Category Archives: Musings

Acceleration: The First Weekend

Acceleration-ecover-1800x2700

Just a reminder for those who missed it (due to the information being tacked onto the end of my last long post) because it was released on November 29/30, Acceleration DOES qualify for the Members Choice awards at the GoodReads M/M Romance group. You can read about it down at the bottom of this post. I would really love to see my cover artists’ hard work rewarded by getting a nod for this gorgeous cover you see here. Anything else is just gravy.

If you’re looking for fun stuff, I think I have at least one guest post going up at Eden Winter’s blog this week. Possibly two. It was a two-part series dealing with some of the music types and songs I referenced in Acceleration and I’m not sure what the posting schedule was supposed to be, but be sure to check it out for some really great insight into Derrick and his musical tastes.

The rest of this may be boring to readers who just want to know about the book and/or the author. This is mostly diary stuff about the self-publication process for other authors who want to know, so I’ll put it under a cut.

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Busy Friday! Guest posts and thoughts (mostly about sex) all over the place!

Happy post-Thanksgiving to everyone!

Today I’m appearing on not one, but two blogs. The first is over at Pam Singer’s blog, where I’m talking about being a week out from the release of Acceleration and what you can expect to see from the book. Pam was lovely enough to do a beta read of Acceleration for me, which I think was an enormous boon that helped shape several important bits of the story.

The second is a small Derrick and Gavin ficlet over at Cryselle’s Bookshelf, entitled Lessons. The two posts actually work quite well together and I recommend checking out the ficlet after reading the post.

Finally, also tying in rather nicely to the theme of my blog post over at Pam’s blog is this article by Ethan Stone entitled Celebrating the Horndog Within, in response to which I had several thoughts I shared in the comments. The quantity of sex content in a book has become an issue of sometimes contentious debate among readers, reviewers, and authors. It’s a decision to which we authors have to give serious consideration and figure out what works for us, and hope it works for the readers as well.

So, yeah. I’m all over the place today. Bounce around with me and check it out!

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Fascinating article on Slash Fandom and Queer Fetishization

Read this post. Do it now. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

Admittedly, it’s about fandom, but since a sizable portion of the m/m romance genre seems to have originated in fandom, I think it’s still relevant.

Some of you have seen my muse before on my early slash experiences in author interviews, but in case you missed it:

Back in the late 90’s/early 00’s, I was primarily involved in X-Files fandom. It was my first fandom as an adult (I was into ST:TNG as a teenager) and my first internet fandom. In fact, The X-Files was really one of a very few fandoms at the very vanguard of internet fandom as we know it today, back when most of it happened on Usenet. Email mailing lists were just becoming a thing and there were no YahooGroups, LiveJournal or web forums.

The noun “‘shipper” and the verb “to ship” originated there. I know, because I helped coin them (interestingly, since I started publishing, I have noticed no less than THREE other former XF fic authors publishing as well, one of whom was on my list and I met in person; heck, I even attended her wedding. I am, however, the only one who changed my pen name, but then back in the day, I was foolish enough to use my real name or something close to it.)

I haven’t participated in many fandoms since, in large part because something about internet fandom makes them feel a leeettle skeevy to me at times. There’s a distinct lack of recognition of acceptable boundaries. On my mailing list, I had to declare a moratorium on discussion of the actors’ personal lives after David Duchovny got married and there was a huge outpouring of very personal hate toward his wife, Tea Leoni.

One list member emailed me and told me I shouldn’t declare the subject verboten because she and others needed the list as a “support group” to get them through the ordeal of his marriage. And I boggled for a moment and replied, “Support group for what? You don’t know the guy, you’ll likely never meet him, you’ll certainly never be romantically involved with him. You’re not his jilted lover. Just what trauma do you need support for?”

Almost twenty years later, I’m still repeating the same refrain. Perspective. Find it, fandom. Do it now.

The point of this rambling is to say this: my being skeeved out by a lot of what I saw in fandom extended to the slash offerings. From the very start in XF fandom, something about slash didn’t work for me, and it had nothing to do with homophobia or that it wasn’t my ship of choice.

I had a hard time and really struggled to find words for what it was that troubled me, and I dealt with a lot of personal angst that maybe, however much I tried to convince myself that I embraced diversity, that I was being homophobic. I was afraid to criticize slash handling of characters for fear of being accused of being homophobic. Certainly other people thought I was because of my distaste for slash offerings, and it really was distaste. I got a bad impression of the whole thing, so bad that I avoided anything to do with slash for nearly fifteen years and benignly eye-rolled at slash fans, until I finally peeked at it from between slitted fingers and discovered there were some people handling slash in ways I didn’t find objectionable anymore. That opened the door to me venturing into the realm of m/m fanfic, which then led me to writing original fic. But I came to it very, very late.

That troubling element is put into words quite concisely here:

Slashing damn near every attractive white cis* het dude with every other (even across fandoms that do not ‘mesh’ well with each other), even when it is OOC for them to do so.  ”Because it would be hot” is not enough of a reason.  Put some more thought into it than ‘hotness quotient.’  Who someone is and the environment (canon) they exist in defines who they are likely to be attracted to, regardless of our intent to ship them.

This. So much this. In all my years in XF fandom, the only slashfics I saw that didn’t make me automatically want to gouge my eyes out were the Skinner/Mulder fics, and that’s because the other common pairings, especially those involving Krycek, ignored or warped or fanwanked characterization completely out of recognition in order to justify the pairing. They didn’t do it to explore the characters, or to add diversity, they did it because Krycek was hot and they wanted to see him boning or boned by Mulder or Skinner. Or both.

But Krycek killed Mulder’s father. He tortured and blackmailed Skinner. Just about every interaction Mulder and Skinner had with him was edged or even filled with violence. And not sexy violence. Unhealthy, hurtful violence. The only POSSIBLY believable sex these characters could have had with him would be violent hatesex or, at best, extreme dub-con (in Skinner’s case, I’d call that non-con because FFS Krycek had the ability to kill Skinner with the nanite things if Skinner didn’t do exactly what Krycek said, and there was no way that dynamic could ever be truly consensual.)

And there’s nothing wrong with hatesex or dub-con in and of itself, if that is what someone chooses to portray, as along as there is some acknowledgment that it’s unhealthy and injurious. But these people were trying to make a HEA relationship between these characters. They were handwaving and minimizing issues of consent and other unhealthy dynamics. Not because it worked for the characters, but because they found the mental image of the characters hot.

Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh.

Skinner/Mulder I could buy a bit more, assuming it didn’t marginalize Scully or, worse, turn her into a shrew in order to invalidate Mulder’s feelings for her to justify why he’s boning Skinner instead. Which far too many did. This was the other problem I had with slash fandom, back then: its treatment of female characters. Again, in these situations, characterization was ignored in favor of teh hawt.

So anyway. This article hits on the head a lot of what I have struggled with regarding slash in fandom for nearly two decades, but struggled to put into words because I was afraid I would be perceived as trying to rationalize homophobia.

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From Tumblr: Cassandra Clare: October is anti-Bullying month: on hiatuses and hate blogs

John Green reblogged this post over on Tumblr, which is a very thoughtful post Cassandra Clare made about bullying and anon hate. I felt compelled to respond:

I confess, I don’t know enough about Cassandra Clare to have an opinion on any of the controversy that has gone down regarding her. I’ve heard mumbles and rumors, but not enough to form any sort of informed stand.

But this stuff? This is not okay.

I may be just a small self-pubbed author with one book under her belt and another on the way, but I discovered long before I published that anyone with any degree of notoriety attracts anon hate. I’ve had my own cabal of trolls stalking me from place to place, leveling vile and untrue accusations about me because somewhere along the line, I had the audacity to butt heads with them over something or say something they didn’t like.

I didn’t announce the publication of my novel to a pool of readers who would have really would have liked to know about it, readers who would have been invaluable in spreading the news that I had published and offered me a lot more sales, because I was afraid that if I made any sort of announcement, my trolls would see it and publicly harass me at a time when that sort of negative publicity would be absolutely catastrophic to reputation. Dozens, maybe even hundreds, of people who have read and enjoyed my writing in other places have no idea that this is the name I am publishing under or that I’ve published at all. I handicapped myself straight out of the gate to avoid that possibility.

In the past, I’ve been accused of being a drama hound for not letting unacceptable behavior slide, for not following the “don’t feel the trolls” doctrine. But it rankles my sense of justice, that people who behave that way don’t have to face consequences, because if anyone calls them on it, it just eggs them on.

Frankly, it’s terrorism, is what it is. The same mechanic is at play, using fear and intimidation and threats of violence/reprisal to 1) silence a target/enemy, 2) prevent anyone from holding you accountable for your actions and 3) trying to force a target/enemy to behave a certain way or capitulate to certain demands.

It’s terrorism. And it’s cowardly.

If you ever descend to sending vitriol, however warranted you may feel it to be, anonymously, you are a coward using terrorist tactics. You lose absolutely all moral high ground because you lack the courage of your convictions. You are so ashamed of your opinions or the behavior resulting from them that you don’t even want them traced back to you.

When I was in my senior year of high school, my AP Western Civilization teacher us a story. Back in the early 80s, before our school district had a sex ed curriculum, one night a guest speaker was booked to come do a presentation about teens and sexuality in the auditorium. But the parents and clergy (and bear in mind this area had the highest number of churches per capita of anyplace in the entire country, so the clergy were very influential) got wind that this guest speaker intended to talk about masturbation. The parents and clergy complained, and the guest speaker’s appearance was cancelled.

The students protested. One day, after fourth period, they staged a walk-out. En masse they rose from their desks, walked out to the front lawn of the high school, and sat down for twenty minutes, then peacefully returned to class.

During those twenty minutes, the teachers were instructed that they were to give detention for cutting class to every student who walked out. A number of the teachers simply didn’t, in a show of solidarity with the students.

My Western Civ teacher was one of those. But he went about it a bit differently. When his students returned to class, he looked at them and told them that he had been instructed to issue detentions, but that he wasn’t going to do it.

“But,” he said, “if you truly believe in what you just did, if you believe you were right, if you believe you were justified, if you stand by your actions and have the courage of your convictions, you will go down to the principal’s office right now and demand your detentions. Because actions, even justified actions, have consequences, and if you believe in something enough to undertake the action, you have to believe in it enough to accept those consequences, or you’re a hypocrite.”

Every one of his students went down to the office to demand their detentions. He said it was the proudest day he would ever have as a teacher. He had tears in his eyes as he related the tale.

When I say trolls lack the courage of their convictions, this is what I mean. Not only do they, as Ms. Clare rightfully points out, break the social pact, but they take advantage of the lack of accountability inherent in the anonymous nature of internet interactions to do it.

If they truly believed in what they were saying, they would put their name to it. They would accept the consequences for it, whether that consequence is adhering to a permanent ban from their fora of choice, or having their employer discover just how they behave on the internet.

But they don’t, and that is why they are always wrong, no matter how justified they may believe themselves to be.

Without accountability, there can be no meaningful protest. Without accountability, it’s all just noise and bluster.

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In honor of Banned Books Week

I’ve been watching on Twitter as a colossal piece of irony unfolds. On this week, of all weeks, Amazon has removed from their listings the newly released psychosexual thriller Flesh Cartel by Rachel Haimowitz and Heidi Belleau of Riptide Publishing.

As the authors rightfully point out, this is the same Amazon which sells Lolita, Flowers in the Attic, any number of works by Stephen King, all of which have content that is far more objectionable. Not to mention the proliferation of self-pub tentacle rape porn.

At best, that makes this move of Amazon’s hypocritical. At worst, it smacks of homophobia, because the obvious difference here is that the sibling protagonists (neither of whom is a minor, btw, unlike any number of books carried on Amazon–again, let’s eyeball Flowers in the Attic) are male.

I haven’t read Flesh Cartel yet. I definitely intend to when I feel like getting my dark on but I’m on a deadlines for the next couple months and can’t afford to jerk myself out of the headspace of my current projects. But I find this move of Amazon’s infuriating and as an author, I have to wonder which of us is next?

Therefore, I would encourage anyone and everyone to contact Amazon and register a complaint about this. Whether you support the subject matter or not, I think we can all agree that banning books = BAD, no matter what week it is.

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That awkward moment when….

… in the process of editing, you come across the line, “he couldn’t get enough of Gavin’s cock” and your mind goes, “can I make a ‘lustful cockmonster’ joke out of this?” and tries to insert a hat-tip to Chris Kluwe into your story.

Fortunately, the Impulse trilogy is set in 2011, before Kluwe wrote his scathing retort, so I have good reason to rein in my goofy whim. But my inner child is pouting.

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What if? (What Writing LGBTQ Literature Means to Me)

For the Rainbow Book Reviews Blog Hop

(please see end of post for giveaway details)

As a storyteller, I’ve always been drawn to the “what if?” I know I’m not alone in this. For those of us who tell stories, it’s something our minds naturally do, I think. From the novelist crafting an entire new world from scratch to the fanfiction writer putting the smallest twist on canon and turning it into an intriguing alternate universe, this is what we do.

We ask ourselves, “What if?”

For example:

“What if Kirk and Spock were lovers?”

While same-sex romance has appeared in literature throughout the ages, usually very subtly and in the subtext, I think for many who now write LGBTQ literature, that question is actually where it all began. That question is where most of us got our first exposure to the concept of same-sex pairings in fiction. Even if we never actually read a word of the early Kirk/Spock (or other flavors of) fanfiction that was circulated in print fanzines while the internet was still the pipe-dream of a few pioneers, we all heard of it.

Then along came the internet, and with it instantly accessible, low-to-no-means methods of disseminating non-mainstream fiction to a targeted niche audience. Skinner/Krycek. Clark/Lex. Spike/Xander. Garak/Bashir. Paris/Chakotay. Xena/Gabrielle. Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan. Methos/Duncan. Jim/Blair. Mackay/Sheppard. Harry/Draco. The list is, of course, endless.

I came to the gay fiction late, for a variety of reasons. I am and always have been a writer of erotic fiction, yes, but I didn’t want to simply write a titillating story for the pretty mental image of two men together.

Ultimately, the “what if?” that brought me to writing LGBTQ literature was a very simple one.

What if the doubts and questions and insecurities I explored with any heterosexual character were experienced by a gay character?

It’s a ridiculously easy question, isn’t it? And yet it took me years to come at the thought of writing gay characters from that angle. I was so determined not to fetishize or tokenize LGBTQ characters, or perhaps expose myself to accusations of ignorance regarding issues faced by LGBTQ characters, that I was neglecting them entirely instead. Despite my best intentions, I was still handling these characters as “other” still, unwilling to deal with them at all if it meant the possibility of being accused of mishandling them. And in so doing, I was denying a voice to characters representative of a segment of the populace that is all too often denied a voice.

Once I answered that question, others came much more easily. I discovered a lot more “what if?” in exploring questions of sameness and differentiation between heterosexual and homosexual characters. Given any particular situation or plot element, which aspects would be influenced by the character’s sexuality? Which would remain the same, and which would the character approach from the unique perspective of being closeted, passing, or out-and-proud, the victim of oppression or someone who has triumphed over it?

Writing LGBTQ fiction enabled me to approach the same human questions and truths I always explored with my characters from the perspective of people whose life experiences might give them a completely unique worldview. And at times – even more interestingly, I think – it has allowed me to explore a completely mundane and un-unique worldview. It has allowed me to explore areas of sameness as well as areas of “other”-ness.

Writing LGBTQ fiction means I need to be conscientious. I need to do research rather than make assumptions. I need to check my privilege. I need to handle issues faced by gay and lesbian people with sensitivity and respect, avoid stereotypes while still being honest about real problems faced in the LGBTQ community, and avoid putting a heteronormalizing slant on gay issues and relationships.

And that is just a little of what writing LGBTQ fiction means to me.

*****

In participation with the Rainbow Book Reviews Blog Hop, I will be conducting a giveaway of a copy of my book, Inertia. The winner will receive a 100% off coupon for my book from SmashWords, which will enable them to download it in the format of their choice.

Comment below to be entered into the giveaway, and please be sure to include your email address. Entry cut-off will be  August 27, 2012 at 12 AM. Winner will be selected using The Hat (screencap available upon request) later that same day.

Discussion topic: I’ve shared a little bit about what writing LGBTQ literature means to me. What does it mean to you, as a reader? What do you look for in your LGBTQ lit?

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Impulse Book Two, Acceleration, is written

Today I finished writing the first draft of Book Two. Now comes the editing.

This is unfortunately complicated by the fact that, going the self-publishing route, sales have not yet yielded enough for me to hire the freelance editor I used on the first book. The upside of self-publishing is that I get to use my own cover artist, who does such amazing work (seriously! I mean, LOOK at that!) The downside, however, is that editing comes out of pocket.

The deal I reached with my husband when he decided to invest in the first book was that we would find money in the household budget for editing the first book, and that the proceeds from that book would fund the editing of the second, etc. That goal has not yet been accomplished.

It was absolutely worth it, hiring Danielle Poiesz to edit the first book. She’s top-notch and I’m very grateful for her work. The story and characterization came out so much stronger, thanks to her. I look forward to working with her again. Having learned so much from the developmental/substantive edit she did on the first book, I’m hoping the story and characterization in the second book are solid enough that we can instead focus on a more technical edit and proofreading, which I had to shift for myself to do on Book One because I had spent my editing budget on the developmental edit.

I’m hoping sales will pick up soon, as more reviews come out. I know a few different review sites have looked at the book and will hopefully be posting reviews this month. I also have a lists of another dozen or so sites I didn’t know about, when my first inquiries about reviews/interviews/giveaways went out, which I can now contact now that I’m not busy writing all day. 😀

I’ve already been in contact with Kerry, my cover artist, and we’re brainstorming cover art. I hope to do an unveiling of that once it’s finished, by which time, hopefully, editing will be well underway and I’ll have a better idea of when I’ll be releasing Book Two.

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Chicks & Dicks Guest Blog Post: Bullying and Coercion

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July 30, 2012 · 11:52 am

Book covers and the objectification of gay men

The other day, my friend Leta Blake and I were discussing a few things we don’t like about the current state of the m/m romance/erotica publishing industry. One of which was the covers with all the manly-man ripped torso beefcake.

Then today my husband comes in the room and we’re talking about the book and he’s teasing me that my cover is OMGSOPORNY! And I was like, “Nonononono, wait, wait. You need to see what OTHER covers in this genre look like.” So I went over to Rainbow Book Reviews and showed him some of those ripped-torso covers, and as I did so, I realized something.

The men on those covers aren’t just ripped. They’re almost universally beheaded.

Not every cover is this way, of course, but enough are that it shows a deeply, deeply disturbing mindset in the genre.

One of the biggest complaints feminists very rightfully have toward advertising is the frequent portrayal of dismembered women. Armless or headless, only the torso, the part showing the sexy bits, is used. It’s believed to be another form of violence against women, or at least a means of portraying women that objectifies and dehumanizes them so that violence against them becomes more acceptable.

The majority of consumers in the m/m romance/erotica genre are women. What does it say about us, that we’re doing the same thing to gay men? Though we, women, are the consumers in this genre, are we looking at the physical representation of the characters with the internalized male gaze?

Suddenly, I’m very glad my book has the cover it does, and that I self-published rather that going through a publishing house for m/m romance and erotica, where I might not have had control over the cover art.

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