Sunday, April 18, 2021

To Lauren Hough and Other Whiny Pissbabies: How Not to Behave as an Author

I should know how to behave and not behave. Anybody in MM Romance will be happy to tell you I have a long and sordid history of pissing people off, picking fights, and generally running my mouth off whenever I feel something needs to be said.

I've been writing for nearly twenty years, so trust me, that's a lot of people pissed off. I consider myself retired from shenanigans these days, because I just don't have the spoons anymore, as the kids say. Ten years of publishing, nearly twenty of writing, a host of mental and physical health problems… other matters I don't feel like discussing here, have taken their toll. I mostly just write these days, and keep to my little social circles. And too much Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

All that being said, there has been an increasing problem with how authors treat readers, and the short of it is that authors treat readers with contempt. A major turning point in this was Kathleen Hale, who stalked a reader who pissed her off. Literally went to her house, left her a 'gift', called her at work, and so terrified this woman she withdrew entirely from the internet for a time (IDK if she has returned at all, I sure as fuck wouldn't). Since Hale, it's like a floodgate opened, and the problem just continues to worsen.

Much like the way you can count on there being a monthly article that grossly misrepresents romance, or an author whining about how their book with a depressing ending should totally count as a romance, you can count on there being yet another author who throws a temper tantrum about reviews.

The bingo cards typically include such things as:

  • You can't give a one star review without explaining it
  • You should never just rate a book and not review it 
  • You shouldn't be allowed to review if you haven't proven you purchased the book
  •  It's mean to give one and two star (and even threes now…) to books because it hurts authors.
  • If you don't like a book, just don't review it, you shouldn't say mean things and hurt the author and their sales
  • A review should be constructive and helpful

 On and on and on it goes.

 I'm not going to pretend reviews can't hurt. I'm not made of stone. It sucks when you see that a book you're proud of, that you spent more than a year on, is called 'stupid' and 'predictable' and 'lmao did this author even try' and my personal favorite 'this book is just the author checking diversity boxes'.

 I've been called a hack. A wannabe. A sellout. My all time favorite criticism to this day, even though it happened at least ten years ago now, is that my 'writing is far from Valhalla'. I still don't know what that even means.

 A reader has refused to read Treasure because she thinks it's too stupid and unbelievable some of the characters have blue hair. My wife was never really been fond of Embrace. There are people who won't read my contemporary. People who will only read my contemporary. Too much porn. Not enough porn. My characters are all the same. Cheesy. Boring. Pathetically obvious self-insert.

 I've heard it all. Sometimes nicely. Sometimes not so nicely. Sometimes people are downright mean, like the person who said The Painted Crown was the worst book I've ever written, it had too many problems to be fixable, and I should just scrap it.

 That doesn't give me the right to hop on twitter, paste these reviews for all to see, and mock them relentlessly. It doesn't give me the right to declare myself the Review Police and tell readers how they should review.

 It doesn't give me any rights at all. People are allowed to hate my books. They're allowed to hate me. They're allowed to hop on GR and tell everyone I couldn't write a good book if my life depended on it. They're allowed to say they find me an obnoxious, dumbass bitch whose books they will absolutely never read and then go on on a spree one-starring everything I've ever written (which I would admire the dedication, b/c I have over 100 stories published).

 To be honest I'd probably never notice. Because despite all the examples above, I don't actually go out and read reviews. Those are all comments I've chanced upon, or had some well-meaning reader or associate share with me. Sometimes it's a particularly unpleasant email.

 Whatever the case, I don't lash out. I don't call readers names. I don't tell them what to do. I don't act like a fucking child about it. If something really really gets to me, I'll whine to my long-suffering wife or entirely too patient sister.

 Reviews are for readers. Not authors. Even on sites like 'Dear Author' that's just a gimmick. I already wrote the book. It's done. Published. I always try to learn as I go, and do better with each book, but I don't see the point in losing sleep over what people say about a book I'm done with. Reviews are for readers. I did the best I could, released it to the world, and after that I'm done. Every person that reads it reads a different book, sees a different story. Trying to control that is like trying to control the moon. Good fucking luck.

 Leaving readers alone (and staying off Goodreads) is something that Lauren Hough and those just like her could really stand to learn. They are clearly too juvenile, every last one of them, to be in this profession. No one should have to take abuse, but negative reviews and readers refusing to be bullied into silence and submission is not abuse. It's refusing to be abused.

 So what has Lauren Hough done that I am name and shaming her?

 She bitched and moaned about a four star review. She screen-capped it, put it on her twitter where she has 66k followers, and was flat out mean and nasty to that reader.She put a reader on blast, called them an asshole, subjected them to the harassment of her followers and fellow pissbaby authors, for a four star review.

That it's. That's what set her off. Someone thought her book a four, but worth rounding up to 4.5. Someone thought it mostly a five, but rounded down to 4.5. Pretty fucking good ratings. But wait there's more.

Not good enough for Hough, I guess, who seems to think they were lying or posing or something to prove something???

Instead of apologizing, she stood by her comments for a while, then later blamed it all on being stoned. She doubled down and continued to treat readers like shit.



The saga continues, of course, because authors like this don't know when to quit. She is making claims of dogpiling, twitter mobs, etc etc. She has plenty of authors and fans standing by her, treating her like the poor innocent victim in all of this, like she didn't attack readers out of nowhere for giving her book a high rating.

Yes, I will keep repeating that. It boggles the mind.

Now she's decided that all this 'picking on her' is the same as being a victim of rape.


And because apparently she is queer, and a victim herself, she should be allowed to get away with this abhorrent behavior. Here's a newsflash: being a victim doesn't mean you can't also be an abuser, and Lauren Hough is most definitely abusing readers with this sort of behavior. It's bullying. It's hurtful. It's punching down on people who cannot defend themselves from an author with 66k followers and countless peers jumping in to defend her.

No one is 'picking on' Hough. She came out swinging at people who were bothering nobody, and now is mad those people are swinging back.

If you can't handle that people aren't going to like your book? If you're to call readers assholes because they gave your book a 4.5 rating? Go do something else, because you clearly are not mature enough to be an author.

Then again, clearly Hough knew that the only way to get any sales was to make people feel sorry for her. So maybe all this abuse of readers wasn't the weed talking, but the plan all along.

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!


To Lauren Hough and Other Whiny Pissbabies: How Not to Behave as an Author

I should know how to behave and not behave. Anybody in MM Romance will be happy to tell you I have a long and sordid history of pissing peop...