Monday, 31 December 2012

Thank you for 2012 - Here's to 2013!

While 2011 was a bit of a wash for me - too much nasty stuff happened to me and friends, though I will forever fondly remember having planned and started Riptide with Rachel in the second half of 2011 - 2012 was a fabulous year. Emerging from the trauma that was late 2011, re-thinking myself and my writing and how I interact with people, the new year 2012 started with me getting a new job in one of the worst depressions in recent times, and a payout or "golden handshake" from my previous job that took some of the pain and anxiety away.

In 2012, I became more visible in the mainstream romance world. No longer supporting trans* phobic blogs or actively trans* hostile Goodreads groups after the blow-up of November 2011 and its aftermath, I felt vulnerable and condemned to obscurity because I wasn't "playing the game" and defied the rules that were basically defined as "suck up to them even if they suck". I left/ignored several people in the m/m world that think of themselves as "genre-makers" or "genre leaders". Thought leaders. Some of these sent me or my friends threatening emails, claiming they'd kill Riptide or organize boycotts because "Aleks Voinov is being such an asshole over the trans* thing".

What I found, at Dear Author, at the Paranormal Romance Guild, at Totally Booked, with bloggers like Vacuous Minx and more reviewers and bloggers and romance people than I can possibly hope to mention here, but I mean ALL OF YOU)--were whip-smart, progressive, open-minded, tolerant and bloody impressive people, none of which ONCE judged me or my books by what I have in my underwear. The vast majority of these non-m/m people impressed the living daylights out of me. I suddenly realised that the m/m genre behaves in many ways like a ghetto, and is in some ways actively stifling dissent and creativity. I decided that I don't need those thought-leaders and leaving them behind was the best thing I've ever done to free myself from the creative thought police who attempted to kick down my door to see what I have in my underwear and threatened to boycott me or other authors who are not playing by their rules. (Note on this: I feel the genre has made huge steps on those counts during 2012, but much of it has been a running battle.)

Freer than I've ever felt in my life, I went about to write. I finished Dark Soul 4 and 5, saying a hearty "fuck you" to the "guardians of m/m purity" who will hate and badly review any book with a female that's not a raging bitch or, gods forbid, might be a sexual being on the page. I did not break up the heterosexual marriage of a bisexual character in favour of his new, male lover, instead positing that three adults can find a way to work shit out. I didn't get much flak for it (much less than I'd expected in any case), though some people weren't happy. Being bisexual myself, it was one step towards moving away from "bi erasure" - giving bi people more visibility in the genre.

Sex and gender isn't that easy, but we can work shit out - that's really the core message in my writing in that period. It felt good. I no longer had to cram myself into a genre where several highly influential people simply rejected me. Unable to please everybody, I went about pleasing myself and staying true to my characters. I decided to a) stay true to myself and my characters and b) yes, sometimes make a point by subverting the genre expectation, but the latter was secondary.

I re-thought the representations of women in m/m fiction - how I write them (thanks, Donata, you taught me some very important lessons), and how others write them. This has become editorial policy at Riptide, that we like to see women represented fairly. You can have a raging bitch, but then please also include positive female characters. It's too easy to revert back to "two guys in lurv, one woman putting on the hatin'" structure.

In March, our genre had a huge plagiarism debate that brought up some very interesting discussions overall--how much can publishers do to not publish plagiarised product, and how does the genre deal with its fanfiction root (there are other roots as well). In the middle of all that, I finished the edits for the print book of Dark Soul. I also thought long and hard about consistency and quality and started to plan to claw back old releases that have editing issues to ensure that my backlist is the best it can possibly be. My readers deserve the best and I owe it to them to ensure anything out there is up to my standards. This was definitely the death of "let's publish for shits and giggles"--I really began seeing this as more of an obligation, maybe more of a job. Part of that was because Rachel kicked the hell out of me in edits and I learned a great deal about writing and, from that newfound humility, I realised that I'd made shortcuts and I was ashamed of them.

In real life, I started planning a revamp of my garden and getting quotes in. That work wasn't completed until November. What a project!

In April, Country Mouse released, which I co-wrote with Amy Lane. This was probably my best-selling book, ever, which says a lot more about Amy Lane than myself. It was also fun. After the darkness of Dark Soul, I wanted to play and write something lighter. It was fun, Amy was awesome, and it sold like hotcakes. I enjoyed working with Amy so much that we've just completed Country Mouse 2, the sequel. Fun!
In real life, I was burgled, though nothing valuable stolen. (My dude lost his manbag, which was recovered in the park behind the house.) Writing-wise, I was planning to halt m/m writing for the time being, as I wanted to focus on  a number of mainstream projects. These are still going, though obviously I've written more m/m in the meantime. I'm still not sure how things will go and what I'll write, so I'm just letting the Muse have his head and his play and keep doing what I enjoy. Whether the end result is an m/m book, a heterosexual novel (i have one of those in my head) or anything else, who knows, who cares, as long as it demands to be written.

In May, I travelled to Canada (Ottawa) to meet friends. We had a blast. And I got out of the house over my birthday, which is a plus. Meanwhile, my WWII research continued apace.

June saw some interesting discussions on the direction of the genre again--whether we write too fast and what it does to the quality. If publish or perish is the only way to go. These days, I think the debate is more complex than that, having met people who put out consistently high quality at a pace that's impressive, and knowing people who write slowly but aren't better for it. The mysteries of quality/quantity remain, though these days I find the speed in which books get written and produced energising rather than scary.

In July, I released Incursion, where I have so many boxes ticked the book almost feels like an exercise in Can I Fuck With Your Mind Some More. (It wasn't planned as that, it just turned out that way.) Disabled interracial character meets genderbending, mind-reading alien bad guy and he isn't. It's written in part out of rage about the transphobia in the m/m community. Pretty much a sales flop, Incursion went on to be shortlisted in the Goodreads Sci-Fi Readers Choice category. Sci-fi doesn't sell, but critical acclaim is fun. In real life, people married (a LOT) in that month, old childhood friends were in touch.I reflected a lot on that weird decade, the thirties, when you turn from ambition into reality, which some minor adjustments along the way. End result: It's awesome being a DINK, free, healthy and at the peak of my creative abilities. Loving this period. Meanwhile, some scary blog entries on copyright freaked half the community out as photographers seem to go against all the "hottie of the week" posts. Interesting debates emerge on, for example, authors blogging aggressively versus pirates while plastering non-licensed photographic art all over their blogs. It's 2012, and the copyright wars are on. Also in July (what a month, eh?), a publisher blew up in a gigantic tsunami of shit-hits-fan and lots of my friends were in the fallout.

In August, I released Skybound, my short historical and another complete sales flop (none of my critical successes sell. Everybody loves it, nobody buys it, but I'm getting used to the pattern). Also, work with Riptide and writing got so intense that I was starting think out aloud about going part-time. As I write this, that hasn't happened because my company are douchebagels about some things.

In September, I went to the UK GLBTQ Meet in Brighton and finally got to meet the European m/m crowd and people I'd known on the internet for ages. The discussions were great and I flounced around in my nice new suit. This meeting did a lot to instill a great deal of hope and pride in me about where the genre is going and how we're developing. Obviously, Riptide sponsored. Right after that, I went to a writing retreat in Yorkshire with a friend, where we attended a writing course for historical novellists. It breathed life back into my stupidly ambitious WWII novels and I made friends. I also managed to recharge my batteries quite considerably. Hell, telling Sarah Waters your plot over dinner and her saying "that's interesting" might have made my week (dear Sarah, thank you, even if you were just polite!). I realised there's no unbridgeable gap between "art" and "entertainment". Several of the historical writers were writing romances or paranormals. We are a pretty diverse bunch. Meanwhile, Gold Digger launched while I was away on very limited internet.

In October, a piece I wrote went up on USA Today. I was "wow" for a week or two. And my garden revamp finally started with diggers rolling in and tearing up everything. Very impressive. I also learned how to tier a double Windsor (my dude taught me and bought me my first silk ties), then finally said "bye-bye" to my long hair and, now short-haired, travelled to Albuquerque where I was mostly spending my time being extremely goofy with LA Witt and getting up early to get breakfast for Stephanie, our marketing girl at Riptide, whom I shared a room with. (And got to meet her, and she's awesome.) Travelling to the States for GRL was a bit of a last-minute decision, but I loved it and will be back. Meeting my readers was a great feeling, too. I was hemming and hawing and nervous and tried to keep everything low key, and then it kind of didn't work out like that at all. Had a great time with readers and Riptiders and got to hug and shake hands a lot. I had the time of my life.

November brought more publisher grief. Hence I spent time researching copyright lawyers in the US. In positive news, Skybound went to print. In more positive news, I did start writing like a madman with LA Witt and we wrote two shorts, two novellas and a full historical novel ("What, you like WWII too?") in six weeks, easily doubling my total wordcount in 2012. (It was not the most productive year of my life). In real life, my garden was finished and paid, and I attended two seminars on NLP, which ended up helping me retain my equilibrium when an online friend turned out to be a fake and a fraud.

In December, we agreed on a planting plan for the garden, and Quid Pro Quo was readied for release in January. Country Mouse 2 was finished and sent off. My historical novels are both nowhere near finished, though, although I made some progress on at least one of them. And I set a wordcount goal of 2013 as I'm making a serious push to be able to quit my day job once and for all in a few years' time so I can focus on writing without sleeping under a bridge.

There's much else. Friends moving house, job issues, dental stuff, friends suffering health scares and real danger, another friend having a baby, my return to the gym, lots of research, another friend landing a five-book deal, a controlling boyfriend hating my guts and forbidding me to see a friend, great meals I've had, beautiful encounters with readers in London and away, seeing a book I've known for ten years being translated and published. Encountering love and forgiveness and big plans, some of which worked out and others didn't. And for every amateur asshole publisher there's at least one who's kind and pleasant and generous. For every mistake I made I made at least one very good decision of lasting value, and for every person who didn't fit my life I've made at least two new friends. There were also surprising things going on--books that didn't sell became category winners, books that did so-so suddenly getting huge boosts as everybody discovered them six months later, and very uncommercial stories finding a few people who loved them.

All in all, an awesome year that got better and better and provided a great basis for 2013. I thank everybody for the positive, and maybe I'll find the wisdom to even thank those of you who provided the negative. I'll try.

And to 2013--BRING IT.

6 comments:

  1. Wow, 2012 was a busy year!!!

    Happy New Year. I look forward to reading more wonderful books in 2013.

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  2. What a fantastic write up for 2012. Congrats, and here's to a brilliant 2013. I am forever thankful that 2012 was the year I found your awesome writing and Riptide Publishing. Thanks.

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  3. That suit you wore at Brighton was wicked - you totally pwned it :D Wishing you all the best in 2013.

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  4. I love that you share your process of being you as a writer and for the creation of your stories with us. Your story is one of vision - having and holding and it seems to me to be about growing a good Self too.

    I love your creative energy - and I am looking forward to garden pics :)

    All the best for 2013 to you and your other half.

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  5. That's quite a year you had there!

    Happy New Year to you and yours m'dear. Can't wait to see the awesome that will be your 2013.

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  6. You were in Ottawa last year and you didn't come visit me in Montreal???

    Seriously, though, sounds like you've had an awesome few months. I miss you over at LJ but I'm making a NY resolutio to be better at keeping up with your blog over here.

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