Review: SPEAK THE OCEAN by Rebecca Enzor

New Adult Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Fantasy, Retellings

Speak the Ocean.jpg

That cover is just gorgeous, isn’t it? It’s SO perfect for the story, too.

BLURB

For Mer handler Finn Jarvis, the feral mermaid performers at Oceanica Marine Park are nothing more than ruthless aquatic predators, violent and unpredictable. That doesn’t stop the public from flocking to one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions. To them, the Mer are magical entertainment, too beautiful to be dangerous. They don’t see what happens to the ones who dare swim out of line.

Newly caught Erie doesn’t know what the evil landfolk want from her. Alone and voiceless, she watches the other merfolk from the confines of her tank. Broken into submission, they’ve become shells of the once vibrant creatures she knew. But Erie refuses to be subjugated. She’ll get the crowds to see her as something more than simple entertainment—starting with her captor, Finn.

While Finn trains Erie in her routine, she secretly teaches herself the air-words he and the other trainers speak. And when the language barrier falls, Finn starts to realize that the gap between human and Mer is smaller than he thought, and maybe it’s not the Mer who are monsters, after all.

Set against the backdrop of a familiar and beloved fairy tale, this stunning debut, as brutal as it is beautiful, explores the morality of subjugating other species to the whims of entertainment, daring readers to find humanity in the inhuman.

REVIEW: 5/5 stars

I enjoyed this book quite a bit, it takes an old favorite of mine, jumbles it up and tosses the dice out to retell it in a whole new way.

One of my favorite characters, Niku, is a dolphin, but he’s not anything like Flipper. He’s more like Cujo, and he’s definitely no Flounder. I’d dare anyone to read this just to see what they thought about Niku, simply because I know it’s a more accurate representation of dolphins than Flipper ever was.

Erie, one of the two main characters, is a mermaid more like the mermaids you read of in mythology. She has pointy teeth, claws and is definitely a hunter. She’s also soft, and curious, far more forgiving than I could ever be and wonderful. She’ll probably make you cry.

Finn, oh Finn, you are such an asshole. Sorry, he really is. But! And here was one of the most interesting parts of this book for me, it shows the growth of a university-aged jerk who has always been overindulged into a caring, kind person who *redacted ’cause I’m not about to spoil this for you!*

I loved that Enzor captured that coming-of-age moment for both Finn and Erie. I don’t see a lot of stories (thanks publishing) dealing with that fraught time period between high-school and university. SO MUCH happens to so many of us during that age, between 18 or so and your early to mid 20s, even if university isn’t in the picture. This story did that so very well that I’m kinda left in awe.

Go on, at $4.99 this is a steal of a book. It entertained me for several hours, it’s well-written and at the end, while there were a couple unresolved plot points that leave me hoping rather a lot for a sequel, I was quite happy I’d read it. The climax grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let me stop reading until I’d finished it. (oops, dinner’s gonna be late!!) There’s a decent bit of romantic side action in this, but it’s definitely not a romance, (and being demi, I had to skip the sex scenes because the emotions didn’t support it enough *for me*). I’ll certainly be watching Ms. Enzor in the future and buying her books!

I think fans of Jim Butcher’s DRESDEN FILES might enjoy this book, it has a flavor to it that makes me think of his work.

Content Warnings: VIOLENCE, kidnapping, slavery, abuse, bloodshed, hunting for sustenance, sex (two graphic sex scenes, on page kissing, relationships) alcohol, food, emotional manipulation, representation of Stockholm syndrome, unresolved mental breakdown, PTSD, use of slurs for ASPD.

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Mom Hugs

I saw a person on twitter posting pictures of them at pride with a ‘free mom hugs’ shirt and I thought it was such a great idea.

I guess there’s actually a movement too, for queer-accepting parents to offer support to queer folks. I love that idea and today… well, today is my mom’s bday.

The mom who once said to me ‘I have never, and will never approve of you or anything you do’ to me.

Her queer daughter who has multiple degrees, two amazing children, a wonderful spouse, and multiple published books.

Yeah.

I don’t talk to my mom, but as far as I know, she’s still alive, and today’s her birthday.

So instead of angsting (like I do far too much) about not having a relationship with my mom, I’m going to design a ‘free mom hugs’ shirt of my own to wear to pride (which is in July here in my town for some weird reason) and I’m going to look into the movement to maybe offer support to queer people in that way.

Gods know I’ve got experience being a mom to a queer kid, my eldest is out and proud. I’d like to give a little of that love out to those like me who don’t have it. I know how badly it’s needed.

Take a virtual hug from me, if you need it. I’m a great hugger. (Odd for someone who is touch averse, but there you go.)

Mental illness is heavy.

I don’t think I see many people talking about how very heavy mental illness can feel. I’ve got a laundry list of mental illnesses, some I talk about, and some only my closest friends know about.

When something happens, a trigger… or a panic attack or something that sends you into a depressive spiral, the combined weight of your mental illnesses can feel like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. Even when you’re medicated and in therapy.

It can glue you to your bed even when you’ve got shit to do.

It’s truly awful.

I’m not in bed, I’m sitting in my garden, so yay me, I got that far. Everything else I’d hoped to accomplish today is probably not going to get done. Which makes me feel just wonderful about myself.

This is all before you add in the very real physical issues you can get with mental illness. It’s a party I wish I hadn’t been invited to. Misery that has no cure, just treatments that sometimes work, and sometimes don’t.

I’m going to go stick my hands in some dirt. Did you know it’s been proven to help depression?

It’s part of why I garden.

I need help, and it sucks.

Many of you know that I’m disabled. I’ve been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, POTS, MCAS and Fibromyalgia/CFS. I’m autistic and mentally ill, I’m queer and my ability to mask any of that has gone downhill since I became a SAHM.

Due to a recent robbery (last week) at my partner’s work, he’ll be losing a large portion of his income. Equating to between $1600 and $2000 a month.

We can’t afford that, we’re dependent on his income to even scrape by, my income as an author and editor doesn’t come close to covering that lack. My partner has always supported this dream of mine with everything in him, working two jobs he doesn’t like much in order to make ends meet.

But we can’t do that anymore. 

Which means that if I don’t get to around $2000 on my patreon before the change in his work comes about (end of August, 2019) I will have to go back to work outside the house. I’m already looking for jobs, and I almost have a meltdown daily, trying to find something I *can* do that isn’t going to send me into a horrible slide down mount mental illness again.

I’ve been a SAHM, disability, queer and autistic advocate, digital graphic designer, book reviewer as well as an author and editor for 5 years now. It’s work I *can* do from home.

Being an author and advocate is like having 5 full time jobs wrapped up into one. The time commitment I’m working now is around 18 hours a day, every weekday.

I curate a valuable Twitter feed, it’s not something I do for fun. I like Twitter, don’t get me wrong, but I tweet what and how I do because I’m trying to provide an awareness service for people who want to know about things most people don’t talk about. There’s purpose behind it all. I’m also on Twitter for my fans to get to know me. If they’d like to.

Being *able* to work, and more importantly, being able to work at something that is reasonably okay for my mental health is so important to me. Writing, advocacy and editing do that. They *let* me work, (because to be completely frank, I’m not even sure if I *can* hold a job outside the house), they let me build a career that I can *do*, that doesn’t cost me too much, that feeds my creative soul.

If I have to go to work out of the house for our survival, there won’t be enough left of me to write my books. I love writing my books, but if I’m an employee (probably doing customer service work, since absolutely none of my very expensive degrees and certifications are worth toilet paper in this country), it’ll be all I can do to keep up with my duties as mom, wife, and freelance editor.

Some people can hold a day job AND write. I’m too disabled to be able to do that. It’s one or the other, and my family’s survival depends on me getting a job or getting to a living wage via my patreon.

I’m booked on editing for the rest of the year, and I’ll continue to do those jobs, but that’ll eat up all of my limited free time and minuscule energy.

I need help to be able to continue writing/advocacy work. It’s a rarity for someone to make enough money at writing for it to be a liveable wage. The Stephen Kings and J.K. Rowlings are extremely few and far between. I doubt I could stop writing if I wanted to, I’ve been doing it since I was 11. But writing for publication and writing for myself are two completely different animals. I highly doubt I’ll be able to write for publication anymore, and if I *can* at all squeeze any writing in, it’ll bring my productivity down to a book every 5 to 10 years or something like that. Everything I’ve built will disappear at that type of productivity. That breaks my heart. I’ve worked so hard to get to where I’m at, and I’ve achieved success most people don’t in the time I have done it in. But it’s at an end.

People tell me they love my stories, that I’m writing things that people need and want to see. Here’s a list of my very queer, autistic centered stories.

But I can’t afford to keep doing it. We have to eat, and that kind of monthly loss, when you live paycheck to paycheck, isn’t something we can absorb.

I want so badly to keep going and not give up this dream I have of being an author. I’ve got several books published and more in me to write, but if I have to work outside the house, I won’t be able to do it. When you’re as badly disabled as I am, it’s a constant battle to decide which things get done, and which don’t. Writing will come last, and it won’t be because I want it to. It’ll be because there won’t be enough creative energy left in me to do it. I’ve worked phone service sorts of jobs before, I know what they cost me, and that was before I had kids to care for.

FWIW, being an immigrant, I’m not eligible for help/support from the government.

So I’m turning to you, my readers. Those who take the time to read my words, my digital content on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Those who read my blog and who care enough to follow me, interact with me.

I have a patreon, I’ve never really pushed it much, because I felt others probably needed the support more. We were doing okay. Not great by any means, any extras we had came in the form of gift certificates received from awful family members, and recently an occasional treat from my income.

Now, I desperately need the help. I know my capabilities, and if I have to take an out-of-the-house job, I won’t be able to write for publication anymore. I just won’t.

If you can afford it (and well do I know that a lot of the people who most need my work, queer peeps, disabled peeps, autistic peeps CANNOT afford it, it’s okay, I get it, you don’t need to apologize. I can’t afford it either) please consider becoming a patron. If you know of ANYONE who might benefit from my work, please consider becoming a patron. I don’t want to give up, but I see no other course open to me.

Without your help, I’ll be done with writing consistently for publication in August. Just typing that sentence out has me in tears. Capitalism is the evilest beast. Even a dollar a month can help. Truly, that dollar a month can really and truly help. It doesn’t have to be a lot from each person. I just need to get to the total monthly amount.

The way I’ve done the math, it would take half of my Twitter followers donating a dollar a month to keep this dream afloat.

It would take 300 donors at 5$ a month. Fewer at more per month.

I feel that my writing and advocacy are needed, so much so in this horrible world. But I can’t do it alone.

If you help me, I can.

It’s really as simple as that. My family needs to eat, and I can’t feed them my dreams, or my writer’s tears.

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Thank you for listening, please help if you can.

 

Review: THE BONE WITCH SERIES by Rin Chupeco

Dark Young Adult Fantasy

There is a minor spoiler about the bury your gays trope in this review.

Rated: 5 stars across the board. Each book is so damned good.

I’m breaking my standard review format and doing all three of these as a series, basically because I read them back to back in a gluttonous feast of literary enjoyment!

I saw some chatter about The Bone Witch, book one, when it first came out, but YA books historically don’t move me. I think it’s because I never had anything resembling a decent childhood, so I can rarely connect with the characters. I just sorta sighed and figured it wasn’t for me. While really wishing it was because gosh it sounded good.

When I saw it at the library a week or so ago, I grabbed it, thinking I’d read it for my eldest, who is a reluctant reader. (For someone who doesn’t like YA much, I read an awful lot of it in order to help her find books she WILL love.)

My gods did this series ever suck me in and take over my life. I tore through book one, then immediately bought book two (even though I’d put it on hold at the library, because I didn’t want to wait ’til the next day to pick it up!!). I also lucked out in that the third book was dropping on March 5th, so I preordered that one too.

These books are THAT good. I don’t buy many books because I can’t afford it, these are well worth the cost to me though.

For me to enjoy a YA book/series it really has to be so very dark that adults with my kind of taste in fantasy will enjoy it regardless of the age of the protagonists.

The Bone Witch series delivers on everything I love in fantasy. It’s dark, it’s gothic, the characters are well-meaning but oh man, they will do anything they have to in order to protect the people they love. Best about this series? The entire cast is diverse. I loved that so much!

The things I loved about this series are hard to enumerate, to be honest, because there’s just so MANY.

I love the main character, Tea (pronounced Te-uh), she’s an anti-heroine, someone who wants to do good, but because of her skills, powers, personality and what the world throws at her… well… the good she does and the path she walks tends to be littered with the wrong actions for the right reasons. And maybe more than a few bodies. PERFECT.

Tea is a necromancer, to put it bluntly, but Chupeco has taken that trope, shoved it in a bag and shaken it up so much that it’s new, fresh and enchanting. I’ve never seen quite this take on necromantic powers before and it was just wonderful to sink myself into a story that felt so new.

The setting! The costumes! The world! The mythology! The representation! The magic! The relationships! The mystery! I legitimately can’t find anything I hated about these books, and I’m a picky damned reader so can usually find something I’d improve on.

I loved that, most of all, in the end, this series is about love. Not like a romance is about love, though there is a romance in the series (and such a good one I had to squee about it!). This series is more about the different kinds of love one person can experience. From platonic to sibling to romantic, to the love a student can hold for a mentor… all the kinds of loves. The story is also about the kinds of things a person can be driven to in order to protect their loves. It’s also about letting go. There won’t be more with the main characters after this trilogy. This is a finished trilogy but that’s absolutely okay with how everything ended.

The side characters were so well fleshed out and diverse! I loved them all. I was so thrilled to find that there’s trans rep for a side character in this (a trans girl) and there’s also positive fat rep for a side character, there’s positive rep of gay side characters and bisexual ones. The queer rep was done *exactly* right for an author who I suspect may not be queer herself. The main character wasn’t, her relationships and interests are m/f, but the side characters SHOWED us queer folk, and best yet? None of us died! No bury your gays crap here. Right up ’til the end of the last book I was *terrified* Chupeco was going to break my heart and one of my queer-babies was gonna die. But she held the pace, and my heart, sacred. No queers died here.

The series is also safe for my sex-repulsed ace readers by the way, since I know there’s some of you out there. There is on page kissing, references to sleeping in the same bed (which I found beautifully refreshing to see in YA, more please!) but no on page nooky to drive you away from reading what is probably going to go down as one of my absolute favorite fantasy series of all time.

Something else I really loved about these? It’s the way they were written. The current time vs the past time format of two different characters PoV really worked. Something that could’ve made the series flop worked wonderfully under Chupeco’s masterful pen.

I’ll be buying this series in hardcover (Even though I already bought them in ecopy) just so I can have them on my shelf.

The number of books I do that for these days is minuscule because I’m out of space!

As I was telling a twitter pal recently, these books are some of the quiet ones that you don’t hear all that much about. They don’t make a gargantuan splash, but oh man do they deliver in all the best of ways. I would truly love to see these as a movie on the big screen. No more Harry Potter crap please, develop these instead!

I did catch several editorial oopsies in the first book, (my day job is as a fiction editor) but it wasn’t enough to really throw me out of the story too badly. Books two and three were much better edited and I only caught a couple of glitches.

Hie thee hence to where you get books and get these NOW so I can talk to more people about them! 🙂

CONTENT WARNINGS: There is one section of parental abuse (both emotional and physical) in book two of a queer son by a parent BECAUSE the son is queer. It sorta smacked me in the face, I feel it was necessary to explain a bit of character development, and at just three lines it was something I feel is easy to accept (even though I’ve been rejected by my mother for being queer) IF you know it’s coming. But heads up that it is there.

Other CWs: Abuse, violence, blood and gore (battle scenes), animal/companion animal death (it’s not as bad as it sounds because the critters are technically immortal, they come back) suicidal ideation, kidnapping/imprisonment, death/dying, blood, depiction of mental illness due to spells/poisoning, discriminatory attitudes (towards Tea’s profession and skills), food (mention of)

Take a look at these gorgeous covers! I can’t wait to have them on my shelf. Buy links are under each book:)

The Bone Witch: Book 1

Bone Witch.jpg

Publishers Weekly Most Anticipated Young Adult Book of Spring 2017!

In the captivating start to a new, darkly lyrical fantasy series for readers of Leigh Bardugo and Sabaa Tahir, Tea can raise the dead, but resurrection comes at a price…

Let me be clear: I never intended to raise my brother from his grave, though he may claim otherwise. If there’s anything I’ve learned from him in the years since, it’s that the dead hide truths as well as the living.

When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.

In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha—one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.

Memoirs of a Geisha meets The Name of the Wind in this brilliant new fantasy series by Rin Chupeco!

AMAZON

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The Heart Forger: Book 2

Heart Forger

In The Bone Witch, Tea mastered resurrection—now she’s after revenge…

No one knows death like Tea. A bone witch who can resurrect the dead, she has the power to take life…and return it. And she is done with her self-imposed exile. Her heart is set on vengeance, and she now possesses all she needs to command the mighty daeva. With the help of these terrifying beasts, she can finally enact revenge against the royals who wronged her—and took the life of her one true love.

But there are those who plot against her, those who would use Tea’s dark power for their own nefarious ends. Because you can’t kill someone who can never die…

War is brewing among the kingdoms, and when dark magic is at play, no one is safe.

AMAZON

INDIGO/CHAPTERS/KOBO

GOODREADS

ShadowGlass: Book 3

Shadow Glass

The dramatic finale to The Bone Witch series! Tea’s dark magic eats away at her, but she must save the one she loves most, even while her life—and the kingdoms—are on the brink of destruction.

In the Eight Kingdoms, none have greater strength or influence than the asha, who hold elemental magic. But only a bone witch has the power to raise the dead. Tea has used this dark magic to breathe life into those she has loved and lost…and those who would join her army against the deceitful royals. But Tea’s quest to conjure a shadowglass, to achieve immortality for the one person she loves most in the world, threatens to consume her.

Tea’s heartsglass only grows darker with each new betrayal. Her work with the monstrous azi, her thirst for retribution, her desire to unmask the Faceless—they all feed the darkrot that is gradually consuming her heartsglass. She is haunted by blackouts and strange visions, and when she wakes with blood on her hands, Tea must answer to a power greater than the elder asha or even her conscience. Tea’s life—and the fate of the kingdoms—hangs in the balance.

“Chupeco delights. Exceptionally written from beginning to end.” —Buzzfeed on The Bone Witch

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Ghostwriting and employing ghostwriters, right or wrong?

ghostwrite

verb

ghost·​write | \ ˈgōs(t)-ˌrīt  \
ghostwrote\ ˈgōs(t)-​ˌrōt  \ghostwritten\ ˈgōs(t)-​ˌri-​tᵊn  \

Definition of ghostwrite

intransitive verb

to write for and in the name of another

transitive verb

to write (a speech, a book, etc.) for another who is the presumed or credited author

I just got into it with a mutual on Twitter, and as usual, I had no idea someone was getting upset with me until they snapped at me and hurt me. I mean, why do people persist in asking questions and searching for clarification if they don’t want the fucking answers? I’ll never understand that.

Isn’t the point of social media to be social and talk about things? If not, what the fuck is the point of it anyway?

I really suck at social shit. Autistic, yo? and one of those autistics who has a LOT of problem with social shit. It’s my biggest weakness because of my autistic brain. (I still wouldn’t change my brain, I love being autistic.) I will probably NEVER manage to catch on that I’m annoying someone before they either block me or snap at me or subtweet me or whatever.

I’m totally cool with people not agreeing with me, I’m used to it, but if you ask a question, and I’m in the mood, I’ll tell you my opinion. Feel free to disagree with me! Ask me to drop the subject, whatever, I’m fine with that. But I’ll always be hurt by impoliteness. I’ve been abused too much in my life not to be. Politeness, to me, is the very least amount of consideration another person owes someone, and yeah, rudeness can make me cry.

So I’m in tears, there’s that.

I do feel the need to write a bit more clearly and deeply about why I feel ghostwriting fiction or employing a ghostwriter for fiction is so wrong. Since it’s my damned blog you can choose to engage with it or not.

I do feel it’s wrong. I can’t help but feel it’s wrong in fiction with the way it’s done now.

And yes, I’m well aware that a lot of marginalized writers choose to ghostwrite to pay the bills so they can afford to write their stories.

As with anything marginalized people have to do to get by, go for it. It doesn’t change that I feel it’s wrong, (and I’m lucky enough to have the privilege to not be forced to do it myself) but I hope you manage to survive long enough in publishing that we get your actual stories, because those are the ones I desperately want to read.

I’ve even considered ghostwriting fiction myself (for about 30 seconds). I *have* made money ghostwriting non-fiction.

Now… those are two different animals. Non-fiction and fiction, and the expectations of readers are different, too.

For generations, non-fiction has been openly ghostwritten, just because someone is a celebrity or has something to say doesn’t mean they know how to write. It’s a skill, after all. I believe the ghostwriter is often credited in the book somewhere for doing the actual writing. It’s on the up and up, no one is trying to hide anything from anyone. The ghostwriter is often paid a living wage for the work. It doesn’t work that way in fiction.

I don’t know when the switch in fiction happened, sometime in the last century or later part of the 20th century is my guess. I could go do the research to find out when it started, but I don’t want to, it’s not the point for this piece.

But it’s not a time-honored tradition. It’s also not on the up and up.

In fiction, the ghostwriters aren’t paid well, by and large. (I’ve looked at listings for them, 500$ for a full-length novel that I have no rights to is GOOD pay for that kind of service when you’re first starting out. $100 is more average.)

They’re also not credited for their work, and the consumer often has no idea the book is ghostwritten. Lies upon lies. I want my food labeled with the ingredients, why the hell wouldn’t I want my books labeled too? That makes no damned logical sense at all.

I’m, unfortunately perhaps, unable to NOT see it when an author’s voice changes. I buy and read books primarily for the authors voice. It’s my first criteria for a book. I can’t manage to ignore it when the voice changes. It’s just not something I can do.

Something about how my brain and memory works makes it incredibly clear to me when the voice in a series of books changes. That means I’m not, as the consumer, getting what I paid for because I paid for the original author’s voice and words. Not the ghostwriters.

The way it seems to work in traditional publishing is that the author gets big enough with their own writing that there’s more demand for it. They’ve made their readers love their voice, worlds, and characters so much that they desperately want more. Every writer’s dream. But then the author starts getting pressured by corporate publishing to produce books faster and faster. I mean, why would corporate publishing want to bother looking for new authors when they have a sure winner they can just hassle into writing faster?

Several big-name paranormal authors are doing it now. Any of the leaders, I almost guarantee, are probably using ghosts to write their work if they’ve got a fast release schedule.

I’m not demonizing the ghostwriters any more than the authors who hire them. In my unvarnished opinion, they’re both contributing to the fucked up mess that is modern publishing. The real bad guys here are the corporate fat-cats who run publishing, but we’re all of us implicated. From the person who buys books they know are ghostwritten, to the desperate author who can’t keep up with her publication schedule, to the ghostwriters themselves. We all contribute to this mess.

Maybe the ghostwriters have to do it. Like I said, I have the privilege to NOT have to do that. I can quit writing and go get a sales job if I want to. (I don’t. I’d rather shove a fork in my eye, and currently, my partner makes enough money that we can scrimp by, barely, hoping like hope that my books take off enough that I can make a living wage at this. It’s not looking likely folks, and ghostwriting… well, that’s part of the reason why.)

Reasons I hate it, and this is on both the author who hires the ghostwriter and the ghostwriter who does the work. It’s a two-way street.

  1. A) Dishonesty: It’s dishonest to put out the books in a series as being written by THE AUTHOR when they’re written by a ghost. Dishonesty doesn’t seem to bother a lot of people as much as it does me. I’m incredibly bothered by a lie, and that’s what it feels like when the ghostwriter isn’t credited as being the one who did the work. In fiction, they almost never are. It’s treated like a dirty secret. Authors who use ghosts are accused of not being REAL authors. (And I mean, they aren’t, are they?) On those listings advertising for ghostwriting, there’s almost always a DND (Do Not Disclose) meaning you can’t tell anyone, ever, that you wrote the book, not the author in question. Lies.
  2. A) Saturation: It keeps the market saturated. These authors who release a book sometimes as often as every three months… yeahnope. I write incredibly fast. I can easily do a 5k day (write 5000 words in a day) and I’ve had 11 and 18k days. (Most full-length novels are between 80,000 and 120,000 words in romance.) So for me to doubt any author is writing a polished and releasable book that fast has some worth to it. Is it technically possible? Sure. But it’s technically possible for a lot of things to happen, that doesn’t make it bloody likely for EVERY paranormal romance author who are household names to be able to keep to that kind of production schedule. But they all seem to manage it, don’t they? Ever wondered HOW? No? I have.
  3. B) Saturation: Keeps the market saturated. What do you think happens to authors like me, the newer ones who write paranormal romance (or any other saturated genre) and want to break into that? There’s still a demand for it, readers are still buying it, but because the top 4 or 5 big-name authors are releasing books every 3 months or so… (probably ghostwritten by a stable of ghosts who aren’t paid enough and aren’t credited for their work) we don’t have a chance. Paranormal Romance is my ultimate favorite sub-genre, that and SFF Romance. With authors who keep pumping out books every 3 months… newer authors just don’t have a chance in hell. We can’t compete with that, and there’s no demand for our books with that going on. I can’t find an agent for my work, because the books won’t sell, because the market is saturated by these big names. If you think that isn’t playing into the hands of corporate America and capitalism, think again. And to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with my writing. The industry is broken. If we don’t talk about dirty little secrets like this, how in the world can we ever fix the industry? We can’t. Corporate sure as hell doesn’t want it fixed, I guarantee it. They’ve got a working methodology, they don’t CARE if marginalized writers are hurting and giving up their dreams.
  4. B) Dishonesty: I choose where my book money goes very carefully, because I can’t afford to buy every book I want. As with anything in the world, we choose what we want the world to look like by where we spend our time and our money. The authors I choose to support are the ones I’m hoping will have a chance. I’m saying with my purchase that I want more of THEIR story and THEIR words, THEIR voice. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I buy mostly marginalized people’s work, and it’s often Indie, either from an independent publisher or a self-pubbed book. I’m trying to send the message with my reading choices that no, I don’t want the mass produced ghostwritten stuff that ISN’T as good as the original authors work. I want to support people who don’t use ghostwriters. I want to read ownvoices stories written by the person whose name is on the cover of the book. I don’t feel that’s wrong. I DO feel it’s wrong to lie to me about who is writing the book. I mean, who likes to be lied to? (It also opens me up to the risk of plagiarism, like the recent brouhaha in romancelandia and Cristiane Serruya. She claimed to have used a ghostwriter who plagiarised other authors and that she didn’t know. (Whether I believe that or not is a separate situation, cause I don’t. But it does open me up to the risk that the ghostwriter isn’t honest. It’s MY name on the books, so it’d be me who was guilty of plagiarising, if I’d used a ghostwriter who had.)
  5. Quality: I’ve seen self-professed ghostwriters saying they don’t put the sweat and blood and work into a ghostwritten piece that they would into their own work. Maybe… just maybe, that’s part of the reason the quality of writing in a vast majority of books published these days stinks so badly? Just a thought.
  6. Skewed Expectations: With the schedule of production being releases by ‘the same author’ every 3 to 6 months, readers get the idea that all authors can do that. Let me break down how long it takes me to write a book when I’m on my game, okay? I can draft a full-length novel (first draft, it’s a mess) in 4 to 8 weeks, because I write ridiculously fast. Not all authors can do that. Then, because I care about the quality of what I put out, I let it sit for a week or so before I dive into rewrites and edits. That usually takes several passes to get right. So usually, I’m ready for my critique partners to take a look at it around draft 4 to draft 6, at this point, it’s 4 months into the process. They usually take about a month to get their opinions and suggestions back to me. That’s 5 months. I then go through a couple of more passes to incorporate the suggestions they’ve made that I want to add. That can take up to two months, putting us at 7 months. If I need sensitivity/authenticity readers, I then send it to them. 8 months. 9 to incorporate their suggestions/remove my fuckups. So 7 to 9 months, depending, before the book-baby even goes to my editor at my publisher. Then it enters the publication schedule. At my publisher, that’s 6 to 8 months, so it’ll be another 5 to 7 months before I do another round of edits and we start the cover making process. It’s slightly different if I’m self-pubbing it, but the time is roughly the same. From the moment I put the first word on the page, to the time a reader can buy the book, we’re looking at 14 to 16 MONTHS between books. Not three. And I write fucking FAST. You see why I doubt the every three to six months bullshite so many authors are pulling out of their arses? That’s why. If I wrote slowly it’d be different, maybe I’d find it more believable, but I don’t. I’m one of the fastest writers I know of (not the fastest, I can name several who are faster, but I AM fast.) I can buy that it’s possible to do it if you’re really damned good at juggling edits and drafting and can work on multiple projects. But most writers I know can’t do most of that. We’re either shite at scheduling, or we can’t focus on more than one project, or, or, or…

Sigh.

There’s no such thing as ethical consumption in a capitalist society, but there are shades of grey within that maxim. If I have the choice of buying a struggling, marginalized indie authors work vs a big name who is dishonest about the source of the words published under their name… I’ll always choose the struggling author. I empathize with that too much NOT to.

In doing so, I support that persons’ dream of being an author.

Because ghostwriting isn’t a victimless industry. If you think it is, you’re more naive than I am.

Ghostwriters and those who hire them keep people like me, marginalized authors with ownvoices stories in saturated markets from getting agents and book deals. That’s just the facts of it.

If the big name authors took a year or more to release a book, publishing would be forced to open the door for more, newer authors, thus giving them a chance.

You know the reason I don’t ghostwrite fiction? Other than the fact that it felt yucky to me? It’s because it’s like shooting myself in the damned foot to cave in to that. It really is. I’m exactly the type of author most often taken advantage of by people who hire ghostwriters. I’m fast, I can write well and cleanly, I’m marginalized up the wazoo, I’m desperate to get my stories out there… but I choose not to ghostwrite. (I do have that privilege, and I’m aware that it’s a privilege. Not everyone has that, and I wish we all did.) I choose not to so that I, and other writers like me, MIGHT have a chance to break into this godawful industry. So that we MIGHT have a chance to see our words in a book with our names on it.

No matter how often people want to believe there’s a seat at the table for all of us, there isn’t a seat at the traditionally pubbed and supported table for all of us. Not with the way it works now.

We are lucky enough to be writing in a time period when self-pub, indie publishers and other methods of getting our stories out there EXIST. When I first started writing, if you didn’t have an agent and a traditional deal, you didn’t get published. Period.

But that doesn’t mean the industry is fair to marginalized writers. It just isn’t. So many of those authors I’m almost sure are using ghostwriters are white, cis, not mentally ill and they’re neurotypical. They’re keeping to their schedule of production by taking advantage of often marginalized writers who are struggling to break into the very field they’re hiring the ghostwriter for. They’re not paying the often marginalized ghostwriter a decent wage, they’re certainly not giving them credit for the work…

How in the world can that be right? Where the fuck is the integrity of that? Non-existent is where.

Now, IF an author wanted to be honest about using ghostwriters, give them credit in the books and pay them a living wage, it would be a completely different story. Patterson hasn’t written a book in YEARS, and he’s honest about that. People buy the BRAND more than they buy words they think Patterson himself has written.

But so many people in other genres just treat it as a dirty little secret that no one can speak about or they’ll get crucified for it.

I do kinda get sick of being the one crucified.

Or maybe I’m just a fool for not advertising for a ghostwritten piece, paying $100 dollars for it and sending it on to agents as my own work. Hell, I could have a contemporary romance line if I did that. (I don’t even read contemporary, in general) I could have cis, white, neurotypical characters if I did that. Maybe I could even have a successful career at this, if I did that.

But at the end of the day, I have to be able to meet my children’s eyes and proudly declare that ‘I’m an author’. I have to be able to look in the mirror at my own eyes too, when I finally quit writing and say… hey… at least I tried and I tried it while maintaining my integrity and personal values. I can say to myself then, ‘I was an author’.

Maybe consider buying me a kofi or becoming a patreon? If I can make it to some sort of living wage between my royalties and my patreon before too much longer, I can keep writing. I can keep providing content and being an advocate for people like me who don’t want to speak the words or have the heat on them.

I can keep trying. ‘Cause being disabled? If I have to go back to work out of the house there won’t be enough left of me to keep doing it all. I’ll disappear, me and my stories both, like a tumbleweed in the desert. That’s the cost of ghostwriting peeps. Don’t lie to yourselves and think it isn’t.

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I have limited ways for people to talk to me privately due to months of harassment, unsolicited private body parts pictures and death threats, so if you have something you want to say to me, you’ll have to email.

My email address is kaelan.rhywiol@gmail.com

If you have something to say to me, please do it that way.

 

 

 

 

 

Doxxing, authorial behavior and consequences.

Content Warning: Bullying, Harassment, Successful Suicide Mention, Doxxing, Mention of Sex and Kink, Mention of Eating Disorder, Mention of Insomnia, Mention of Vomiting.

Recorded version, if you’d prefer to listen than to read is here.

Now that I’m a bit calmer, and the danger has been removed from the perpetrator’s website, I’ll write a bit about what’s had me in a tizzy for the past 18 hours or so.

Last night, a good friend sent me a DM (direct message) with a link to an author’s blog. Her contact page, specifically, that had a comment on it that outed my legal name and associated it with this pseudonym. The comment had been there for anyone to find since August of 2017. There were massive consequences to this, which I’ll detail later.

Now, I’ve always been scrupulously honest about using pseudos, and my reasons for why. When I made the switch from writing custom kink stories for private clients to writing for publication, a former friend who happened to be a sex worker, and knew I wrote kinky/sexy stories, advised me to use a pseudonym. That made sense to me and I didn’t have a problem with it.

I’ve never been particularly attached to my legal name (I’ve hated it *forever* I’m named after a soap opera star for gods sake and it was the MOST popular name the year I was born. I had 6 people with the exact same name in my class of 30 growing up. We had to go by our last names, like we were in the military, in elementary school.) So I chose a name I really liked and went with that (it’s also a bit of a joke, and a nod to my partner’s Welsh ancestry, very few people, mostly native Welsh speakers get the joke.)

Since coming out as trans, its also become my dead-name, I don’t even use it in real life unless I absolutely have to. The absolutely have to is legal paperwork, I just don’t use it. It has those negative connotations to it too. I can’t afford to change my name, because I’d have to change it in two countries. It’s prohibitively expensive and the process is also terrifying for me. So many gov’t offices, embassies, officials et cetera.

But seeing my legal name still hurts me. Seeing it on this author’s page, one I’d call an enemy, shocked and horrified me. Knowing it had been there for so long made me sick to my stomach. I know, it’s been there for years, why is this bothering me so much now? Right? It’s because of the consequences I mentioned earlier.

Having both my legal name and pseudo also associated with untrue, cruel rumours about me rather sucked.

A few years ago, a young woman was bullied during the lead up to PitchWars, which is a contest for authors to get a mentor and get their work in front of agents. I had nothing to do with the incident except that someone who did happened to respond to both me and the bullying victim. I was a follower of all three of the people involved. This was in my early years on Twitter, and I basically followed anyone who followed me, anyone who was a writer. I figured if you were a writer you were great people and I wanted to know you. It’s what a lot of us writers do when we first find the writing community on Twitter. I’m no longer so indiscriminate in whom I follow/become mutuals with. I can’t be. It’s too dangerous. That’s incredibly clear to me now. So clear.

Later, around the mess with ficfest, (another contest that collapsed under accusations of racism and bullying) I was accused again of having something to do with bullying the victim, who suicided later that same year. I was a ficfest mentor for all of 18 hours. A good friend of mine asked me to co-mentor with her and I jumped at the chance because I wanted to help other writers. 18 hours when I was caring for two vomiting children and coming down with the stomach bug myself because my husband was out of town. So not exactly strolling around on the internet, if you know what I mean. When I was well, I came back online to see that the organizer and some of the former ficfest mentors had bullied the person again.

I was still painted as being part of it, because I was a ficfest mentor. Because I’d wanted, naively, to help other writers and had jumped at the chance to mentor in a bigger contest.

I knew about the suicide within hours of her actions, her friend told me, but the news didn’t hit Twitter for months after and when it did it was a huge mess. Once again, because I’d reached out to the person via a private DM to offer support after the ficfest thing, I was implicated in bullying and in driving her to suicide.

Part of my life mission is to educate people on what bullying is and isn’t. I’ve done hours and hours of Master’s level coursework in education, I have a dual Masters in education and world history. I have all this information on what bullying is and how to prevent it. I was a history teacher in the states, prior to that I was a traveling sexuality educator. It was after I’d gotten out of crime scene investigation, before I became a parent and before we came to Canada. I’ve seen and prevented bullying and I’ve also been bullied most of my life. It’s not anything I would ever be part of.

My brother died from suicide, I would never in a million billion years have something to do with driving someone to make that choice. But it doesn’t stop the rumour mongers. One of the worst of whom is the YA author who had my name on her blog.

To have those two accusations constantly follow me around is particularly cruel. If they could’ve chosen things to label me with that would hurt me most it would be that.

About a year ago, or maybe a little more, I wrote an ill-timed thread on Twitter about author behavior. The thread legitimately had nothing to do with anyone in particular, but because I’d mentioned that someone had soft-blocked me just before writing it, it was associated with being an attack on that person.

Now, I will never understand how allistic people think. To *me* I was talking about authors in general, not anyone in specific, there were no names mentioned, just ‘authors’ but thanks to the same person who hosted my name on her blog for so long, (and others) I was painted as attacking a young woman of colour. This person (the one who had my name on her blog) has a long history of attacking and dragging neurodivergent and/or mentally ill people. She never, ever apologizes for it. Nor, does it seem, does she ever suffer professional consequences for it.

Attacking a young person in general, or anyone of colour is also something I would *never* do. (Aside from it being cruel and bullying and contrary to my very firm sense of honor, I have better things to do with my time, like write books, play games or stare vacantly out of the window at fog, maybe scrub the bathroom floor with a toothbrush or my tongue.)

I was subtweeted for days, called all sorts of unpleasant things and I received a lot of harassing emails about it. 10 former mutuals (two people who follow one another on social media) didn’t bother to ask me what I’d meant with my thread, they just listened to this other author and blocked me and subtweeted me, and basically made my life a living hell for over a week. Queer people I’d held virtual hands with the night Frump was elected as we all watched in horror. None of them even asked me what I’d meant with my thread, whether it was directed at someone or not, they just assumed and listened to this horrible author. People who weren’t exactly friends, (I use that word sparingly and with care) but were more than casual acquaintances.

Once I finally figured out what people thought I’d said (I mean… jesus, would it have killed someone to reach out to an autistic person and say, hey, these allistic people think you said X, maybe if you didn’t mean that you might want to clear that up?) I both privately and publicly apologized for my thread.

I still, for the life of me, don’t understand how those awful people could think my words on general authorial behavior could be associated with a young woman who hadn’t ever written a book. I mean… she hadn’t written a book? HOW COULD SHE BE AN AUTHOR THAT I WROTE A THREAD ABOUT? The illogic of it all was staggering. But that’s allistic people for you, they make no damned logical sense at all. Sorry allistics, many of you are wonderful, and I mean that, I wish you made sense to me. You just don’t.

I’m mixed-race, mentally ill, queer, autistic, and physically disabled. I’m a published author of queer romance with ownvoices characters and I also don’t lay down about abuse. I have strong opinions that I voice frequently, and I tear apart warrior autism parent’s self-aggrandizing books. I’m not bad to look at and I have a real, recent photo of myself as an AVI. I get (and I expect to get) a lot of harassment of various types including sexual harassment. I get a lot of death threats, some quite inventive.

So that’s why I use a pseudo, it’s got nothing to do with trying to hide who I am. In this industry, my legal name is an open secret anyway because it’s on any query I’ve ever sent. I stopped counting at 500 queries, so you know, a lot of people know my legal name. But most people, most industry professionals, have the decency and honor to keep it to themselves. As is done in any industry where pseudonyms are used.

To out that, to doxx me like that, to host that comment for YEARS on her blog. It’s personally reprehensible to me. Horrific even.

Someone mentioned the possibility that she didn’t know it was there. Anything is possible I suppose, but I highly freaking doubt it.

  1. It was on her contact page, and it’s fully updated to include her agent’s information. I have a fantastic memory when pain isn’t inhibiting recall. My autistic memory is telling me she didn’t get the agent until *after* August 2017. Meaning she had to have seen and approved of that comment. It was the only one on the page! Also, it had been there for years, years! The belief factor of her not knowing it was there kinda fades the longer it’s there.
  2. It was on the contact page, not buried in some random blog post. I glance over my contact/landing page frequently, once every few months, to make sure my professional contact information is up to date, most authors do.
  3. It’s a wordpress site, we all get notifications when we receive comments on our pages. It’s part of the wordpress setup and you have to physically opt out of that option. Most of us don’t bother because we actually want to hear from people about our work. We’re authors, we like to hear what people think.

This author, letting this comment stay there on her page for so long, is directly responsible for the months of harassment I received. Even if the harassment didn’t come from her directly (and I have no proof one way or the other, whether it was her or not). The harassment that eventually made me close my direct messages on Twitter to mutuals only. The harassment that made me take all contact forms (which allow messages from anonymous IP addresses) from my website. (Basically if someone fills in a contact form on a website and sends it in, it looks like it comes from the website, not a personal IP address.) So that the harassers would have to send anything to me from trackable IP addresses so the police could catch them. I had to involve the police with the level of harassment I was receiving. 8 months of death threats, threats of exposing my name, threats of exposing my partner’s and childrens’ names. Where they go to school, my home address…

All because this author had my name/pseudo right there for anyone to find. When I think about it even now it makes me cry. WHY? Why would she do that to me? Why would anyone do that to anyone?

Why does she hate me so very much that she would allow this? It’s her blog, it’s her responsibility. Legally and morally.

What have I *ever* done except try to stand up for people like me, to point out the unfairness of the way marginalized people are treated? What have I ever done that would make this author think this is even remotely okay?

I mean, I know a lot of authors’ pseudonyms and real names, I worked in publishing for several years before going freelance. It would never, ever occur to me to out someone. It would never occur to me to allow a comment outing someone on my blog. I just don’t understand why this person is so awful. I don’t, I never have.

I don’t understand why they won’t suffer professional consequences either, but as I’ve learned, I will never understand allistic people.

During the time when I was getting *at least* a harassing email every week, (often I’d get three or more) I wondered who the person was who was being free with my legal name.  Or people, it’s possible other people have something like this out there. Obviously, someone was, because the harassing emails all had my legal information. Many had my partner’s, his place of work. One even had our phone number and license plate number in it.

Do you have any idea of how terrifying that is? I’m a trans, mixed-race female presenting person. A person very similar to me was attacked just last week in the states. I have a family with minor children in it to protect. These are the consequences that this person will probably never face because of what she’s done.

And this author carelessly, or perhaps maliciously, (I’ll never know because I won’t speak to her, in fact have had her blocked since the thread/subtweeting issue) left my name where anyone could find it.

That kind of thing, those unfounded accusations and my legal name being paired together with my pseudo could’ve cost me jobs if I’d gone to search for them. It could’ve really fucked up my immigration status.

How is any of that even remotely okay?

People aren’t, and have never been, shy about telling people like me, in detail, what kinds of horrible things they will do to us and our families to ‘pay us back’ for being queer, or outspoken, or *insert whatever reason for hatred people can come up with*.

They’re not shy about actually doing those things either.

At 4am this morning, I wrote to this author’s agent, begging her to make the author take the comment down. I didn’t know what else to do except publicly out and shame the author (which is a form of cyberbullying, so I didn’t want to do that). I guess the agent must have moved swiftly, because, despite my not receiving a response, the comment has been taken down. I’m certain the author claimed innocence. A lot of allistic people do when they get called on bad behavior. We’ve all seen that. But you know, also, I’ll point you to the fact it was there for almost 2 years. Every day it was there the believability factor of innocence fades. It just does, it’s only logical.

Despite the removal, I still feel so threatened by what that author did. And I’m questioning how many of my mutuals, even people I’m close to, knew it was there and didn’t tell me?

Not being able to trust easily is so hard.

I’m still afraid, I’m still wickedly upset and crying at the drop of a hat (and I really don’t cry easy, I’ve been through too much, too much trauma, but this has just shaken me so damned much.)

To leave that kind of thing up on her contact page for so long is utterly unconscionable. But she’ll get away with it. Just like she’s gotten away with subtweeting and harassing me. Of causing me so much pain in the past. Like she’s gotten away with attacking and dragging other neurodiverse people over and over again. I’ve seen her do that multiple times.

For someone who is a so-called professional in an industry like publishing, gods, especially of books for young adults! (I tell you, I have a young adult. I would not want my young adult reading a book by someone with morals like that. I just wouldn’t, I wouldn’t allow that book into the house. I wouldn’t.) To not only allow the doxxing of a fellow author on their blog but to also leave it where anyone could find it for such a very long time… it’s personally reprehensible to me. Especially when I’m a marginalized author, it’s so dangerous. I’m terrified, angry and sickened by this author’s actions.

Although the post has been removed, it doesn’t change the damage and pain she’s caused to me. The 8 months of harassment I received, me having to contact the police, the danger my family has been in. The danger *I’ve* been in. I had someone threaten to kill my cats!! Yeah. It doesn’t change it.

Because of people like that author, and others, the rumour mongers, I will always have the stink of false rumours and cruel innuendos clinging to me. That is so unfair, I don’t deserve that.

I had a wicked panic attack last night, then I got so, so angry. I still controlled myself. I didn’t publicly out who this author is. I can and will continue to tell people who ask me privately. That is not bullying, and since she had my legal name and pseudo on her blog for almost two years, two motherfucking years!, I have no problem at all telling people who it is if they ask me privately. Email me if you want to know, or if you’re one of the few who have access to my direct messages on social media, you can ask me that way. I won’t become the bully and say it in public, though. Not unless I have to out of self-defense. What you all do with that information is up to you. I don’t advocate for following/unfollowing or blocking this person. (Because that would be bullying.)

If *you* want to unfollow/block, do it, and I’ll support you.

If *you* don’t want to unfollow/block, do that, and I’ll support you.

I make it a policy to not attempt to influence peoples interpersonal connections, it’s far too close to abusive behavior (controlling who someone is friends with is a huge abusive red flag) and I’ve had that done to me by abusive boyfriends and family members. I’ll never knowingly do that to someone else. I may warn someone, I might open the door to say here is this information if you want it, but telling them who to be friends with/not be friends with is just not something I do.

But, I understand the need to protect yourself, and the need to know you aren’t friends/associates/following someone who is capable of doing such a horrific thing as this. So yes, I’ll absolutely privately tell anyone who wants to know. What you do with that info though, you get to decide. I can’t and won’t advise you on that.

My eating disorder reared up again last night, and I’ve been doing so well! I still haven’t eaten (I’m working on it, I really am, I’m working on it).

I had a horrible night of insomnia, and honestly, I doubt I’ll ever get an apology. She’s never apologized for anything she’s done to me before, she’s most likely is not going to suffer anything for what she’s done, professionally or personally, so why the hell would she apologize to someone she obviously doesn’t consider human?

I knew, from previous encounters with her, how horrible she could be, but I never in a million years expected her to stoop so low as to allow a doxxing of me on her blog. Never.

So that’s what’s been behind all the vague angst I’ve had for the past 18 hours. I’m going to go on full hiatus from Twitter for the weekend, maybe even a week. Maybe just stay off online for a bit. I’m removing the app from my phone and tablet for a while.

It’s got nothing to do with any of my followers, you all have been wonderful, but I just need a break. I need to lock the door to my house and keep the world out for a few days. To just be around my family, people I know would never hurt me, either by doing awful things or not telling me about someone doing awful things and thereby endangering me and my family. Enabling the level of harassment I was under.

Because some people I’m close to must have known that was there. It’s illogical that they didn’t with this person being a mutual, a friend even, with many of mine. Being close friends even, with many of you… we have many of the same business associates, this industry is tiny. We know many of the same people.

That fucks me up so badly.

That they didn’t bother to tell me. That’s… rather an ouchy thing to realize. That people I’m legitimately close to would allow all that harassment of me and my family to continue to take place. Knowing the likely source of where the harassers got my name.

Ouch. So I kinda have to cope with that too.

 

 

 

 

Safe space in fiction

*Blows the dust off my blog*

It’s been a while, if you follow my Twitter you’ll know why, but if you don’t, basically life blew up and it’s taking me some time to find my bearings again.

But that’s not why I decided to blog today.

I probably should do some sort of wrap up for the past 6 months or so of hell, but that’s not this post (and I loathe *shoulds*).

No, this post is about safety in the material we read. It’s also about an author’s responsibility to their readers.

Keep in mind I’m both? A published author and a voracious, marginalized reader.

I usually read a lot of romance, because, for me, it’s safe. I know that unless it’s been mismarketed/labeled, a romance will have an HEA (Happily Ever After) at the end. No matter what hell the author puts their characters through, I’m guaranteed that at the end, the main characters will be happy enough that *I* can be happy finding another book to read.

For someone with as many mental health issues as I have, that’s bloody important.

Me and my list of mental health issues… (Gif description: Crowley from Supernatural unrolling a very long scroll/list on the beaten earth of a junkyard)

crowley-list-gif-8

 

But what about the other areas of safety that so many authors, even my favorites, fail to make sure of?

I just ran heart-first into a wicked fail by one of my favorite authors. And even over an hour later and much of that spent cuddling my beloved, I’m still nauseated and wishing like hell I’d never started the reread of a series that I used to like.

For reference: CW something that should NEVER be said about mentally ill people.

There’s a thread there to my reactions and thoughts, but it boils down to one of my favorite authors making me feel so very unsafe.

Unwelcome in her worlds.

Given that she’s one of a dwindling few authors who can still suck me into a story, (I’m always on the lookout for more!) one who I’ve religiously supported by buying her new books even during my political shitstorm motivated reading hiatus of the past couple of years… well, it bloody sucks is what it does.

It hurts to know that one of my fav (former fav?) authors holds enough hatred of someone like me that she’d call me and people like me ‘wrong for lack of a better word’.

I mean… the pub date on that particular book is 2015. Why are we STILL HAVING THIS CONVERSATION?

Seriously, WHY?

There is nothing wrong with being mentally ill. There is nothing wrong with being POC, or mixed race, or queer, or fat, or disabled, or (insert marginalization here).

But you’d really think there was reading some (most?) of the major sellers in any genre you can pick.

Fiction just isn’t safe for marginalized people. I thought maybe, because Ms. Singh is marginalized herself, that I could trust her.

But that trust was just horribly broken and I’m not sure I can get it back.

This is my second reread of the Psy Changeling series. I want to still love it, but all through the series there is a definite thread of ‘if you’re mentally ill, you’re wrong’. And the author went ahead and stated it in that bit of dialogue. The character who said it, by the way, is supposed to be an empath. A really sensitive to others and their problems kind of character. Way to go with the ableism empathic person. Sigh.

Mostly, in the series, it’s shit-talk about people with ASPD (Slur: Sociopath/Psychopath) and it’s hellaciously harmful towards that particular mental illness. (I’m no expert on that, but I know people with ASPD and I’ve read up on it for my characters and like… y’all, don’t ever read that series, it’ll rip you up, you deserve better.) The depictions of ASPD in the Psy Changeling series are narrow, stereotyped to the extreme and wickedly harmful.

The first time I read this series, a couple of years ago, and that book, in particular, I was in a much better place regarding my mental health. I’d just sent out a number of full requests on my first full-length novel I thought worthy of the name, Ilavani. I was seeing modest success on my self-published works, my family was stable and we were making some little bit of extra each month, we had a home and I had a garden. I had a dog.

All of that except my tiny, weird little human family is gone now, and I’ve had to give up on querying my books to agents because I absolutely can’t take it anymore. It, along with the other shit, broke my mental health. I got lucky on one of the last four queries I sent, so I have a great publisher, and as long as they want my work and treat me well, they can keep having my work.

My debut with a publisher is here, BTW, if you like queer fiction with GOOD mental health representation. It’s own voices, the rep is real because it’s how I experience mental illness.

So to say I’m a *bit* more sensitive now than a couple of years ago to the shit-talk about mental illness in the Psy Changeling series is a little bit of an understatement.

I remember crying in joy at reading the way one of the main characters in that book is described. Zaira is mixed-race and seeing the way that expresses in ME, ON THE PAGE IN A MAJOR PUBLICATION… it made me cry tears of joy. (Just goes to show how different time periods in a person’s life can affect their enjoyment of a work of literature.)

Maybe between my stability then, and the way Ms. Singh does so damned well with the mixed-race descriptions and feelings… maybe I missed how horrible she does with mental illness?

It’s possible, I’m only human, after all.

That’s book 14 in the series, by the way, I bought all of them when I discovered Ms. Singh’s work a few years ago, when I had more of a disposable income. I’ve even purchased a bunch I haven’t read yet, which is why I’m rereading the series so I can read the new ones.

And for the most part, I can choose to ignore the shit rep and the shit talk in this series. (I’ve been hurt so much in life that things that legitimately should probably bother me just… don’t. I’m working on this with my therapist.) The characters, worldbuilding, sexy times and ROMANCE makes up for it *for me*, or it did. I’m not sure I can go back after that line though. It HURT.

It stabbed me right in the heart and punched me in the gut.

I don’t know where I want this blog entry to go now. I want to point out so many examples of lack of safety for marginalized people in modern fiction. So, so, so many…

Even among my favorite authors.

But I think I’ll just stop and say DO. FUCKING. BETTER. AUTHORS!

The information is out there. There is someone blogging or tweeting or doing video about *anything* you want to know about.

So do fucking better. Do your damned research if you’re going to have mental illness in your books (and that means more than a freaking google search or wikipedia article, it means reading real life, lived experiences of the marginalization(s) in question).

Do your freaking research into the queer community and our different IDs if you’re going to have us in your books, (oh, and don’t fucking kill us off either) figure out how to write POC WELL if you’re going to include them. Disability? Please… I can’t remember ever reading a book that had good disability rep that was ALSO mainstream. (I guess we could point to Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient… but I don’t believe my autistic brain is a disability so that one is iffy for me. It’s a fantastic book BTW, if you haven’t read it DO and preorder the second one while you’re at it. It’s just as good if not better.)

I’ll end with this. Include us. But don’t USE us. Oh! And hire authenticity/sensitivity readers PLEASE. It’s kinda why we exist and do what we do… so shit like this DOESN’T harm an unsuspecting reader.

I feel horribly used right now. Emotionally beaten.

I’ll probably end up going back to the series because I’m hard up for things to read that suck me in, don’t make my editor brain scream and ALSO feature marginalized characters I can see myself in.

But the hurt will take a while to fade.

(And for what it’s worth, the PTSD rep is so authentic *to my experience of it* in Singh’s Guild Hunter series that it feels like a warm hug to me, so I have no issue with that series, I just reread it prior to Psy Changeling. It almost feels like sinking into a badly needed warm bath to see that and mixed-race rep done well in a majorly best selling series. I’ve heard bad things about the rep in the Rock Kiss series by the same author, so I haven’t and won’t read that one. It’s odd, how they’re all almost penned by different authors.)

Do better authors. So you don’t hurt your readers. Without readers? We authors wouldn’t be able to BE authors.

We’d be weirdos telling ourselves stories in the dark with coffee stained t-shirts and messy hair. Whoops… saw my reflection there, pardon my description, I’m sure it doesn’t resemble other authors AT ALL. (Go on laugh, I’m trying to be funny, damnit!)

The kindness of strangers

To most people, something like a laptop is a luxury. Most folks can get by using the library computer, their phone, or a desktop without much hassle or fuss.

It’s not the same for me. A laptop is truly an accessibility item for me. I have numerous chronic health conditions, two of which cause me massive, ongoing pain, so when my laptop started to die a while ago, it engendered such a wealth of panic in me that I can’t really find the words to express it.

My sleep and anxiety got worse and worse as my screen died by inches. I knew I absolutely couldn’t afford to replace my laptop on my own, and sending it in for repair would’ve made me lose a good eight weeks of working time, or more, IF I could even get the company to repair the damned thing.

I don’t tend to make a whole LOT of money, I freelance edit, do graphics design work and make a little bit on my writing, but we do depend on my income. Any luxury we have is either purchased with gift cards given to us by family or from my income, and some bills are all on my plate. All of my writing expenses are things I pay for myself, so it’s imperative that I have the ability to work in the only way I can.

Which meant I absolutely had to find a way to replace my laptop.

When I bought my laptop two years ago, I spent what I had to in order to get a computer that I could do all the work on that I needed to do. I had to get a gaming laptop so that it could handle the graphics design work I do.

I could write and surf on most laptops, but in order to do the 3D manipulation I do, which makes up a large portion of my income, I have to have a computer with muscles.

The ultra-expensive HP laptop I bought lasted 2 years, 1 month and 14 days before the screen did the ‘black screen of death’ thing to me.

I will never be able to find the words to express my gratitude that, when, in desperation I opened a gofundme in order to replace my computer in time, donors (many of whom were either dear friends or complete strangers) raised enough money in 9 days to help me pick up a certified refurbished laptop on sale.

My faith in humanity wavers sometimes, but my goodness has it ever been restored. Thank you so so much for everyone who donated, retweeted, spread the word and asked for help for me. You have my undying gratitude.

Something as simple as a laptop is so needed for me to access things like work, the internet, netflix, games, so many things require a laptop for me… people I’ll likely never meet helped me in my hour of need and I’m so grateful.

Closing of Multifarious Press

I’ve been dreading both coming to this decision and telling people about it.

One of the hardest things for me to do is admit I’ve been a fool. But boy have I ever been a fool in thinking that *I* had it in me to run a press.

I don’t. I really don’t. If it were something as simple as doing the work of editing, making the covers, publishing the books, (which, I foolishly thought was the bulk of running a press) I could totally do all that. I HAVE done all that for my own books.

But it has honestly come down to people. Creatures I don’t understand in the slightest.

A little over a two years ago I saw so many diverse voices going unpublished because there is a lot of lip service going on about wanting diversity, but not a lot of actual books being put out for a lot of kinds of diversity.

Neuroatypicality for one. I have a lot of the skills necessary to get books out there, but what I don’t have is a thick hide. I’m broken, mentally ill, and the VAST amount of censure and harassment I (and my staff) have come under for DARING to want to help diverse voices find publication is just…

It’s a lot. It’s a large part of what caused me to run my head into a mental health crisis. Just wanting to help diverse voices find publication was definitely not enough. Having the skills wasn’t enough.

I’ve spoken about this before, but other peoples’ expectations of who and what I am shouldn’t have changed the moment I opened a press. Their opinions of my staff shouldn’t have changed either, but there isn’t a single person on my staff except perhaps my website designer who hasn’t gotten hassled for being a *publishing professional* because they’re affiliated with my tiny little shoestring press. I’m appalled that it did? How can people be so… short sighted and cruel? But they were. They REALLY were. People will be people and I’ll continually not understand them.

I thought, maybe if I waited long enough on my mental health hiatus that I’d be able to come back to it and finally publish these beautiful stories. I have some that I wanted to publish so badly that are so damned beautiful, and they DESERVE publication. But I just can’t do it. I don’t think, and neither does my therapist, that me being healthy enough to work at the press is likely to happen any time soon, and I can’t in good conscious keep holding up these brilliant authors from looking elsewhere.

When I opened this tiny little boutique press, I had a bit more faith in humanity. Faith in humanity has always been a failing of mine. I’m an optimist, really, though with all I’ve lived through I really shouldn’t be. I thought that people would, well, help a bit more than they ended up doing. I thought maybe we’d get editors who wanted to pen their own lines of diverse titles, I thought we’d get people interested in helping with contracts and legal paperwork. I definitely thought we’d get more than one patron. There is SO MUCH lip service being put to getting diverse voices out there. There isn’t a lot of follow through from people in publishing on it. Sadly. I foolishly thought there would be.

My staff and I were almost immediately swamped with queries. Which was wonderful, but none of us were being paid for reading them and we have to eat, which means that our paid work and our own writing always had to come first. Our patreon for the press remained for the entire time it was open with ONE person as a patreon. (I’ll be returning that extremely generous patron’s funds.)

I’ve considered keeping the press/website open for as long as I have the business license (another year and a half) but it’s cruel to keep holding the hope that I’ll be well enough to work on these stories over the author heads.

I can’t do that and I won’t.

I’m sorry for not being strong enough to do what I said I wanted to do. I’m sorry I had enough faith in humanity that they’d actually do what they said they wanted to do. But maybe people aren’t yet ready for the diverse stories and voices that are crying out to be seen.

I’ve had many people tell me they’re happy to wait for me to be well enough to work at the press again because they believe in the ideal of the press.

I really and truly wish I could say the same. I believe, deeply, that we need diverse stories. I desperately need more diverse stories to read, but when it came down to it? It was me and my staff working hard at a pipe dream.

I believe I’ve contacted all of my authors personally, if I have missed you, I sincerely apologize. My health has not been good for months, and I can only admit the truth of how badly that affects me, it could easily have made me miss someone.