Pride… and Prejudice

When I heard of the Orlando massacre, I was at a bridal shower, celebrating love. At a table with my daughter and in-laws, I put the news aside, because I could. I talked instead about the bride’s new family and the beautiful cake and the lovely weather. The tragic news was glossed over in a “that’s so sad” kind of offhand way. I was glad. I knew when I got the chance I would take to social media and the news sites and learn all the horrible details, but I admit I was happy to retreat into my privilege for the moment and speak of lighter things.

Then the conversation turned to politics, and I found myself trying to keep calm while I explained that no, men pretending to be transgender women are not a problem in our bathrooms, and yes, I know this for a fact. I think I shifted their opinions a bit, but it’s possible they agreed just to keep me quiet.

Later, bile rose in my throat and my face was hot as a table full of well-dressed and well-to-do ladies spoke about how they’d consider voting for Trump “if he could just keep his mouth shut!” I would like to say I was brave and spoke up again, but I just drank my mimosa and kept quiet. I’m sorry. I wanted to, but I couldn’t find any words. I was afraid.

Not afraid of my in-laws, but afraid for my daughter and the world she will inherit. Afraid for all of us, those marching in pride parades and those walking to classes and those in the “wrong place at the wrong time” everywhere. Afraid because I saw hate. Not loud, violent hate, but a much more dangerous hate: quiet, refined, and confident. Hate backed up by money and power and privilege, hate that does not believe it is hate at all. I wish I had spoken up. I would have pointed out how all these things are connected: the violent crimes against gay people and the targeting of transgender bathroom rights and the bigotry of political candidates. I wish I could have made some intelligent argument or insightful quip, but I had nothing except fear and sadness inside me.

Later, I went online to learn all the horrible details of the worst mass shooting in our nation’s history. A little less secure in my privilege, I cried at the pictures and details, and got angry at the ignorant bigoted comments I saw. Again, I felt afraid for all of us, at the hate and fear in our world right now. Terror is a good word for what happened, and for what I feel. What will happen at the upcoming pride events around the country? What will happen at the gay clubs downtown? Who is an enemy? How can we tell? Is there any way to stop these attacks against the LGBT community?CkwpDbnW0AAa6FV

I don’t know, of course. But I do know that we all need to stand against homophobia. And we need to call this massacre what it is: a hate crime against LGBT people. Not a random attack, a targeted one. Fed by hate and nurtured by the kind of political ideologies that preach bigotry and xenophobia. This massacre was a horrifically violent expression of homophobia, but unfortunately homophobia is all too common.

The first Pride parade was a reaction to Stonewall, a commemoration and continuation of the bravery demonstrated by the rioters. Pride might be a celebration, but it is not all party, it is also -still- an act of bravery. A time to stand up, afraid but not alone, and show pride in something widely condemned. It seems to me the strength of Pride, and the solidarity of the LGBT community it represents, is needed now more than ever. I know the LGBT community will stand together in this time of sadness and fear, but I hope (so hard) that non-LGBT people will, too. If ever there was a time to be an ally, it is now.

Equality Florida is offering services, and raising money to support the victims, if you are able to donate please visit their page. Rather than reading post after post about the murderer, consider learning about the victims, and celebrating their lives instead. And if you are in a position to speak up against homophobia, no matter how casual or “harmless” it appears, please try to do so. Maybe with love we can fight this hate. ❤

This month’s insecurity: Am I annoying???

I probably am. Ugh, yes, I am definitely annoying.

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeThis is an insecure writer’s support group post, please join us if you are an insecure writer! Visit the main page here to sign up or read the other participant’s posts. This is a blog hop 🙂

So I’ve been thinking lately about all the people in my life who’ve gotten to know me, and then bailed out. All the failed or faded friendships. All the internet “blocks” and de-friendings. I know I should not dwell on that, I should instead focus on those wonderful, patient, and kind souls who actually like me and have stuck around, but I can’t help it!

I obsess over what I did to make them dislike me so, what wrong things I said. Was it one thing? Or just my personality in general? I wish I knew, so I could improve myself, or even just apologize. Maybe their reasons are dumb, and I won’t feel so bad! I don’t know.

If I AM annoying, how could I tell? Is there like a maximum number of enemies you can have and still be a decent person? How many de-friendings is normal?

It does have a negative impact on my writing, because I start to wonder if my poor social skills are translating into my character’s interactions. Are my characters just as dorky as I am? Is my dialogue obnoxious?

I’d love to hear if anyone else worries about this stuff. Also if anyone has tips or advice about limiting this particular kind of social anxiety. Comment below! (You might have to click the blog title to open this post again & comment)

What is my work worth?

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeHi! This is a post for the insecure Writer’s Support Group, we post the first Wednesday of each month to air our writerly insecurities. Join us! Or just hop around and read our posts, and feel less alone in your own insecurities.

Usually I try to keep my IWSG posts fairly short (I think it is a group rule actually) but this one will be a little longer. Sorry! I haven’t posted to this blog in almost a month, and I’ve got a few extra words to say.

So let me start at the beginning… My favorite genre, the genre I read and write in most, is Gay Romance, or m/m Romance. And in m/m, the drama level is generally higher than normal for some reason. I’ve learned to deal. It does suck me in sometimes, though! The latest drama storm has a few centers. One is about the way readers will “read and return” e-books to amazon, or pirate our work, or just demand lower prices. Overall, this sucks. But let me break down the layers of suckage:

Layer 1: Amazon lets people return a digital book, no questions asked, within 7 days of purchase. In some ways, this practice is good for me as an author. It means buying my books is a zero-risk decision. Don’t like my book? Send it back. So people can feel free to click that “buy” button without worry. The trouble is, it is SUPER easy to keep on reading for free by returning. Even if Amazon catches on and cuts you off, you can just make a new account and keep on scamming. I have very few returns, so I don’t personally have a big problem with this Amazon policy, but it does hurt some authors, and I will back them up before I back up Amazon.

Layer 2: Pirates. There always will be thieves, we can’t stop that. But book thieves are an odd breed, who somehow think they are doing us authors a favor when they steal our books. As if we get some kind of power or boost just by being read. Uh, no. I’m not Lord Voldemort, and simply saying my name (or reading my words) does not pay my mortgage. Pirates don’t help authors. That is a lie they tell themselves because they know damn well they are doing something wrong. It might help them sleep better, but it is still a lie. Yet I can’t stop pirates, I am powerless against them, so I guess I should not waste my energy worrying about them.

Layer 3: Readers want lower prices, would prefer all books be free or .99. And oh yes also they’d like books to all be over 200 pages, please, otherwise it’s not really “worth it.” I will admit I have a lot of sympathy for the price issues. As a reader I also balk at books over $5. Romance readers are THE BEST readers, and I’m not just saying that because I am one (okay maybe that’s why) but because we read a lot. Most of us can happily tear through a novel a night. And at $5 or more per book, well, that means we can easily spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars each year on our reading habits. That’s…nuts. So we constantly search the current free lists, subscribe to bookbub, and whine about “overpriced” books. I get it. I’m with you. BUT: I also write and self-publish, which takes a lot of time and money, and when people tell me that my art isn’t worth as much as a cup of coffee, it hurts. And it also means I have to write less, because if writing isn’t paying the bills, then more of my time has to get diverted to a job that brings in real money.

So all that is one part of the drama. Another is about an author who is really a group of authors. I guess someone noticed that an author was popping books out at a crazy pace, and those books were all making rank, and they got suspicious. It might sound distrustful or mean but I do understand their worry. With the abundance of plagiarists and scammers out there, especially (it seems) in m/m Romance, their suspicions were reasonable. (And how sad is that? 😦 ) The author responded by admitting they are actually a group of authors working together to produce books quickly, and that explained that. But it left me with an odd feeling. I don’t begrudge this author-group their success, still I don’t like what it means: that a single author’s chances of “making it” are slim. Amazon’s algorithms reward new releases and readers reward quantity. But even the most prolific of us can rarely get more than three books out in a year. How can we compete with “authors” who can put out one or two a month?

All these things devalue writing. Treating books as less valuable than almost anything else you can buy sucks. (Seriously what can you buy for $3 nowadays besides an e-book??? And how many of those things will entertain you for hours? Make you laugh, cry, think, feel??? Let me know when you think of something.)  Expecting authors to be like machines, who need to pump out product at impossible rates while still interacting with readers and posting blogs and tweeting and instagramming and whatever else also sucks. These expectations, combined with Amazon’s algorithms and policies which shower the top earners with more exposure while keeping the unknowns unknown, make it a minor miracle anyone can earn even a hobby income from publishing these days.

It all leaves me wondering: what is my work worth?

Is it only worth what people will pay for it (so, basically, nothing)? Or is it priceless, as art, with an intangible value beyond dollars and cents? Is it worth your time? Is it worth mine? Is it worth less if people don’t like it, and more if my star-rating average is higher? I have no idea.

What I will say is a giant THANK YOU to those who buy, read, and review books. Not just my books, all books. You are keeping authors in business, literally. You are awesome! I love you.

I also love my fellow authors who constantly try to produce great books, who share their tips and tricks, who dive in to author/reader communities even though it can sometimes be a crazy jungle of feelings and opinions, filled with innumerable dangers. You also are awesome! Thank you for being part of my community.

I want to keep producing quality, carefully crafted books. I want to earn some money by doing that. I also want readers (and society at large) to appreciate the diverse beauty and multi-faceted influence of fiction. I wish I knew how to help these things happen. Any ideas? I’m listening.

insecure writer’s support post

This is a post for the Insecure Writers Support Group. Join us! We blog the first Wednesday of every month. Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

It’s April 5. Camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) started on the 1st. I don’t think it will come as any surprise that I have already fallen off pace. My track record with NaNo is pretty dismal. I have a whiny post all ready to go about that, which I’ll probably post in the morning, but…

Okay I’ll admit right now I’ve had a glass of wine. My kids are in bed and I’m scrolling through my blog feed (avoiding working on the iwsg post lol) and I have to say I’m kind of freaking out a little. Does it seem to anyone else that things are getting more hostile? In the world in general, I mean, and especially the US I guess? Like very divisive. Tensions are high, even in online communities arguments are blowing up too fast. And what is with all these laws about “religious freedom”? I can’t even believe half the things I’m seeing! Am I the only one who is alarmed here? How about how Trump is seriously in contention still. AND the rest of them. What the actual fuck, is all I can say.

Okay I know talking about politics is not advised for Authors and I shouldn’t be saying anything. I’m supposed to be neutral, better for sales. But honestly? I write gay and bisexual Romance. If you’re going to be backing a candidate who would reverse marriage equality if given the chance, or who would have signed or voted for any of these recent anti-LGBT legislations, I really don’t care about losing you as a reader. No offense.

Then again, maybe this isn’t about any one candidate or belief, but more about a general swelling of an “us vs. them” mentality. If the nightly news was the prologue to a dystopian novel I’d be expecting world war three to unfold any minute now. Things are getting freaky out there! I feel like even just six months ago things were a little less heated. I mean, am I imagining it? Or has anyone else noticed this, too? I’d LOVE someone to talk me down lol

*sorry if this is too political for the iwsg hop, but it IS an insecurity, technically*

finding life lessons in “inspirational quotes”

It seems like all over social media there are these deep and meaningful quotes. And, yeah, okay there are some dumb quotes, too. Sometimes these quotes pop up at just the right time, though, like the fortune cookies of the internet. It’s cool when that happens.

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That’s a good one, right? I think so. (I can’t find an author for it, sorry.) This quote reminds me that we can all make positive changes. It’s never too late to be better than we were yesterday, as long as we are willing to question our own knee-jerk reactions. Defensiveness is an understandable response to criticism, but it doesn’t move you forward. I think it is extremely important to be self-critical. It’s the only way to grow, to evolve.

Once, more than a few years ago, I heard/read the statement that ALL white people are racist, in some manner. At first it bothered me because, well, obviously I didn’t think I was a racist! But the more I thought about it the more I realized it was true. It’s impossible to grow up white, and live with that kind of privilege in this society, without having it influence you. At minimum, white people all benefit from institutionalized racism enough to warrant some self-criticism. Accepting this, and also accepting that it doesn’t mean I am a bad person or that I have done anything wrong, was a really big thing for me. It changed me, in a major way. It made me realize racism is not about just “bad people,” it’s also an entire system of power. If I had stuck with my original reaction and rejected the whole idea, I would not have grown or changed.

Self-reflection is important. Sometimes I get too self-critical, and move right on over to self-deprecating, and even into self-hate. I know this is a problem for me and I am trying to stop doing that and be kinder to myself, but that is another issue altogether!

How about this one:

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This quote reminded me that we are all victims, in one way or another. Almost all of us have been hurt, or used, or mistreated in some way. But we have to let go of that anger a little bit otherwise we risk becoming the same as those who have hurt us. We need to remember that even at our weakest, we are still capable of hurting others. If we get too absorbed in our own status as “victim” we can easily excuse our own bad behavior, and that isn’t okay. Everyone is fighting their own demons, recovering from their own traumas. We need to have empathy for each other.

I try to have empathy for everyone, to understand different views, to listen. I really care about the people I interact with online. Sometimes I find myself thinking of them, and I feel weird about that. There used to be this guy who went by the name ‘Dorian’ who I was friends with on Facebook. An author, and a very nice man, he loved to post pictures of male ballet dancers. So whenever I’d see a picture of a male dancer that was particularly nice I’d think “I should share this with Dorian next time I’m online” and I usually did. Dorian died last year, but I still think of him when I see a picture of a male dancer.

Is that unusual? I feel like that about a lot of people, but I often hide it. Or sometimes, something will happen to show me that the feelings I had were most definitely one-sided, and not at all reciprocated by the other person. I’m fairly certain Dorian never thought of me, or even knew my name. Should that change my feelings, though? Does that even matter? I don’t know.

On that note…

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This is another quote that has spoken to me. I’ve seen it around a lot, I’ve posted it before, but it is important for me to continue to see it and to remember. Keeping emotional distance is another thing I need to work on, online.

It’s easy to get sucked in to an external validation loop on social media: posting things and hoping for responses. Sometimes that is great, in small amounts. But too much is not healthy. Definitely a bad idea to use external sources to determine one’s sense of self-worth!

The other reason that quote is so important for me is that it reminds me there ARE people who care, and those are the people I should be giving my attention to, those are the ones I need to try hard for.
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Ah, a very good quote for when I am thinking of giving up!

It is hard to know when to give up. When to walk away from a person or a discussion or a project. When to accept things as they are and when to try to change them? I guess that is one of those eternal questions no one ever knows the answer to. Or maybe it is too specific to be answered by a vague internet quote. 🙂

How about you? Any “quotes” speak to you lately? I’d love to hear about it!

Not a “think piece,” just a ramble.

Feel free to ignore.

So in the last few weeks I’ve been involved (marginally) a few “discussions” about a few things that seem not related but kind of are. (I’m not linking to any source articles because the drama level is already off the charts and I’m not going to contribute to that. sorry.)

One, a chat about writing POC characters. My MC in my soon to be released book is black, and so when I saw an article saying “white writers please don’t write POC, ok? thanks” I stupidly read it. It was a good article, actually, and made some great points. I should have left it alone but I got talking, asking questions about the ways I should represent POC in fiction, and if it was even okay for me to do so, and lots of other things. It was, of course, not the first discussion I’ve had on the topic. But the people involved had very different opinions than the ones I’d spoken with previously. While the first groups I’d talked to had said “please don’t treat me like an alien. I’m more like you than different. Every story about a black man doesn’t need to be about his race or his struggles.” The second group said “please don’t use me as a decoration. If you’re going to write a POC character, make his race an issue and show his struggle please or you might as well just make him a white guy.” So I was confused and slightly unsettled about my new release.

Two, there was a discussion about the new Harry Potter thing and the Native Americans’ reactions. Which led me to ask: in what ways is it okay to use the stories and myths and experiences of other cultures as inspiration in our own fantasy work, especially when we are outsiders to the cultures we are borrowing (appropriating?) from? Still no answer, except “be respectful” which seems obvious but I don’t know how exactly to do that in a practical way. (Do you have to keep the myth intact? Is it okay to alter it? Use part but not another part? Only borrow from cultures which were not oppressed? Only borrow from cultures long dead?) So again I was confused and not sure how to move forward with my WIP. (Probably NOT going to use those western African gods/goddesses as inspiration anymore, though…)

Then three, there was a m/m genre hubbub (when is there not lol) about the trope “Gay For You” and how some people think it is hurtful (it sometimes is, lets face it) and how others just want to be left alone to write their happy stories and not think about all that. I talked a lot and read a lot on both sides and in the end I still kind of feel like everyone’s underlying points are good, I agree with both sides. I don’t write GFY, but the way people started talking to each other was really mean and shitty and disheartening to watch.

Needless to say, I consumed a lot of wine these past two weeks.

The truth is, in all three of those discussions, I shouldn’t have been talking. I was, and always will be, an outsider to those things. I’m not a POC, I’m not a Native American, I’m not a gay guy. So I really shouldn’t have chimed in and made the conversation about me. I am VERY sorry for my selfish involvement in those conversations. Apologies to everyone who had to interact with me.

I’m also sorry because, while I do indeed care a lot and have a lot of empathy, those issues are not really things that impact my life in any tangible way beyond my writing. So my involvement was more of an academic nature, not an emotional one. I write gay guys. And sometimes, black gay guys. And sometimes fantasy where I use myths I don’t own as inspiration. I want to ask questions, and try to do those things right.

But I don’t want my questions to hurt people. So I’m not sure where to take my questions anymore. Where to talk about writing, and people? Is there anywhere where it is safe to do that? Where people won’t attack each other?

I don’t understand how people who are writers can have such a lack of empathy for their fellow humans. To me it seems like writing is the only place where my weakness (over-sensitive crybaby) is actually a strength. I use that sensitivity to feel what my characters feel, and to put myself in the pov of others. For me, that empathy doesn’t stop when I enter facebook or goodreads. For a lot of people, it clearly does. Or maybe hostility is just a way they protect themselves? I don’t know.

I also don’t understand how people who are writers have so much trouble in a discussion/debate. I LOVE talking about stuff. I love talking about writing, and people, and history, and culture. I try to be respectful in my language. Lots of people hate me but very few can claim I was ever outright rude or mean to them. I try really hard to be civil, at all times. If you disagree with something I say, or vice-versa, I won’t hate you, or ignore your further comments, or talk shit about you behind your back. Seriously you’d have to be pretty awful for me to do any of that.

 

I can see why some authors just say “fuck it” and stop listening to critical voices. Or stop writing stuff that is not 100% defend-able and bland. Neither of those options sound good to me. At least not yet.

I love writing Romance. I really love writing Romance between two males. I don’t know exactly why that is, but it always has been, for me. I know that means some people think I am gross, or creepy, or damaged. I know it means some people will feel fetishized or appropriated by my work. I’m still not sure how to deal with that. I’m going to keep trying to figure it out, but maybe quietly.

Be nice to each other out there, people. ❤ Life is hard enough already.

iwsg: insecurity over the facebook reactions

Hi! It’s my insecure writer’s support group day 🙂 If you’re a writer (or just a human) with insecurities, check out the iwsg main page!Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeOkay it’s old news now, but the new facebook “reactions” are kind of cute. I do wish they’d included disagree type reaction… Maybe not a “dislike” but come on, an “eye-roll” at least?

I get it though, there’s enough bullying online without a way to casually, effortlessly, and even guiltless-ly (I know, not a word ) spread negativity. It would hurt people, and empower internet jerks. Although some assholes will find a way to use anything sarcastically or rudely. (“sad” on a selfie? “haha” on a plea for help?) Ugh.

Still, the new reaction options have a lot of benefits. Now you can hit “sad” instead of “like” on a post about someone’s gofundme or their dog dying. When someone posts about finding their spouse has been cheating, you can indicate your displeasure with “angry,” you don’t have to “like” it.

Although it might mean less talking on facebook. Before, if I wanted to offer my sympathy on a sad post, and of course I didn’t want to “like” it, I’d comment. Now I can just click “sad” and move on.facebook reactions.jpg

Overall, I think the new reactions are a great improvement. But here’s the thing: I’m not sure any “reaction” option is a good idea.

I’m on a few social media sites and internet forums. Most have some kind of reaction based system when you can “like” or “upvote” or “+1” or whatever. And to me, the insecure basket case that I am, these are all trouble. Reactions give me so much online stress, to be honest.

But I don’t know if its just me. Am I holding people to ideals that are weird or unreasonable?

For instance: I think that if you start a thread in a forum, or publish a post, and people choose to reply to you, you should “like” (or respond somehow, via comment or “reaction”) their reply. They took time out of their day to type up a few words of encouragement, or to share a personal thought, opinion, or story. How do you just ignore that? But people do. It makes me not want to interact with those people. Seriously how hard is it to click “like”???

Stress.

Or: You know the person who tries to “send a message” by liking everyone’s comments except the one written by the dude he’s currently in a beef with? So messy. It makes me realize the person is petty, and worry that someday I will be the one in the doghouse, having my well-intentioned contributions ignored.

Again: stress.

If you ask me, the best places have no reactions at all. Because those places have interactions instead. If a topic or a post is important to you, truly worthy of a reply, you’ll respond in writing. Without the option to just click “like,” you’re forced to…actually respond to the post. And you’re less likely to be rude if you have to publicly “talk” and not just click a button. (hopefully!)

Also, reactions can easily be misinterpreted. But a comment is usually clear, or can be responded to appropriately. If someone says something rude in a comment, I can decide to engage them, unfriend or block them, or just ignore their words. When someone clicks a reaction, I’m full of assumptions and doubt: did they click ‘like’ because they’re happy? Was that an ironic ‘like’? (I told you I’m a basket case!!)

Anyway I think it’s a lot less stress, overall, when there are no reaction options. Who’s with me? Am I the only wimp who is too sensitive to interact online?