Saturday, March 16, 2019

Writing for love and money

So Tess Sharpe posted a twitter discussion recently about writing books for love vs. writing books for money. But the main take away, for me, right from the get go and throughout the whole discussion, is that she pitted them against each other. You can write for love, where a book is about you and your readers, OR for money, where you (the author) are taken out of the equation. But she generally seems to believe, at least to go by her discussion, that a book cannot be written for both love and money. One single book will always be one or the other, and you can write both throughout your career, but they'll never be the same book.

And I have a couple of problems with this.

One, it perpetuates the concept of the 'starving artist' that authors, musicians, and other artists struggle against. A concept so deeply rooted that people think $4.99 is too much for a book, $1.29 is too much for a single song, and $15.99 is too much for unlimited access to entire swaths of movies and TV. Art, people think, should be free, because artists should only do what they love (or they're inauthentic) and if they do it for love they shouldn't want money for it.

This sort of thinking applies to no other industry. Artists struggle against it daily. If I got the money I deserve for every pirated copy of my books, my wife and I would not be living down to the wire every month. I could help my family while my dad is out of work. I could get the breast reduction surgery that would help my back and neck pain. I could get my eyes fixed. I could help my dad's ankle. His teeth. My brother's teeth. My sisters. My friends.

But because I love what I write I shouldn't want/don't need money for it.

So I get upset every time someone says that love =/= money. Whatever the intent or thought, that sort of thinking perpetuates this harmful stereotype.

My second problem is that being able to choose between love or money that way is the luxury, in a peculiar way, of people who could, frankly, make money doing what they love. People who already have money, and therefore the luxury of choice. Do you know what queer people like me hear all the time? "If you want it, write/draw/make it, stop whining that other people don't."

So in order to see myself in books, to see the books I want to read, the books I love, I write them. The romance genre as a whole still doesn't care much, as a whole, about non-het romances. So I, and many other writers, write what we love to make money because nobody else cares about us.

Like, yes, we write in a niche genre that's most often subject to 'lol, those straight women and their gay porn' like there isn't much more depth and nuance and importance to it, but we're just as valid and important as het romance. We shouldn't have to throw away what we are, what we do, and resign ourselves to writing straight romance for money we probably won't make anyway because the het romance market is twenty times the size, at least, of the queer romance market. There's no guarantee we'd get that money. So why write what we don't resonate with for money we won't make when we could write what we love—what we need—for the same slim chance of making money?

So yes, you can write for love and money at the same time, and it's privileged to say you have to choose. Because many of us don't have any choice at all, except to give up what and who we are to please the people who keep telling us we don't matter unless we pretend to be straight, in life and art.

Sunday, December 23, 2018


There are certain arguments/attitude problems that the romance genre deals with on a regular basis. They crop up so often, in the same worn, smelly cheap suit, that we largely just roll our eyes and move on.

But the words still hurt, still frustrate, and sometime still enrage because we are tired of being willfully misunderstood. Of being talked down to, and ridiculed, and dismissed, like a bad dog too stupid to figure out what it's doing wrong.

Romance is "just" porn, that's a classic. Just fluff. Unrealistic. Bodice rippers. Junkfood. People love to bag on us for basically being worthless, despite the fact we make more money than the next two highest grossing genres combined. Romance clocks in at 1$.44 billion (the next genre down is Crime/Mystery at &729 million). Pretty good for a genre that's garbage.

But the thing we probably hear the most bitching about is the #1 rule of the genre: the book must end in an HEA or HFN (Happily Ever After/ Happy for Now). Almost every other rule in romance is somewhat flexible, but this one is inviolate. It's important to readers, it's something they count on, look forward to, and pretty often need. It's one of the main reasons they come to the genre. No matter what the characters go through, whatever tragedies or strife they face, they'll come out on the other side happy--and happy together.

So we get pretty angry when people tell us that we're vapid for wanting and needing this. That it makes our stories less, somehow, than those that end in tragedy or ambiguity. Because somehow, in a way I've yet to figure out, sadness is better and more real than happiness.

Do other genres put up with this? Does someone show up with a fun, light-hearted, laid back book that has a chill and friendly ghost and demand to be included in horror even though there are no horrific elements?

Do people write books where the mystery has already been solved, and it's just about the tedious court hearing and the struggles of the lawyer, and demand it be labeled a mystery even though there's no mystery at all?

Does any of that sound stupid and implausible to you? Now you're getting why we hate when people show up with a love story or a tragedy and demand it be labeled a romance.

The HEA requirement isn't just a rule tacked on at the bottom of the list, it's one of the foundations of the genre. It helped to shape and mold it, and make it the powerhouse that it is today.

I just found out yesterday that one of my cats is going to die soon. He might live a couple of years, but more than likely he'll die in the next few weeks or months. A couple of years ago we had to watch another one of our cats get sick and wither away, and finally had to put him to sleep because there was no saving him

There was the year my brother tried to commit suicide twice.

There's the fact I am struggling with fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, and all the ways those things affect/shape my life. There are days I simply don't want to endure it anymore, when just the fact I have to get out of bed and deal with it all leaves me in tears.

Romance novels, and the happiness they promise, get me through a lot of that. Because above all else, that's what it is. Not a rule. Not a convention. Not a tiresome requirement getting in the way of your realer and more authentic sadness. It's a promise that everything will be okay, no matter how terrible things might get.

The Painted Crown is a novel I wrote about a man who deals with chronic pain (though his is from war injuries), suffers from depression and anxiety, and tries to commit suicide. Writing all those things was hard. But I got to give him his dreams. I got to write his happy ending. That helped me in ways that literally nothing else could.

And every romance writer and reader I know has similar stories to tell. We don't read this genre because we're emotionally weak or deficient. Because we're vapid and need our silly Disney movie endings. We read them because everyone deals with the world in different ways, and this is the way we choose. Because we're smart, strong, capable, and love to read about people finding each other and facing the world together, be it lovers, friends, family, or all of the one.

Some people find strength and enjoyment and more in reading love stories. In tragedies. Some prefer literature. Some enjoy nonfiction or poetry or mysteries. That's the best thing about books: you can write or read whatever you want.

And to make it easier for all of us to find what we want, without accidentally reading something we hate or that will upset us, we have genres. When you go to the fantasy section, you know what you're getting. Same with romance, horror, and so forth.

To show up with a love story, which has it's own tropes, conventions, and expectations, and demand it be considered a romance novel? Is shitty and unprofessional. You would never show up at to a pie contest with a cake and whine that nobody considers your cake a pie. You'd never expect anyone to consider your beer a wine at a wine-tasting just because you like beer and hate wine.

The problem is not the genre. The problem is the people who want to write love stories/tragedies and then shove them into romance even though that's not where they belong. Do not invade our space. Go to where your book belongs, and stop expecting an entire industry to change just because you decided the rules weren't for you.

And for the love of god, can we stop having this argument. This horse would like to be given a respectful burial already. You aren't controversial, your opinion isn't new and bold, you aren't shocking anyone. To quote one of my favorite shows:

Respect the genre and the people in it or GTFO.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Books Books Books

First up, a freebie and a 99¢ read

This is 1500 word short that I wrote for a tumblr prompt that crossed my dash. It's about a bodyguard who can't help but unprofessionally admire the king they're guarding.

It's supposed to be free, but Amazon is being dumb. So I recommend downloading it elsewhere until Amazon catches up. I wish they'd just let us mark shit as free instead of playing the pricematch game.

This is a significantly expanded and revised version of this old ficbit. The length has more than doubled, bringing it from 4k to 10k.

Near-blind without his glasses, regarded as a burden to his family, Tyri left his clan to attempt a career as a runescribe in the city, taking his mute sister Vess with him so she doesn't grow up tormented as he was.

But finding a job proves more difficult than he anticipated, and his last hope to avoid being thrown out on the streets depends on the interview he has that morning.

A morning that comes crashing down on him by way of a thunderstorm and the stranger who runs into him and destroys his glasses…

This was originally released in the A Touch of Mistletoe anthology, re-releasing it for peeps who want it standalone.

Forever and a day ago, I wrote about a much put upon mage with a knack for finding things. Including a misplaced baby on the verge of being murdered. I did not expect the little story to amount to much, but it's been a fan favorite. And one of the requests I most frequently got was for grown-up Goss.

That wish has at last been granted. Lord Seabolt comes out January 2019. I have tow more stories planned for this series now it's cooperating again. One for Sealore and Moonrise, the other for Kerra, whom you'll meet in Lord Seabolt.

This pair will also be in paperback.

Also forthcoming is a short story about Morrin, Istari's brother from The Painted Crown (and I do still intend to make Stolen Court cooperate, I'm sorry it's taking so long). That comes out in March 2019.

There's lot of novels in the works too, but I'll discuss them more when they're actually complete. But they include the final High Court book and the final DwtD novel.

I hope everyone is having a lovely holiday/December, and that your weather is less wet and gloomy than mine.

Merry Christmas!


Friday, November 23, 2018

Ficbit - Diving Lessons (The Heart of the Lost Star

For Queenwicky009, in thanks for all the lovely art 💖💖💖


"Papa! Come look!"

"No, thank you, I'm perfectly happy right here," Kamir said.

"But it's so high!" Chiri said.

Kamir had to close his eyes to keep from demanding she get away from the edge of the cliff right now. Jader was right there with them, as well as a few of his brothers—all of them grinning like absolute brats at the way Chiri and Chara were excited, while Kamir was firmly of the mind that cliffs were not meant for standing at the edge of.

He should have stayed in the village, but there'd been no arguing with Jader's mother when she'd taken Taliana and ordered him to go have fun. Considering they were both still abysmal with one another's languages, she could be impressively clear about her orders.

"It's really high," Chara said, sounding not quite as impressed as his sister. Well at least one of his children had sense. "Do you really jump from here?" He looked up at Jader, as adoring as always. Both of them had been ecstatic to hear that Kamir and Jader were getting married, but it was Chara who had shown uncharacteristic boldness when he'd asked what the island word for 'papa' was and could they call Jader that?

Jader, of course, had not stopped preening all week.

His familiar laughter carried on the wind, accompanied by the chuckles of his brothers. "This isn't even the highest cliff we dive from, but I think your father will have some rude words for me if I take you to Bird's Eye Cliff."

"I do not like that name even a little," Kamir said. "I would indeed have some rude words for you."

Jader grinned at him. "Never fear, sunshine, I know very well to wait until you're asleep."

Kamir narrowed his eyes. "I bet if I ask nicely, your brothers will shove you off that cliff."

"You don't even have to ask nicely," said Jende, one of Jader's elder brothers and the one translating for the others so Jader could have a break from doing so. "Mother said we're to listen to you, so if you want him pushed, off he goes."

"I have some rude words for you," Jader retorted.

Chiri in the meantime had crept even closer, giving Kamir palpitations. He moaned and covered his eyes again. "Why are we doing this?"

"Because it's fun," Jader said, grinning shamelessly like the absolute wretch he was as he gently tugged Kamir's hands away and kissed him. "Are you sure you don't want to try it?"

"No, thank you. Wading about the beach is all that interests me. You're sure they're not too small?" He glanced past Jader to where Chiri and Chara were quizzing the brothers at a rapid pace, determined to know everything they possibly could. Kamir had the feeling there was going to be a great deal of protesting when they had to return home at the end of the month.

"I promise," Jader replied, holding his hands firmly, but gently. His poor skin was already looking pink, despite the special lotion he'd rubbed thoroughly into it. His nose was definitely burned. Wearing nothing but the loose, bright blue pants that ended right above his knees, a simple leather cord around his neck with coral charms shaped like fish, all his tattoos fully on display, he was breathtakingly beautiful, sunburn and all. "I was younger than this when I started diving, and I'm fairly certain Jende was diving before he could walk. Mother complained all the time about having to go into the water and drag him out. She used to say it was easier hauling in the fishing nets when they're overfull.

Kamir gave him a look. "I'm sure you caused your poor mother no trouble whatsoever."

Jader just grinned and kissed him again.

Kamir should be used to it by now, surely, and yet every time Jader kissed him like this, smiled at him with so much open adoration and affection, it took his breath away. "I love you."

"That's good," Jader said. "Otherwise you might not let me teach your children to jump off a cliff into the ocean."

"Never mind, I take it back," Kamir said, jabbing a finger in his stomach. "I hate you."

"Lies, lies, lies," Jader said, wrapping his arms around Kamir's shoulders and kissing him far more thoroughly than he really should with an audience—and two of them children. Although right then the entire island chain could be on fire and Chiri and Chara wouldn't notice. Unless of course it was to ask if they could get closer to the erupting volcano.

Drawing back, Jader nuzzled his cheek. "I love you deeply, sunshine. And now I'm going to go give diving lessons."

"I'm going to cover my eyes. Tell me when it's over."

Jader snickered, kissed his cheek, and returned to his impatient overlords. "All right, little shimi. Are you ready to jump?"

"It's really high," Chara said, looking torn between complete excitement and utter terror.

"No different than all the practicing off rocks we've been doing," Jader said. "You're just in the air a little bit longer. Do what you've been practicing and by the time you're of age, you'll be the best pearl divers on Shahira. But the first time is just a simple jump, to get used to it. Then we'll work on diving properly. Do you want to jump alone? With someone? Or shall we toss you off? Mikkai here had to be thrown off. So did my mother, although she denies it."

Jende translated, and Mikkai said something that got him a warning look from Jende.

"I'm jumping!" Chiri said, hopping from one foot to another. It had taken her exactly thirty seconds to adjust to Islander dress—the amount of time it took her to get her clothes off and put the new clothes on, though clothes was perhaps a bit generous. Like all children, she wore only a loincloth, her hair braided but already a complete tangled mess from all the playing they'd done. Combing it all would take forever later, but it would be well worth it just to see how happy they were. "Can I go now?"

"Do you want me up here, or down in the water when you land?" Jader asked.

The twins paused as they gave this question the grave consideration it was due, sharing a look and having some silent exchange, something they'd been doing with increasing frequency. Finally they said, "In the water."

"Then into the water I go," Jader said, and ruffled their heads. "If you want someone to throw you, or jump with you, Chara, just ask Jende. That's how a lot of us get our start on doing this. I'll be at the bottom to help you. All right, shimi?"

Chara nodded with all the solemnity only a child could muster. Jader tousled his hair one last time, then stopped Kamir's heart by leaping from the edge in an admittedly-beautiful arch and vanishing from sight.

Gathering his courage, Kamir ventured closer, grateful when the third brother, Kita, offered a hand and then rested a steadying arm around his waist. The easy way Islanders were always touching was more than a little disconcerting, but Kamir was slowly getting used to it, and right then he definitely appreciated the comforting presence.

"Go on, then," he said as the twins looked to him. "Don't keep Jader waiting."

Chiri nodded—then in a sudden burst of speed ran to the edge and jumped. Kamir balled his hands into fists and bit back a cry, making himself smile reassuringly as Chara looked to him again. Terrified as Kamir was, it would be easy to tell Chara that he didn't have to if he didn't want to—but that would only encourage him to always retreat from his fears, and Kamir didn't want that for him. "Do you want to jump with someone?"

After a moment of hesitation, Chara nodded.

"Then what did Jader tell you to do?"

Chara gave him a pleading look, but Kamir only regarded him sternly. Finally, after a few more seconds of hesitating, Chara turned to a patiently waiting, smiling Jende and said, "Would you please jump with me?"

"Of course, little shimi, it would be my honor. Come on." He took Chara's hand and led him to the edge of the cliff. "On three, all right?"

"Yes," Chara said.

Kamir half-expected him to falter, but as Jende cried out, "Three!" Chara jumped with him, and they vanished from sight.

Praying for strength, Kamir ventured tentatively to the edge and looked down. It wasn't even really all that high, but it was plenty high enough. Down below, his spouse and children waved up at him, the children cheering and demanding he look at them, did they do good?

"You did wonderful!" Kamir called down. "I'll see you back in the village! Don't drown each other, you hear me?" When they'd dutifully replied in tones that said they weren't really listening, Kamir fled the cliff edge.

Kita offered his arm, and Kamir took it gladly as they headed back to the village, eager for a cool drink with generous amounts of alcohol. But mostly just happy that his children were having so much fun, and seemed to already consider the Islands a second home.

Happier still that not a one of his children was where he could see them, and he didn't have to fear for or worry about them. Even if he really wished the twins had picked something other than cliff diving as their new favorite activity.

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