about me

Awkward writers anonymous

What is it about writing something in public spaces that makes people feel entitled to ask about your writing, or even to read it? This happens to me on a semi-regular basis and I’m still struggling with ways to respond that don’t outright alienate the person inquiring or somehow embolden them and make them even more persistent in their questioning. These people approach me in the hallway, in the break room where I write during my breaks and lunches, or even on one memorable occasion in the bathroom, and they bludgeon me with well-meaning but very annoying questions that I can’t answer to their satisfaction.

It’s so very tempting to print up a blunt FAQ and tape it to the lid of my laptop monitor.

FAQ for the Excessively Curious:

Q: What are you doing on your laptop all the time?
A: Usually one or more of five things – writing, editing, reading, watching videos, or procrastinating.

Q: You mentioned writing! I know someone who writes/I always wanted to write/I am someone who reads the products of writers. What do you write?
A: A variety of writing from short stories to novellas, in a variety of genres.

Q: That was awfully broad and didn’t really answer my question. Do you not want to tell me what you’re working on?
A: It was a shallow answer for a shallow question. At any given moment I am usually working on half a dozen projects*, all of which would take too much time to explain to you in the small amount of time I can spare in this, my personal break time, during which I would prefer to be writing. If this sounds surly, you don’t know many actual writers.

Q: Okay, maybe it’s none of my business. But what you’re doing sounds really interesting despite, or because of, the enigmatically limited amount of information you’ve provided. Can I read it when you’re done?
A: What I write is such a specific sub-genre of fiction it’s not only something you wouldn’t be interested in, you would be actively uncomfortable if I shared it, so in order to spare you embarrassment and awkwardness, I must decline. I have plenty of pre-readers at this time, thanks.

Q: I’m just trying to show interest in something that you’re doing which has nothing to do with me!! Why are you so secretive? TELL ME MORE! Seriously, what are you writing?
A: ARE YOU FIVE, GO AWAY. Consider that if someone doesn’t want to tell you about something, they are probably not being coy and have a good reason for not telling you. Besides the obvious: it’s none of your business.

* Current projects:
– Just wrapped galley proof for Body Option
– Awaiting second publisher edits for Klaxon at the Core
– Working on re-write for The More Plausible Evil
– Working on pre-submission beta edits for Dragonspire
– Working on pre-publisher edit draft for Castle on a Cloud
– Writing highly illicit** Appetite-spinoff novella
– Awaiting publisher first edit for My Sexual Superhero
– Awaiting publisher first edit for Like Stolen Pearls
– Germinating ideas for mistletoe fic for upcoming anthology call
– Germinating ideas for In Lesbians (working title), my lesbian enemies-to-lovers contemporary romance
– Back burner: Which Boy (working title), an uncommon paranormal love quadrangle
– Back burner: Beta edits to re-cut Casting the Bones into a YA novel

** I’m not supposed to be working on it, look at all the other stuff I have to do.

Huh, I guess that’s an actual dozen. To be fair I’m only actively engaged in four of those and waiting on the others, or they are waiting for me to have time to work on them.

If I were a less polite, diplomatic person, this would be easier. It’s very difficult to satisfy these prurient people while at the same time honestly answering their questions and not revealing the things I really can’t tell them: in short, I’m writing something that’s not appropriate to discuss in the workplace, but I am doing it on my own time on my own laptop.

Moreover, I write queer spectrum fiction. The substantial majority of my co-workers are Christian. They don’t just read Christian fiction on their downtime. Some of them sit in that room and read their Bibles. My experience with the typical Christian has taught me avoidance in terms of discussing queer culture in general. I’m not being down on Christians, here; it’s simply how things have gone in my personal experience. The revelation that I have a female partner, disclosed to a small and select few, has already gotten me treated like I have a disability we’re all too polite to talk about. (Two of my co-workers still refer to her as my “roommate.” I have never called her that.)

It doesn’t even matter that I write a sub-genre of fiction that none of these interested parties would ever want to read. There is a weird sense of entitlement in the people who’ve asked about my writing, as though they have a right to inquire and get answers simply because they know I write. When I dodge and deflect questions like “what are you writing” or “are you finished with that story you were working on?” with answers like “I write a lot of things,” or “depends on which one,” people get huffy that I’m not giving them straight-out answers. It’s as though they don’t recognize the social cue that a lack of answer means the answer is one they’re not entitled to. Because at the end of the day, what I write is none of their business, regardless of where I’m doing it. And I didn’t volunteer the information that I’m a writer–they asked, because they saw me doing it in a public space.

The most straightforward response would probably be to say something like “I prefer not to say,” but even then most people react poorly to being rebuffed … even when it’s something that really is none of their concern. It’s as though they think, by my act of setting up a laptop and writing in public, I have invited their engagement or solicited their interest somehow.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you get asked these or similar questions? I’d be interested to hear if you have any clever responses or alternative methods of handling the nosy but well meaning inquiries when they come up.

New author interview!

First things first!

Zeph is the winner from The Fall Guide pool and Kathleen is the winner for the Proud to Be a Vampire Vol 1 pool. Congratulations! Both winners have been contacted and their shipping details are confirmed. Thank you everyone for your participation!

Some lovely new developments in the authorial department. All About Romance picked up a review copy of The Fall Guide and said some very good things. Have you picked up your copy yet? Let me know what you think!

There’s a brand-new interview with me up on Rainbow Book Reviews. Go and check it out! You may learn something that will surprise you. 😉

In upcoming months I’ll be featured on Joyfully Jay as one of the Rainbow Con authors, and there will be other fun things to look forward to as well.

Also there’s news! I’ve signed contracts for Like Stolen Pearls and My Sexual Superhero, two stories that will release in collections/anthologies later this year. Body Option has an absolutely awesome cover I’ll reveal a little later on.

What’s on tap right now? I’ve finished Dragonspire, first draft is a whopping 150k, so I’m faced with editing. Lots and lots of edits. Time to look at due dates on some submission calls, as well.

Have a great week!

Queer Romance Blog Hop: Diversity & Inclusion Version

Welcome to the Queer Romance Blog Hop, where queer writers and readers of queer romance share their thoughts on the genre, as well as a few recommendations for books to read! Everyone participating in this blog hop identifies as queer and also reads and/or writes (or edits, or reviews!) queer romance. For our purposes, queer romance refers to books with:

1. LGBTQ+ main characters
2. In romantic relationships
3. That have a happy ending. (No Brokeback Mountain here, folks!)

I’m Talya, and I’ve been publishing queer fiction through Less Than Three Press for a little over a year now and writing it for much, much longer. I’ve been reading queer fiction since around 1997/1998 back when fiction selection was slim pickings: one shelf, and we were lucky if the bookstore carried even that much. Interestingly enough, that one shelf always seemed to be across, or around the corner from, the Christian non-fiction. I used to work at a Big&Name bookstore and I would trawl the general fiction section while shelving … sometimes you could find gay fiction that way, but it was like searching for Easter eggs. Not only was it difficult, but often you’d find something that was not really to your taste.

It’s been amazing to see how things have really grown and changed over the past decade plus, but at the same time, it seems like there’s still a lot of room for expansion.

1. Let’s start off with the getting-to-know-you stuff: How do you identify and what does that mean to you? Whatever level of detail you’re comfortable with, of course!

I am a bisexual woman, and I’ve been partnered for over ten years with another woman. To a lot of people this would mean I’m a lesbian, as though my sexual preference is tied to the person I’m with rather than who I am. Being with a woman for this long doesn’t make me a lesbian; it makes me monogamous. I think (and research supports) that a lot of bisexuals don’t self-identify because we’re not really well accepted by either straight or queer communities, so we tend to hide who we are in order to make other people more comfortable. It’s easier for someone with a female partner to simply say they’re a lesbian because that’s what most people understand. But I am, and always have been, attracted to people of both male and female genders.

Bisexuality was something that was difficult, at first, for me to come to terms with because there was virtually no representation when I was growing up. You were either straight (the default) or gay (deviant), and I didn’t identify with either. In fact, I fought being associated with the queer community at first because I was attracted to the opposite gender, so that meant I “had” to be straight. It was only once I got deeper into researching sexuality and gender that I started to realize, and admit to myself, that not only was bisexuality an option—it’s been a part of me from a very young age. I simply never had the cultural background to recognize it.

2. What’s your preferred “flavour” of queer romance (e.g. trans*, f/f, m/m, menage with queer characters, etc.) Why?

I don’t have a strong preference for any unless being “in the mood” for one or the other would be expressing a preference at the time. I’ve read and enjoyed all varieties, from trans* fiction, to f/f and m/m, poly in various configurations, and I’d love to read and write a great deal more permutations including and beyond those mentioned above. I enjoy the full spectrum of “queerness,” if you will, and I absolutely delight in finding and reading more than the standard fare. Diversity in fiction is a hugely important issue to me, and it’s reflected in my purchasing habits.

3. Do you write/read/review? Do you think being queer affects your participation or platform in romancelandia?

I write, and I think it’s absolutely affected my participation in romancelandia. For one, I don’t see an overwhelming amount of bisexual or pansexual characters represented. Because that’s a component of my own identity, that’s something that has been reflected in my own writing. Several of my published works include bisexual characters. In one work, the world-building assumes that bisexuality is the default with acceptable preferences to either same or opposite gender. I’ve also tended to include characters that, in my opinion, go against what is generally touted in romancelandia to be the typical gay male main character.

4. What drew you to queer romance?

This seems like a simple question that has a very involved, complicated answer for me! I can’t really boil it down to any one factor. I think at first I had an intense fascination with queer fiction because it was like an entirely new realm of romance opening up to me, and it was something kind of taboo and compelling and embattled. A lot of queer people both exist outside the norm and feel like they are pushed outside it, and I identified with that very strongly and was drawn to it. I was drawn to it for prurient as well as non-prurient reasons. There was a lot of raw sexuality and boundary-pushing in queer fiction, as well as character dynamics, that didn’t exist in the hetero romances I’d read. There was also tragedy—a lot of gay fiction didn’t get happy endings back when I first started reading it, and I wanted happy outcomes for a lot of fictional characters I came to care deeply for. I’m pleased to say the happy ending has come within our grasp and become more plausible, at least. And the happy ending (not to mention the sweet, sweet sexual payoff) is why I favor romance over fiction in general.

5. What do you love about queer romance in general, and/or your specific subgenre?

I love that anything is possible. The sky really is the limit as far as the kinds of characters I write and what kind of people they become, who they love and how they choose to express themselves. There’s always something fresh and new and interesting to write, and new and compelling stories to tell.

6. What’s your pet peeve?

That’s a loaded question. I’m going to assume this is intended to mean what’s my pet peeve about queerness in romancelandia. I would have to say my biggest pet peeve is placing limits on queerness, as though your characters have to meet some marketability checklist before they’re allowed to go forward. Diversity and inclusion is an extremely important issue for me, and I feel like we see a lot of cis* white stereotypically masculine men in queer fiction when the queer community contains a whole lot more than that. I want to see more people from all walks of life.

Conventional wisdom says write what you know; I say the hell with that. Write what’s out there in the world, and if it’s not your personal experience, ask, do research, talk to people, find out more and give an accurate representation of others’ experiences. I want to see and read about more people of color, people with disabilities, people from other countries, people of different sizes and attractiveness indexes, and absolutely more queer people from across the entire spectrum. It’s not only lesbian fiction that is under-represented: it’s genderqueer people, pansexuals, bisexuals, trans* people, and asexuals. Asexuals can be involved in romance too, people!

Basically my pet peeve is lack of representation for more than just a single, narrow slice of what being queer is all about.

(*Cis = people who identify with the gender that corresponds with the sex they present at birth.)

7. What growth would you like to see in the genre, going forward? Any ideas on how to accomplish that?

Absolutely more representation. I think there’s so much room to grow in every direction. We need to start writing for it, but I think publishers need to be encouraged to ask for it as well, maybe by broadening their submission standards, but also with targeted submission calls.

8. Do you seek out other queer authors when you read?

I’m really wide open with my reading preferences. If the author is telling a good story with compelling characters, then I’m there. What I’ve noticed, though, is if I find out that a particular author is queer, I definitely tend to gravitate more toward their work to check it out if I haven’t already, or to continue to support and read it if I already enjoy them. I was so excited to discover Fiona Patton was married to Tanya Huff! I’d really enjoyed her Branion books and that was just icing on the cake for me.

9. How do you feel, in general, about straight peoples’ participation in reading, writing, and reviewing queer romance?

I think it’s great. I’m all for making our experiences more accessible and relatable to straight people. It’s easier for people to become allies if they have something to latch onto and understand. And fiction—telling our stories and sharing how we love—really brings people together in a way like nothing else besides food, in my opinion.

I would never tell people not to read, write, or review queer romance. I might, however, caution people who aren’t queer to keep an open mind about our genre—it’s not always going to be something from their own experience, and they ought to be prepared to be accepting of “otherness.” If a straight person says “that’s not what gay people are like,” or “that’s not what lesbian women are like,” or “there’s no such thing as genderqueer people,” you’re potentially negating other peoples’ lived experiences, and that’s going over the line from participation into imposing and regulating queerness. And that has harmful consequences on both sides.

10. Rec us 3 titles in your chosen subgenre and tell us why you love them.

This is a tough one. Limiting it to only three is really, really hard.

I don’t have a “chosen genre” smaller than queer fiction in general, so I’m going to pick three titles in that wider genre and say why they made the short list.

“Comfort and Joy,” by Jim Grimsley – I come back to this again and again because it says a lot of things about gay relationships that still hold true today, and there’s a clash of privilege, both in terms of class (rich/poor, differing job levels), and ability/disability. It addresses HIV and shows the ways in which people sometimes really have to work at relationships when they may not even be sure that they want to. All this is interwoven into a holiday tale that shows the differences between the two main characters’ very different families, the ways they are welcome and not welcome in both, and how a tentative accord is reached at the end. I also love Jim’s prose. He simply has not written a book I’ve loved as much as this one ever since.

Liquor by Poppy Z. Brite – the author now identifies as trans* and goes by Billy Martin, which I recently discovered when looking for information on whether the author would ever continue the Liquor series. Liquor and its sequels were the first domino that tipped me into a full-blown passion for foodie culture. Poppy’s queer characters were always outstanding in a landscape of literature that had formerly tipped the hat but not really “gone there.” Rickey and G-man were very real to me, and though the novels became progressively darker, they presented a lot of real issues that gay people face in the macho world of the kitchen as well as outside of it and came across in an overall hopeful, functional, lasting way.

Zi Yong and the Collector of Secrets, by E. E. Ottoman. This is the first story of E.E.’s that I’d read that really made me sit up and take notice of their writing. This is a historical, wuxia-style tale that culminates in a relationship between two women, and it was really well done, restrained and artful, and I just loved it. Between enjoying this story so much and beta-reading another ladylove story of theirs that was just fantastic, I started reading other stories of E.E.’s and the topics this author tackles, as well as the broad range of character representation, have ensured I’ll keep following E.E. for as long as they write.

That sums it up for me. If you’ve made it this far, I salute you and hope this post has given you a few things to think about.

Thanks for reading and for following the tour! Be sure to use the links below to check out more great posts from our participants!

Five things I wish I could tell my pre-published self

I had grand intentions to write this earlier in the day, and post in a timely fashion even, but it got busy (a good thing!) and I found myself with no time. And of course, in my off time, I was doing important adulty things like adjusting my budget and looking at emails. Back to night blogging.

Though not very far in the process myself, I feel like I’ve already come a long way and there are a lot of things I’ve learned since I first started. First a disclaimer: this is all from my process, things that have happened to me, things I’ve learned and taken away. They may not be the same for you, and your own experience may vary–but these are the kinds of things people ask me, and you may find them helpful. And so, a listicle!

Five things I wish I could tell my pre-published self:

1. Getting a submission rejected isn’t the hardest part

For years, and years, and years, the one thing holding me back from submitting anything, anywhere, was fear of rejection. I saw very talented friends submitting their fiction through the process best known to be tried and true successful, querying an agent, and getting rejection after rejection. From this, I held up rejection as the absolute worst, and figured it was better to keep writing fanfic forever than it would be to risk my original fiction and have it turned down. I already knew that being turned down that way would be like having my own self rejected, so I was pretty much willing to avoid that prospect indefinitely.

It took a real kick in the pants to get me to the point of ever submitting anything, and a direct invitation from an awesome person.

And when I got past the amazingness of getting accepted, I came to realize there were worse things than the prospect of rejection. Which, in the end, is really the process of finding the best fit for author and publisher and nothing more. And that “worse” brings me to my next item, which is…

2. The first pro edit will rip your soul to shreds

I’m exaggerating. Slightly.

The day I got my first pro edit back, I wanted to hide in a hole, never write again, take my manuscript back from the publisher and light it on fire, cry (I definitely did that), yell, drink a lot (I probably did some of that), and wondered just what the hell I had gotten into.

It was, bar none, the most difficult edit of my life, not only because it had a lot of issues to fix, being my oldest manuscript (from 2003) but a lot of rewrites were involved, and I finished with a different editor from the one that I started with.

So I’m not exaggerating when I say the first edit is hard. It’s not like working with a beta reader (or maybe it is, depending on how intensely you work with a beta). They will catch things you never could have thought would still be in there, no matter how many passes you’ve already made. They will point out things you may disagree with, and it will be difficult to decide how to incorporate those edits. It might be hard to see the line where the edit is optional, versus highly recommended, versus required. Edits like publishing house style, of course, are always required.

There’s no way to sugarcoat it–I’m not sure if anyone has a good first pro edit experience. Maybe I’m wrong and someone will comment to prove that to me! The important takeaway is that it gets better, and easier. You get stronger and more confident, provided you learn from the experience and take that into each subsequent draft.

I’ve said before, Hemingway said write drunk, edit sober. I say read your edits drunk, incorporate them sober. It’s medicinal.

3. Be an author the editors WANT to work with

From the very first, uphill battle, though, my goal was to be an author that my editors would want to work with. After I was thoroughly tenderized from my first edit, I started to see the importance and merit in a lot of what I’ve begun to call their “tough love.”

It’s the editor’s job to see the forest for the trees. They have a bigger perspective, they have industry experience, and in many cases, they can spot the flaws and problems that are invisible to you and whatever friends have helped you get the manuscript to its second draft.

In order to be an author that people want to work with, there are some mandatory baseline items. You have to pay attention to your publisher’s house style. If they go by the Chicago Manual of Style, invest in a copy. Make sure your manuscript conforms. If they use emdashes, make sure to use emdashes–like so–instead of other formatting styles – like the space, dash, space, that I used to use – see what I did there?

Here’s the thing: your editor should not have to spend extra time on things that should already be done. Such as a single space between sentences, instead of the two spaces a lot of us grew up with. I think I just dated myself there. Microsoft Word’s find-replace can even fix that for you, so there’s no excuse.

Their job is to make your manuscript better. But first, don’t you want it to be the absolute best it can be before they ever lay eyes on it? Not only does it make their job easier, but they’ll see you’ve mastered the basics and they’ll turn their attention to places where your manuscript really needs work, content as well as line edits.

Conventional wisdom says never turn in your first draft. Conventional wisdom is absolutely correct. No one’s first draft is perfect. There are always things to find. If you don’t have people who can do a good, hard edit for you, there are writer’s groups you can join, or you can even approach pro editors and ask if they’ll do a sample pro edit for you, to see what you’re getting into. Many of them will do that, all you have to do is shop around. And this is also important, I think, to see whether you can work with a pro edit, or whether your reaction is just “No!!!!” But there’s a major reason it is so important to listen to your editor and work well with them.

4. The things your editor says are the things the reviewers will say if you don’t do diligence with your edits

I learned this the hard way with one of my own novels. Many of some negative elements in reviews for From the Inside Out mentioned things that were an initial concern of one of my editors, or things where I had made a half-hearted stab at things she’d asked me to do, but hadn’t taken that as far as I should have. And I kind of wince at all of the reviews that say “needed more editing,” because, well, that’s my fault. It wasn’t that the editor didn’t point out those things–it was that I didn’t incorporate them, or didn’t do them as fully as I ought to have.

Every edit for any manuscript I’ve had since then, I have paid scrupulous attention to my edits, asked more questions if I didn’t understand an edit, and made sure the editor and I were both happy with the final draft before it goes for its line edit. And I stand behind every manuscript I’ve had since then. And in my own opinion, working with my editors has gotten better and better. I hope they feel the same way!

When the editor asks for changes, it’s not because they hate your manuscript, think you’re terrible, or are trying to make your life difficult. It’s because the changes will almost certainly make your novel better. And if you’re not sure about that and feel very strongly about your original draft, the head editor is usually available for questions if a tie-breaker is needed. You’ve (typically) got the option to override suggested changes, as the author it’s your novel, but don’t forget the editor’s name is on that book too, as the editor. They’re invested in the edits because it’s their job to make you look good.

And when you look good, the reviews are good … usually.

5. Take reviews with a grain of salt. Or a block. Keep writing.

Popular opinion of most authors you’ll survey is “DON’T LOOK AT YOUR REVIEWS.” But if you do, for the love of God, be prepared and fully braced for negative opinions. Maybe they have a point. Maybe it’s like they read a completely different manuscript from the one you wrote. But either way, they will have an opinion, they will express it, and it may not ping you the right way. It may sting, or it may outright hurt and make you want to throw your keyboard on the ground.

But, really, what’s a negative review (or ten) going to change? The manuscript is done, it’s published. Once it’s out there, it’s open to interpretation. Some people will like it, some people won’t. Reviews let other people know what that person thought. In a way, they’re not really for you, they’re for those other people, the ones who might read your book.

Take what you can from the reviews, hold the good close to you and cherish it, and shake off the bad. What else can you really do? Wait, let me answer that: for the love of little green apples, do not, DO NOT, do not ever engage with a reviewer if they’ve left you any slightest nuance of a negative review. You may be tempted to engage with them and correct them for something you think they’ve said that is “wrong” about your story. It is not worth the shitstorm that will rain down upon you from the masses. It’s not your job to tell a reviewer that they read your story wrong. The story needs to speak for itself. Once it’s out there, that’s it. You had your shot, now it’s their turn.

Some other authors have advised having a third party screen your reviews, and share the positive ones. This is not a bad idea, if you know yourself and what your reactions to criticism (you feel unwarranted) might be.

At the end of the day, no matter what, reviews shouldn’t stop you writing. An author is someone who basically has to write, after all. Or, rather, an author is like a shark. Keep swimming or something dies.

That’s what I’ve got to share this week! I hope it was helpful, or at least gave a few of you something to think about. This is all a work in progress for me. Next year, I’ll probably have five new things I would have told the me-of-now.

Next week: tackling effeminophobia. What the heck is that, why is it terribad, and where does it come from?

Erasing the Bisexuals

I am a bisexual woman, and have been for as long as I know, even before I was explicitly aware of it.

I have been in a long-term relationship with another woman for fourteen years. This does not make me a lesbian. This makes me monogamous and committed. I am still bisexual, and always will be. Being with a woman for over a decade doesn’t make me gay. I do consider myself very much a part of the queer spectrum – I am not straight. I’m not heterosexual. But I’m not a full-on lesbian. I exist.

Not long ago, there was a certain kerfuffle in our literary blogosphere regarding the presence of het sex in gay fiction, and one of my first reactions was “wait, are they pretending bisexuals don’t exist?” Because, believe it or not, that happens. A lot.

There is a broad, wide market out there, a rapidly-expanding niche that–I thought–was becoming ever more inclusive across the QUILTBAG spectrum. Now, preference is one thing. I understand expressing a preference for a certain type of story, or a certain kind of erotica, and that’s all well and good. Where it becomes unfair, insulting, and even harmful is imposing that standard on the genre as a whole. Because, really, are we just the M/M genre now? We don’t make room for trans*? We don’t abide lesbians? We do not suffer the bisexual women and men to live and love?

It’s one thing to state “I don’t like reading scenes with heterosexual sex.” That’s totally valid, and I support that. Depending on the characters, I may not enjoy it and would skip it myself.

It’s another thing to state, “heterosexual sex doesn’t belong in the M/M genre.” It should be labeled. It is a squick. It is an insult to M/M readers. Get out of my sandbox, you have your own.

Okay, wow. So what about your bisexual men?

They don’t exist, detractors cry. That brings us round to my point to begin with–once again, supposed allies are erasing the bisexuals.

One of the things that made it so difficult to come to terms with my sexuality, personally, was the complete dearth of bisexual representation anywhere. Media, news, conversation, you name it. Growing up, the concept of bisexuality was not shown to me anywhere as something I could be. You were one or the other, straight or gay. What I wanted, what I was, did not exist. It’s been important to me, as a writer, to show that yes, we do.

Out of the three novels I’ve had published so far, two of them feature main characters (men) who are bisexual. In one of those, it’s something of a plot point, even, with Lucas’s struggle to come to terms with the fact that he can be bisexual and committed to another man. In the other, Alex is so fixated on Nik that no one else matters–but he has a past with women, and at one point it does come under scrutiny.

I’m guessing that this has been deemed acceptable, that this has passed muster in the genre, because there weren’t any scenes that depicted the men having graphic goings-on with anyone other than their love interest, who was also male. But what if they had? What if that had been an essential element of the story? Cut it, these reviewers would say. Your audience doesn’t want to see it. The audience doesn’t want a graphic relationship between a man and a woman. There’s already a robust market for that; it’s the hetero romance genre. Your het sex scenes are not welcome here.

Does this sound familiar? “You can do _____, so long as I don’t have to see it.” “Well, it’s your business if you like _____, as long as it’s in private and you don’t rub it in my face.” That doesn’t sound like tolerance, to me. That sounds like veiled hate speech. You can do that thing I find repulsive, but it doesn’t make it right. So do it somewhere else. When you consider this may apply to bisexuals and their relationships, it starts to sound like bi-phobia to me.

Where is the market for the people who swing both ways? The recent outburst from the reviewing sphere suggests that “het scenes” have no place in the “gay market.” That makes it amply clear, once again, that I and people like me don’t exist, or we’re not supposed to. Or we can hook up with opposite-sex people, so long as it happens out of sight. If we want to have sex onscreen, it had better be with the partner whose genitals match up with what our audience is expecting.

To me, this kind of thinking is not only unnecessarily stifling, creativity-wise, but it’s exclusive. We are so much more than a narrow slice of uniformly handsome white men getting it on with other equally handsome white men. We are disabled trans*men, and capable bisexual brown women, and devout Muslim men who sleep with women but fall in love with other men, and chubby girls with vitiligo and a penchant for polyamory saving the world with their adoring wheelchair-bound genderqueer sidekick, and androgynous asexual vampires finding their one true love in a girl with PTSD. We are women falling in love with men falling for men who OTP women and so on, ouroborous unending.

Or maybe we’re not there yet. But authors ought to be able to write it, if that’s the story they want to write. And it’s still queer fiction.

Blanket directives to keep certain content such as–dare I say the blasphemous concept, heteronormative erotica–out of the genre are oppressive and they exclude those of us who cross genre constraints, whether we’re bisexual or not. They exclude certain types of characters, including bisexual and trans*, and erase or otherwise heavily edit those characters’ experiences.

When I was younger, I thought the story of Casanova was that of a bisexual man, who romped through the ranks of the attractive men and women of court. Boy, was I disappointed to find that he kept his charms solely distributed to women. I was young and ignorant but even then, looking for portrayals of someone whose attractions transcended sex or gender. In this day and age, we ought to be able to get that bisexual Casanova. And if someone from the QUILTBAG genre were to write his story, it should be the whole unedited glorious romp. Messy, “undesirable” girl parts and all.

Because we exist, and our stories deserve to be told, too–including the sex we enjoy on both sides of the “street.”

Author event: Gay Romance Northwest Meet-up

I’m registered as an Attending Author for the Gay Romance Northwest Meet-up, 2013!

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What does that mean, you ask? Handily, I have some information for your perusal.

The Gay Romance Northwest Meet-up is an event for writers and readers of M/M fiction to come together and discuss what we’re so passionate about when it comes to gay romance. Clicking the event name takes you to the public Goodreads group.

Date: September 14, 2013
Where: Seattle Central Library, Microsoft Auditorium, 1000 4th Ave Seattle, WA 98104
Time: 12:00pm-7:00pm
Registration: 12pm-1pm

Meet-up Event: 1pm-5pm

Happy Hour: 5pm-7pm

Currently, the event organizers are planning three panel discussions that examine different facets of M/M romance, publishing, and the M/M romance community. The topics will be developed with attendee input over the next few months, so head over to the Goodreads panel topics thread to weigh in.

Registration Rate: The early bird price for registration is $15. This rate is good through July 31, 2013. After July 31, the registration fee will go to $25.

It’s going to be tons of fun, there are loads of talented authors and some pretty fantastic publishers supporting and attending the meet-up, and best of all – happy hour near some awesome hotels!

Follow @GayRom_NW for updates, book spotlights, and authors of the week! You can get a lot of great recs even if you’re not attending the event.

And as an extra touch of awesome, #GRNW is spotlighting me as one of two authors of the week! Thanks very much, @GayRom_NW. I think this event is going to be loads of fun, and they’re making me look forward to September already.

That spotlight is some extra incentive to send over my bio and the photo they asked for. Hmm, a photo…dang it, still need new ones taken.

The Way to Your Heart: Nail Polish!

First things first: today is the last day to sign up for T.T. Kove’s giveaway for her lovely seasonal romance, Sakura Kiss! She’ll be choosing a winner using the random number selector tomorrow.

Next up for my third post for the Way to Your Heart blog hop:

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Another quick and easy way to my heart is to cater to one of my current serious obsessions: nail polish.

I used to be not much of a fan, actually, because of the smell – and the way it felt on my nails, like a coat of something that smothered them. Then companies started going 3, 4, and 5-free – harmful ingredients toluene, formaldehyde, DBP (dibutyl phthalate), formaldehyde resin, and camphor. And, I saw a fantastic shade of gray nail polish on Bill Kaulitz.

Office neutrals had never really interested me, but that edgy gray was like a whole world opening up to me. I found myself at the cosmetics counter getting Chanel Black Pearl and Dior Gris Montaigne. A couple of months later, I made it a workout reward, and wow, it was a full-on slide into its own obsession from there. Nail polish became its own reward! I started maintaining a nail polish tumbler: http://effyeahnailpolish.tumblr.com/

There was so much to do with polish and simple nail art that there hadn’t been when I’d done my nails when I was younger. It was like a fascinating new universe opening up to me, and the brands that didn’t have any harmful chemicals didn’t feel like they smothered my nails at all.

So, a bottle of nail polish in just the right color is a fast path to my heart. From those edgy grays I went to finding just the right hue in every shade across the spectrum, but far and away my favorites tend to be blues, teals, and greens though I have a serious weakness for a good nude, and holographic micro-glitter is one of my favorite things ever.

To show you some of what I love, here are six of my favorite manicures from the past year. It was hard to narrow them down to six, of course.

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Illamasqua Fragile, the color I wore over Easter weekend.

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A-England St. George with a scalloped ribbon of A-England Holy Grail – one of my fun “save a chipped tip” manicures, I featured this not too long ago for Manicure Monday.

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Essie Butler Please – my perfect Tardis blue!

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Chanel Quartz and Pixel Till I’m Blue Over You/China Glaze Snowglobe checkers. My first time doing a checker manicure, and I still need to do this again! So much fun, and so pretty.

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Sephora by OPI Traffic Stopper Copper over sponged half-gradient of Brisbane Bronze over Essie Sand Tropez. This one was inspired by something I reblogged on Tumblr, though I used different colors and a bronze under the glitter. I loved the way it turned out.

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Chanel Delight, the most gorgeous finely-milled bronzy coppery gold with a micro-glitter almost holographic spark to it.

And to sign off, don’t forget to check my giveaway post, where I offer a free copy of A Cut Above the Rest (or anything from my back catalogue, if you already have that).

Have a great week, and may your polish dry quickly and smudge-free!