Don’t Let Social Media Interfere with Your Writing: Day 7 of The Boys of Summer Book Tour

Small_Banner_Boys_of_SummerWow, so The Boys of Summer Book Tour is in its second (and final) week) What a blast we’ve been having so far! Yesterday was incredibly busy. I had a meeting with my writers critique group in the morning, and then a live Twitter Chat–which was incredibly fun if a bit frenzied! I should receive a transcript of it sometime today–that should be interesting! I also went out to the barn to ride the mare in the afternoon (brrr, it was near freezing here, which made for an…ah, invigorating ride).

Right, so, I have a post up on Sid Love’s blog: Sex in Your Stories: The Goldilocks Effect. How much sex should you put in your stories? What’s too much? Too little? Just right?

I have another post today with Kathy from Book Reviews and More on social media and not letting it interfere with your writing (oh, the irony–I’m working on piece right now that keeps getting side-tracked for that very reason!) Anyway, do come on out, drop by the blog posts, leave a comment and check out the Rafflecopter for additional ways to enter to win a $50 gift card from Amazon. Thanks!

chocolate chip_wikipedia.orgI’m working on a free holiday short story featuring Rick and David from The Boys of Summer–to be posted on the last day of the tour (Dec 22) on my website! More details to follow!

 

An Epiphany Before I Go…

That FaceFunny, it took an internet gif to save my life from the internet. I was watching this funny gif on Tumblr, in which a young man keeps getting photobombed by his dog. Apparently there are a lot of these gifs out there because it keeps happening. I’m scrolling through the comments, which were along the lines of how this dog was ruining everyone’s life because of the cuteness, and I caught myself irritably telling my own dog to go lie down.

To go lie down so I could look at a gif of a man interacting with his dog with love and joy. WTF is wrong with me?

In that instant, I got an entire snapshot of my life for the past seven years. Working too many hours, spending too much time on the internet. Hopping endlessly from Live Journal to Facebook to Twitter to Tumblr looking for someone to have a conversation with. Incidentally, these last seven years corresponds to the time my dog has been on the planet. His life is half over and I have spent a good bit of it telling him to go lie down because Mummy’s tired and she needs to chill out on the internet for, I don’t know, the next four or five hours. When the hell did I become that person? When the hell did I become my mother?

Baby HawkeyeWell, fuck that shit. No, seriously. I’m done. Sure, I’ll pop up on a semi-regular basis to post updates or share some thinky-thoughts like this one. I’ll wave at my friends on the internet and I’ll RT someone else’s good news. I’ll fulfill my current commitments to blogging and touring.

But I can’t be a writer if I’m always online. I can’t be a writer if I have put my life on hold. Writing is about living on paper–but you can’t do that if you haven’t lived in person. And I am not going to be the person who shoves aside the dog when he only wants a piece of my attention. A being who wants me to interact with him. I only have THIS dog once, and like a bright meteorite blazing across my night sky, I’ll only have him a little while. This dog. This horse. This man. None of whom care if I’m successful or how much I weigh, or if my hair is falling out, or anything–as long as I’m happy. And by God, I’m going to go out and grab my happiness by the horns, wrestle it to the ground, and bring it back to the ranch.

Because I’m DONE being the internet’s bitch. 😉

D_H_beach

Rising above the Painful Review…

ink pen_wikipedia_org“Criticism is a surreal state, like a good drug gone bad. When it’s bad you wish it would stop, and when it’s good, you can’t get enough.” Gale Harold, Queer As Folk, The Secret Circle

One of my fellow authors, Zahra Owens, has this quote as a signature line on her email. I love it. I think it sums up very accurately the love-hate relationship that we as creators have with that part of the creative process that calls for us to release our babies into the world and hope, on some level, that they are not loved or bullied on their way to school.

1_thoreau_quotes_on_confidenceBut the truth is, when we put something out there, we put a little piece of ourselves out there as well, and we invite commentary, good or bad.

In recent years, the accessibility of both the reader/consumer and the author/creator has become a busy two way street. Growing up as an avid reader myself, I have a huge number of favorite books, but it never occurred to me until the last year or so to go leave reviews on these stories. In part, because many of them are old favorites, that have such huge followings they hardly need someone like me gushing about how much I love this work. In part because writing a good (in the sense of thoughtful, eloquent, and useful) review is hard work, and frankly, as a writer myself, my time is best spent writing my next story. I don’t think I’m a very good reviewer, and I’m probably going to do less of it in the future. I’ll confess, a big part of why I’m reluctant to do more reviewing is because of the time it takes to express a critical review in a manner that won’t utterly destroy the author. And that’s important to me. It’s important that even in my criticism of someone’s work that I try to cushion the blow, to word my statement in such a way that I’m not laying waste to some writer’s soul.

handwriting_flickrBack in my fanfiction days, it was understood that commenting and feedback were the currency of fandom. Someone produces a story out of love–if you loved it too, you let them know. If you didn’t love it, you hit the back button and moved on to the next story. Oh sure, there could be flame wars on Live Journal and such, but for the most part, if you posted a story, you could almost guarantee within hours those first, glorious feedback comments would come rolling in. Just like the quotation above says, ‘like a good drug gone bad.’ When the feedback is good, you can’t get enough.

female hands_rings_typing_fotopediaNow we move into the world of original fiction. To start off with, positive feedback is no longer the currency. People buy your stories with real money. This, rightly so, makes them feel entitled to be more critical from the get-go. They also aren’t as invested in your characters as you are. That’s part of your job–to make your readers as invested in your characters as you are. The reader isn’t part of your special circle of friends, either, who all share an abiding love for the universe you’ve created. Feedback in fandom is like having a bunch of friends drop over for tea, and spending a lovely afternoon in front of the fire while they tell you how much they enjoyed your story.

When you post a fanfic story, by the next morning, you may have over fifty wonderful comments on it. Such feedback is rare in original publishing. As such, it makes the negative or lukewarm review weigh more on the author’s mind. If you only get fifteen reader comments/reviews on a story that you’ve worked on for months, are you going to remember all the glowing five-star comments? No, chances are, you’ll only remember the negative one. Okay, chances are if you received fifty glowing comments, you’d STILL only remember the negative one. 😉

A lot of my fellow authors have been talking about this in various places the past few days. Like someone shopping a dinosaur story to Hollywood studio, the next thing you know, everyone is talking about dinosaurs. 🙂 My friend and fellow author, Aundrea Singer, referred to “The Little Haters“, the feedback loop in your head that makes you believe you’re not good enough for whatever it is that you’re attempting to create. In order for us as creative people to continue to produce our passion, our joy, we must learn to ignore The Little Haters.

I can’t speak for everyone else, but I can say what I’ve learned myself over the years. First, no matter what you create, there is always going to be someone who hates it. Who doesn’t get it. Who is left feeling indifferent by it. Sure, your initial reaction to a negative review might be to comment on it–almost every newbie author out there makes that mistake at least once. Don’t. Don’t engage. Because that review isn’t really about you or your story. Nope. Unlike the friend dropping in for tea, this reader-reviewer, with whom you have no relationship, is much more like a graffiti artist rather than someone you’d have in for tea. Sure, graffiti can be a beautiful statement or a defacement of public property–it depends on your point of view. The graffiti artist spray-painting on the wall of one of the buildings in your neighborhood is making a statement, but they aren’t necessarily inviting you to contribute to the conversation. The artist draws the graffiti for them–not you.

It is unfortunate that many of the sales algorithms now are tied into reader-reviewers. If you aren’t getting them, your book might not get noticed amid the thousands of other titles that are released every day. This, I think, has given rise to the Simon Cowell type of reviewer–someone who relishes being snarky because this has given them followers of their own. It’s a shame that many people will let the opinion of one such reviewer keep them from forming their own opinion on a story for themselves, but face it, you weren’t likely to reach those readers anyway.

We're Breaking the Law_wikimedia_commonsWhat matters here is that it is still graffiti on a wall. Not aimed at you specifically unless you choose to take it that way. I’ve had to learn to ignore graffiti. It is the ‘good drug gone bad’ that you wish would stop.

There is only one thing to remember about graffiti artists. You can’t let them fuel your Little Haters. Like feeding the Mogwai after midnight, this is a Bad Thing.

I’ve wanted to ride horses my entire life. It was the only thing I wanted to do as a teenager. Unable to afford a horse of my own, I caught rides where I could. I rode horses no one else would ride. The ones that bucked, and kicked, and bit. The ones that needed to get the freshness worked out of them before they were safe enough for the school kids to ride. I mucked stalls in trade for lessons, rode my bicycle miles to the barn every day after school. When I went to college, I set about finding another barn where I could take lessons. I found an instructor and begged her to teach me. The day of the scheduled lesson, I was ill and asked to reschedule, but she wouldn’t let me. I think she just wanted to get the obligation over with. So I rode, nauseated and barely able to sit upright in the saddle. Afterward, this instructor tore me to shreds. She said I had no business being on a horse and that I should never bother getting on one again.

DevonFor a year, I let her words affect me. I stopped riding. I stopped looking for rides. And then slowly, I began haunting barns again, until I found one person who would let me work with her horses–young green-broke animals that needed patient and consistent work by someone who was ignorantly fearless. (Oh, to be that young and brave again!)

Through the twenty years that I’ve ridden with my friend and trainer, I ended up with my own horses, eventually competing at local and recognized events. I often think about the motivation of that one trainer who felt she needed to destroy me. I suspect she didn’t want to take me on as a student, but worse, she didn’t want anyone else to take me on as a student either. That’s wrong, and unfair, and mean, but that’s the way some people just happen to be.

So when you get that review that stabs you deep in the heart and makes you question why you even bother doing this. remember. A real rider gets back on the horse that bucked her off. Again. And Again.

Don’t let the Little Haters win.

Merissa McCain is still hosting Paranormal Month on her blog until the end of October. The most recent guests are: Shelley Munro, Lisa Chalmers, D.C. Dane, Holley Trent, and Lindsay Loucks. Whew! I’m really behind here on sharing these links! Do me a favor and check out these paranormal romance authors. I’ve really fallen down on my part for promoting and participating in this event, so if you could drop in and check them out for me, it would be a big help–thanks!

 

 

Taking Back My Life…

misty mountainsFor the last couple of days, I have felt like utter crap. Vaguely queasy stomach upset, a chronic never-goes-away-entirely headache, neck muscles seized up like rebar (which leaves me alternating between hot and cold compresses, whichever feels better at the moment), and to add insult to injury, the plantar fasciitis I developed during my misguided efforts at completing a triathlon, has flared up again. For the past few mornings, I’ve crawled out of bed, ignoring the excited spinning and barking of the German Shepherd, and hobbled down the hallway like an old woman. The excitement level of the dog, in anticipation of breakfast, is almost too much to bear and I frequently end up bellowing at him to shut up. Meanwhile, he thunders down the hall herding the cats into the laundry room, where he knows they eat breakfast. He does this because this is how things are done at my house. This is the routine.

Recently, however, there have been some mornings when I haven’t wanted to get up at all. Fortunately, animals don’t allow you to curl up in bed and say ‘screw it, I’m done.’

Terrified Eggs from flickr commons

Terrified Eggs from flickr commons

I know that a good bit of why I am feeling crummy at the moment is because I haven’t been very strict with watching what I eat. As in, I haven’t made an effort at all. Work has been very stressful and I’ve resorted to eating on the fly–food that usually disagrees with me, and far too much candy. Yes, I know that women resort to candy when stressed. If I planned my meals a bit better, and packed more nutritious things to take with me, I’d probably have a little more willpower to resist the pounds of bite-sized candy my co-workers have tucked all over the building. However, when you are working flat out, putting out fires left and right all morning, never a moment to sit down at the computer and check out LOL Cats or George Takei (Hey, they are my mood boosters! I *need* them at work), eating a sandwich standing up while you return phone calls or check the IV fluid rate on the sick puppy…yeah, candy seems like the way to keep going. When every place I work has its version of the candy/snack stash, then eating that apple instead of the candy is hard to do. Especially, as a friend recently pointed out, since carbs are portable and have a long shelf life without spoilage.

Broken window from flickr commons

Broken window from flickr commons

The broken window on the car hasn’t helped. I can drive it short distances, but the exhaust comes in so badly, even with all the windows down, that I don’t think it is very safe. So, given the fact that the funky odor in the fridge stemmed from the rotting bag of greens in the salad drawer, I think it is safe to say that for the last couple of days, I’ve been living off tiny boxes of Fruit Loops purchased from the local Mini-Mart within walking distance.

This morning, after I took a handful of aspirin and walked out the fasciitis to the point that it wasn’t killing me anymore, I found myself semi-seriously making plans not to see the boyfriend for the next six weeks–time in which I would drag my ass back to the pool, the hiking trials, the stable, and get this damned 20 pounds off of me. When I realized I was not entirely kidding, it was a bit of a shock. Was I really contemplating putting my life on hold until I got my weight down to a level I could tolerate? That is how bad I feel about myself right now. So bad that I don’t want to be around the person I love most in this world until I’m not so disgusting to myself anymore.

While waiting for the glass guys to come and repair the window on my car this morning, I spent a little time on the internet.  I came across two articles that made me sit up and take notice. The first was titled The Only Advice A Writer Needs. You should read it–it’s an excellent article that addresses some things I’ve been feeling for a while now–that my compulsion to check out/subscribe to/purchase information to help me become noticed as a writer is not nearly as important as writing the next story. I’ve even blogged on this subject before, but somehow in the last year, it has become easier to focus on the smaller tasks of self-promotion (which I still loathe) and networking (which can be fun but distracting) than on writing. Spinning the next tale has gotten hard lately. It used to be easy. It used to be fun. Now it is something I have to pull from within me.  I think the solution lies within me as well. Let go of the idea that maybe, just maybe, writing stories will make my life easier. Go back to doing it because it was the best part of the day.

Shortly after that, I read this post by Kristen Lamb. What struck me the most (aside from the airline travel horror stories) was the the story she related about a stranger asking what kind of people lived in a certain town. Read it on her website–but the gist of the story is that you’ll find people to be the way you believe them to be–and this made me blink and think about the kinds of things I’ve been posting lately. ‘Gloom, despair, and agony on me’ kinds of things. Deep, dark depression, excessive misery.

“You reap what you shall sow” never made more sense to me.

Sure, I’ve never been one for quantum mysticism. That ‘believe and it will come’ stuff of Field of Dreams, or The Secret, or The Power of Positive Thinking.  I’ve always thought that people had taken a certain amount of truth (that you tend to create the reality that supports your mind-world-view) and filled it with a lot of crap to sell  books and movies. But Lamb’s post made me wonder if I haven’t been peopling my little corner of the world with Eeyore viewpoints just like mine. So yeah, something else to work on.

Muddy laneWhich made me realize that I’m the only one that can fix these problems. The weight gain, the feeling crappy because I don’t take care of myself, the lack of energy to enjoy my life and the things that I love. It won’t be easy, either. For far too long, I’ve been pointing to the stress of my daily life as my excuse for not addressing these issues, but in fact, indulging myself even further. Realizing that you’re on the wrong road doesn’t get better by staying on it. Continuing down the same road, even when you know you need to turn around, is stupid. You shouldn’t keep going in the wrong direction in the hopes you’ll eventually find the way home. So yeah, I have my work cut out for me.

It means that while I will still post and promote and network, I will have to get smarter about it. Set a timer–allot myself so much time to check Facebook and my other social feeds and then move on to the main business of the day–the current/next story. Engage in conversations but remember most of them will keep until the next time slot available–I don’t have to answer every email when it hits my in-box. Go through my digests and feeds and eliminate the ones I never read. Pare everything down to the core and get back to work. Stop comparing myself to others. There is only one me. No one else can tell the story I have to tell in the exact same manner.

Write the next story.

Shut up and write.

Do it for myself and no one else because the stories are clamoring to be told.

Just do it.

I’ve got book reviews, blog hops, and promotional tours coming up in the next few weeks. But today, I have a story to write.

 

There’s currently a “Broken Glass” sale going on for A Summer Fling, two stories for just 0.99 cents! My latest novel, The Boys of Summer, is available on Amazon, Smashwords, and other outlets.

 

The Novel Approach Gives The Boys of Summer a 4.5 star review!

The Boys of Summer400x600I was poking around Goodreads instead of going to bed on time (as I should be doing because I have an early start tomorrow) and discovered that The Novel Approach has given The Boys of Summer a 4.5 star review!

What a delightful surprise! I mean, I knew I’d submitted The Boys of Summer for review, but I never expected them to post something so quickly! And what better way to encourage me to get off my duff and finish the sequel to Unspeakable Words. It’s coming along slowly–I’m at what should be the halfway point now but it feels like I’m going to have to do some trimming to make things balance out correctly. Mostly I’m getting a feel for Jerry and Flynn again, which is made more complicated by the fact that I’ve completely thrown them both for a loop! Yes, I know none of that really means anything to you right now, but it will, oh it will! *rubs hands together evilly*

blurry pool HMy work schedule shows no sign of letting up for the next month or so, but fortunately, I can stay at the cabin tomorrow evening. That means lounging by the pool until dark while the dog runs around and blows off some steam. I can read in the hot tub if I so desire, and then come indoors to no internet, no television, and a tired, happy dog–the best inducement to a productive evening writing, I’d say!

I’m finding it hard to balance the writing with my main day job–and simply living my life right now. There have been some good articles posted recently that I intend to link to and discuss in more detail: articles that talk about the professional writer versus the hobbyist, and how most of us aren’t going to be overnight successes. Some of these articles suggest that perhaps we’re not suffering enough for our art–those of us who work other jobs, or have families, or I dunno, choose to do laundry more than once a month. Suffice for the moment to say that I am of the opinion that if you are always behind your monitor, tippy-tapping away at the keyboard, how can you possibly have anything of any interest to share with anyone? There is more to life than merely surviving it, and more to being a writer than mere imagination. When it comes down to it, there’s more to being a writer than social media and self-promotion too. So I applaud Brian Keene’s decision to turn down a dream job that wasn’t right for him at this time in his life–and his decision to be a dad to Turtle first and a writer second. And I will come back and speak more on these subjects in the future.

For now, yay for the excellent review! I *am* delighted. But it’s time for me to scale back on my internet interactions for a while and get some serious work done. I find when I am working as hard as I am at the day job, I am usually too fried in the evening to come home and write a first draft. It is far easier to faffle around online: commenting here, sharing a LOL or George Takei picture there, or writing a blog post than it is to concentrate on telling the story that wants to be awkward at the moment. But more and more I come back to the realization that I used  to write the equivalent of a novella a month while working these same hours–and my internet time is bordering on an addiction. Time to step away from Facebook and the like, and get on with the business at hand–namely the next story.

Summer toesIn the meantime, I won’t say no to sipping a cold glass of raspberry lemonade while sitting in the hot tub.

Holy crap, would you look at the time? I’m really going to hate myself in the morning…another reason for scheduling a little less internet time. Sleep. There’s only so much you can short-change yourself before you start making stupid mistakes both at work and in your writing. 🙂

Does Facebook Make You Depressed?

Leaping Hawkeye resizedSome time ago, I wrote a blog post for the Savvy Authors website about whether or not too much time on Facebook can make you depressed. I was a fairly new author at the time, and I was (and still am) easily overwhelmed by too much time spent on social media. Facebook in particular was tough for me. It seemed like I just had nothing to say. I hadn’t lost 50 pounds, won the lottery, just come back from a vacation in Bali, had my newest novel shoot to the top of the best-seller list within nanoseconds of its release, nor was anyone in Hollywood beating at my door clamoring to make my book into a movie.

Delorean_danceswithgaryIt seemed, too, that social media was a minefield that only the experienced could navigate safely. There were all these unwritten rules, not the least of which was ‘be yourself, but don’t talk about anything that could alienate your fans.’ Well, that felt like a tricky proposition, along with the notion of ‘branding’. I confess, I’ve settled more for being myself than for branding or not risking fan alienation, for that matter. That means I’m going to get ranty about the way the GOP is pulling out every underhanded measure to hamstring the Obama administration, while at the same time trying to take civil rights for everyone back to the 1950s. I’m going to post sci-fi geeky stuff, and animal stuff, and on rare occasions, talk about my fandoms. I’m going to bore people with my photos because I like taking pictures. And I’m going to talk about my writing. 🙂

I spend more time on Facebook now than I ever thought I would. I share links and posts I find interesting. I comment on my friends’ updates. I use it as a quick break at work, a way of taking a mental breather as I look at photos of LOL Cats or check out George Takei’s page to make me laugh. Sometimes I vent (in extremely vague terms) about something going on at work that has me stressed and depressed, and the support and comments I’ve received have made it easier to get through the rest of the day. I’ve made connections there now, so it feels comfortable to signal boost for those connections, even as I worry terribly when an internet friend disappears and no one seems to know what has happened to them. Of all the social platforms, Facebook was the one I liked the least initially, and the one everyone assured me was crucial to building an audience for my stories.

But it turns out I’m not alone in my belief that Facebook can make us depressed–that it can cause us to be more dissatisfied with our lives than we otherwise might be. And I confess, I struggle with seeing what appears to be everyone around me soaring to the heights of success as they hint at astronomical royalty reports, or post screenshots of their newest release breaking records on Amazon, or they have *another* bloody release less than six weeks after the last one.

Broad Wing Hawk croppedMost of the people I ask vehemently deny that Facebook gets them down from time to time. I think that’s all part of the game face that Facebook requires us to put on. Pretend you are successful whether you are or not. Success breeds success, right? So post the good stuff: the promotions, the raise, the new car, the move across country for the better job, and the five star reviews. Downplay anything that might make the other chickens in the flock start pecking your eyes out. Pretend to be a hawk, even if you’re only a chicken.

Oh sure, we’re allowed to share the tragedies. The tornadoes, the sudden diagnosis of a serious medical problem, the death of a loved one. But the everyday ordinary slog through a life that is not particularly cheerful or successful? No. Not only does no one want to hear it (and rightfully so, I think) but sharing it places you in jeopardy of being labeled a loser.

There’s merit to this thinking, to be sure. There’s a lot to be said for attitude. Lord knows, I’m my harshest critic most days. Just today, I read some wonderfully encouraging posts along these lines. There was this one, by Ky Grabowski, on shopping without success for a gown to wear to a wedding (and most of us can sympathize with that) titled Why am I Beautiful. I envy her self-confidence. I’ve spent a lifetime being told how ugly I was, that I was an absolute Troglodyte and that I would have to work doubly hard just to make friends, even when I wasn’t that bad. Now that I am battling wrinkles and an extra 20 pounds, I find it even harder to accept Ky’s words. It’s like understanding to death why you should eat better and exercise regularly, yet being constitutionally incapable of making good eating choices on a stressful day at work. And every day at work is stressful.

I also came across this highly encouraging post by Kristen Lamb: The Personal Apocalypse–When are we REAL writers? That really hit home with me today. You know, I never used to be as conscious of my ‘lack of success’ to the same extent before the advent of social media. While I understand that there is a tendency to post about the best things going on in your life, I was never one of those ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ kind of people. I could care less about clothing, or having a snazzy car. I wasn’t into a ‘Home and Garden’ house, or being a member of the country club set. And I don’t have any of those things as a result. 😉

But I never felt envious until now. It’s hard to remember, when everyone around you is happily blowing a kazoo over their latest triumph, that 3-4 weeks ago, it was *your* latest release that was collecting the five star reviews. I honestly think social media is an addiction. I think we crave that blissful feeling that comes from sharing a personal success–and that, like most addictions, it takes more and more to achieve that same level of satisfaction. Only three years ago, I published my first story ever. I never thought I would be a published author. In the span of three years, I’ve gone from being giddy with delight over simply being published to expecting more and more from both myself as a writer and my stories when they get published.

Well, as you become proficient at one level of competition, you have to move up. No one stays at the baby level of eventing unless they don’t have the talent or the work ethic to move up once they start winning blue ribbons at their current level. But moving up is scary. It means you’re at the bottom of the heap again. That you practically have to start all over mastering the skill set for *this* level of competition. It’s not for the faint of heart. Most people don’t want to be challenged to master their craft. They want to write what they want to write and have people push each other out of the way in order to buy it like an angry housewife at a Black Friday sale.

The truth is, most of us will never publish a story that will rocket to the top of the sales charts and stay there for weeks on end, paying off our mortgages and freeing us from crippling debt. And even if I really plugged at it, I doubt, with my current 60 hour + work week, that I could be prolific enough to have sales on my backlist work for me. Maybe I’m not being realistic in thinking that writing could even make me more than money to buy cat food once a quarter.

Hawkeye closeup resizedBut I have things that cannot be quantified in the ‘success’ column. I have a kind and generous boyfriend who not only reads, but believes in me as a writer–and doesn’t have a problem with my writing M/M romances. Finances are tight, but they’re getting better. I live in a crappy little house–but I have a roof over my head that I can afford. I have a dog who loves me and thinks I’m the smartest, prettiest, kindest, most compassionate and fun person in the world. Oh, if only I were! 🙂

kenya bridle resizedMy mare is still alive after having nearly died so many times we jokingly refer to her as The Mare Who Lived (and I look for a lightning bolt on her forehead every time I bring her in from the pasture). Every day that I have with her is a gift. My heart still turns over when I walk out to the pasture with a halter to catch her, and she lifts her head at the sight of me, whinnies, and trots over to meet me. My first horse just turned 28 and is everyone’s favorite uncle at the retirement farm. I wake in the middle of the night to the purring of a cat that has joined me in the bed.

My clients seem to really like me. Maybe it’s because I refuse to gouge them in order to raise my own quality of living. Yes, I am one medical health crisis away from crippling financial disaster, but I’m still in pretty decent shape for my age. It could be worse. It could be much worse.

So maybe I need to spend a little less time on social media, despite all the advice to the contrary. Maybe I don’t need to be constantly reminded of the ways in which I have failed in the eyes of the world, and I need to spend more time reminding myself that money and success aren’t everything.

Beach D&H resizedBecause there are some things in this world that are more precious than rubies, that are worth their weight in gold. And they are mine. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Not even a #1 Amazon best-seller. 🙂

 

 

Plagiarism: How you as a writer can protect yourself

stop stealingIf you read very much in the M/M romance genre, you’ll know that there’s been a rash of plagiarized stories that have been uncovered lately. Not that plagiarism is anything new. We’ve all heard of news reporters who have lifted stories from more talented writers and claimed them as their own. There is a famous YA author who has been accused of ‘borrowing’ passages from lesser known works and incorporating them into her stories with only window dressing changes. I’ve even read about someone taking famous works such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, slapping another cover on it and changing the names, and passing it off as their own ‘new’ hot vampire novel.

These are the more serious infractions that I’ve heard about. I’ve heard rumors of others: harder to prove allegations of authors ripping off a plot line from a movie or another novel. Well, we’ve all been inspired by something we’ve seen or read, right? Hasn’t it been said that there are only four basic plots anyway? (Or three, or seven, or sixty-nine, depending on your sources).

That’s not what the focus of this blog post is here. Not that song whose opening bars sound eerily similar to Johnny Cash’s Solitary Man before they segue into another direction altogether, or that story whose opening scene contains some very specific elements just like the opening scene of another, more famous story in another genre. Nope. The artists in question there may or may not be on iffy ground depending on what  they did with the rest of their creation. What I’m talking about here is blatant stealing.

Taking someone’s work, stripping their name off of it. Snagging a different cover, doing a copy and paste on the name changes and passing it off as your own. Taking not only money for someone else’s work, but stealing their credit, their reviews, their baby. Because that’s how I see it: as wrong as someone coming into your home and taking your child from its crib, or your dog from the back yard, or your identity and your credit line.

What I don’t get is why people would do such a thing. Do they really think they won’t get caught?  Maybe they do. Maybe they don’t care, as long as they make some money in the meantime. Maybe they are so delusional as to think that they really are great writers themselves, only no one has noticed them, and if they just got their name out there, the readers would come. Most, I suspect, believe their readers to be too stupid to know the difference, and they themselves smart enough to get away with it. Perhaps that ultimately is the reward–the chance to take advantage of a bunch of readers and laugh when they receive praise for a work that’s not theirs. I don’t know.

All I know is I would be livid if it happened to me.

The first I heard of this recent rash out outright book stealing was when I saw on J. P. Barnaby‘s Facebook page that someone named Michael J Wagner had stolen her best-selling novel Aaron, changed the name to Shane, and was selling it on Amazon. J. P. speaks of this theft on her website, and her reaction to it here. She was alerted by a sharp-eyed reader who noticed that the story was incredibly familiar–one of those same readers that Wagner probably thought was too stupid to notice. Barnaby then had to begin the process of proving that her work was indeed hers, and that Wagner had to be identified as a thief. (In the latest turn of events, Wagner is claiming a ghostwriter stole the story and he had no idea…despite the fact that he himself had read Aaron and given it a five star review. Did his ghostwriter do that for him too?) J.P. tells her story better than I can–why Aaron means so much to her personally, and why Wagner picked the wrong person to steal from.

internet handBut the theft didn’t stop there. Apparently Wagner and his partner also stole Eden Winter‘s story The Telling. As well as works from other authors–including such big names as Fern Michaels and Sandra Brown. Once the initial exposure occurred, more and more people turned out to point out that every single book Wagner had listed for sale was stolen. After Eden posted her reaction on her website, I contacted her and asked her to share with me a bit more about her experience and how her story came to be stolen. Not only stolen–but when a reader challenged the fake authors, they claimed that EDEN was the one who’d stolen the story from a website where writers published stories for free. Eden found out about this when two people tweeted her and JP about the theft of their work. She tells me that it made her sick to her stomach–as though someone had cut out her heart with a dull knife.

She had originally posted the story on various sites where readers helped polish the story. She eventually revised it and offered it for sale–but Wagner was selling the original version–which suggests that he and his crony may have participated on these sites as well. Eden has decided to donate the proceeds of all sales on The Telling to her local PFLAG group, so why don’t you help her give them a big check–and stick your tongue out at Wagner while you’re at it? The ultimate irony? Eden never intended to sell The Telling at all…

What’s the take-home lesson here? Anyone is at risk of having their work stolen. It’s far too easy these days to steal someone’s work and claim it at your own. Like many other authors, I assumed that by virtue of having my story published in my name, it was essentially copyrighted–especially those stories that were produced through a publisher. And that is true–but I am finding out that this is not enough. Eden urges every author to register every single one of their stories with the copyright office as an additional layer of protection. The cost of registration is $35 per item. This adds an additional layer of protection for you as an author. At least in the case of The Telling, it would have been easy enough to find (if you looked) that someone was selling your work because the title hadn’t been changed. But in J.P.’s case, it really took her fans to spot the liar.

The Boys of Summer400x600I’ll be honest, I found the copyrighting process a huge, cumbersome PIA, but I think it is a necessary one. I suspect this problem will become more common in the future, not less. And I would be very leery of posting my work to free sites of any kind–including my own website–if I didn’t want it stolen. I started with my own self-published work, The Boys of Summer, and am working through my backlist now.

On a side note here: I make every effort to use royalty free photos on this website. When I do a search on Google for images, I set the search parameters as such, or I look on flickr commons or groups I belong to that allow photosharing, such as the WANA commons. If perchance you see an image here that belongs to you and you would like credit or to have it removed, just ask. 🙂

Oh, and I hope Fern Michaels and Sandra Brown have lawyers who will tear Wagner apart into bits too tiny to bury.

 

 

 

 

Embracing the Courage to Follow Your Dreams…

I’m starting to get a good idea now why people travel. As someone who hasn’t traveled a lot herself, I’d always assumed it was about the journey to see things you’d never seen before. Stained glass in a cathedral in Rome. A Saturn 5 rocket in its entirety. The Hope Diamond. The Greek Isles. A quintessential British fishing village in Cornwall.

I’m beginning to see that it really about the journey itself. Like the poem, Ithaca, which I’ve always loved but never fully appreciated, the story is in the journey.

You might think the title of this blog post is cumbersome. Well, it is. I chose it because while I know many people with the courage to follow their dreams, I don’t know all that many with the courage to *embrace* what that means.  Case in point: I came across this wonderful cartoon illustrating the words of Astronaut Extraordinaire Chris Hadfield (my new personal hero, in case you hadn’t noticed). What a wonderful cartoon about the sacrifices we have to make when we set out on the path of following our dreams. But what amazing rewards are there for us if we do so. I confess, however, when I set on the course to become a writer, I wasn’t prepared for the sacrifices I would willingly make for my passion. Less time riding the horse. Annoyance with the dog when he still wouldn’t lie down and be quiet after a long run. Watching an hour or two of television a week instead of my usual shows nightly. Telling my boyfriend I’d be along to bed in a few minutes as I am typing and when I glance at my watch next, two hours have passed. And the guilt. Oh, the guilt. Sometimes it hurts knowing how much of the brief time I have with my animals that I’ve wasted these past years. I’m conscious of that in general, having made choices that hurt me professionally, personally, and economically because they were the right thing to do at the time. What was less apparent to me was how much I resented the fact that I’d made some of these choices. How much I resented that I’d put my life on hold for so long and now it was taking me a long time to really find my way, what I was meant to do with my life.

I just came back from an amazing weekend at Galaction 3 and ComicPalooza. What an experience! 20 K plus fans from all over the world, gathering together to celebrate their love of their fandoms. One of the important things about fandoms is that they give us permission to think big, dream big, and act out on these fantasies even when the reality is not possible. No, I will never pick up everything and head through a Stargate into the Pegasus galaxy as part of an expedition but I can take the lessons learned from my favorite characters and work hard to follow the dream that is a bit more within my reach. I can emulate the characteristics that make a character a personal favorite–the courage, the toughness, the honor, etc. and use them in my daily life to achieve my goals. That’s what heroes are for, after all.

A Black Widow Fan!

A Black Widow Fan!

One of the things I’ve discovered about traveling is that it takes you out of the hum-drum everyday existence of our lives and puts us in new situations. I try new foods when I’m on vacation. I talk to people I’ve never met before, I have the most interesting conversations. When you are mired in the day-to-day routine of your life, it is difficult to have much to say sometimes. I think social media is a bit to blame for a creeping dissatisfaction that I’ve experienced in my life recently. When I was new to the business of social media, I wrote a post titled Does Facebook Make Us Depressed? While my views have been tempered through the years, I still feel the same about many aspects of social media.

After all, I haven’t lost 50 pounds, won 50 million dollars, or had a number one book on the best seller list for 50 weeks. I rarely go anywhere special. While I love taking pictures with my little point-and-shoot camera, they’re nothing spectacular and there’s a limit to how many pictures of horses, dogs, and flowers people want to see. My day-to-day workday is emotionally draining (and not something I want to relive in a blog post unless I do so to be rid of it). The fact is, my life is pretty boring most days. It’s hard to find something meaningful and worthwhile to blog about on a regular basis. And yet social media is how most of us interact with our friends these days, so we tend to natter on about the minutia of our lives just so we’re there with our friends. I misplaced my phone earlier today and you’d have thought I’d lost a thousand dollars with the way I panicked and began searching the car for it. The relief I felt when I found it was enormous. Not because I found my phone. Because I found my *connection* with my world.

But I learned some interesting things about myself this weekend. I met a lot of people from all walks of life (and I do have more to say about my experiences at Galacticon). And a couple of things struck me. Most of the people I know don’t have it easy. Many of my friends and acquaintances are just squeaking by. For a long time now, I’ve felt bad when I want to whine about the circumstances in my life because I know so many people who have it ten times worse. I also know that just because my problems are comparatively mild, that doesn’t discount the impact it has on my life.

However, a chance conversation with a woman beside me on the flight home really opened my eyes to this idea of embracing the courage to follow your dreams. At first glance, someone who decided she wanted to compete in dressage on an international level might seem like someone smoking crack. But this woman had a plan. She was giving it her all. She’d committed to it in the way that my favorite quote about persistence had done:

Nothing in the world can take place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. ~Calvin Coolidge~

And she embraced it. She sat there in the seat beside me, saying, “Sure I could have taken the corporate job working 80 hours a week for $40 K a year, but I’m making almost that much now and I’m happy. I have health insurance, I have a Roth IRA. I’m not being stupid about this. Just because it’s not putting me on a fast-track to making more money down the line doesn’t mean that I’m crazy. Well, okay, maybe the riding horses part does.”

She showed me on her iPad the lovely photos of the horses she’d gone to look at that weekend as she shopped for her next FEI prospect. This is not one she looked at, merely an example of what an FEI dressage horse entails.

We talked of sport horses and science-fiction, of corporate America, and of personal happiness. And I realized that while I was very good at comparing myself to others and seeing where I didn’t stack up, I was forgetting some of the most important things.

I made these choices. I chose to make less money working for myself than to stay in a job where I was expected to work 60-70 hours a week for 9.5 vacation days a year that I could not ever take consecutively. I chose to move to a small rural town where I could keep my big horse and my big dog and enjoy having the things I loved around me instead of working in a big city for more money in a job that made me suicidal. I made a choice to stop competing my horse because I wanted her to still be around for me to love more than I wanted another ribbon or trophy on my wall. Yeah, my life can be tough sometimes, but I chose it. I chose to start writing again and I allowed it to consume my life. And you know what? I can also chose how I feel about this. I can either piss and moan about my troubles and the incessant, grinding toil that is my life, or I can embrace it, cracking the bones and sucking out the marrow because it’s mine.

No, it won’t make it possible for me to magically pay the bills if there’s no money in the checking account. No, it won’t erase the weird food intolerances I’ve developed in the last few years or prevent me from getting cancer, or make me look like I did when I was 23. But I do have ultimate control over my attitude and I choose to embrace the choices I’ve made to become a writer.

Oh! Speaking of which, I just found out today that The Boys of Summer has been listed on Goodreads Best M/M Romances Published in 2013! (How’s that for a sneaky segue, but it’s true, I just found out a little while ago!) How astonishing is that? It’s been out only six weeks! I am delighted and terribly flattered too!

The Boys of Summer400x600

 

 

 

 

A writer’s most important job is to write…

The view from the barn

The view from the barn

For the first time in I don’t know how long, I had three days off in a row. Three days off with no other obligations. Under normal conditions, I would have been working those days. A freak winter storm blew through here and gave me the adult equivalent of a Snow Day–as well as a long weekend. Power outages at work meant I had to cancel appointments. Conflicting schedules meant that I had no weekend plans for a change. The horse and dog both were recovering from injuries–which meant no temptations into long meandering walks in the woods or a frigid couple of hours riding around in circles in the indoor arena.

I could write to my heart’s content and not feel guilty about it.

Not just a little snow, either!

Not just a little snow, either!

I’d been champing at the bit (no pun intended) for a while now to find a little ‘me’ time and indulge in some serious writing. I’d been looking over some old projects and I’d been taking a hard look at the viability of current ones. Every chance I got, I would complain about how I didn’t have time to write–and suddenly, I did. Only, and here’s where the universe laughs, not really.

By Thursday evening, I was one of the lucky ones in my area who still had power. Over 200,000 homes lost power in the region, and almost 10,000 in my immediate area. Heavy rains for days had weakened branches and trees–when the skies suddenly dumped heavy snow to boot, trees bent under the weight of the wet snow. Some snapped, taking down power lines with them. Mine didn’t *quite* do that. What happened was that the trees pulled the lines down sufficiently to break the neutral ground cable from the pole–but not the rest of the power lines. So because I still had electricity, I innocently went to turn on the dryer Thursday night, and probably blew out half the wiring in my house.

The laundry room light brightened to a white-hot intensity, as though the MotherShip was hovering overhead and they were waiting to take me to their leader, and then went out. The dryer made a terrible grinding noise. I turned off the dryer, and the overhead light came back on–but dimly. I could smell a chemical, burning odor, so I shut the breaker to the laundry room and tiptoed away. I had no idea what had happened, but vowed to call an electrician in the morning.

Friday morning, I get the call that work has been cancelled, do the happy dance, and take the dog out into the yard. I took a ridiculous number of photographs, a few of which turned out well.

Snow time is the best time!

Snow time is the best time!

On our return to the house, I blithely start breakfast, turning on the stove and opening the fridge to get the bacon and eggs. As I watched, the fridge light dimmed. So did the lights on the stove. Saying some very bad words, I turned everything off, but I realized that the damage might have already been done by whatever happened to the dryer the night before. I got an electrician out, and that’s when we discovered the leaning tree limbs and the pulled cables. The good news is the electric company will have to fix that. The bad news is the wiring in the house may be damaged, and I won’t know until the electric company fixes the cable. Oh, and I have to leave the main breaker switched off in the meantime. Which means no heat, no water, and worst of all, no internet.

I dealt with it pretty well last night. I put on all my cold weather riding gear and sat with a camp lantern, reading from the well-charged Nook. I had pocket hand warmers in my bedroom slippers and was wearing hand-knitted fingerless mittens given to me by a friend. The dog slept by my side on the couch. It was peaceful. In fact, by 8:30, I was seriously thinking of bed.

I slept in a sleeping bag rated outdoors for 30 degrees, and with Alexander The Great snuggled in the bag by my side, who needed a hot water bottle?

Writer's Little Helper

Writer’s Little Helper

This morning, it was only 49 degrees F in my bedroom. Getting out of bed took an effort. I hurriedly put on warmer clothes, took care of the animals, and headed off for the day to the BF’s place to do laundry and, yes, write.

Only what did I do instead? I spent the day catching up on emails, on Facebook, on Twitter, on LJ…before I knew it, the day had gotten away from me and it was time for me to go home and feed the animals again. Ironically, one of the discussions I had today was about how the recommendations of social media are sometimes in conflict with what is best for an individual writer. At some point, I dropped this little gem:

“Sometimes social media gurus forget that a writer’s most important job is to write.”

Out of the mouths of babes…

Here it is, quarter after nine, and I still have as yet to crack open the WIP. What’s up with that? Haven’t I just said I was panting and pawing to get to it for days now? Well, the truth is simple. Writing when it was just for me, when it was just for fun, was easier. And as new writers, I think it is far too easy to get sucked into the mindset of how important social media is to our success. Don’t get me wrong, it is important. In just the last few weeks alone, I’ve met a group of really nice authors with all kinds of useful information to pass along, and this kind of networking is invaluable. You know these people, and then when you see something good happens for them, you signal boost happily. That’s why going to conventions is so great, why networking works.

But what doesn’t work for me is huge chat lists, and the overwhelming numbers on Twitter and Facebook that I can’t really put names to, or have a real conversation with. And I think it is tempting to spend all your time making and maintaining these connections and chatting about nothing in particular because it is a damn sight easier than working on your next novel. Somewhere along the way, the naive new writer gets scared. You realize that you’ve been doing it all wrong. You backpedal and spend time building your platform and you sign up for chats that are filled with the sound of crickets chirping in the background because no one knows who you are–and that makes you panic and promote yourself even more.

When you just need to sit down and write. Because bottom line, having another story for people to read is your best promotion ever. And, to be fair, the social media gurus do tell us this. But telling someone how to write a great story is harder than telling them how to promote themselves–just like writing the story is harder than the chit-chat, or the blogging, or the Tweeting.

Somewhere along the line, I’ve become addicted to the internet. I compulsively check my social networking sites, I go around and around in circle: checking email, then LJ, then Twitter, then Facebook, and then opening another browser and doing it again under my other (new) pen name. And it will all be for naught if I don’t have anything for you to read.

So while there will be regularly scheduled broadcasts as newsworthy things come about, and guest blogs, and random musings from my rambling mind, my most important job here is to write the next story. For me, and for you, too.

 

 

Why M/M Romance?

I came across this thought-provoking commentary on jessewave last night regarding tropes in M/M romances and whether the genre was aimed at women or men.  I immediately sat down and wrote a long response to it–only the site ate my response and I hadn’t saved it.

You know that moment where your hand hovers over the ‘send’ button and you waffle about hitting it, which is when your brain tells you ‘if there’s any doubt, don’t do it!’ and you hit send anyway?

Yeah, I had one of those moments.

Fortunately, the site ate it, and it gave me an out. I could either sit on my hands altogether and go back to working the the WIP (which, though moving at a glacial pace, IS moving), or I could re-draft and repost my response here.

I know what the social media gurus would say: Are you nuts? Don’t make waves! Keep your online presence smiling and cheerful. Don’t do anything to offend your potential readership!

Yeah, I’m so good at that!  *eyes political ranting and frothing-at-the-mouth rage of the past year or so and has grace to look embarrassed*

I have to admit, I had a hard time even knowing how to title this post. I started out calling it “Why Women Read and Write M/M Romance” but the truth is, I can only speak for me.  It’s not like I haven’t written about the subject before. I’m not sure why I’m tentative now. Maybe it’s because I’m more aware of how controversial this subject can be now.  I dunno.

The jessewave post opens with the author describing a romantic interaction between him and his husband in the purple prose terms of many a common M/M novel. It was funny, it was ludicrous, and by the end of his demonstration, I could see where it could be called demeaning and insulting, as well.  And yet my first thought when I read this was, Yeah, so? Show me a typical romance novel that doesn’t simplify and stereotype the main characters.

Mind you, I’m not defending it because everyone else is doing the same. I think that this is part of the problem with the genre, not specifically M/M romance, but ROMANCE in general. I also think new writers learn by copying others–and it takes logging in many hours at the keyboard before you develop a strong enough style and sense of identity to step away from repeating patterns seen in other stories. Remember too, most of us write because we want to tell the kinds of stories we love to read–so breaking free from the herd can be tough at first.

As I read the article, the general gist of the complaint seemed to run along the lines of feminizing male characters in order to fulfill a traditional male/female relationship–and that the reason for doing this seems to be to sell more books in the M/M genre, which admittedly is one of the hottest subgenres at the moment.  I gotta tell you, though, one of the reasons I write M/M romance is because the main characters *aren’t* women. “Chicks with dicks” is the last thing I want to create. Also? I write because I love it. I write because it’s a compulsion (cheaper than therapy!), and it is harder to create in a vacuum, hence the attempt to market what I create in the hopes that someone else will like it too. I’m not going to Paris on the proceeds!

How do I best explain why I write M/M romance and not M/F? Maybe it is because every time we create a bad-ass awesome heroine in fiction, we find ourselves creating all these qualifiers to go along with her. If she is too tough and aggressive, then she’s a mean bitch. If she likes baking or knitting, then she’s a piss-poor throwback to the 1950s. I’ve been accused of being misogynistic simply because I didn’t like a female character and thought her ill-suited for her role in the story. When we create that bad-ass heroine, she either stands out as an exception to the rule, or else she is the clone of the last bad-ass heroine we’ve read about. We as writers just can’t win.

Now, that may sound like a weenie reason for abandoning my sex and running off to play with male characters, but it is more than that. When I was growing up, the men got all the good parts. Kirk got to go down to the planet and save the day, while Uhura sat on the bridge and announced that the hailing frequencies are open, Captain. Do I disparage the Uhura of the day? No! We needed her! We needed to see Nichelle Nichols on the bridge, depicting a black woman in some other role than a maid. Do I love the direction the remake made with Uhura? You damn betcha! I love her competence and her desire to reach out and get what she wants–what she deserves. But there was a forty year gap between those two incarnations, and it would have been impossible for us to bridge that gap without each new, slightly revised female role model along the way.  I keep insisting that one day I will write a female main protagonist that I won’t want to bitch-slap twenty pages into the story, but it hasn’t happened yet. Why? Because at this point in time, her story doesn’t grab me.

With the exception of such standout television shows as The Closer, it is often difficult to find an outstanding portrayal of a strong female character that is in some way not a caricature as well. One of the reasons The Closer worked for me was (unbelievably talented writing and production aside), that Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson was first and foremost a fully-fleshed out character–who happened to be a woman. I’ve been asked why I’ve never tried my hand at Closer fanfic. Well, damn.  How can you top that? The show provided everything I, as a viewer, could have hoped for. For me, fanfic was unnecessary.

I write M/M romances because these are the characters I most identify with and want to know more about. I identify with the marginalization and inequalities that members of the GLBT community feel, even though, as a straight, white women in the US, I have a lot less to complain about than any member of this community. I still ‘get’ being the outsider, though. The ‘outsider’ experience doesn’t usually take center stage in my stories–I’m writing romance, not gay fiction.  But it does color the actions of my characters even as it affects most of my interactions today. Bottom line, these are the characters that interest me, whose stories I want to tell.

One of my favorite authors, the creator of some kick-ass top-notch heroines, is male. He writes tech-heavy sci-fi space opera, and I love his work with a passion. Do I question his ability to write a believable heroine taking a lover for the first time at the age of 45? No, not really. I suspect it’s because his story is not fundamentally about the relationship–the relationship is but a small piece in the background of a much larger story.

Perhaps this is why the question of women writing M/M romances keeps getting raised. The fault lies in the fact that the entire story is built around the relationship, and that getting the characters together is the whole reason we’re here. As such, there is definitely a sense that we as women are inserting too much of what turns *us* on into our stories, rather than completely immersing ourselves in a man’s mentality. Or maybe I’m wrong in that impression. I can’t help but feel that if we were writing about hobbits, elves, dragons, serial killers or murderers, there would be less talk of how women can’t possibly write about something they are not.

At the same time, we need reminders of when tropes become outdated or offensive. We need reminders that what may be hot for our female readership might even be demeaning to the men we are trying to portray. We need someone to poke fun at purple prose and take us to task for falling into the trap of repeating everything we’ve read before us. Gotta tell you, I don’t see the old rape-turned-love trope as much anymore, and man, am I thankful for that! Talk about a trope to make me grind my teeth! I’m grateful for women writers, such as J. P. Barnaby, who will ask her male friends how often they really jack off in the shower, instead of mindlessly repeating what is admittedly a damn fine visual trope. So I salute Stuart, the author of the jessewave piece, for turning a spotlight on the subject.

A while back, I misread a prompt for a story, got 60 K into it, and realized I didn’t have a market for what I’d written. No problem, I decided. I’d already published with Dreamspinner Press at that time–I’d simply change the female leads into men and send it in.

There was no ‘simple’ to it. No mere matter of doing a find and replace on names and pronouns. I had to re-write every single line. Because men move differently, act differently, speak differently. Hell, they even think differently. It was a fascinating and eye-opening experience, and I’m glad that I did it. Not only that, but the story became ten times stronger for the revision. It turned into Crying for the Moon, and I can no longer imagine it in its original form.

I just wanted to state for the record that while we need gentle reminders, and it is up to us as writers to keep improving our information, I don’t want to feel as though I’m being deliberately exploitative. I just write what I love.

While I’m here, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Dreamspinner Press is celebrating getting over 10 K likes on their Facebook Fan Page by offering free stories, revolving discounts, and all kinds of giveaways! Do check them out (one of those free stories is a little ‘first kiss’ story of mine!)