Monday, 29 July 2013


I've spent the last two weeks pretty much on the road - Krakow, then Berlin, falling prey to sunburn and then damn near museum/historical site burnout, and honestly not spending a lot of time online, which means my inboxes are swamped and I'm dreading to get back to work and making any attempt to catch up. (That said, it's really nice to take so much time off from being always "on".) Meanwhile, Unhinge has been released, and I'm very pleased with how it's turned out. It's a good little story that's deceptively simple, and the people who love it seem to really love it.

I have a lot of conflicted thoughts right now - it's about career and what I want to write and what genre I'll focus on, and even how I want to write and what my goals are. I've talked to most of the stakeholders (as it were) over the last few weeks. Now I just have to put my head down and work and actually make it happen.

There will be a few developments happening in the next months, which may or may not look strange to some people. Some of those are experimental, others are the result of careful considerations that are coming to fruition after years of planning and "wouldn't it be cool if". Above all and most short term, I've decided to either cancel or self-publish "Pure Gold", the sequel to "Gold Digger". I've crunched the numbers and Pure Gold will likely never earn its invested money back. That's fine, and doesn't involve anything worse than looking at the numbers and expected sales with a jaundiced eye. I've had stories being turned down, and I've usually opted to trunk or kill them entirely, so this isn't even a precedent.

Especially after visiting Krakow, one of the locations in Pure Gold, I have a tender spot for the story and the guys involved, but as I have to hire a freelance editor, a freelance layouter, a freelancer cover artist and a freelance proofer (or two), the question is, do I care enough about the guys to sink a thousand dollars or more into the novella when expected sales over its lifetime are less than five hundred copies? (I believe in paying pros what they are worth, so "cutting corners" isn't really an option. I don't want to fall back onto publishing unedited work that's going to haunt me for a few years until I'm pulling it and destroying it in disgust, or pulling it for any number of flaws). High standards can reach the point where they are financially not viable. At the same time, I don't believe there are enough people who care enough to launch a Kickstarter campaign for it.

Options, options.

I may still write it, but it's become very low priority at this point. It'll be a novella of 30-40k, but it's still a month of work for almost no expected return, while I could be working on ten other books that have a chance to sell and which I'll also enjoy working on. I hate that my attempt to quit my day job means I have to focus on books and series that might make me sustainable money, but in this case, I have the numbers from Gold Digger to prove that Pure Gold might just as well be titled Love Labours Lost. That's not an accusation to anybody, least of all readers, it's just facts. People want other books from me and not that one, which is fine. I have a few irons in the fire I'm excited about - I'm not writing anything I don't love. So for everybody who was waiting for Pure Gold - I'm really really sorry that it won't happen or take a long time. I think I have some nifty ideas, but maybe I can re-use them for a different book.

That said, all the places I've seen and experienced have filled me up quite nicely with new impressions and thoughts (most of which is more an emotion than anything I can put into words). If you want photos, check out LA Witt's Facebook account -she posted lots of photos. In that time, I haven't written a sentence (apart from one very productive writing session with Lori), so I'm full of inspiration and words and can't wait to get back at my desk and write a few stories.

I'm dreading having to go back to my day office job, because it's been 2.5 weeks and I have a lot of catching up to do, and essentially have to do all the work that has just piled up there and that nobody has touched. I'm also dreading the two inboxes full of emails, and I have edits for Scorpion 2. While I've delivered that manuscript on time, I've blown the deadline on Scorpion 2 on the edits, which means it'll come out next year rather than this year (sorry for that!). The good news is, it gives me a little more time on writing Scorpion 3 and both of those will come out closely together.

So, while I use up the dammed-up writing energy and catch up with my day job over the next weeks, I'll be scarce, most definitely on Goodreads, but also on Facebook and Twitter. If I'm silent, that means I switch into hyper-focus and get a book written. I have Scorpion 2 to edit, Scorpion 3 to write, a WWII novel to write, a literary novel to finish and research/fact-checking to do, so I'm not exactly idle, just scarce. I'll see you on the flipside, hopefully with a couple novels in my hands. Let's hope they are any good.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Evil never sleeps

So, we're having a heat wave in the UK. As most houses don't actually have A/C, this isn't a great time for me or my productivity - I'm too busy drinking, sweating, and seeking out places that HAVE A/C. Nevertheless, LA Witt has come over and we're currently exploring a number of places (Dover Castle, every book shop in London) and we're also stopping every now and then and write a few words. Laptops for the win.

We also went to the UK Meet last weekend and had a ball. I do think we need a "Lori and Aleks Comedy Channel". it was great meeting everybody and put faces on the names. :) Then we saw the Imperial War Museum in Manchester and the Pompeij exhibit in the British Museum.

Meanwhile, we had a book release a couple days ago. Unhinge the Universe was one of those ideas that wouldn't shut up.

The blurb:

Give me one fixed point and a long enough lever, and I'll unhinge the universe. — Archimedes

December 1944 – The Battle of the Bulge

SS Lieutenant Hagen Friedrichs is the sole survivor of a party sent to retrieve his brother—and the highly sensitive information he’s carrying—from behind enemy lines. But his daring rescue attempt fails, and Hagen becomes the prisoner.

Allied command has ordered Captain John Nicholls to extract critical intelligence from their new Nazi POW. His secrets could turn the tide of the war, but are they real? John is determined to find out . . . and to shatter the prisoner who killed his lover during the attack on their tiny base. The deeper he digs, though, the more he realizes that the soldier under the SS uniform is just like him: a scared, exhausted young man who’s lost loved ones and just wants to go home.

As captor and captive form an unexpected bond, the lines quickly blur between enemy, friend, and lover. And as horrifying rumors spread from the front lines and American soldiers turn their sights on the SS for vengeance, John may be Hagen’s only hope for survival.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

The definition of "respect" - or I R IN UR GENREZ

I just did a very quick search for the term "respect". Here, it says:


  • 1 [mass noun] a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements:the director had a lot of respect for Douglas as an actor
  •  the state of being admired or respected:his first chance in over fifteen years to regain respect in the business
  •  (respects) a person’s polite greetings:give my respects to their Excellencies
  •  informal used to express the speaker’s approval of someone or something:respect to Hill for a truly non-superficial piece on the techno scene
  • 2due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others:young people’s lack of respect for their parents
  • 3a particular aspect, point, or detail:the government’s record in this respect is a mixed one

Some trans*phobic and biphobic blog has recently said that m/m authors ("and/or their publishers") lack "respect for readers". As an author and a publisher, I'm adding my few cents, adjusted for inflation/exchange rate.

Let's go with what "respect" actually means. The most pertinent definition in this case appears to be option 2:

due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others:

Let's define "due" as "proper, deserving, fitting". "Dues" is also "obligation".

The accusation therefore seems to be that some authors/publishers don't properly take account of readers' feelings, wishes, or rights of others while writing or publishing.

What did we do to deserve such a grave allegation? We included females having sex in an "m/m book". Now, I've been uncomfortable with the "m/m" monicker for a long time, but LGBTQ romance for me is no replacement, as I'm writing predominantly about bisexual and gay men (who are pretty much all cis). Future projects will shift the balance to include the T and the L, but right now, I'm writing GB romance.

This attitude was defended by saying that het romance excluded m/m. Which is actually not true--or did anybody miss the Black Dagger Brotherhood book and lots of others recently? If people peered outside the ghetto, they might realise that the "het" market is actually a fair bit more advanced than they think. Making sweeping statements about a genre you don't actually know makes anybody look stupid. On the whole, I'm finding the "het romance" community more accepting, open-minded and critical than the "m/m" community, especially those people who trot out "purity" as a genre standard. [Though that particular blog is the only one that openly hostile to trans* and bi content to my knowledge. Most blogs and reviewers in our space are awesome people with open minds, and I applaud the work you guys are doing.]

Do I respect my reader's feelings? Sorry, but the book comes first and the characters, too. There will never be a Voinov book with a guarantee or an airbag, and I laugh at the need for a safety belt--I don't get one while I write, either. You get in the car, you hold on. I do promise to drive you. I don't promise it's all flowers and unicorns, because who's in charge? The characters. People tell me the strength of my book is in my characters. Yes. Because they are in charge. To make the experience "safe", I would have to neuter them and break their backs to control them.

Not happening. I'd be killing the very thing I write for and the very thing that powers my joy in writing.

What I do promise is: I'll give you emotions. Some you'll like, some might make you uncomfortable. Primary colours here, dear reader. They serve pastels elsewhere.

Do I respect my readers' wishes? Again, the characters are in charge. I don't write to tick boxes (or I'd be checking out what sells in m/m and clone it), I write what Must Be Written. I do give due consideration to the input of my betas, because they are people who'll say, "Gods, I don't want you to hurt that character, but hurting him makes the book So Much Better." In other words, they care about the story more than their own wish fulfillment. (I'm not saying wish fulfillment is wrong. It's just not my guiding principle.)

Do I respect my readers' rights? Readers have the right to buy or not buy my book. They can boycott me because I'm an abrasive ass or because something I said three years ago somewhere on the internet was offensive. Okay. Nice to have met you, I respect your choice. I have at times been an asshole. Like pretty much everybody out there who isn't run by a staff of PR advisers. I've even been drunk on Twitter. Twice.

Readers get a say in what and how I write the moment they hire me as a ghostwriter--the payment is upfront, and I'm not cheap. We're looking at five figures at minimum, half upfront, half upon delivery, because writing "paint by numbers" is extremely hard work, and chances are, my own book will make that money over the lifetime of the copyright, so you'd have to sweeten the deal with some financial upside.

Regarding the concept of readers' rights, I would like to link to George R R Martin is not you Bitch, by Neil Gaiman, one of the sanest, most soft-spoken authors out there.

To this I add, Amy Lane, Heidi Cullinan, Heidi Belleau, Amelia C Gormley, E E Ottoman, L A Witt, Cat Grant, Kate Aaron, Steelwhisper, Sunny Moraine, Sara York (...) is not your bitch.

We write what we must, we include women, and they may even have sex, because the story is in charge, and so are our characters. We write "m/m" or "LGBTQ romance" because we were tired of the restrictions, because we have to, because our characters won't let us sleep if we don't write, and yes, we love our readers, but I think I can confidently say that we all know that we can't write for all readers.Anything we do will lose us some readers. Hell, dissing an Apple product in a book might piss off a reader who loves her iPhone. There are no guarantees, and readers are all different. A writer will drive themselves surely mad by trying to not affront/irritate/piss off ANYbody. We write queer romance because we are passionate people, and I don't think neutering that passion and making us all write anodyne cookie-cutter romances is doing the genre any service.

I don't even believe the "YUCK, A VAGINA IN MY READING" readers are the majority. If they are, the minority is large enough that publishing Dark Soul was one of the best things I've ever done and was well worth it financially. And Dark Soul has vagina and bisexual men and a genderfluid main character--reasons, incidentally, why that blog wouldn't review it.

Didn't matter, because Dear Author did, and Dear Author is a vastly, VASTLY bigger site in terms of eyeballs and sway.

Who sold "Dark Soul"? Word of mouth. From what I can see from my own royalty statements, it had a slow start and then snowballed. That's the pattern of a word-of-mouth book. Apparently people were excited enough about it to recommend it to their friends, without warning them over "trans* content" in book 3 and "vagina" in book 5.

What I'm saying is not "look, how awesome I am". I say that that trans*phobic and biphobic blog tries to define a genre by exclusion and now by levelling unfounded accusations at those who are "different" or are doing a different thing. Ever since Dark Soul, I've said "fuck it" to anybody trying to hem me in or try to force me into a certain direction. It's been a process, and a path, and at times I was crippled with self-doubt, but here I am, happier, healthier and more productive than ever.

In my perception, the market and the readership itself are changing. Back in the days when people laughed at m/m or scratched their heads, some people banded together for mutual succour and relief and maybe to bitch about how misunderstood and discriminated they are. But the genre is opening up. We get published with bigger publishers, our sales are growing (mine are), and in the last two years, I've been seeing more positive women characters, I've seen transguys get happy endings, rather than getting raped and murdered, and I think we are, as a genre, more aware and more inclusive.

How's that a bad thing?

How is it a bad thing that a genre that is 85% female includes women characters who are not raging b*tches or nasty ex-wives--but gives them agency, respect [ooops, I used that word!] wow, maybe even sex?

Bisexual people are made invisible by forcing them either onto the straight or gay side. Being bisexual, I just cannot get to the point where I mis-represent other bifolks in a way that a group of readers finds palatable. I have a bi-coloured perspective on this genre, and I will not shut up or censor myself because one or two readers out there can't deal with the bi-perspective. Moreover, I'm offended by the idea that trans* guys or gals aren't "real" men or women. In that definition, that blog is about twenty years behind the mainstream. Look how progressive these people are now, how cutting edge. A force for "good" (pushing for the inclusion of disabled characters and POC characters) has become one of the haters, by denying trans* people something as basic as their true gender. Well done. I hope you're proud.

All this is deeply saddening. I love entertaining readers and connecting with them, making them laugh or getting them off or whatever we're setting out to do (because reading/writing is collaborative), but it's not my fault if I fail because I'm being true to myself and my characters. But it is not my obligation to neuter myself as a bisexual person and as a writer who believes passionately in diversity and freedom to create fearlessly. I'm not your bitch.

I respect and love my readers. I understand that some people are not my readers--and I wish them big (virtual) bookshelves full of books that are Exactly What They Are Looking For. But I'm me, I write what I have to write, and it's about the story, not my ego, and not even about a vocal minority of readers who can't deal.

And I refuse to let one blogger define what my genre is. I R IN UR GENREZ--deal with it.

And I'm not alone.

ETA3: Added even more links.