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.

 

 

 

 

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What does an author owe a reader?

What do entertainers, especially writers for the purposes contained herein, owe to their readers? (It applies to other forms of entertainment too, in different ways.)

I’m going to approach this from the dual perspective of being an author AND being an avaricious, extremely loyal, reader.

On the author side: What do I owe my readers? Everything.

You see, I can’t be an author without people to buy and read my books. That’s basic economics, I need to eat and pay bills and have internet and a computer to write on, so I need the economic support for my work of people buying my books, recommending to others that they buy my books… it’s how it works and why digital piracy is so very wrong.

Without people reviewing my books to let me know they liked/loved/if I’ve screwed up… well, I also wouldn’t know how they’re perceived.

I wouldn’t know if I was just screaming into the void with my words or not.

So, an author, especially a famous one, really needs to remember that and stay humble.

That means you don’t raz your fans when they make suggestions. (I’ve had that happen and no I’m not buying that author’s books again, no matter how good they are.)

You can’t leave your fans hanging either, year, after year, after year.

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You just can’t. Humans are fickle creatures. Even ones who read a lot and show a lot of loyalty.

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Eventually, they’re gonna get tired of waiting and move on to the next shiny author. Sales are gonna decline, especially if the quality isn’t there.

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That famous author wouldn’t BE an author, not a working one anyway, if people didn’t consistently buy, review, and recommend their books.

They’d be that person sitting there telling themselves stories in a dark room with coffee stains on their tee-shirt and their hair in a pony tail (wait… yes, sorry, that was me looking in the mirror.)

I’m not famous, I’m too niche, probably, to ever find fame as an author. I’ll be happy if I can manage to have a loyal following who buys enough of my books that I can afford the basics of life. (By basics, I mean food, roof over my head, bills paid almost on time and somewhat regular medical/dental/eye care.)

What about time? Quality of work? Those two things are ideas worthy of note as well.

Now, some of us write incredibly fast. I am one of those. Since November 2015, I’ve written three full novels, numerous short stories and several vignettes. Some people don’t write as fast, and that’s fine.

Everyone works at their own pace, which needs to be respected. You know, for my favorite authors, at least… as long as they’re working on it, and maybe letting people know what’s going on… even with delays, I’d still buy the books. I mean, life happens.

One of my favs had their dog die in the middle of writing the climactic scene of their most recent book. I’d much rather they had waited and grieved and come back to it later, when they could do the story justice than what they actually did.

ghost-156969_1280.png(I’m suspicious the pub actually had it ghost-written, cause it was crap, didn’t sound like the author AT ALL.)

Which makes me MUCH less likely to buy another of that author’s books. It smacks as a lack of integrity to me. To let someone ghost-write a story under my name.

Anything with my name on it is always going to be my work. If I ever choose to sell some of my rights in a contract to a publisher, you can damn well bet that’s going to be in the contract. No ghost writers. (Which is ironic, since I’ve made money ghostwriting.)

Now, a particular author that I’ve been reading since the late 80s or early 90s (starts with a G ends with an M & has recently had a blockbusting show involving lots of dead people!) You know who I’m talkin’bout.

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He’s always been a slower writer. Which, you know, it’s fine. He was regular though, we could expect a book every 3 or 4 years, and they’d be QUALITY BOOKS. Until the last one.

Side characters, none of the mains, then nothing for years (cause someone is more interested in writing for the show than writing the damned books that people have been buying for decades that let him GET the show in the first place?) Yeah. That.

He’s also one of those authors who feels they owe nothing to their fans. Too big for their britches is what my gram would say about someone like that.

So nope. Won’t be buying another of his books again.

I’m on the edge of the danger zone with one of my all time fav series too. The Dresden Files has been, since I discovered it over a decade ago, one of my all time favorite urban fantasy series.

It’s quality work, the writing is top notch. The story is fantastic, and the author was regular with the releases, a year or so, give or take a bit in between books.

Hubs asked me to check on when Peace Talks is coming out (it’s the next one in the series) it’s been over three years.

Author has released a couple of other series (which kinda suck, honestly, writing is no where near as good, worldbuilding is lackluster and frankly? Nah… not interested.)

A graphic novel set in the DF world pubbed last year, but frankly? I don’t like the graphic novels.

I like graphic novels. OMG GO READ MONSTRESS (my most recent love) Ahem. Right.

I’m one of those people that the art AND the words need to mesh to make a gorgeous whole, though. If I don’t like the art (I don’t, in the newest ones) I’m not gonna like the story, even if it IS in the author’s words.

For that series, especially… the written word is much more effective at capturing me and taking me to the world of Dresden than a graphic novel is ever going to be.

But it’s been 3 years. I don’t have any hard and fast cut off point for a series, I guess if Mr. Butcher gets Peace Talks out in the next year or so, I’ll still buy it.

It won’t likely be a preorder though. It won’t be in the first week, which is how NYT judges their list to give ‘best-seller’ status to.

Because it’s been so long that I forget to look for it when I’m ordering books.

At this point, if I don’t see or hear about it being released through social media (I don’t read newsletters, which is why I don’t bother with having one… I subscribe to them to make people happy, but I don’t… you know, actually read them.) I’ll miss it (yeah, I’m on his mailing list, I think.)

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So, even if it DOES come out in the next year or so, yeah… I’ll probably miss it. Which means… it may be years before I notice it’s out, and by then… my interest in the series will be consigned to the dustbin.

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Did Mr. Butcher owe me better than that? Yeah. He kinda did. GRRM sure as hell owed me more than that.

Now, if you write stand alone books. You have no obligation to write another book in a series. No question. It’s standalone. Period.

If you write series books, you ARE obligated to somehow either keep writing those books or bring them to a conclusion. (Always assuming you’re still sucking wind and writing.)

Not a conclusion the reader is happy with (thinking of Abercrombie’s First Law) but A conclusion.

Here’s why. I as a reader, purchase series books over standalone every time. Because I prefer the depth an author can get into WRT everything offered by a series.

So I’m not only buying THAT book, by choosing a series, I’m ALSO investing in the longevity of that series. Whether it’s a trilogy or an ongoing doesn’t really matter to me as much as that there ‘will’ likely be more.

Then, after I fall in love with those characters, that world, YES I will automatically preorder the next book if I enjoyed the previous ones (& I know about it, which is why we need to self-promo as authors).

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An author doesn’t owe me anything else. They don’t owe me signings, appearances, interaction on social media, but they do owe me, the person paying their paycheck by buying their books and talking about their books… (and all the other people doing so) they owe us the story in a reasonable amount of time within their capabilities as an author and always assuming their world doesn’t implode. (Holy run-on sentence, but you know, I’m gonna leave it, cause I think it makes the point of how strongly I feel about this.)

I mean… the other things are really nice, and I’m much more likely to go out of my way to buy/review/suggest to library etc a book from an author who has interacted with me vs one who hasn’t.

But they don’t owe me anything except the story I’ve invested in for so long.

As an author… I honestly don’t understand how another author can NOT want to give their story the proper ending.

That story is their brain baby. They slaved long and hard to bring it into the world, I can’t, honestly, understand why an author would even consider just abandoning a series (especially a popular, well-loved one.)

Sure. As an author I also get it, you need a break from writing the same thing on and on, so, definitely, write other things, have more than one series.

Your fans aren’t obligated to like your other series though. Just cause it’s THAT author’s name on the book, it’s not going to make me automatically love the work.

Butcher can’t write good fantasy. I said it. It may be his true love, but it’s not within his skill set.

(I can’t either, for what it’s worth, not high-fantasy)

So. What does a reader owe an author?

Loyalty, if they still like the books. Buying/getting from the library instead of stealing the book. A review, maybe, if the person has a clue how valuable a review can be to an author.

What does an Author owe a reader? Everything.

Cause they wouldn’t be an author without them.

 

 

Reviews

Yeah, yeah, we all know we need to review books.

I mean… we DO know that right?

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Backing up, just a bit in case you DON’T know.

Reviews sell books for authors. There is NOTHING you can do more to support an author (other than buying the book in the first place/asking your library to buy the book) that will help them more.

Because people read reviews, they look at the star ratings on Amazon/Goodreads/B&N etc.

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They decide whether to buy a book based on what other people have said.

Even as something as simple as I LOVED IT with a 5 star rating can help sell a book to the next person who might enjoy it. It doesn’t need to be a long paragraph on why.

Those help, of course, (if you look at the reviews section of my website, I go to great length to tell my readers why I liked/didn’t like something).

But that very fact of ‘how books get sold’ is why I RELIGIOUSLY review everything I read. Even if it’s something I didn’t like, or wasn’t a ME book.

I still review it.

As far as algorithms go on places like Amazon and Goodreads, reviews count for visibility too. The more reviews an author has on a particular book, the higher their rating on Amazon, meaning it’ll show to more people who might be looking for THAT kind of book. I assume it works the same on non-amazon sites.

But, that’s just background to what I really wanted to say.

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I wanted to say thank you.

Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who has left me a review, anywhere.

I read my reviews, I mean, we as authors are told we shouldn’t, but honestly? I want to know if I’ve fecked up somehow, so reading reviews is the best way to do that.

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I… don’t yet have a bad one. For which I feel incredibly fortunate.

I know… the first bad one is gonna sting like blazes.

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BUT… right now, as I’m sitting here proofing my next release, ILAVANI, for July sale, reading reviews, (some which were new to me) from my author central page, and seeing the OVERWHELMING support for my work. The sheer hunger for the kinds of things I write…

Y’all give me faith.

That what I’m doing is really needed. That my voice has worth in a world where I can’t land a publishing contract.

That my words, my work, my writing… is wanted.

That, it’s so important.

My critique partners and betas tell me they love my words. By and large they know me though, lol, my beloved CPs have the unenviable job of thumping me over the head with my own stubbornness…

I’m stubborn. Trust me on that.

Betas have the thankless job of reading something before publication… so, their words are incredibly important and I absolutely could NOT do this without my CPs and Betas.

Hearing from strangers, who have bought my book(s), read it, loved it, and then taken the time to review it for me?

That’s yet another level of gratitude.

I have so, so much gratitude for everyone who helps me in this writing journey.

I’m never going to be one of those authors who doesn’t appreciate those who read their words.

‘Cause without you all? I’d be nothing more than a writer telling stories to myself over my keyboard.

Thank you. So very much.

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Meanderings of an exhausted mind

It’s me, so you gotta know this is likely going to be an uncomfy topic to talk about. Seems I excel in finding those to blog about.animal-983529_1920.jpg

A little forward for those who don’t follow my blog, I’m an excellent writer and a phenomenal editor (not my words). I’ve been writing for 29 years on and off, on spec for 5 years, I’ve queried 5 of my own books now, plus answered 4 proposal calls and submitted numerous short stories.

and I’m unpublished as far a traditional publishing is concerned. With no hope of an agent on the horizon. Now, it could be that my writing sucks, logistically minded, that’s me. But when I have international renown and high ratings on what I have self-pubbed, and a lot of strangers go out of their way to email me to tell me they love my work… well, I’m erring on the side of it being ‘not me/my writing’.

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So… I’ve just finished my fifth official book-query go round in the query lists. My mind feels exactly like I imagine a jouster’s would after the lists are closed.

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So many different kinds of forms to fill out, so many different kinds of submission packages to put together, so much sheer research to be done to make sure each particular agent represents what your current project is. (Especially for multiple sub-genre writers like me, this is incredibly hard.)

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We have to, (and should) make sure that their tastes haven’t changed, that they’re still where all the programs like querytracker.com and absolutewrite.com say they are as far as agency, that they’re OPEN to queries right then.

Making sure you’ve dotted all your eyes and crossed all your tees, and all the many other parameters are met or fulfilled or… control-427512_1920

It’s bloody exhausting. I’ve been doing this most days for over a month now and in that time I could have drafted another book, or most of one. A novella and two short stories for my readers at the very least.

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And… I think I’m done. This is likely the last book I’ll try to query to agents. Every time I get another rejection in my inbox, I’m basically checking off ever querying that agent for anything ever again. It’s not even anger, or angst or even negativity. It’s a cost/benefit scenario in my mind. It wasn’t worth the time to query that agent, hence I won’t do it again when I could be writing a book for indie-pub that will make me money doing what I love. Things could change, but… this isn’t the kind of thing one considers lightly.

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I admit, the first few books I tried weren’t that great, so it’s perfectly logical that they weren’t picked up. As far as quality of writing goes, though, there is no reason for the last two not to have been agented. No, that’s not my arrogance speaking, that’s professionals (editors, agent friends who don’t rep my genre etc) telling me that the writing is excellent. I have readers telling me the same, that the stories are amazing and could I maybe hurry up and write another one, please?

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I know all the arguments, that the market isn’t buying that kind of book, that the agent doesn’t have enough time, that, that, that…

But this go round, I’ve already gotten a very warmly worded rejection asking me to definitely query an agent with my next completed work because they loved the writing sample.

 

But. No. Unless something changes, I don’t think I will. 

Here’s why, We’re in a time of changing markets where the ease of self-publishing, and marketing groups, freelance editors, and cover artists, micro-presses and un-agented submissions to mid-level presses, all of it has completely changed the face of publishing.

I’m not the first person to point this out, to write an article like this one.

When I first started writing, oh… 29 years ago? The only way you got published was if an agent took you on and IF they managed to sell the book to one of the big 5 (then 6).

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If that didn’t happen, and you didn’t pay the massive amount of money to a vanity publisher just to see your words in print, you didn’t get published.

You HAD to keep trying with new books, had to keep querying agents, had to just keep trying. While the other books you’d written sat shelved. All that creativity wasted.

In this age, I don’t have to do that. We as writers don’t have to do that.

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We don’t have to obey the dictates of a publishing industry that limits debut authors to a short book, even when anyone who listens to readers (you know, the ones who actually buy the books??) would repeatedly hear them say they don’t like to spend their hard earned money on a short book, especially from a new author.

 

My readers keep asking me when I’m releasing another book. Because I’m sitting on three books in the query trenches right now… I don’t have an answer for them.

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I work as an editor and I see a lot of books in that role, many aren’t that great, much like my first few, (because it is true that almost every book you write is going to be better than the last). Some are absolutely outstanding and the authors often ask me, why, if it’s at least good, isn’t it getting picked up?

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Why can’t I make it as a writer?

Why am I still un-agented?

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Because that is still the end goal for many writers, (no shame in that at all) to be agented, to be partnered with someone who can sell their book, works contracts, have contacts in the industry and maybe inform them of the markets and all-in-all, help them along.

It’s why I’ve been trying. I don’t really like to talk to people on the phone, and that’s part of what I’m willing to pay an agent to do for me.

Forgot about that part? That it’s the writer paying the agent for their expertise and connections?

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Well. It is. it’s not the fault of the writer at all, it isn’t even the fault of the agents. It’s the industry behind everything that is a hide-bound dinosaur that doesn’t seem interested in change.

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I mean, why would they? It’s worked this way for a long time and if it isn’t broke, why fix it? Don’t forget that publishing is a corporation, they work like corporations do.

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So many agents I see list on their blogs the ‘ideals’ for a perfect client. Most will say commitment, ability to write, in it for the long haul, and you know, so many of us are?long-vehicle-320309_1920

But the way the system works just doesn’t work for us. Not the ones for whom this is a calling. The ones who have to make themselves stop writing vs the ones who have to make themselves start.

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I’m going to, lol, as I usually do, share an unpopular opinion.

we-2078025_1920.png Agents may have to change the way they do things.

The way they still function (on the surface anyway, I don’t have an agent so I don’t actually see behind the curtains) is very much the same as it was 20 years ago. 

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In today’s day and age, where it’s so much easier for a talented writer to say ‘screw this’ to the way THINGS ARE DONE and strike out on their own… I really think agents might need to be looking more to the clients, and not just at a book they can sell right now.

 

This is especially true for people like me, who write fast and self-edit well (no, not perfectly, I stand by my words that no author ever can see ALL their own mistakes because we’re too close).

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I highly doubt any agents are likely to read this blog post. But if you are, I’d suggest that when you find an author with a voice you love, you consider signing them on their voice and talent alone, vs whatever book they have at the time.

Here’s why.

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In a market as demanding as the one we’re all in, someone like me who has written custom stories for years, (and many good writers have, it’s easy money to ghostwrite, edit on spec, write custom kink stories…) those kinds of writers could very easily turn around a saleable book quite quickly. It takes me, probably 3 months (at most) to draft a book,

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Another month, maybe 2 (at most) to self-edit it to the point where it’s in better shape than a lot of NYT bestselling titles.

Seriously, one of my biggest complaints with big 5 pubbed books is the lack of editing that goes into many of the titles. (My other huge one is the lack of interesting new types of stories. I’m bored with the same old, same old. Something new please!)

So, that’s 2 books a year, and those are ones that I’m ripping up from the depths of my soul. The hard ones to write, my own creativity.crayon-2162075_1920.jpg

If I had a little guidance on what was likely to sell? What the market would be looking for in the near future? It’d likely be faster.

MUCH faster.

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If, for instance, I had a working partnership with an agent who loved my voice, my style and repped the genres I write in, vs a book I have right now, there’s no telling how many sales we could make. Which is rather the point of the whole author/agent relationship, isn’t it? To make sales so both of you make money? Maybe I’m romanticizing what I don’t have yet, a relationship with an agent, but I do write romance… so it’s in my nature.

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Oh, I know. I’m breaking the rules, I’m thumbing my nose at the way things are done. (Probably shooting myself in the foot with any agents I DO have queries out to.) But you know what?

Change starts somewhere.

It often starts with words.

If only it didn’t hurt so much to give up this idea that I could make more money with an agent, than without one.

I think part of that comes from having wasted months of my time querying, when maybe, I didn’t need to do that at all.

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The History and Value of Patronage

Trying something new, you can hear me narrate this post here… while you scan through the pretty pics if you want. YouTube link to my blog post narrations. 

I have two university degrees. My majors for my B.Sc. were biophysical anthropology/forensic chemistry, the other is a Masters in Teaching with a focus on World History. 

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Hard to tell which subject I like more, to be honest. These days, I don’t practice in either field due to health problems and licensure issues from our international move to Canada, but I keep up to date on professional publications for both fields. (Thank goodness for libraries.)

I rambled a bit there because what I really wanted to discuss is how far back the idea of Patronage goes in the arts, and how very important it is. (Every piece of art and every image used on this blog post, except Van Gogh’s, was made possible by patronage, Every. Single. One. So keep that in mind.)

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Patronage as the definition of supporting with cash or other forms of concrete support those creators whose work you value.white-82698_1920

In the past, it was only the very wealthy, the nobles, the kings/queens and the clergy who could do this for artists.pope-1209939_1920

We have records of patronage of the arts going all the way back to feudal Japan, around 1185 a.c.e. So it’s been going on for a long time.

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In medieval Europe, it’s the only way anything got done for the arts, because honestly, it’s damned difficult in today’s day and age to be a creative and still eat and have a roof over one’s head. Back then, it was impossible. Most of the great creators in our history had noble or royal patrons.

Like Leonard Da Vinci. He was a bastard born out of wedlock, and if he hadn’t had patrons from a very young age, we’d never have known his genius.

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Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni  Most often known as Michelangelo had several patrons from an early age. Again, without whom, we’d never have his works.

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino  Better known to most as Raphael is another great who had help with support for his works.

One who didn’t, and I’ll always wonder what he could’ve created if he had… is Vincent Van Gogh.

While there’s no doubt that he had some help from family and friends, I wonder if a more regular patronage may have been of aid in controlling the demons he most definitely struggled with. Can you imagine the wonders that may have come from his brush if he’d been certain he could both eat and afford his paints?

He died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, after two years where he couldn’t sell his artwork. Two years where he couldn’t give away a painting for the cost of his dinner. Paintings which now sell for millions of dollars apiece, IF you can find one for sale.

You know, I’ve seen it said a lot lately that this time period of fear and angst and rage in the marginalized communities will equate to beautiful art. I’d really like the idea that the most stunning of art comes from tortured individuals to die in a fire and never raise its ugly head again. Because it just isn’t true.

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As I’ve proven (and could continue to prove with citations) most of the best art we’ve had in the world is because those artists were able to eat, they knew they had a roof over their heads, they had a studio to work in and the materials they needed to do their work.

In short, they had patrons.

The concept that Patreon has come up with, that just a dollar or two a month from a lot of people go to support a creator… it’s revolutionary.

In the past, it was only the rich that could help their favored artists create art, now it’s everyone. We as a culture can support the arts with our spare change. How absolutely amazing is that?

Seriously, I’d like you to stop and think about that for a moment. How mind-blowingly wonderful is it, that for the price of one fast food meal a year (roughly about 12$ here in Canada) you can help a struggling artist have the basics that they need to create art. pizza-2000595_1920

World-shaking, that’s what it really is.

I look forward to so much of the art that people with patrons are going to be able to make. I hope that everyone who can afford it will find someone to support as a patron through patreon, or even through the particular creator’s KoFis or paypal. (trust me, most of us have them, because art takes time and materials, and many of us can’t work traditional jobs for one reason or another.)

It’s so easy, and it could bring wonders to this world the likes of which we haven’t seen.

There are so many creatives out there, so many who educate or write or paint or sing or, or, or, orpick one. Something that speaks to your soul. Something that makes you feel alive.

And help them create.

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Because the only kind of art that comes out of the fear of not being able to pay your bills, or worry that you won’t have a house to live in, or food to eat… that’s the kind of art that comes at the end of a gun. Like poor Van Gogh. There were times in his life when he couldn’t give away one of the paintings we hold so valuable now… for the cost of a meal.

Times when he chose cheap wine (which was cheaper than food in the France he lived in) and his paints over eating a meal.

He chose his art over his health, and eventually he chose to take his life rather than continue to make art in an uncaring world.

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I wonder. What would he have been able to create if the world had cared, just a little bit more.

And I wonder. I wonder which creators out there, right now, are thinking of the same thing Vincent did, because they just can’t make it in a world that doesn’t value art. (oh… we value art, as long as it’s free, which is absolutely shameful… all you have to do is look at how rapidly digital books are pirated for that.)

Whose time is running out?

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As to who I support, I’m broke, so broke I can’t afford dentistry or new glasses. (More on me here) but I still scrape together enough to donate to wikipedia every year, and when I have a little extra in my paypal, I put it in a KoFi for someone so that they can keep creating.

It really doesn’t take a lot to help keep beauty and wonder in our world. I wish everyone could see that.

as always… if you like any of my words, please become one of MY patrons. I need the help, badly.

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Patreon image.pngPatreon is here

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Help me keep providing content, and you know, eating?

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Pain and Carve the Mark

Narrated version here.

Past couple of days have been pretty high pain days for me. Weather can really affect my pain levels, and the temperature has gone from snow, to icy freezing rain to almost spring-like temperatures accompanied by rain, and back down to cold enough to freeze, in the matter of hours or the course of a day.

I hurt.

I don’t use prescription pain meds, so that means I tend to have to lay on the couch or in bed when I’m not being mom and play minecraft or read or watch movies a lot. Sounds fun, hunh? It’s not. I’d much rather be out running, or going to the gym, or playing with my kids or cleaning my house (thank goodness I did that last week, cause I can’t move without a ton of pain right now) or doing ANYTHING except coping with this pain. Fibromyalgia pain has been likened to stage 4 cancer pain, and having given unmedicated birth twice, I can guarantee fibro pain on flare days is worse than unmedicated childbirth.

It’s nigh impossible to edit or write when I’m in this much pain, I can do it, but it takes more strength than I like to admit to stick to regular activities. It’s kinda hard to see when you need to wipe tears away just to look at your screen.

So, to read this interview Veronica Roth’s Carve the Mark during a high pain episode, and know, deep in my soul that because of her past success SO many people will buy and read that book, and form an opinion similar to Roth’s own because of her words, that chronic pain can, perhaps, be a gift… (even the interviewer made that conclusion).

Dear Gods.

I am really close to speechless with this, to be honest. It’s so evident that this book isn’t own voices, and while I will not ever say every issue should only be written by own voices folks, I do say, repeatedly, authors need to do their due diligence. They need to research and ask questions and more importantly LISTEN to the answer.

My heart aches at the massive misunderstanding of chronic pain this interview shows. The book can only show the same. It’s not a gift, it’s never a gift, and I don’t know of a single person with chronic pain that would ever wish it on another person (most of the time).

This is inspiration porn in the worst sort of way. I dread thinking of what the kids with chronic pain reading this book are going to take away from it.

…and when I’m being honest, which I do try to be, it burns me that this person who has such a backasswards view of chronic pain, who obviously didn’t do her research not only has a book deal that poorly represents something I live with every second of every day, she has a following who are going to go out and buy the book in droves, when I can’t get a book deal. There will likely be a movie deal down the road for this tragedy as well.

Yeah, that.

No. I won’t read the book, I don’t need to to know the representation is terrible. I won’t go twitter drag that author either, even though a small part of me would like to. I’ve spoken my piece and shared my educated opinion on it. That’s got to be enough because I won’t be a bully.

I’m going to go write my own works that feature ownvoices chronic pain sufferers, and I will go listen to my sources about issues that don’t touch me deeply, so that I can do MY due diligence and get it right. I will also buy, read and review a few own voices CP stories.

It’s all I can do, small fish that I am. Big fish like Roth… damn. Just know that her view of chronic pain is wrong. So, so wrong.

I have a Patreon, if you want to help support someone who actually does suffer from chronic pain, and who does have characters with chronic pain or ASD in my stories.

You know, instead of going out and buying Roth’s book. I don’t even want to read the divergent series now, just because of this.

Shout out to an amazing person, my friend, Erin Jeffreys Hodges who I respect so much.

Chickens with Pitchforks

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So many thinky thoughts, so many emotions and me, a writer, not being able to come up with a coherent way of saying them all. Some of this emotion is likely from how shitty my day to day life is right now. I have untreated fibromyalgia (long story, not getting into it) and I’m moving house, downsizing in an unwanted move to a much smaller place and my two kids are coming down with another round of ‘public school plague’, so some of this emotion is from that. Most of it has been boiling for a while and I’ve been too afraid to say anything because I feared judgment. If another author can say publicly, that they won’t let down their bad ass female ancestors by being afraid. I can woman up and not be afraid to speak my truth either. I WANT THE PAIN TO STOP.

I’m not talking about my fibro pain. I’m a farm girl, raised around animals and there’s this trait I saw a lot of growing up. Ugly duckling, odd chick behavior. It’s basically where birds will, for some reason, decide to pick on a member of the flock until it dies.

The publishing community on twitter the past couple of months are acting like a bunch of chickens. Pick, pick picking at one another until the weaker bird dies. Now, I’ve written theses, I can hazard a guess about the psychology behind it, tension, stress about the election, brexit, et cetera.

You know… it’s something humans do too. It’s called bullying, maybe a bit of gaslighting.

I call it witch hunting. (I’m pagan, have been most of my life, I use the term with knowledge and respect for the fallen, ’cause y’all know what? Many of you are acting like the inquisition here.)

One thing I cannot, and will not, ever lie down for is bullying. If this post burns me bridges, or brings me grief because I’m brave enough to point at an unpleasant truth in a group of people who ought to freaking know better? Bring it. (Seriously, I’m not spoiling for a fight like a lot of people seem to be doing these days, but I will defend myself and other people.)

To be clear, this is not brought on by any one situation, there have been nine incidences (that I’m personally aware of, pretty sure there’re more) with different people involved, with different topics addressed over the past several months. I’m plugged into a lot of communities, just because of who I am. There’ve been issues about pansexuality, religious faith, PoC, cultural (mis)representation, and tone policing to just mention a few. So I am not pointing at any ONE person or topic or incident. Though yes, why I’m saying something now is because of the reaction to the book THE CONTINENT.

Firstly: *I* have not read the book. Neither have most of you. Which kinda calls into question the omfg issues revolving around it. One well respected and well thought out person has read it and commented upon it. In a critique which, given who it was, I have to assume is accurate. I respect the person who critiqued it. I may not always agree with the methodology or opinions of this person, but the knowledge, viewpoint and critique? That I respect, a lot. I rather hope #TheContinent isn’t that bad, but as soon as I can finish this move and regain some sense of equilibrium-I have an ARC-I’ll read it and review it. Honestly and from my perspective as an educated, marginalized, author of mixed ethnicity.

I also know the person who wrote the book is a debut author. Aren’t we supposed to be doing our utmost as writers/authors/publishing professionals to support debut authors? Even the ones who make mistakes?

I have so many thoughts and emotions about this. (I’ve been writing this most of the day when I needed to be working on my book or packing.) I’ll try for cohesion, so that when/if I’m attacked, I’ll have my receipts. You’ll note that despite me working damned hard on wording this correctly, without censure of any one person or incident that I’m Expecting To Be Attacked. That is the feeling of the writer community on twitter right now, (it wasn’t when I joined up) and that goes out in ripples to the whole of the authorial community.

Diversity: I am passionate about all forms of diversity. Always have been. I’m a staunch supporter of being who you are, all of who you are. I will always be an advocate. We are each of us human, each of us learning, growing, beautiful individuals. Do we make mistakes? We’re human, of course we do. I’m damned worried posting this is a mistake, so much so I’ve had people vet it before I click publish. (I’ve never, ever done that before w/a blog post.) Thing is, I can’t respect myself if I DON’T say something. So. To the meat of it.

  1. Passing. I pass damned well, it gives me privilege others descended from the same bloodlines and cultures as me don’t have. But. I’m. Still. Passing. I’m aware that I’m passing, and it absolutely kills something in me when we run into racist/neurodiverse issues in publishing, in all forms of entertainment. It’s like I’m torn in half. The part of me that is *me* from the part of me everyone else *sees*. Go ahead, look at the profile pic. Look white, don’t I? I’m not. Unless skin tone is all that matters. (Whoa now, if that isn’t a shock, I dunno what could be. Skin tone as a social control? Nah. Couldn’t happen among thinking humanoid type critters.) But, if the way I look is all that matters,  well… that’s prejudicial. It kills something in me to hear another gifted writer saying they KNOW they have very little chance of traditional publication. It’s something I know very well because I feel it myself, even if the reasons are different. They’re Native, but they keep writing anyway… Then the same writer has their heart broken because of the (possibly, *I* haven’t read it. I *don’t* prejudge) racist YA book that will soon be published. To hear her pain. Lord and Lady, it’s like an emotional wound inside of me. Because she speaks about her pain, about those dark and nasty thoughts I’ve had myself… (the ones that are grateful that my kids pass too ’cause they have First Nations ancestry from both their dad and me?? Because they have African ancestors through me? Yeah, those thoughts. I don’t obey those thoughts, I won’t be a coward. I teach my kids as much as I know about all of their ancestors, but I still have the thoughts. A symptom of the world we live in.)
  2. I have not read the book, I intend to, because I cannot make an informed opinion about anything without, ya know… informing myself. It’s a thing, yeah?
  3. I pass as being neurotypical too. I’m not what most people think of when they think ‘autistic’. SPOILER, most of us aren’t. If you know 50 people, you know someone who is passing autistic. You know someone who struggles, every second of every day to understand how other ‘normal’ people work.
  4. On the other side of this fence, a good friend of mine is incredibly saddened because they know the author in question… my friend tells me they are a good person…
  5. If someone is saying, ‘This hurts.’ You don’t say, ‘that’s not the way it is, you’re viewing it wrong.’ There’s a definition for that and it’s called gaslighting.
  6. Being a good person, with good intentions does not relieve you of responsibility. If, for instance, you write YA books, you have to be concerned, always, with the kids who will be reading your work. You. Need. To. Be. Aware. Words can hurt, they can kill. We need to use ours wisely. This ALSO goes for those with influence, those who speak out and are respected for doing so. Who may feed people to their following, knowing damned well what will happen. I see you. It does not give you (no matter the color of your skin, or your ancestors or, or, or…) the right to harm or gaslight anyone. If someone says… ‘this hurts, please stop’ the ONLY answer is ‘I’m so sorry. I will listen, I will do better.’ Even if you don’t understand what you did wrong. Even if your cultural understanding isn’t aware or awake enough yet to know how badly you effed up. Someone says ‘OUCH’, you say ‘I’m sorry’. I mean, didn’t we all learn this in kindergarten?
  7. In case it needs to be said. I. AM. SAYING. OUCH. PLEASE. STOP.
  8. I’m talking to the writers, the publishing professionals, and you. Yeah. I’m looking at you, my reader. Maybe you personally haven’t done anything that I need to say ouch about. Maybe you’ve never done a blessed thing to hurt another human, but… maybe you have. Only you know.
  9. This one… I honestly can’t believe I even have to say it. I’ve worked for fortune 500s, I’ve brokered million dollar deals when I sold stuff (software if it matters) to the US gov’t. I’ve been in NOAA’s headquarters and I’ve visited Fort Knox, I’ve dined w/ the US Secretary of Energy. I’m not sharing that info to brag. I was miserable in that job; I’m sharing it for perspective. So when you read the next bit, you’ll understand exactly where I’m coming from. ANY. Other. Industry. Would be bloody, fucking, appalled by this behavior. I am NOT calling out one particular person, many people do it…  I am talking about something that borders on breach of privacy. It’s not ‘quite’ there, but it’s like when you smell a campfire and then feel the flame. The issue? Sharing of private DMs/videos/emails. Don’t do it. Private correspondence is private, it’s not meant for public consumption and no, sharing it isn’t right no matter how justified you feel you are in doing so. I don’t care who you are or what your motivation is to do such a thing. Same goes with taking tweets and emails and things said out of context and using them as fuel in your own personal crusade. I’ve seen quite a bit of that lately too and I’m tired of it. There aren’t many ‘issue’ crusades that don’t apply to me too. Do you see *me* doing that? I find it extremely distasteful and unprofessional. (Most everyone else does too. Just to let you know.)
  10. Mental Health: (#ownvoices on that topic, among others) Did you know it falls into the category of being a bully to call someone out for using mental health issues as a tool? When. You. Don’t. Know. The. Person. Or. What. They. Deal. With? The person I’m thinking of didn’t say a damned word about that book. They were accused of sub-tweeting, and racism and omg… WHAT THEY SAID was, ahem (I should stop shouting, but I feel it may be warranted)  don’t discount mental health issues. That person talks about their own struggles FREQUENTLY.  Jaysus. I’m sick to my stomach that so much that should be bringing us together, forming bridges, is being used as tools in dividing us.
  11. You know what? You don’t get to tell someone else they aren’t struggling, no matter what the color of their skin is, the state of their brain or their lifestyle. No matter what color YOUR skin is, or the state of YOUR brain, or what lifestyle you (hopefully) enjoy. You just don’t have that right. Even if you’re marginalized, you still don’t get to say it. See Gaslighting. I’d love to call out the names and say… hey there bully! Whas’up! We meet again… it’d be sooo nice if you’d stop. I choose to not do that. I’ve been a victim of bullying my whole damned life. I know what it looks, feels and smells like. THAT was bullying. (Not the first time I’ve seen it with the particular person, and to be utterly clear, it isn’t the person who critiqued the book.) Think it might be you? Do you bully people on the internet/twitter/fb? Then lace it up and wear it, b.  Bullying, even in the name of a good cause, is still bullying.
  12. Witch hunts. I made such a face just now, I really did. But damn people, what is WITH the witch hunt mentality in publishing? I’m pagan, and extremely well educated (many useless degrees on the walls, promise). I’m aspie, which means *my* brain acts a lot like a computer in the amount of information I have at hand at any one p0int. So when I use the term ‘witch hunt’ that is exactly the right term to use. One person points the finger at another person, shouting “WITCH” then without proof, without reason, without any sort of trial the ‘witch’ is run out of town, or twitter dragged, or suffers a pile on in the worst way. (There’ve been a lot of these hunts around issues relating to PoC, pansexuality, asexuality, representation, tone policing and fetishism lately, just to name a few) There are those of us on ‘both’ sides of any single one of these witch hunts who would like to speak up and say something along the lines of ‘wait a minute, that isn’t Actually What They Said or Did’ or ‘Whoa, Wait a minute, that was taken completely out of context and used in a way it wasn’t ever intended as’. You know what? WE can’t. The moment one of us (again, on either side here of any particular dispute, I’m thinking of at least 9 different instances on different topics in recent months) says a thing that disagrees with the ‘witch hunt’ mentality, we’re tarred with the same damned brush. There is no logic, there is no reason, there is no kindness. (FWIW, I’m not a kindness before ‘A Person’ believer. You see something wrong, you hurt? Call, it, out. I will support you, always.) There certainly isn’t an atmosphere of listening and learning in the writing community on twitter. Which–I can tell you as a marginalized person myself–I’d be so much happier seeing. I’d be ecstatic  if people learned about me and tried to understand the things I face and have to deal with rather than them ‘getting their comeuppance’ and being feather-plucked/driven out of the community at large.
  13. You know what these recent witch hunts have done? It’s made me (passing PoC, neurodiverse, polyamorous, pagan, kinky, pansexual, chronically ill, queer, mentally ill,  fat… ) the person trying to get it right in my work, (because I know what it feels like to be marginalized in so many ways) not want to share my writing. It makes me doubt every word I’ve ever written regarding a person with a darker skin than mine. Everything I’ve ever alluded to from one of the ancestral cultures I have the honor to claim. (Edit… this is a massively common feeling, since I first posted this, I can’t believe the number of people ID’ing as any form of diversity who’ve reached out to me in a positive manner about this post. It’s not just me who’s feeling this.)
  14.  I have PoC characters in a lot of my writing, because I feel so strongly that everyone deserves to see themselves in fiction. I rarely, if ever, see accurate rep of me in fiction, I think everyone should have that. To see themselves reflected.  I remember hearing my mom, when I was a kid, say something along the lines of ‘she wished there were a few brown girls’ in the romances she liked to read. I remember her using lemon juice to lighten her skin and hair, and praising my (then) blond hair and blue eyes. Genetic fact, you don’t tend to tan well unless you’re pretty mixed up, ethnically. Many of us know a person who is really pale, all year round who turns into a lobster if they get a hint of sunlight? Not so mixed. Someone like me, who turns red-brown in the sun… very mixed, I have Spanish, Portuguese, African, Middle Eastern, First Nations, and European ancestors. You know… I remember my mom yanking on my hair with a brush to keep it from forming locks, (which it does even more now than it did then) because it wasn’t the ‘right way’ for hair to look. I remember her yanking out *Yes, she pulled them out of my scalp, and taught me to do the same thing* the dark, spiral curled hairs that grew in among the blond. I remember how I felt when I found the proof that, um, whups the reason we don’t talk all that much about some of your grandparents is cause they were so dark. Um… WTF? I know what it feels like *to me* to read about another mixed person in fiction. (I’ve blogged about it before, I literally cried the first time I saw it. Because I finally saw me. That feeling, of seeing ME/YOU is what I want for every person on the planet who enjoys fiction. This atmosphere… it’s driving away those of us who’re trying to get it right. These recent witch hunts, man. It’s made me say… well fuck, because I pass so well, I guess I don’t have the right to write people with angular eyes and dishy teeth (I have dishy teeth… you know? For the uninformed it’s a Native/First Nations/Asian biocline trait). I’m so light skinned (when I’ve been being writer chick and staying out of the sun) how dare I even think about writing a guy with dark skin and blue eyes, or, to refer (not rep, I won’t do that) but simply refer to one of my characters as rez raised Native. (My granddad was, left the rez to marry my grandmother… but my skin is awfully damned light to be writing someone with darker skin, isn’t it?) These witch hunts… damn people. What are you trying to do with them? To bastardize The Princess Bride, I don’t think you’re doing what you think you’re doing.
    1. Are you trying to drive authors who work very freaking hard at getting it right away from writing PoC? (I excoriate myself to get it right, to not use ‘food’ terminology when describing a skin tone or eye shape, just for instance. If I mention a culture or trait, I try my damnedest to not use stereotypes and, and, and, and.)
    2. Are we as a community trying to drive other authors away from just talking about their own ancestries? From learning and asking questions? It feels like that to me today. It really does. (I’m not speaking of that book now, I have not read it, I don’t know, if you haven’t read it, neither do you.) I AM speaking of how *I* feel trying to describe my characters. Is the fact that I see and write one of my characters as a girl with angular green eyes, gold skin and black hair going to get me tarred and feathered as being an Asian/First Nations Fetishist? I’m describing someone in my family when I use those terms, I had them vet the description before I used it. They thanked me for not comparing the shape of their eyes to a nut. (dude… white people’s eyes look more like almonds than Asian/First Nations… have you actually looked?) Is the fact that I see one of my characters as a dark brown man with blue eyes going to get me accused of another form of fetishism? (It’s a gene I studied in University, how the African diaspora encountered blue eyed people around the Baltic Sea around 10k years ago. There are blue eyed black people, shocker, I know, right? Did you know there’re red haired black people too? Red haired Native/First Nations? Is it wrong to depict them?) I have freaky silver-blue, color-changing eyes (Danish biocline trait) but my skin isn’t dark… how about if I only write light skinned Danish immigrants? I’ll ignore the other half of my ancestry, as I’ve been taught to do my whole damned life… is that what’s needed and wanted here? If I refer to my rez raised Native character as red-brown (my mom’s skin color btw, and mine in the summer after even a hint of sun) is it going to get me skinned alive by someone respected in publishing? Because my profile pic is taken in winter and I’m kinda pale in it? Oh! I know! I’m cream colored in my profile pic… doughy even, maybe even porcelain… means I’m white, right? What the hell are y’all trying to do?
    3. Is the end goal here a more diverse publishing atmosphere? It’s what *I* thought we were all doing and trying for. How does picking the feathers off of a debut author contribute to that? If the book is as reviewed, wow, yeah, some learning and fixing up needs to happen, and it shouldn’t have been published that way. Twitter dragging the author/the editor/the publishing house… that’s not going to help them learn. No, it’s not *OUR* responsibility to teach or educate anyone else about our marginalization’s. It is our responsibility to act like human beings. Like higher reasoning primates and not a bunch of featherheads toting pitchforks.
    4. I highly doubt many people are reading this… my experience of my mixed up ethnicity, of all of my experienced marginalizations and the pain I feel at seeing these… witch hunts… because I’m never on just one side of them. Each one of them splits me in half, or thirds… it’s crazy. It hurts, it hurts badly. If you are reading, if you’re on either side of these conflicts… could ya’ maybe step back a bit and say… I’m listening. I will read/research/think about the issue at hand and maybe talk privately to people I trust about it… rather than grabbing a torch and pitchfork?
    5. By grabbing a torch and pitchfork, I mean piling on in support of one side or the other in ANY conflict. Public call outs… this is probably the aspie me in (I really loathe being accused of something in public. Which might clue you in to how strongly I feel about this topic, to step up and say something I’ve been feeling for a while, KNOWING I’m likely to get taken to task for it.) but, does it actually HELP anything? It sure as hell isn’t changing publishing. Only thing going to change publishing is using your money to talk with. Buy the authentically diverse books with good rep. SUPPORT authors who are diverse, in whatever fashion their diversity shows itself in. I’d give a body part for some accurate kink rep in mainstream fiction other than the few that are out there… how about an adult aspie? Asexual? Grace? Mixed ethnicity? Adult polyamory other than love triangles? How about a fat girl in a romance? A disabled romantic MC who doesn’t get a miracle cure by the end of the book? I’d love one of those. There’s some kink and poly but not a lot, can’t think of many Grace or Aspie characters in adult fiction. I swear on all I hold holy I will give whoever brings up the movie The Accountant the lecture of their life on bad representation.
    6. This entirely human/chicken habit of tearing down, witch hunting, et cetera. It’s not helping. To be clear, I’m not talking about sharing an educated opinion of a book, nor am I talking against speaking your own pain. I’m talking about personal attacks against an author/entertainer, you know… name calling, career shaming, calling into question their integrity or their intelligence, rudely rolling ones eyes (virtually) about how damned dumb this particular person HAS to be to be making that mistake… that kind of thing. Damn. Here’s a question for those of you who may feel I just insulted you. Did you see the movie THE ACCOUNTANT? RAINMAN?? Were you entertained? Chilled? Excited? Thrilled? Or were you appalled at the rep? If you didn’t answer the latter, you got some work to do.
    7. Oh… and just cause I’ve seen it and I’m annoyed by it… piling on in support of PoC, LGBTQA+ (insert marginalized individual) doesn’t absolve you of your own guilt. If you’re light skinned (I am too, it’s part of the culture we live in) you’re racist. If you’re not Asperger’s/Autistic, you’re prejudiced against us. If you’re not mixed race, you have no idea what it feels like. If you’re not polyamorous, you have no idea how much it hurts to only be able to find monogamous romance to read, even when you LOVE romance. If you’re straight, you have no idea how badly we queer people want to see ourselves in fiction. If you’re not kinky… boy… I could write a whole damned thesis, probably a couple of them, on bad representation and the damage a certain series of books has done there because of piss poor research. If you aren’t part of a/the marginalized community, the only thing you can do is LISTEN. LEARN. Attempt to make bridges instead of tearing things apart. And for fucks sake. Do. Better. Maybe a good start would be to try leaving the plucking of feathers to the ducks and chickens.

Sexuality and me

There were a few great threads on twitter tonight about representation of asexuality in fiction. (I retweeted, so they should be relatively easy to find.) Since it struck a chord and I kinda almost write sexy smexy books, I figured since I’m in a wordy mood, I’d attempt to express this part of me.

I identify as grace. AKA Gray Asexual (Wikipedia definition), so how the hades can I write kinky sex?

well…

A bit of history. For most of my life I’ve felt broken. Like the thing that made the world go ’round (love/relationships) was a puzzle piece that just didn’t fit in my life. It’s not that I didn’t have sexual/loving relationships. If anything I started early, but it wasn’t out of actual ‘desire’ to do so. I started having sex around the age of 16, (in the early 90’s) and it was with my boyfriend. I wasn’t with the person because I liked him, I was with him because he treated me decently and because it was an escape from a really terrible home environment. (that sounds so very cold and horrible, but… kids, damn, they make hard, life wrenching choices like that every damned day in so many demographics, and those types of stories need to be told. Childhood isn’t pretty for everyone, ya know?)

I had sex with him because A) I loved to read, and most of what my mom had to read was romance, and hey, all my fictional heroines were doing it (whether they wanted to or not… in case you ever wonder if fiction matters, it kinda, really does) and I thought it was what I was supposed to be doing. B) Peer pressure from the boyfriend, horny young guy about  year older than me and definitely NOT grace/ace.

Did the fact that I was raised uber-Christian matter? Yeah, it did, just not enough. I had plenty of guilt. Did the fact that my parents refused to see me as anything other than a pre-teenage girl with a frilly canopy bed and a doll house matter? Yeah, in the wrong way…

Did I enjoy it? No.

We were both virgins, so, no, I don’t know that we ‘could’ have really had fun, except that I’ve talked to a lot of people who were virgins together who had a great time.

If I asked him, I’d hazard to guess he enjoyed the process. It always left me cold, distant and just, disinterested.

Frigid.

Cold.

A bitch.

You hate me.

You can’t love me.

____

I heard all of these things.

‘What’s wrong with me!’ Rang through my soul so many times. Here I have this great guy (and for the time and environment, he really was. I bear guilt to this day that I wasn’t ‘enough’ for him).

_____

I should treat him better.

You should marry him (thank gods I didn’t when he asked, I’d have made him miserable)

Fake the orgasm, he won’t be able to tell. (Heard that one from a friend, made my relationship better for a while, I guess, on the surface.)

____

I broke it off when he asked me to marry him. I’d been away to university for a year at that point, and I… realized I didn’t miss him. I realized that it was a burden to be around him, to ‘perform’ sexually for him.

I had a rebound relationship (including sex, cause I did. not. know. that. asexuality of any type existed) with one of my best friends. It ruined the friendship, of course.

I tried sex with girls, because hey, if I couldn’t enjoy it like everyone around me was enjoying it with a guy, that made me a lesbian right? (For years I thought I was a lesbian, really. Cause I had better relationships with girls.)

Nope.

Bisexual? Maybe? (I’m pansexual, by the way… now that I have a label that actually fits me)

In my early 20’s I was ‘dating’ exclusively girls, by dating, I mean fucking, because I had friendly fuck buddies but no defined relationship.

I went to a really big event and met my husband. Man, I fought so hard against falling for him! I didn’t want a relationship with a guy, hadn’t worked the three times or so I’d tried it before, and he lived well over 8 hours by train away from me… in a different freaking country!!

I thought about it, and figured one more try with a guy… cause I really, REALLY liked this one. We got each other. (I’ll be honest, head over fucking heels in love within three days, it still strikes me as ridiculous that I fell so hard and fast for a stranger, but here we are, still married 18 years later, so maybe we did something right.)

Sex with him was afuckingamazing. For the first time in my life I GOT it.

I understood what the big deal was! (We’re talking lightning strike momentous proportions here people.)

That’s what gray asexuality (specifically demi-sexuality) is like for me.

It would have helped so much if I had known what it even was when I was a kid. (So, all of you wonderful people who can write/rep YA with Ace/Grace characters? Please, please write these stories, publishing, please buy and put them on the damned shelves!!)

For a demi-sexual (talking about me and those I’ve read about, and the friends I’ve talked with who ID as such) it’s the emotion and close relationship that makes all the difference in the world to the enjoyment of sex.

Now, I didn’t actually learn that the term ‘demi-sexual’ or ‘grace’ or ‘ace’ even existed until last year. (Here’s another iota of info, I’ve been a sexuality educator, it was not covered in ANY of my classes preparing me for teaching kids about sex… how’s that for horrifying?) That’s right, I was 39 when I learned the definition. (Another lightning strike) and realized that… holy shit… I’m NOT broken, or frigid, or bitchy or cold.

I’m grace. I’m demi-sexual.

Being polyamorous, I’ve had relationships with others in the 18 years my husband and I have been together (so has he, and we together). Only one other time have I enjoyed sex, and it was with my girlfriend, who… yes, I loved.

You’d think I’d have clued in, right? I was in my late 20’s when I fell for her (we were part of a quad together) love=good sex?

I didn’t. Which is why knowledge and stories and fiction are so very important.

So back to the first question. If I’m grace, how can I write kinky sex?

Simple answer. ‘Cause when it’s good and I’m with someone I love? It’s off the charts amazing and I’ve a way with words. 😉 I also have a great deal of experience with kink and with great sex (now). Add to that a rather vivid imagination and I get sex scenes that sizzle (not my words, those are beta-readers words)

So. This long ramble is my way of saying, please, write the stories (if I could write YA I so would, there are girls and boys and gender-fluid and non-binary and non-gendered people out there right now, just like I was, doing things they won’t be proud of later, because they don’t get why they are different). Publish the stories. Above all, educate yourselves and your kids if you have them about all the wonderful variations of sexual expression humanity can enjoy.

-Kaelan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Rejection: From an Aspie Writer

I’m pretty open about having Aspergers. I’m so grateful that agents are asking more and more for #ownvoices writers to submit their work.

Yet, because they’re asking for our writing, it might help if they knew how someone neurodiverse might think about rejections. *Not an expert, and not everyone is out, so if there are aspie/autie agents hi! I’m only speaking for ‘me’.

Now… no one likes rejection. We human beings are social creatures and having someone tell you they don’t want your work hurts all of us. It’s part of the business, though, and anyone who wants to write for publication, especially traditional pub needs to accept that. I do, it’s part of the life of a writer. Hell… some of the most famous writers ever have received the most rejections. (Go here, you’ll see) so the concept of rejection doesn’t bother me, 98% of the rejections I receive don’t phase me. It’s the 2% I’m addressing. Those where someone has specifically requested more of my work after reading a query or a couple of pages.

Rejection. If you want to write for pub vs fanfic (which I love and have written myself) or to write for yourself, get used to it. You’ll feel rejected over self-pub by lack of sales too, so it’s not just for Trad.pub you’re going to run into it. This isn’t even touching on the concept of poor reviews or trolls bitching about what you write. (I get trolled a lot because I’m out about who I am, all of who I am).

Yet, I want to say something on rejection, especially for an aspie. Now, this may not apply to everyone with Aspergers, I only speak from my *own* experience. Victimized in school by bullies, I’m well versed in rejection. I’ve worked professionally in sales, I have a thick skin. I can take it, and I’ll continue to do so. I know the business of publishing as much as any ‘outsider’ ever can.

It can still throw me for a freaking loop, and here’s why.

I write so much into my stories and hell, not many people seem to like me in person, so I don’t expect a whole lot of people to like my writing… except, of course, I hope they do!

I’m aspie, and one way this makes a difference in my life is that I have a driving obsession to know WHY. About everything… why that bird looks the way it does at my feeder, why X, Y, or Z. (and the other 23 letters!)

So, rejections from agents and publishers bother me, like… a lot. The ones on query letters only are the least bothersome for me. Next step, queries with pages… those make me wonder what exactly the person didn’t like about my work. But for both of those I can brush them aside and not worry about it. The ones that are the hardest are those where an agent/publisher has specifically requested more of my work. If they tell me why they eventually said no, it makes such a huge difference to me.

‘Cause if they do…

I can slot it into a pigeonhole of ‘this is why’ it didn’t work there. That information would be invaluable to me (even if I didn’t agree with it, or if I didn’t like it,(and I’ve gotten both) I’d still have that information to use in future endeavors).

Without that little bit of information, it hurts more and niggles more than it probably does to a neurotypical person. (I’m not NT, I don’t know what it feels like to someone who is, I may be completely off base). I do know that in general, autistic individuals have fathomless wells of emotion. Even if it doesn’t look like we’re bothered or feeling something, trust me, we are. Yes, I know how busy agents must be, I know how hard it would be to write a sentence to each rejection. It would be so nice if they could, though, no, I don’t expect it. No, it isn’t going to stop me, but it may throw me for a day or two. I received one recently that almost made me stop writing, that’s how hard it was to receive. That’s my honesty.

I can’t NOT research something, it’s not in me. I can dive down the rabbit-hole so fast and hard in the blink of an eye, then spend hours there (wherever there is). It’s a trait of how Aspergers makes a difference in my life.

So, of course, I researched the industry of publishing before dipping a toe in. I know it’s the rarity to even get a rejection letter much less a reason for the rejection. Still, for me, personally, it’s like a burning itch I can’t scratch. An itch to know (and from history, that itch will never, ever, ever go away). To understand. ‘Cause trust me, I rarely understand other people, (waves from aspie-land) this obsession with how people work and why they do what they do is in part a self-defense mechanism for me.

Rejection sucks, it’s part of this business and I do collect rejections (I’m shooting for wallpaper, because at least then I know I’m trying) yet… if any agents or publishers read this… if at all possible on partials, if it’s something you’ve requested more pages on, please tell the writer WHY it doesn’t work for you, especially if you know they’re neurodiverse “It’s not for me.” Really isn’t enough. I don’t need a repetition of something you’ve already told me, for things important to me my recall is epic. (You should totally play me in geek trivial pursuit!) I do, rather desperately, need a reason why.

In a publishing industry where #ownvoices are being asked to submit their work, agents need to know how it works for us, and I know enough aspies/auties to hazard a guess that rejection probably bothers many of us as much as it does me. I can’t believe it would take more than a minute to give that bit of info to someone who you’ve already spent an hour or more on reading their work. A reason, even if it’s only a list can make such a difference in the emotions of ND people like me. Something like this would help so much. Now… on to the next rejection. 😀

  1. Didn’t resonate
  2. No market
  3. Too long
  4. Whatever reasons