/m romance are being disrespected and oppressed by the portrayal and/or inclusion of these characters? And why should your trans*phobia, biphobia, and the internalized misogyny that makes you uncomfortable with the notion of female-bodied sexuality dictate who should and shouldn’t receive representation in a book?

Of course, the refrain, the one single attempt at rationality in the rant in question is that it’s about labeling and fair warning. That it’s fine to write those stories, just make sure to WARN the reader/reviewer about the content. In other words, warn the reader if there are “girl parts.”

You know what? No. Fuck you. You warn for things that might trigger your audience: underaged sex, abuse, graphic violence, dubcon/non-con/rape fantasy or roleplay, and character death. (And let me go to say this is a fanfic convention, not a publishing convention, because do you think people who write mysteries, or war stories, or horror stories warn for shit like that? Hell no. But the new wave of small-press genre publishing, which is largely frequented by people who got their start in fandom, do warn for stuff that like.) These things are warned about as a courtesy, not because the author and/or publisher has any moral or ethical obligation to telegraph their punches by telling readers and reviewers in advance what is going to happen.

These things that are traditionally warned about all have one commonality: they can be shocking and/or traumatic, particularly someone with PTSD triggers.

Since when is pussy considered triggering? (spoiler alert: it’s not, this basically all boils down to “eww, girl parts” with a dash of “I don’t find that personally titillating so I don’t want to read it.”)

In either the post or a comment responding to it, someone said the audience has a “right” to know. I think this person has a mistaken concept of what “rights” are. When you buy a book, you have a “right” to exactly one thing: the book you bought. Doesn’t matter what’s in it. You pays your money, you takes your chances. You have a right to dislike the book, but you don’t have a right to demand the author to write something different if you don’t like it. And you certainly don’t have the right to demand that author spoil major events of the book and plot by announcing them in advance.

So, here is fair warning about what I will issue warning for: underage sexual activity whether it’s consensual or not, domestic abuse whether physical or emotional, dubcon/non con (and I’ll even throw in consensual non-consent, i.e. fantasy role play about forced-sex scenarios), graphic violence, and maaaaaybe, if it doesn’t spoil the whole book too badly, major character death.

I will not warn about the death of secondary characters, minor violence, or activities where all parties are consenting and of-age, even if those activities are things that aren’t everyone’s cuppa, like BDSM and “eww girl parts.”

There. Caveat Emptor. Consider yourself warned.

56 Comments

Filed under Musings, Politics

Personal ramblings: Mercury retrograde? Or just enough is enough?

The last six months–well, nine, really–have been challenging for me on the interpersonal front.

First things first. I’m a Libra. I like harmony. I go to great lengths to keep from making waves. But then, I also like balance, and when things become intolerably imbalanced, I will make BIG FUCKING WAVES. And hate every minute of it and alienate people in the process. It’s not pretty.

The pattern of my life for the last nine months largely revolves around people not keeping commitments to me. They will offer to do something and then just appear to forget, or disappear entirely for weeks or months at a time.

People have offered to beta read for me, then never responded after I sent them my story. People have offered to help me brainstorm, then never responded when I detailed my plot for them and pointed out where I am having issues. People have offered to answer questions I need for research for a story and then never responded. People have agreed to have discussions we need to have and then never brought the subject up again when the next chance arose to discuss it. People have told me they would have things done by a certain time and then they don’t.

I did a headcount of situations off the top of my head where I have been left hanging and I estimate that the number of people who haven’t kept their commitments to me in the last nine months outnumber the ones who have by a margin of about 6-to-1.

Six to fucking one. For every six people who tell me they’re going to do something, only one carries through in a remotely timely manner (and that is if I’m being generous with the definition of “timely.”)

Now, I am conscientious to a fault. When I agree to do something for someone, I am ALL OVER THAT SHIT. I drop everything, I get it done, because I hate to leave people hanging. And why do I hate to leave people hanging? Golden rule, baby. Because I don’t want to be left hanging. Because being left hanging sucks. And it feels awful. It makes me feel unimportant and unappreciated and taken advantage of and like I’m a frickin’ doormat.

Inevitably, my choices are to either nudge the person in question or let it go.

If I let it go, not only do I not get what I was promised, but I feel resentful. Then I feel guilty because I wonder if I’m being unreasonable to expect people to carry through when they say they will. I mean, people are busy, right? Shit comes up. I must be an ungrateful brat if I expect them to drop everything and deal with my issue because I’m not that important and they have better things to worry about and really I just need to get over myself. Right? If I feel resentful, I’m an awful, selfish, ungrateful person who had no business expecting someone to keep their freely-given, often unsolicited, commitment to begin with.

The other option is to nudge the person and try to remind them of their commitment. Which I admit I don’t do often because I wonder what right I have to ask anything of anyone else when they have their own lives and own shit and see the latter 3/4 of the last paragraph. Nudging makes me feel just as guilty as being quietly resentful does. But sometimes it gets things done. Sometimes. Sometimes I just have to deal with them APOLOGIZING and knowing that I made them feel bad about it, so I hasten to reassure that it’s not their fault and I understand and recognize that they’re doing me a favor and that I’m not really all that important in the great scheme of things because I don’t want to be an awful person and I don’t want them to feel bad about themselves.

At any rate, I feel like I’m on the verge of a major social meltdown where I just explode all over everyone about this stuff and that isn’t good. At all. The other option is just to give up and withdraw from people altogether and that isn’t good, either.

Ugh. Imbalance everywhere. What’s a beleaguered Libra to do? It would be one thing if it were just one or two people, but it’s on nearly every single front in my life.

So tired of it. So tired.

Leave a comment

Filed under Musings

One of those moments in life

Boychild – Six days old (June 2007)

Tomorrow will be the six-year anniversary of the day my five-and-a-half-day labor ordeal ended and this little guy entered my life.

Just a few minutes ago, I went out to the living room to see him wearing a new outfit. He’s had the shirt for some time, but the long cargo shorts are new. And he’s never worn that baseball cap before, much less turned it around backward like that.

Suddenly he wasn’t a little boy anymore. Suddenly he looked like a big boy.

Which I suppose he is.

Today he looks like this:

Boychild 6 years old (May 2013)

Boychild 6 years old (May 2013)

And so, in honor of this event, I’m going to spam a few pics. For T, my darling boy, I love you.

Boychild 10 weeks old (August 2007)

Boychild 4 months old (September 2007)

Boychild at 14 months (August 2008)

Boychild – 2.5 years (Christmas, 2009)

Boychild on his 3rd birthday (May 2010)

Boychild in his preschool picture, 4 years old (September 2011)

Tristan May 26 2013

And here he is today, on the eve of his 6th birthday (May 2013)

Leave a comment

Filed under Musings

Two weeks until “The Laird’s Forbidden Lover”

TheLairdsForbiddenLover_500x750

Two weeks from today will be the official release date for The Laird’s Forbidden Lover, which means of course that if you order it on the Riptide site, you can have it in 12 days. If you haven’t checked out the excerpt, you can do so at the Riptide site: http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/lairds-forbidden-lover

It hasn’t gone up on NetGalley yet, but I’m hoping that will happen any day now. In the meantime, if you’re a reviewer/book blogger and want a review copy, I have copies of the files in my possession. Just contact me using the form on the About page, or via email if you already have my address, and let me know what format you would like.

I’m very…curious to see how this release goes. Contemporary is the bread and butter of the m/m genre, obviously, so it will be interesting to see what happens with an historical title like this.

In other news, the first round of developmental edits on Strain is complete and we will hopefully begin line edits soon, assuming it doesn’t need much more work. An Inch at a Time (The Professor’s Rule #2) has been written and is awaiting acceptance, and TPR3 is mostly done. If things work out according to plan, Heidi Belleau and I will have some interesting audience participation activities taking place as we get further into this series, which will move back and forth between an exploration of James’ and Professor Carson’s history and their present, including James’ burgeoning involvement with Satish.

Contrary to what some people are assuming, TPR is NOT a serial. It’s true that there are not necessarily HEA or even HFN endings to these shorts, but erotic shorts are about the encounter not about the development of the relationship. Erotic shorts don’t require an HEA or HFN.

Which is not to say that there won’t be relationship development and evolution–there definitely will be–but it will be explored through the context of a series of interconnected shorts that each focus on a single encounter or cluster of encounters.

In the meantime, I’m going to go back to working on developing a story the likes of which I’ve never written (or thought I could write) before. Stay tuned. 🙂

Leave a comment

Filed under Announcements, Musings, Upcoming Releases

More on “Giving an Inch” — the project I never saw coming.

As I mentioned in my last post, yesterday morning I signed two contracts with Riptide Publishing. The one for the Highland story, I had been expecting for a couple weeks, but the second one (which was actually the first one signed and delivered) took me completely by surprise.

First of all, allow me to refer you to Heidi Belleau’s post on the subject.

The story went something like this. My current WIP was paused while I did some fact-checking, my latest round of edits on the The Laird’s Forbidden Lover had been turned in, I was waiting for edits on the two other novels I have in progress, and while I have two more novels in the conceptualizing stage, neither of them were ready for me to begin writing. So, I found myself one evening without anything to do and since I don’t know what to do with myself when I’m not working anymore, I whinged about it on Twitter (because I’m reasonably certain Twitter was invented to give me an outlet for my whinging while restricting the number of characters in which I have to do it.)

Next thing I know, Heidi’s telling me she has a short she could use a co-writer on. And while I’m certainly familiar with her, I didn’t expect she had ever heard of me, much less would invite me to co-write something with her. I mean, I’m pretty small potatoes so far. (And now I’m really, really nervous that she — being something of an authority — will find my Highland story terribly, terribly wrong.)

But, in very short order we had a manuscript ready to turn in and a concept for a kick-ass series.

The series will be called The Professor’s Rule and it will explore both the past and present dynamic between a professor and his student. The current story, due out April 15, is called Giving an Inch:

History grad James Sheridan thinks his biggest problem in life is trying to find a suitable outfit for his upcoming Ph.D. candidacy exam. That is, until he accidentally texts a changing room selfie meant for his fashionable sister to his ex, the domineering Professor Carson.

James and Carson haven’t seen each other since James fled their power games two years ago. Back in his undergrad days, Carson was his Professor, and not just in the academic sense: a man of unusual tastes and extreme sexual demands, James had been happy to sate Carson’s savage appetites. Too happy, in fact. He never could trust himself not to let Carson push too far.

Now James is older and wiser, and sharing some seriously flirtatious vibes with a cute menswear rep. When Carson replies to James’s errant text, ready to pick up where they left off, James can’t help being drawn back into Carson’s control. It’s only when Carson suggests involving the salesman that James has to ask himself how far is too far, and whether he’s willing to go there with Carson again.

I find the dynamic between the characters fascinating, particularly with the addition of the third party, the menswear salesman, Satish. I’m pretty much halfway to in love with him already. It’s going to be fun, so stay tuned for future installments from this series.

Within the next day or two, the book should be available for pre-order on the Riptide website.

Leave a comment

Filed under Musings

Writing a novel in three parts: Let’s get some things straight

As I’ve said in the past, though I often refer to Impulse as a trilogy for the sake of simplicity, it’s actually more accurate to call it a novel in three parts, much like The Lord of the Rings. Which is why on the cover of each novel, it very clearly says “Impulse, Book One” or Book Two or whatever.

I remember back in…2001 the The Fellowship of the Ring movie came out, the very first day it opened, on a message board I hung out on frequently at the time, someone went rant about it. This person was  offended that she didn’t get the entire LOTR story in a single film. Even though it had been all over the media for a good four years or so that there would be three films, even though the original LOTR novel was divided into three parts. Even though she must have had some passing familiarity with LOTR prior to that since she was, by her own adamant admission “a HUGE Arwen/Aragorn shipper.”

She complained that she’d been ripped off, how this was just a cheap ploy by a Hollywood studio to bilk the consumer out of more money, how she wanted the ending RIGHT NOW, etc, etc, etc.

What she didn’t take into account was all the reasoning behind the decision to make the story into three films.

Why did Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema choose to make three movies? Well, for a number of reasons, most of which boiled down to the fact that there was no way to tell the whole tale and do it justice in accordance with Tolkien’s vision and the expectations of the devout fans in the length of a single film. Of course, they could have done it, had the film been ten hours long, but I think most reasonable people agree that 3-3.5 hours is pretty much the ceiling for the length of a film before the audience just becomes fatigued. A decision was made that it was better for the story, and better for the audience, to divide the story into parts and release them in sequence.

Now, I haven’t the ego to claim to be in league with the storytelling genius of Tolkien or the movie-making genius of Peter Jackson. Nonetheless, some of the same reasoning went into my decision to make Impulse into three parts.

First question: Why did I decide to split the story into three parts?

The first reason is narrative flow. I intended from the very start to deal with the stages of a new relationship in three very distinct chunks, in keeping with the three-act structure of any story: beginning, middle, end.

The first chunk is the “coming together” phase: flirting, ascertaining the other party’s interest, overcoming doubts to find the courage to reach other, and initiating sex.

The second chunk would be the “honeymoon” phase of the first 2-3 months of a new relationship, when the sexual chemistry is off the scale and the world pretty much just revolves around your need to bond and cement this new partnership.

The third chunk would be the settling in phase, where the immediacy of lust and the need for the other person cools down enough to enable the partners to stop living in the now and start looking both toward the future and toward the outside, at the issues facing them beyond the perimeter of the bubble they’ve been living in.

The second answer is optimal book length. When I discovered how many words were involved in such a story (I anticipated about 50,000 works for each act and came in pretty close at 46K, 48K and 58K respectively) I had to figure out if that was a feasible ebook length, or if it was too unwieldy.

In my research, I discovered a lot of people opining that the optimal ebook length was 50-80K. Now, this meant I could have made two books out of it and still fallen within that window, but it would have broken up the narrative flow in the wrong places. How would LOTR have worked out if it had been two books, one of which ended in the middle of what is the arc of The Two Towers? How would the original Star Wars trilogy have worked out if it had been two movies, the first of which wrapped up midway through the action of The Empire Strikes Back? There is a pattern to these things, which is why the three-act story arc is an absolute necessity. Beginning, middle, end. A duology doesn’t work nearly as well because it defies that mandatory storytelling structure. So, I had three very clear-cut ~50K novels.

Second question: Admit it, you broke it into three parts to scam the readers of more money, right?

No. From a business perspective, breaking the novel into three parts was a very good choice for me because otherwise I could not have afforded a professional editor. My editor charges $100-125 per 10,000 words depending on if she’s doing developmental editing or line editing with developmental features. This means it would have cost me $1500-$1850 to have the entire work edited as a single edition. If that had been the case, these books would never have happened, because I just could not have afforded to go that deep in the hole. By breaking the story into three chunks, I could get them edited in ~$500-600 increments.

I went into the hole for the first one, and all my sales from that first book I collected to pay for the production of the second book (and even then I still had to supplement with my birthday money to get the job done.) The third book is the first time this has become an entirely self-sustaining enterprise, and I haven’t even gotten out of the hole yet.

Between editing, cover art, formatting and design, I have spent $2200 to produce this three-part novel and I’ve only made about $1600 of that back so far. In fact, I still owe my family’s household budget $500 for the editing of the first book.

If money came into play in the decision to make this story three parts, it was not to bilk readers out of more money, it was to keep production expenses in reasonable chunks so that I could afford to produce at all.

Another reason to break it into three parts is pricing and salability. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Dean Wesley Smith, he’s pretty much the guru where indie publishing is concerned. Let’s take a look what he recommends for ebook pricing:

— Novels

Front list, meaning brand new. Over 50,000 words. $7.99

Shorter front list novels, meaning 30,000 to 50,000 words. $6.99

Backlist novels, meaning already published by a traditional publisher. $6.99

According to this guru in the industry, Inertia and Acceleration are underpriced by a dollar each, and Velocity is underpriced by two dollars.

Had I published the entire novel in a single unit, I would have had to charge $7.99. As an author no one has ever heard of before. With no opportunity to get a “backlist bump” with each subsequent release because there would be no backlist.

To get more genre-specific, Riptide Publishing uses the following pricing structure:

Under 5,000 words: $.99
5,000 to 9,999 words: $1.99
10,000 to 17,999 words: $2.99
18,000 to 29,999 words: $3.99
30,000 to 39,999 words: $4.99
40,000 to 49,999 words: $5.99
50,000 to 69,999 words: $6.99
70,000 to 89,999 words: $7.99
90,000+ words: $8.99

How many books do you think I would have sold had I priced the volume at $7.99-8.99? As a completely brand new, unheard-of author? Enough to ever make my investment back? No, of course not. No one would pay that amount for a book by someone they’ve never heard of before.

So again, we come back to the point that this novel-in-three-parts would never have existed if I had tried to publish it as a single volume. It would have been too expensive to produce, and I would never have earned back my investment to produce it.

Now, in case anyone thinks my books are overpriced, allow me to point out that my pricing is right in line or a little below what Riptide uses, as shown above. Need more?

  • Dreamspinner Press prices most of their novels around the length of mine at $6.99.
  • Samhain charges $5.50-$6.50 for novel-length new releases. 
  • Stormmoon Press charges $6.99 for a 75K word novel and $9.99 for a 107K novel.
  • MLR charges $8.99 for a 123K novel, $7.99 for 77K, and $5.99 for 39K
  • Torquere charges $6.99 for novels around the length of Inertia.

The price I have set for my novels is at or below industry standard for the m/m romance genre.

Third question: but you are still making bank, right?

You couldn’t be more wrong. I am, quite literally, working for free.

What I’ve listed above, the $2200 to produce these three novels and the $1600 I’ve recouped so far? That’s just with concern to paying for the external services to produce the novel, editing, cover art, layout, etc. It doesn’t even take into consideration paying a wage to myself. Let’s refer back to Dean Wesley Smith on the labor cost involved in writing a novel.

I find Smith’s estimate there of “paying” yourself $50/hour to be a little on the high end. After all, $50/hour for a 40-hour a week job would be over $100,000/year. Let’s say I wanted to make a more reasonable “supplement my family and keep us afloat” wage of $30,000/year, which is what I was making when I got laid off from my last job. I would need to pay myself ~$14.50/hour.

So. According to Smith math, 1000 words = 1 hour. Therefore 150K words (not including time spent editing, revising, marketing, etc; I actually work 14-16 hours a day right now) would be 150 hours. At $14.50/hour, I would need to pay myself $2175. That doubles the production cost of this 150K word novel to almost $4400.

Again, I’ve made $1600 so far. Eight months since I first published. $1600. Out of a $2200 monetary investment and a $2200 time investment. Not only am I still in the hole for the services I paid for to produce these books, I’m working for free. I have not made a single dime for myself.

That’s important to understand. What you have paid for my books goes to pay the booksellers (Amazon, ARe, etc) and my editor and my cover artist and my layout/design/formatting guy. Not a single cent of it has yet gone to pay me for the time I’ve spent writing the book. Not a single cent.

I’m working for free. And I will be for quite some time yet. I’d earn more flipping burgers for minimum wage at McDonalds.

I wrote those 150,000 words out of love for storytelling, not to get rich. I wrote them out of love for this particular story and these particular characters. I wrote them because I had a beautiful story I felt I needed to share with the world. I separated them into three parts so that I could feasibly bring them to the public, because otherwise it would not have been feasible for me to have done so.

That’s it. I write because I love to write, not because it makes me rich. Hell, it doesn’t even put food on my table.

Never at any point in time was my decision to divide the novel into three parts an effort to scam anyone out of more money. It was to make the novel salable and get it into the hands of the public and begin building up name recognition for myself while still making at least a token effort at recouping my monetary investment, if not my time investment.

Now, did I handle the denouement of Book One badly? Yes. I freely admit that. I was utterly at a loss as to how to end that because at the point where it ended, that WAS the close of the first act, the same way Frodo and Sam striking out on their own toward Mordor was the end of The Fellowship of the Ring. There WAS NO MORE STORY LEFT TO TELL in the first act. There simply wasn’t.

Was it clumsy? Yes, but it was the end of the first act.

The second act would begin the very next time the two characters saw each other, which would then be the beginning of the “Honeymoon” phase (launching, not without a hefty amount of symbolism, with their first act of intercourse.)

It wasn’t an optimal way to end Book One and I’ve taken my lumps for it left, right, and center. Perhaps if I’d been able to afford another round of developmental edits, my editor and I could have brainstormed a better denouement, but it was what it was.

It was never an attempt to write a cliffhanger. It was not sequel bait. And it certainly wasn’t an effort to con anyone out of more money. It was the organic ending of the first act of a three-part story. Full stop.

So. Perhaps now people will understand a little better why the novel is structured in three parts the way it is.

7 Comments

Filed under Musings

The (Very Belated) Next Big Thing – The End of An Era and Moving On

So, back in mid-December I was supposed to participate in the Next Big Thing blog hop. I’d been tagged by Anne Tenino and I had tagged Leta Blake. I failed miserably at it because the week that I was due to make my post, I had about five huge things going on all while I was coming down with a severe case of bronchitis. But I’ve actually reached a point where I feel like I should be making this post.

One of those huge things was that I was due to turn in Velocity to my editor on the day that I was supposed to make my post. That has come full-circle now, as today Velocity went live on all but a couple sites. The “official” release date isn’t until Saturday, March 2, but I uploaded early to account for processing time and it appears the process queues were actually moving very quickly, so it’s live early everywhere except on the sites where I was able to schedule the time it went live for sale in advance (which would be Itunes and Kobo at this point.)

Releasing Velocity is a bit of a bittersweet milestone for me. Derrick and Gavin are, for many, many reasons, very close to my heart and releasing this final chapter of their story into the world, knowing that their journey is done and that I’m not likely to be revisiting them much (if at all) is very sad. But I have had four months since I finished writing Velocity to prepare myself for it and I think I’ve come to some peace with it all.

So. The question is, what next? Well. My goal for this year was to publish at least four works, and I am well on track for that. Velocity is one down, and I already have three other works complete: one short story and two novels, both of which are nearly or more than twice the length of any of the Impulse books.

It’s looking like the short might be the first to see the light of day. Some of you who follow me on Twitter might remember back in August that I jumped feet first on the concept of a m/m Highland story. I wrote it in a little over a week (it was only about 8,000 words when I was finished) and then I let it sit on the shelf for several months as another project and Velocity took precedence. I came back to my Highland tale at the end of December, enriched and expanded it, and I am hoping to have an announcement regarding it in the coming weeks. The title is Honor and Innocence, though I’m not entirely pleased with that and if a bolt of divine inspiration strikes with something that feels better to me, I may end up re-titling it. The title is definitely being redone. Stay tuned.

It’s an interesting tale because when we generally think of Highland historicals, we think of macho, hardened, mature warriors. Instead, my brain went somewhere else. It went to an exploration of young love between two boys who in their day and age have no gay role models and in a world where being an out gay man simply was never going to be a consideration. If you follow me on Twitter you might have even seen me calling it my Highland Twinks story. I wanted to know what they would do, would their love endure or would duty and honor present too big a conflict? I also wanted to explore the rarely-acknowledged fact that frequently in history, homosexuality was often met by people simply turning a blind eye and pretending not to notice, rather than with outright condemnation.

What will probably be coming down the pike after the Highland story is a near-future post-apocalyptic story titled Strain. I’ve discussed this one before, for a while referring to it as my Sooper Sekrit Projekt and finally letting people in on the title and little bits of information about it. Strain is the first story I wrote with the intention of submitting to a press. The first draft was ~65K and I wrote it in three weeks back in September for an open submissions call that closed on November 1. I submitted it in mid-October and just after mid-December I received a request to make some revisions and resubmit it, which I did in early-to-mid January, expanding it to ~103K and generally strengthening it on a number of levels. I am now waiting to find out if it has been accepted. In the near future (perhaps within the next month or so) I will either be making an announcement regarding it, or shopping for a new press to submit it to, or deciding whether to self-publish it. Since it’s been almost five months since I made the original submission, I’m very excited at the prospect of getting this story moving toward publication, however that ends up happening.

Strain is a very different piece for me, in both tone and content. It has a lot of hard edges as it depicts a brutal and desperate world where the characters’ choices are frequently ugly, and where sometimes the best way to save someone you care about is to do the unthinkable. It’s not going to appeal to the faint of heart, that’s for certain. Those looking for sweetness and tenderness will be better served sticking to the Highland piece.

The final story I have written is an amazing piece that absolutely ate my brain this past month. I really…there are no words to describe this story. I could be completely delusional. It may be that this story will not impact the readers nearly as strongly as it did me, though one of my beta readers did tell me that if other people respond to it the way she did, it could very well be my breakout piece, the work that puts me on the map as an author. From my own perspective, it is, bar none, the most powerful thing I’ve ever written. It came out to be 93K. I wrote it in two weeks, revised, edited and proofed it in another week, and submitted it to a press because it’s simply too important a work to be lost in the obscurity that attends a self-published author without a very large following yet.

The working title is Saugatuck Summer (and, like the Highland story, I’m still not entirely pleased with that and may end up re-titling it.) It is meant to be the first book in a series set in a town called Saugatuck on the shores of Lake Michigan. Saugatuck, and it’s neighbor, Douglas, are real place, a very popular vacation and tourism destination for LGBT folk around the midwest, much like Provincetown and Fire Island are on the east coast. Douglas hosts a gay resort called The Dunes that is quite famous and there’s even a gay RV park and campground. Having grown up in the suburbs of Grand Rapids, I’ve taken road trips to Saugatuck/Douglas and admired the beachfront homes and the picturesque town more than once. This series hopefully be very much like the Tucker Springs series by L.A. Witt, Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton in that it will be centered on the sometimes-intersecting lives of characters living in the same town. After all, why base a story in a town with a significant LGBT presence unless you can include lots of LGBT characters to explore?

But back to the story. It’s less of a romance (though there is a romance that develops and there is some, for my money, rather scorching erotic content) as it is a coming-of-age story. If I could manage to not write erotic content, it would probably actually be a perfect New Adult story but let’s get real, that’s never going to happen.

The main character, Topher, is a 21-year-old young man trying to outgrow a history of neglect and abuse and figure out who he is as he tries to rise above the temptation to let all the weight of his past drag him down. Topher is a very personal character to me because everything about his history is biographical of a person I know very intimately. Only the “present day” events of Topher’s life and a few other details are fictionalized, as if he and the person he is based off of diverged just before the time the story takes place. So you can see why it would be so close to my heart.

This is, again, a story that is going to have some themes that will be objectionable to some readers, because these characters make some horrible mistakes and bad choices as part of their journey and that’s going to make a lot of people uncomfortable. They do the stupid thing, the wrong thing and they face the consequences of their ill-advised choices. They are, in short, very fallible and thus very human. That’s probably not going to resonate with people who prefer the characters they read about to always do the right/smart/good thing.

But for my money it’s the most intense and hard-hitting thing I’ve ever written and I really look forward to putting it out in front of the world.

I am presently at work on the second Saugatuck story, which deals with a couple you meet in the first book, and that one is definitely going to be more of an erotic romance and probably won’t carry the same emotional impact as the first one. But that’s okay, too. Sometimes your characters just want a sexy romp!

So, that’s what is coming in the next year, and hopefully a lot more. I am hoping to write a million words this year. I’m already over 180K so I’m well on my way. With that much going on, I hope lots of exciting things will develop in the coming months!

Leave a comment

Filed under Blog Hops, Musings

Turning the day around — Look what a year has done!

So, as mentioned in my previous post, my day had a rocky and rather craptacular beginning in which a lot of my anxieties got triggered. Things seem to have calmed down and improved now, and as my less vocal, rational brain suspected, it was indeed mostly a case of atrocious word choice and the reality isn’t nearly so dire.

I also made lasagna today! Not sure I’ll be able to eat it with this stomach virus, but it looks delicious and I feel accomplished.

But what has really turned my day around was taking a glance at a stack of books on my dresser. My books.

See, yesterday I got my proof for the paperback of Velocity, so now I have print copies of three books all with my name on them. And all three of them were sitting there. Real. Tangible. They actually exist. I can touch them.

I have published three books.

This time last year, I had a manuscript. A manuscript which had to be 40-50% rewritten once I finally found an editor (with whom I wouldn’t make contact until March 23.)

That’s it. That’s all I had.

What do I have now?

Now, one year later, I have three books published (well, the third won’t be out for another nine days, but it’s pretty much a done deal. I could publish tomorrow if I wanted to.)

I have a lot of overwhelmingly positive feedback from readers and reviewers.

I have two more novels (each of which are nearly or more than twice as long as any of the three I’ve already published) written and submitted, both of which are some of the finest writing I’ve ever done, and a short story also written and submitted.

I am 21K and a lot of research hours into my next manuscript.

I set myself a goal of writing a million words this year, which means I need to average ~2800/day. So far my daily average is 3375, and that doesn’t include material trimmed out and rewritten in edits.

So. Looking back I’d say the last yeah has been extremely successful, at least on the productivity front.

In the weeks to come, I hope to be able to deliver more news on my upcoming projects but that is still up in the air at the moment. Stay tuned, though, for when I finally update about Strain and my latest project.

Meanwhile, if you want a hint of what might be coming down the pike, allow me to introduce you to my visual inspiration for Darius and Rhys from Strain.

Idris Elba as Darius

Jakob Bertelsen as Rhys

2 Comments

Filed under Musings

Ups and downs: from knee-jerk anxiety to reasoning and back again.

I’ve been trying to most of the morning to figure out how I truly feel about the GRL2013 debacle.

I woke up this morning feeling fairly upbeat, for all that I’ve been quite ill and feeling physically crummy. Then I got an email from a friend asking what I thought about the subject and at first I — who had only skimmed the GRL newletter last night for details about when I could register — had no idea what she was talking about and assumed that if people were wanking over it, it was probably tempest in a teapot drama. Then I read the newsletter and  next thing I knew, my heart was in my throat.

For those of you who haven’t been following the kerfuffle on FB and Twitter, it goes something like this: GayRomLit, which I had previously assumed was mostly about the author’s networking, announced last evening that they are trying to make the event more about the readers.

First, they have changed the author to reader ratio from 150/250 to 100/300. That, I can kinda-sorta see, though I’m not sure how it can possibly follow. If they want authors to be footing a bigger share of the bill, shouldn’t they be making space for MORE authors instead of less? More authors = more money, yes? And since most authors in the genre are readers as well, it stands to follow that this convention is just as much about them as it is about the “readers” (i.e. the one’s who haven’t actually published.) So why not create for spots for the ones paying the higher registration fee?

But whatever, maybe there is some obscure logic going on there to which I’m not privy. The problem came with the announcement that 30 of the 100 author spots (which were sure to sell like hotcakes already) have been blocked off for “must-have” authors.

That’s where the first knee-jerk comes in, and I fully confess it is a knee-jerk. I think most of us in this genre had an inherent distaste for anything smacking of elitism and exclusivity. I mean, some of the authors whom I assume implemented this policy were, this time last year, throwing back their heads and howling when same-sex romance was shut out of certain Romance Writers of America competitions. We are a genre that is supposed to be about INCLUSIVITY. We’re supposed to be about non-discrimination. We are supposed to be open to everyone.

“Must-have” authors. Golly. Wow. What a controversy-laden term. My God. Doesn’t that sound just a little bit like we’re separating out the jocks from the geeks for table assignments in the junior high cafeteria? I’m not saying it’s a rational reaction, in that anyone who sits down and thinks about it for two minutes will realize that the people who made the decision and wrote that fateful phrase are no doubt extremely nice people who almost certainly didn’t mean it that way, and yet…and yet…

Knee-jerk reactions don’t care about logic. It’s pure reptile-brain. And even once you talk yourself down from the ledge by trying to reason it out in your mind, the hurt remains.

How can those who know they won’t get one of those selected spots feel like they’ve been anything BUT excluded? They don’t rate. They’re not good/popular/important enough.

For a genre that is all about standing up for the rights of people who are deemed second-class citizens in much of the world, the wording — if not the decision itself — was an act of extremely poor judgment.

So, yeah. Knee-jerk reaction all over the place. My heart was in my throat, my pulse was pounding, my stomach felt hollow, and I couldn’t breathe.

What’s that? Anxiety attack, you say?

Why, yes. Which isn’t an entirely unreasonable reaction for someone with social anxiety in a situation that is guaranteed to hit all their worst triggers regarding feelings of being unequal, unwanted, unworthy, and unliked.

Somehow, I don’t think I’m alone in this. We authors are, after all, a very reclusive lot on the whole. I’m sure more than one of us has trouble with crowds. For me, the miracle of going to GRL was that for the first time in as long as I could remember, the prospect of going to something where there would be a lot of other people, most of whom I didn’t know, didn’t fill me with reluctance and dread.

I was looking forward to it. And now I’m not. Now I feel the same way about GRL that I feel about any social event. I feel that I will be stuck propping up the wall, with no one speaking to me or acknowledging me. I feel I’ll be too awkward to reach out and try to introduce myself to others, absolutely certain that if I DID try to reach out and introduce myself to others, it would be unwelcome and the others would simply humor me to be polite while they were secretly thinking I was weird and just wishing I would go away.

Oh, and hey look, here come the tears.

So, yeah, this is all knee-jerk. How can it be anything but when you hit someone’s triggers that hard. Yes, triggers. This is a post-traumatic reaction on my part.

When you hit my triggers, I get scared, and then I get angry, and then I start striking back at the thing that feels threatening to me. So, I’ve made a few snarky tweets and I’ve pointed out one very valid point that absolutely needs addressing.

The other part of GRLs attempt to work out the funding for the event is that they are arranging some sort of vague “each to his own ability” pay arrangement for the publishers. Which I believe means the largest publishers will pay more and the smaller presses will pay less. Which doesn’t sound that bad, right?

Except for that bit about the “must-have” authors list. Suppposedly these authors were skimmed from the top of a survey last year’s attendees were given. Except at least a few attendees from last year never got that survey and cannot verify that it ever existed.

In the absence of any better transparency, doesn’t it look like maybe what is going on here is that the publishers who are going to foot the largest portion of the bill might get preferential treatment in having their authors spotlighted?

Again, this is me lashing back. No doubt nothing so sinister is going on and I know that. I know there is probably a perfectly valid explanation that has nothing to do with any such conspiracy. But when you hurt me, I strike back, and right there is the chink in the armor where all of this is concerned.

The rational part of me REALLY hopes this is all a misunderstanding. The rational part of me REALLY wants this all cleared up and satisfactorily explained. Because the rational part of me wants to feel good about the prospect of going to GRL again, rather than miserable and panicky.

But right now, the reptile-brain is largely running the show, and I just feel hurt and anxious.

7 Comments

Filed under Musings

E.L. James did not invent BDSM and other discussion topics

Authorly thoughts here….

As I watch the reviews for Acceleration come in, I’m finding it interesting that there are no comments on the reviews. Nor are my books being talked about in general discussion on forums over at GoodReads, the Amazon Kindle forums, etc. A Google search for my name/titles turns up the reviews and announcements regarding my books, but no random mentions elsewhere. My guest blog posts and author interviews get almost no comments unless there’s a giveaway attached.

On the mercenary side, I don’t think it’s a far stretch to imagine that discussion generates sales and brand recognition. Naturally as someone trying to make a living at this gig, that’s a consideration.

But more importantly, on the perhaps somewhat egotistical side, I want to know that I’m making an impression. I put an awful lot of effort into my books to include things that will make people think about them and hopefully remember them. I want to know, is any of that getting through?

What is it, do you think, that makes a book discussion-worthy? What is it about some books that brings people together to discuss the book with one another? It’s obviously not just the quality of the book. After all, my books are getting great reviews and have great ratings, so obviously readers are finding it quality to be fairly high. So it must be something else. But what?

Is it author presence? I confess, I’m a horrible lurker. I follow a lot of sites but almost never comment. I rarely find places to introduce myself into a conversation, especially when we’re adding the fact of not wanting to appear to be engaging in crass self-promotion. Even if something in my books happens to be topical, I will often refrain from commenting somewhere because I don’t want to look like I’m pimping myself.

Furthermore, one of the earliest pieces of advice I got once I published Inertia was not to engage too much with readers. It makes them feel creeped-upon and inhibits open discussion, I was told. And in the worst case scenario, it might tempt trolls to try to bait you if they find you and/or your books objectionable for some reason. So I don’t comment to reviews beyond perhaps thanking the reviewer for their consideration. Should I be doing more?

Should I take reviews as an opportunity to generate discussion on particular themes? For example, one rare comment on a recent review basically implied that BDSM themes are being included in books lately because authors are trying to ride the coattails of the popularity of 50SOG.

If I didn’t have that policy of not engaging commenters, I would have explained that — leaving aside the discussion of the fact that every person with the slightest bit of education about BDSM knows that 50SOG is not about BDSM, it’s about romaticized abuse masquerading as BDSM — E.L. James did not invent BDSM fic. I was in the BDSM lifestyle fifteen years before E.L. James wrote the first word of that book. I wrote my first BDSM-themed fanfic back in the late nineties when online fandom was still a very new thing and almost NO ONE was writing BDSM fic in the (very few) online fandoms that existed at that time, and BDSM hadn’t yet gone mainstream. That particular series of fanfics I wrote became a hot topic of discussion not because they were necessarily great stories, but because it was something new and rare and it was on the forefront of a new trend.

Now, I’m not egotistical enough to claim to be the first. My fanfic may have been ONE of the first BDSM fanfics to be written in the age of online fandom (I don’t know how popular it was back in the days of print ‘zines) but it wasn’t THE first and I make no pretensions otherwise. There were, of course, the writings of the Marquis de Sade (from whom we get the term sadism) and Venus in Furs by Masoch (from whom we get the term masochism.) Then you also have Pauline Réage who wrote Story of O at least a decade before E.L. James (or myself) were born, and of course, Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty trilogy and Exit to Eden which was written back before I was old enough to know the definition of the word “dildo.”

In more recent history, of course, there’s Jacqueline Carey’s amazing trilogy that starts with Kushiel’s Dart, which was published in 2001, not long after I started writing BDSM fic myself. That really seems to me to be the crest of the first wave of mainstream BDSM fic.

So, no. The BDSM elements are not included in my stories because of the popularity of 50SOG nor am I attempting to ride anyone’s coattails. It’s included in my stories because I’ve been in the lifestyle and have a deeply personal insiders perspective that many recently popular BDSM fics lack. If anything, E.L. James is riding the coattails of those of us who brought BDSM fic into online fandom and mainstream pop culture long before Twilight fandom even existed.

I don’t say that to pat myself on the back. I know it probably sounds egotistical, and I don’t mean it to be. But it’s the truth. You can, however, see why I would refrain from saying this to a commenter even if I didn’t have a policy of not engaging commenters.

Part of why I lurk is also because I’m trying to be very careful of the reputation I establish for myself as an author. I’m an opinionated bitch at times (see above 😀 ) and I often present my opinions with an unvarnished “take me or leave me” approach that can rub people the wrong way. I don’t want to make enemies or offend people or attract trolls, so I sit on my fingers when I’m itching to opine.

So, back to the question of how to generate discussion. Is it the subject matter of the book(s) in question? I don’t think my books are lacking in themes people would find discussion-worthy, but are they presented in such a way that no one feels like they have anything more to add? I have a hard time imagining that, but I don’t know.

So, readers, other authors. What do you think promotes discussion and encourages people to not just read, but actually think about and talk about your books?

5 Comments

Filed under Acceleration, Musings