Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Same old argument

Seems the old discussion about "women exploiting gay men and making a buck" is going as strong as ever.

Megan Derr delivers a most excellent slapdown of that nonsense here.

To which I add: describing the genre as "straight women writing about gay men for straight women readers" is wrong and ignores the variation and richness of our genre.

We, the writers, are straight, bisexual, asexual, lesbian, gay, queer, omnisexual/pansexual. We are women, men, transmen and transwomen (same thing to men and women, really, just adding us as "trans" to be absolutely clear). Of the trans people, some choose to adjust their primary sexual organs, and some don't. Others might do so later. We're genderqueer, just plain queer, defy description, resent being put in a box. Some of us are intersex. Some are intersex who transition. Others are bigendered/two-spirited.

The people we write about are straight (granted, very often not the Main Characters), bisexual, asexual, lesbian, gay, queer, omnisexual/pansexual. They are women, men, transmen and transwomen. Of the trans people, some choose to adjust their primary sexual organs, and some don't. Others might do so later. Our characters are genderqueer, just plain queer, defy description, resent being put in a box and fight us, theircreators, when we try to put them there. Our characters may be intersex. Some might be intersex who transition. Others are bigendered/two-spirited.

Our readers - oh, the lifeblood of the genre, our patrons, our critics, our customers, our friends. They are  straight, bisexual, asexual, lesbian, gay, queer, omnisexual/pansexual. They are women, men, transmen and transwomen. Of the trans people, some choose to adjust their primary sexual organs, and some don't. Others might do so later. Our characters are genderqueer, just plain queer, defy description, resent being put in a box and ask us, their authors, to not try put them into a box. Our readers may be intersex. Some might be intersex who transition. Others are bigendered/two-spirited.

Ignoring any of these, and creating an artificial - dare I say "elitist"? - "community" of "pure gay men, born with a penis, engaging in TEH REELZ GAYZ SEXX0RS" (implying there's a "real experience" that is universal), while kicking out everybody who doesn't get a membership pass based on their birth/genetic biological sex and their AUTHENTIX TRUE REELZ GAYZ EXPERIENCE and calling them exploiters or fakes or implying they aren't part of the community or have no "right" to write about "gay men" or may only do so in a certain way - approved by the REELZ GAYZ MENS CLUB - is, frankly, counter-productive.

It ignores that the genre isn't that simple. It tries to marginalise women in a genre that THEY are driving. It tries to limit the strong, gushing river to a stagnant pool - purely on the virtue of what the writer has in their underwear.

Similarly, gay rights were won by gays. Yes. They were also won by their brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers and children, their colleagues, their friends, their allies. Telling them they don't "belong" ignores the varied and diverse community that real-life rainbow people interact in. My trans* status has made everybody around me more aware of gender and trans issues. Surely that's a good thing. If somebody chooses to write a story with a trans character, surely that's a good thing, if its done respectfully. And even better if the trans character has a happy ending.

But not only does that thinking slap everybody in the face who doesn't fit into an unworkable definition (as it has been reduced to a level where it's patently absurd), ignoring real life for the sexist preconceptions that seem to be pervasive. For example, I'd comment on that post with "you're not speaking for me". And "by your definition, are we trans* writers males or females? Are we allowed to write m/m? CAN WE PLEASE BE ALLOWED TO WRITE M/M? PLEASE? Can I have the license from the TRUE REEELZ GAY MEN to follow my muse and tell stories my readers want to read? Where do I apply? Where's the Reichsschriftkammer where I get my m/m licensed?" Will non-conforming text be burned?

But not only does this not reflect, by any stretch, the diversity of the authors, but it also doesn't reflect (or honour) the diversity of our characters OR our readers. It tries to draw a line in quicksand. These categories do not exist. Where they are artificially constructed, they aren't helpful. I know, it may comes as news, but even a gay man does not live on Planet Gay. We aren't islands. (Though some people desperately try to be Moruroa).

This is that ugly "purity" argument raising its head again - now just regarding authors or how authors may engage with their material. More importantly, it also does not reflect all gay men. I have plenty of gay male-born readers who enjoy what I do and how I do it. And they are open-minded and educated and have a diversified range of friends and family. In short, they are usually mature, understanding individuals who will not drive a perceived "gay agenda" by being hostile to other colours of the rainbow or trying to exclude straight people. Also, they tend to know what a good book is and what a bad book is, which, you know, is still the most important thing.

Well, in short, Megan Derr covered it. Also check out the comments, especially by Alex Beecroft. 

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Big life changes & new project (also: thanks!)

Well, it's finally happening. I've just emailed my boss at work to discuss what's called "downshifting" in business parlance, that is, work less time for less money, while devoting more attention/time on the things that are actually meaningful to me. In other words, cut the things that anybody can do and replace them with things only I can do. Everybody can edit a financial report. Only I can write my stories.

I had to go against quite a bit of my deep-seated programming. I like security. I like money (not for its own sake, but for the things I can do with it--pay off my house faster, go travelling). I like the independence of being able to say, "Fuck this, if writing doesn't work out, I'll do something else." Fact is, it's what I've been doing for nigh-on twenty-five years, I think it's safe to assume that I'll continue doing it for a little while longer.

The economy is another factor. My current job was never meant as more than a "Notnagel" (German, lit. "emergency nail" = emergency solution). I was much better paid in banking, and I took this job as a stepping stone to return to banking, get some financial qualifications (which the people here promised me and that haven't materialised as yet) and overall have a fairly easy life.

Well, after about 10 months, I have to admit that the financial industry won't be re-hiring in research/editing any time soon, so I might as well be "stuck" here for another few years. I'm not moaning. The last 18 months gave me time to focus more, though I was more productive in my banking job (thanks to an environment here where I struggle to focus on anything for any significant stretch of time).

I had to kick what I call my "real-life ambitions" out of my head. Writing is the focus of my life, no question. I don't really care about much outside of it. I won't have a brilliant career in the "real world". I've seen and met people who had them, and I'm not even sure the trade-off in time in worth it. Certainly not as somebody's employee. (A writing friend who quit her day job said she'd resented "making some asshole rich" - quite.)

In addition, in the last six months, my writing income has reached a level and consistency that'll allow me to make that step with likely no negative impact on my overall income. Originally I was going to play it safe and cut two Fridays a month, but I will be much happier on a four-day week, with the eventual intermediate goal of cutting the time I do fairly useless and routine things in an office to 2.5 days a week (largely for the pension benefits) in the next 2-3 years.

That said, I'd love to go full-time as a writer, possibly throwing in some freelancing as a coach and writing teacher, to "pay it forward" and spend more time with real-life flesh and blood people. It's a goal for the next 5-10 years.

I don't know yet what impact this'll have in terms of productivity and what I'll write. It's clear that the money is in contemporaries, but, although I love them, maybe only 25-30% of my ideas are contemps. I'll have to make sure that I'm not selling out in the larger game of Making a Living as a Writer. I don't think I could. When the Muse grabs me, there's extremely little I can do about it.

What I will have to do--and I think that's entirely possible--is to significantly up my daily wordcount. I'm incredibly inspired by working this past week with LA Witt. We wrote a 67k first draft in 5 days. Granted, there's research holes, and editing will take a while, but even if it takes us a few weeks to fix what we've written, writing a novel in 5 days is extreme sport, yet I had so much fun. We're looking at either a March or July release date for it, so there's time.

In essence, I think I can sustain my income and my joy in life if I manage one release a month--that includes all the sequels and prequels I've promised. Hard work and being productive is really just a habit, and I'll do what I can to fulfill that quota.

The game-changer for me were my increased sales and much larger royalties, and feeling I have much more control over my "brain children" than I've ever had. I'm already happier and more productive than ever. Now it's time to push this harder and make the most of the opportunity.

What it absolutely comes down to is, I'm losing my independence in some psychologically significant way. It was that writing was almost like feinting in fencing, playing, testing the waters, but now I'm committed to the attack because my royalties ever since Country Mouse and Dark Soul are no longer "pocket money", but a crucial part of my overall income. This makes me vulnerable. It feels like a huge risk, but I think it's time to give this a go. I finally have the courage.

Above all, though, and after this extensive piece of navel-gazing, I have to accept that I have a new boss: You guys. I'm already buoyed and humbled and gratified by your love and support. Meeting my readers, online or in the flesh, is a source of huge joy in my life. Now you're my employers AND my friends/supporters.

I'll do everything I can to say "thank you" for your past and future support--for enabling me to reclaim my time from the corporate world so I can write and publish more books.

Thank you so much. And here's to the future! 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

"Incursion" among top 20 Goodreads readers' choice sci-fi books

My little sci-fi story Incursion ended up, rather surprisingly, in the semi-finals on Goodreads: Here's the link. 

(Yep, I'll do a screen shot for myself, because OMG ARE YOU GUYS KIDDING?).

It's weird (and humbling and amazing) to be with a small-press LGBTQ book with a "disabled" character and a gender-fluid  cast of characters against, you know, Scalzi and IAN BANKS (my partner will never forgive me--he's a HUGE fan), and every multi-bazillion movie and sci-fi franchise in the history of ever (Alien? Star Wars spin-off, anybody?).

So, uhm, yeah. My little story's definitely going in as the underdogs to beat all underdogs. Nothing short of a "Rocky"-sized miracle will get me a round further, but getting *that* far is already a miracle, so I'm just going to take a screenshot of that and keep it in my "nobody loves me, I write only crap, I'll never make it" folder on the computer.

Because HOLY HELL.

Of course, Dani Alexander is giving the big names in the much-harder-fought Romance category a run for their money. Being up as an indie against Fifty Shades AND JR Ward is worse than me battling Orson Scott Card (though, honestly, I want to punch him in the nose, at least, err, book-versus-book, for his homophobia. I'd never encourage violence against the bedrock of the speculative genre--kinda. I try to a good guy here. It can be hard, because I effing love sci-fi and cyberpunk and I think in that genre, of all of them, we can actually explore gender and sexuality. Well, off the box now).

So, in any case, do vote for your favourites. (These don't have to be my books, BTW--I don't like vote-whoring very much, and there are many fine authors on the poll.) If that happens to be my book, awesome. If not, awesome. And thanks for playing. :)

(But I'm still getting a huge kick out of that cover between the others. I do. No lie.)

In writing-related notes, LA Witt (yes, HER), with whom I spent so much time laughing like a pair of hyenas at GRL, has dragged my ass out of the huge writing slump when she admitted to liking historical fiction, and also liking/having an interest in WWII.

So, I ... may have ambushed her to write something.

I think that was Thursday. Thursday and Friday we talked about plot/characters.

Saturday we started writing. Sunday, we wrote. Monday, we wrote.

We're 51k in and it's looking like a 70-80k book. At that speed, we'll be done by Monday (latest). It's twisted fun, but it's fun. I'm finding it very romantic, but it's very good fun. but then, I'm twisted. I thought I'd never say that, but writing 50k in 30 days is for pussies. (No, I love all my NaNo-ing friends. Go you!)

We do have a working title, though it's not really "sticking" yet. More when I know, but it's... a little surprise!project to look forward to. 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The things that are happening

This is one of those "sorry I haven't been blogging for a week or longer" roundup posts. I first was too tired after GRL (post on that might be forthcoming), then I was busy (getting coverage with my post in USA Today), and then I've had to deal with a big disappointment, and attended some workshops. Actually, I'll be gone again for four days starting tomorrow.

First things first. From 31 October for a whole week, I'll be donating $1 per sold book to the Red Cross involved in disaster relief following Sandy. Because it's very difficult (actually in some cases impossible) to track my sales with some publishers (certainly not by date), and because I don't receive royalties at all from some releases, I'll have to limit this to my recent work - which also guarantees that I'm actually making a dollar (or more) on sales of my books. I'll top up the total amount to a nice, round number. So if you're missing Skybound, Dark Soul #1-5, Incursion, or Gold Digger, this is a good moment to read a book for charity. :)

Other stuff going on threw me for a loop. It's always hard to be disappointed in people, but it's worse if somebody I thought I knew has consistently spread lies and taken advantage of my friends. I tend to assume the best of people, and then I get jolted back to earth. The best thing to do with an emotional vampire and a social predator is to cut them off entirely - no attention, no money, no support, and no tears.

It doesn't help that I feel bad for having been duped and for not believing something that I'd been seeing with my own eyes. Generally speaking, it'll make me more cautious about certain types of behaviour. I'd previously encountered exactly two compulsive liars in my life, and both played that particular game so well that they destroyed lives and people's self-worth, so there's always the possibility that they are actually sociopaths/narcissists.

The good thing is, I spotted this early enough in example number three to stay way clear before any more damage happened, but that doesn't make things any more pleasant to deal with. I hope there's healing/therapy for the person and their victims. Here's me being optimistic again: I do think that even compulsive liars, people celebrating a martyr/victim complex, people lying about their needs and frailties for sympathy and money/gifts, people who take advantage of other people for months and years and then badmouthing them to everybody who will hear/believe, people misrepresenting everybody they've been in contact with - that even those people can change and improve and possibly even see what damage they do and even make amends.


Optimist = me.

Writing hasn't been happening, but right now, I'm pretty much at peace with that. I've done a spot of plotting and a bit of research, but my focus right now is the big piece of work happening in my garden (they've laid three patios and have completed quite a bit of hard landscaping, so I can see the shape of future things), the workshops I'm attending in London (next one: Friday to Monday), and re-thinking and re-evaluating some things in the past and future (never mind the present). Personal growth more than creative growth. Things are piling up all around me, but I'm less anxious about it, which actually makes me more productive.

As I think, the day job is getting seriously old. I do like being part of a team. Here though, there is no team. I don't feel particularly valued, and I don't see anything happening that they promised me at the interview (yeah, newsflash - I did say I was an optimist, but I think we can now upgrade that to "gullible"). However, with all the banks kicking out investment banking staff (one of my ex-colleagues at Previous Place has just been fired), I'm stuck here for at least another year, possibly two. Best I can do is try for a move inside the same company or at least cut the time I spend physically in the office. There aren't really any jobs but maternity cover and temp jobs, and I do like some security, and the benefits here are nice.

Maybe the overall mood will improve once November is gone, and all the thinking I'm doing yields some results. Maybe I should throw myself into some random, NaNoWriMo project, getting too busy to do all that heavy thinking. I *will* have to get back into the birds book to have anything to sell, and after all the work and effort, I'd simply hate to lose it or give up.