Tag Archives: Writing

The Difference Between Speaking Out Against Injustice and Becoming Part of It.

In the last few days, several things have happened, and while I was not the specific target of the hatred and lies, I was very much affected. And I’m likely going to be affected for the foreseeable future.

Apparently at a recent romance writers’ conference, an attending author (a successful author, with multiple books published through multiple publishing houses) met members of my publisher, Clean Reads.

Before I go on, here are a few facts:

  1. I identify as a member of the LGBT community (genderqueer/aromantic). If you’re surprised to hear that, it’s because my sexual orientation and status is not something I often talk about publicly. I’m an introvert and I have social anxiety. On top of that, in this day and age, those willing to do so, will use anything they can against you to further themselves and their own causes. As happened here.
  2. My book Catskin (just released through Clean Reads) was turned down by multiple agents and publishing houses because (and I’m paraphrasing here) it did not have enough sex to be ‘realistic’ for modern teenagers. It wasn’t eligible to be published with a LGBT publisher because it only had a secondary character who was a lesbian. (So I was told by mainstream publishers to ‘sex up the book’ and to turn my main character into a gay guy by LGBT publishers).
  3. Clean Reads does not publish books that contain premarital sex (unless there is some sort of consequence which is discussed in the book) open-door sex, cursing, graphic violence, or which focus solely on LGBT characters/LGBT themes. They also don’t publish erotica, BDSM, Screenplays, Non-fiction, Poetry, Fan Fiction. All of this is stated on their submission page, just as every publisher posts what they are, and are not seeking in submissions.
  4. Clean Reads was formerly Astraea Press. The name was changed, in part, due to suggestions that we select a name that better represented the fact that we publish books ‘clean’ of cursing/graphic violence/open-door sex/etc. This is also where our tagline ‘All Story. No Guilt.’ came from, as well as the fact that anyone who reads romance novels is very familiar with the term ‘guilty pleasure’ because so many romance novels in the market leave nothing to the imagination in them. (And that’s okay.)

Remember these facts as you read on.

The author was who met Clean Reads at the romance conference was, at first, taken with us, our books, our members. He very much liked us. Then he read (he claims entirely) our website. And he still liked us. Then he got to the submission page. And he saw that we don’t accept books with homosexual main characters.

According to this author, he felt discriminated against, and offended, hurt, and as if an injustice had been done to him. I am still currently trying to wrap my head around how a successful author who writes a type of book, which isn’t repped by one small press within a world of presses, can be so personally devastated by that fact. But this author insists that he was.

Now, when someone sees injustice, it’s reasonable for them to speak out about it. However, there is a difference between speaking out against injustice, and creating injustice. This author did not speak to my publisher about her submission policy and his perceived injustice in regard to it. He did not speak to anyone at Clean Reads about how he felt.

Instead, he wrote a blog post about my publisher, stating in the title of the post that we were a “Publishing House that Deems #LGBT “dirty” and he published the blog, shared it on his personal Facebook page, as well as his professional Author Facebook page, tweeted a link to it on Twitter, and urged his readers to share it. He also tweeted about Clean Reads before he’d done more than see them at the romance convention–claiming incorrectly in the tweet that we don’t allow any gay characters. Within the blog post he eventually wrote, this author copy and pasted parts of our actual website, but then inserted an anti-gay symbol in the middle of the genuine portions of our page as if that were how it appeared on our site. He also utilized a photo at the top of the post with a ball cap embroidered with “No Gays Allowed”. It was a short post, which closed with a sentence telling us that we should be shamed for portraying gays as being “dirty” and unfit for our canon of “clean” literature, and that we were–simply because we don’t publish LGBT stories–perpetuating the mindset that the gay community deserves to be discriminated against.

His readers were all too excited to join in on the publisher-bashing.

The character of Clean Reads’ owner was attacked, we authors with the house have been called bigots, and gay haters. Some of the commenters stated that everything in our name and motto was code for “anti-gay”. That our company was “sending the wrong message”. We were accused of “duping” our readers. They stated that the fact that we published books that didn’t portray sex, we were intentionally and subversively “shaming” those who do have sex. We were told that simply because we do not publish LGBT we were implying that it was “dirty”.

Some of us, when we rebutted these accusations, were openly made fun of. When I stated my own identity as genderqueer and aromantic, and said that my own book had gay characters in it, and that I’d always felt welcome at Clean Reads, those facts were completely overlooked (aside for one person who made fun of me for pointing out that I had a minority main character, and a lesbian in my story, telling me that “no one gets ally cookies for that”) In short, the commenters could care less that I was actually one of them or that all of us were real human beings. They treated us with the same acidic hatred that true bigots have treated minorities with for centuries.

Even when researchable facts disproving the author’s claims that Clean Reads does not allow gay characters in their books (namely the presence MY gay character) were offered, he refused to acknowledge these facts, or in any way alter his assertions that we decry all LGBT to be “dirty” and that we were anti-LGBT.

The commenters on this author’s blog (and both Facebook pages) justified their actions by saying we had brought it on ourselves by choosing to not include LGBT stories in our roster. Most telling, was how the author of the article, who carefully titled his own post specifically so as to gain the most attention, and then carefully, and intentionally, copied a section of our website, divided it, and inserted an anti-gay symbol which is NOT on the Clean Reads website, did nothing to assuage the hatred. He allowed his followers to treat a group of people, whom they did not know, as dirt to be stepped on and walked over. He essentially avoided any meaningful discussion aside from magnanimously saying he’d “agree to disagree”. There was no exchange of ideas or position. Rather, the author permitted numerous negative comments–including ones which blatantly made fun of anyone attempting to defend Clean Reads. Then he closed his comment sections making a final statement about how he had “researched” Clean Reads and had “kept an open mind” as he did so, and then had spoken out against us only when he felt he had to.

Only he didn’t “speak out”. He intentionally accused an institute and group of bigotry and anti-gay rhetoric and turned what should have been a discussion into a publicity stunt. A successful gay romance author publicly attacked a small sweet romance press, erroneously stating that we have no gay characters in our books (we have lots of gay characters, and we have gay writers) and that we treat gay people as “dirty” and not worthy of being published, and then he incited his readers and followers to spread the word about us and how we deem LGBT to be “dirty”.  The author of the post, and some of his commenters, insisted at one point that it wasn’t that we didn’t publish LGBT books that distressed him, but that it was how we said we didn’t publish them.

Basically, he didn’t like the wording on our website. So he wrote a blog post with a fabricated anti-gay symbol being attributed to our website, and called us bigots.

This is not fighting injustice, it’s creating injustice. My debut was just published through Clean Reads. Other authors have multiple books published here. We depend on Clean Reads and its owner for our careers. I would not be published without Clean Reads. My future as an author is tied to Clean Reads. And I love Clean Reads, and the community of writers I’ve met through it. I am the face of LGBT writers, and I’ve been nothing but welcomed by Clean Reads, its owner, and its writers.

But this offended author just threw our entire publishing house on the public sacrificial table because he didn’t like the wording on our submissions page. There is zero accountability for his actions, accusations and outright lies. He’s closed his comments and will probably move right on with his successful life, having kicked around a small press which competes directly with his own books. Why he did any of this remains a mystery to me, when every publishing house has a list of what they are not looking for posted clearly on their website.

There are numerous publishing houses that do not accept books with LGBT characters and storylines. In fact, whitewashing is still a major issue among larger publishing houses. Yet, this author did not single out any of the big houses. Of course, he would be less likely to have an impact on the function of a large publishing house, while it’s all too possible for him to damage and affect a small press which also conveniently provides a niche market for romance, which is one of the genres he writes.

If the author had issues with the precise wording of our own submission guidelines, publicly attacking, and libeling us was not the mature and socially forward-thinking way to approach the subject. This author has potentially damaged dozens of lives and careers–some of them belonging to members of the LGBT community he insisted he was protecting–and he firmly and openly believes it to be his right to do so, while also handily netting himself a little publicity in the process.

That, my friends, is the epitome of injustice.

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Catskin Cover and Blurb

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Back Cover Blurb:

Sometimes the only way to find yourself is to go missing…

Shy, eighteen-year-old albino, Ansel, thought that letting the runaway girl with the injured ankle sleep in his parents’ shed was a good idea. That was before she passed out in his shower, woke up in a panic and accidentally attacked him. Any average guy would have called the cops but average isn’t Ansel’s style.

When she refuses to tell him her real name, Ansel nicknames the girl Catskin, after one of his favorite fairytale characters, and begins the dubious task of earning her trust. It’s not an easy thing to do, but a few awkward conversations later, one thing is clear: Catskin doesn’t want to be the way she is, she just doesn’t think she can change. Ansel knows from his own experiences that seeing the world around you differently doesn’t mean that you’re wrong, something he intends to teach Catskin.

While the details of her past remain elusive, Catskin creates a new place for herself with Ansel and his family, and develops her own brand of normalcy. Then a terrible accident leaves her hovering near death, and Ansel is forced to contact her estranged parents. But there are secrets hidden in the life Catskin left behind. Dark secrets that chased her all the way to Healy, Alaska and Ansel’s actions unknowingly provoke a shocking confrontation between the wealthy world Catskin was born into, and the starkly average one she now shares with Ansel.

Refusing to give up the imperfect girl who fits perfectly inside his heart, Ansel prepares to go to war with Catskin’s father. But in the end, Catskin might be the only one who can save herself.

Catskin Release Date and Cover Reveal!!!

The time has come! I can officially announce that my debut contemporary young adult, Catskin, will be released March 17th 2016!!!

Here is my cover, designed by the amazingly talented Erin Kelso. I was immensely blessed to be allowed by my publisher Clean Reads, and Stephanie Taylor, to work with Erin in capturing the likeness of Ansel, and Catskin herself. There truly aren’t words to describe how it feels to be able not only to see your book set free in the world, but also to see your characters given life.

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So please, mark your calendars! Catskin is coming March 17, 2016. It will be released digitally first, and then as a paperback within a couple of months.

The In-Between Time

It’s that strange time between Christmas and New Years when it doesn’t feel quite like a holiday, and yet, the new year hasn’t officially started, so you’re just kind of wafting around wondering what to do and how to act. It was a great, albeit strange holiday for me. Ari (aka LionCat) is doing well right now, but because of the severity of his heart failure, that could change at any time. I cherish every moment I have with him and do my best not to stress over it. With the Adenomyosis, I’ve been experiencing panic attacks and anxiety, something I never had to deal with when my hormones were normal. My OBGYN was kind enough to prescribe me some Xanax, so that’s helped considerably, but it’s still been a rough go of it in spots.

 

A good chunk of the ‘rough go’ part also has to do with not getting any writing or writing work done. It’s a vicious cycle of ‘worry, exhausted from being worried, then recovering from worrying’ wherein writing work gets set aside, then stared at, then fallen asleep on, only to wake up and realize that nothing functional got done. This includes everything from writing new stuff, to working on things I have for a critique partner. Then I have to temper my frustrations and remind myself that I’m dealing with a dying cat whom I love dearly, and most of this pertains to him and just enjoying what time I have with him.

 

But we had a wonderful Christmas, and I firmly believe this will be the start of a great New Year!

Overdue… as Usual

Things have gotten crazy, as they tend to do, so not only am I very behind in writing blog posts, but I’m also behind in actually writing anything at all. Since I’m what I would term an ’emotional writer’ meaning that I exact immense pleasure from creating stories, and go at it from a passionate perspective, rather than an analytical ‘I will write 2,000 words today on these sections of plot’ sort of writer, I can be greatly influenced by whatever is going on in my life. If it’s not good stuff, my writing can suffer.

Recently, the ‘not good’ has had to do with my beloved LionCat, Ari. Anyone who is friends with me on Facebook will know this already, as I’ve been posting updates on his condition. *For now* he *seems* to be responding positively to current treatment. I remain paranoid and dubious of celebrating overly, as his condition is quite serious, but I do embrace and cherish every moment I have with him. Hence the overabundance of photos and updates on Facebook. With LionCat comfortable, and happy for the time being, I was able to crack open a WIP last night, and write a whole 5 sentences before Old Lady Cat demanded I hold her. When a cat that’s somewhere between 17-19 years old tells you to hold her, you freaking hold her. But still, I got about 5 sentences written, which is more than I’ve written in the last five weeks. So I’ll take it!

I’m writing this at work, and have just been handed a new inventory sheet to go count, so I’ll leave off for now. But I’ll leave you with yet one more photo of my dearest LionCat! 10888580_822774041111343_8231584626364553956_n

Two Questions And An Excerpt

It’s NaNoWrimo again, and predictably, I’ve put up a novel with the intention of pounding out words, and instead I’ve started a new WIP, and ended up working on a novel from last year, and a prequel to Catskin, in addition to working on the one for this year.

I’m a multi-WIP girl, and I usually have at least two of them going at the same time. Whether they end up finished depends on the individual project. Sometimes, I just write until another WIP takes over the lion’s share of my brain pan. Other times, I finish a project entirely. The good part, though, is that nine times out of ten, when I go at a WIP this way, even if I don’t finish it, I’ve also cobbled together an outline (sometimes purely just so I can keep track of my own characters and their goals) and I’ve gotten immersed in the story enough that I can easily go back and pick up writing on it later. So even though these WIPs aren’t *finished* I don’t consider them to be toss-asides, either. They’re just ideas waiting in the wings. This also allows me to dabble in whatever genre or style the story requires. For example, my NaNo novel for this year, Grimalkin, is an adult fantasy, with cursing and sex. The one I’m working on from last year, Pohickery Girl, is a paranormal YA, clean read, and the new WIP is a magical realism/fantasy set in reality YA, which I *think* will be a clean read, but I’m not into the characters enough to be sure of that, yet. The prequel to Catskin is, of course, a contemporary YA, clean read.

So, writers, are you a single-WIP-at-a-time writer? Or do you just line up your ideas and attack them at will?

This leads me into question number 2, and that is, do you sit down and decide ‘I have a story idea, and it will be a ‘clean read’ or it will contain cursing and/or sex/sexual situations’? Or do you start outlining (or writing) and only decide the tone AFTER you’re into the book and characters? I, myself, don’t ever give much thought to cursing or sexual content, I just write the book. The only exceptions would be like the prequel to Catskin, which I’ve titled Astray. Obviously, I knew that if I wanted to write something to be published with Clean Reads, it needed to be, duh, a clean read, so naturally, it is. And anything I write with the idea of submitting to Clean Reads in the future (and I’d LOVE to keep publishing with them forever, even if I also publish elsewhere) will also be written clean. But what I changed within Catskin didn’t take away from the story. I didn’t settle with Catskin, the book naturally fell into a clean category. Or clean enough that all I needed to do was crop out a few curse words or references and it fit. I didn’t compromise any characters or personalities by changing them. This is one of the things I have always sworn, and will continue to swear, that I would never/will never do. If I have to change the fundamental nature of a character or book to fit, then I won’t publish it through that venue. Anyway, my point is, I don’t plot books, as a rule, to either be clean or contain stuff.

Do you intentionally plot your books to either be ‘clean’ or contain cursing and/or sexual situations? Or do you write them as they come out of you, and categorize them after the fact?

 

I’ll leave you with a little excerpt from my new WIP, Blooded. It’s contemporary, but with magical elements, and contains subjects I’ve long adored. Namely, faeries, and the Wild Hunt. Also, it was inspired by a Victorian era Opal ring I found in the trash. Here are the first three pages. Because I have numerous poems on the subject, I thought it would be fun to have them as chapter headers for this book, so each chapter hosts a short poem that hints as to the contents of that chapter.

 

The Veil

Hoarfrost gilds the feral land
Crystals cast with an artist’s hand

Cryptic rooks in place of gemstones be
Feathered clots of ebony

Perched high above in treetop crowns
Fluttering over the heaths wild gown

A world of frigid beauty of ageless mystic grey
A world beyond our reckoning held in faery sway

The dirt of a place can lodge itself inside your blood and bones just as surely as it can pack beneath your fingernails and settle into the cracks of your skin. That’s the way it was from the first moment I set foot on Veil Mac Tíre. I was only six, but I still understood, maybe better than any adult could have, that I belonged to that land. At the time, I didn’t even know I was standing on Veil Mac Tíre. My insides, though, they recognized it like a homecoming.
We had just moved into a little stone cottage that was tucked up into the curving northern edge of the Blue Hills Reservation in Massachusetts. Though it wasn’t far south of Boston, and all the little townships and cities seemed smushed together in a never-ending riot of civilization, our cottage and the bit of land it was on, abutted the three thousand untamed acres of Veil Mac Tíre. The estate, in turn, ran along – and was indiscernible from – the some six thousand acres of the Blue Hill Reservation. For a child who was terrified of crowds, and strangers, and cities of any size, moving into that secluded cottage was a life-saving change for me.
Now, almost twelve years later, crowds and cities are still enough to bring me into a full panic attack, but I always have Veil Mac Tíre to come home to. And once I’m finished the last two classes I’m required to do into order to graduate high school, I’ll never leave the Veil again.
Ma is in the sunroom when I come downstairs. She’s always up as early as I am. You’d never know she wasn’t raised on a farm, and that she loves the roar of downtown Boston. If it wasn’t for me, we’d probably be living there right now. Just the thought of it is enough to make me shudder. It’s a sin, I’m sure, to be so glad that we have Toad Cottage, seeing as how my uncle died in order for us to get it, but I’m glad, just the same.
“Di, will you bring the pot down here and refill me?” Ma calls from down the hall.
“No, I can’t,” I call back. “Both my hands have just fallen off.”
Ma’s replying cackle of laughter echoes off the hardwood floors. I cross from the stairs into the kitchen. It’s not a large room, but it’s my favorite, with a wide hearth designed for cooking two hundred years ago, and a hug porcelain farm sink, stone counters, and an ancient wood cookstove which was wired for electricity long before it was the popular thing to do. The coffee pot sits on one counter, still mostly full. Daddy was on duty last night, so he’s not home yet. There’s always more work than there are firefighters.

 

 

The Beginning of An Era. Hopefully…

My Critique Partner, Christi Corbett has been after me to set up and actually maintain a WordPress site since sometime around the passage of the last ice age. Like many of the dinosaurs, I almost didn’t evolve enough to survive that ice age. I was clinging to Blogger, which, I’ll still continue to lurk and follow people there, but it’s gotten impossible to deal with. Often half of the few comments left on any posts I manage to write are from spambots, and often I’m forced to fight with managing blogs I follow because they randomly filled with hundreds of fake spam posts from fake spam blog accounts. So, here I am!

On my Blogger blog, I wrote posts which covered a little of everything. Since I was still in the throes of trying to ‘make it’ as a writer, I felt like I needed to have a lot of filler posts to make up for not having a ton of book information to put out there. Now I have one book contracted, and due out next year, and several WIPs I’m working on which have a future. At least, I’m looking at them now with different eyes than I’ve looked at WIPs in the past, when I had no idea if they’d ever see daylight. Now, I’m looking at my WIPs from the perspective of they will get out there. I see them as pieces of work which are completely marketable until they prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that for some reason they aren’t marketable.

With my WordPress blog, I intend to focus more on writing, and instead of trying to get posts out constantly, my goal is to put one post up a week. A little recap, if you will. Anyone who knows me, or has followed my other Blogger account, know that there will inevitably be animals, and farm antics involved, too. I can’t help but let a little daily life creep in alongside the writing life. But my primary goal is to focus on writing. I hope you’ll join me on this new venture!