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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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)

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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!)

Self Harm

People don’t like to talk about self-harm. It scares them, it makes them uncomfortable.

Even though so many people do it.

You probably do.

The thing is about self-harm, there’s ways and there’s ways. There’re the active ways one can self harm, like cutting oneself, taking drugs and drinking too much, too often. Driving too fast, taking physical risks in the name of feeling alive and so many other ways I could never list them all. Being demisexual, I’ve punished myself by having sex with people I didn’t want to because I SHOULD want to. (Yes, I know… shush, I have a point to make here.)

Then there’re the passive ways of harming oneself. Things like failing to take one’s medicine on time, staying up to ridiculous hours at night when you don’t HAVE to because of pain or insomnia, not resting when you need it. Continuing to work and push and harm yourself further so that you don’t feel ‘lazy’ and ‘unworthy’. Not exercising (if you CAN exercise, I can’t, and I miss it). So, so many ways.

Lately, I seem to have developed, (since roughly last year at this time maybe? Or maybe when my brother killed himself? I don’t know, exactly when I developed it) but I don’t eat when I’m upset.

This is the diametric opposite to what I’d do when I was younger, when I’d go through a huge box of donuts, stuffing myself with them even though I didn’t really WANT a donut. In some sort of misguided attempt to feel better.

In the past five days I’ve eaten two half sandwiches, three granola bars, two bites of macaroni and cheese and three tiny sauteed mushrooms.

Yes. I know. It’s not healthy. It’s not sustainable, and I don’t know why I’m doing it to myself.

I AM trying to eat. But the act of eating is extremely hard right now. Maybe subconsciously I feel like I don’t deserve food if people can think such ill things of me?

I don’t honestly know.

Frankly, I’m not really great at remembering to eat in the first place, but I usually DO eventually eat what I’ve made. Often after reheating it twice because I’m doing something more important.

Lately though, I’ll make the food, it’ll get cold (or warm) and I’ll eventually force myself to eat a bite or two, then I’ll feel like my body is gonna upchuck it all and I’ll give it up.

It’s probably great for weightloss, which, yes, I could still stand to lose more weight, simply because I don’t like the way I FEEL when I’m this heavy, but this is in no way, shape, or form a healthy way to go about doing it.

I’m sharing this part of a very personal struggle for me not to cast blame or anything, I don’t hold grudges against innocent people.

I’m sharing it so that anyone else who is going through a similar struggle might know… you’re not alone. If we can keep talking, maybe it’ll make the stigma of being mentally ill less ostracizing.

Less… damaging.

And maybe we can start healing as a human society. Lord and Lady know we need to.

 

 

Ingrained Elitism and Ableism in Publishing

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I’m pretty much beyond the point of no return with regards to publishing with a big 5, or even being represented by an agent, (lol, unless my very outspokenness nets me one or the other, and yes, I’ve seen that happen, recently) so I think it’s safe enough for me to speak out about what so many of us are thinking and feeling.

There is a fuck ton of elitism and ableism within the glorified walls of traditional publishing and larger small press.

I’m not going to call out any one person (though I do have a few saved tweet threads about it).

Usually, it’s editors or agents (though I’ve seen authors say it too) who say things like:

“Keep trunking novels.”

“Keep working.”

“Write the next thing.”

You get my drift, right? If you’ve been around the publishing industry on twitter for a second you’ll have seen the types of threads and comments I’m talking about.

Authors and writers will talk about it privately (which kinda says something all by itself), but most won’t say boo about the publishing industry in public for fear they’ll lose their shot at publication.

Happened just last night.

Firstly. I say publishing has a problem with elitism, and it so does. It comes from all levels too, it comes from big 5 pub, agents, editors and agented/published authors (not all, of course).

The idea that you can *ONLY* be an author if you’ve pubbed with a big 5, or if you have an agent or if you can bootstrap yourself to write another book while one is out on query or submission. It’s so freaking elitist that I can’t even wrap my head around it.

There’s a helluva lot of elitism going on.

Secondly: It’s ABLEIST to say keep working, keep trying, write the next thing to people, especially marginalized people, many of whom have Mental Illness/Psychiatric Disorder. MANY writers do, so that very concept really needs to die by fire.

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Not everyone is as open as I am about their mental illness… for stated reasons. They’re afraid they won’t get picked for publication/mentorship if it’s perceived that they can’t do the work due to mental illness. This fear is so common it’s mindboggling.

I did a thread about this last night, so I won’t repeat myself.

There have been panels and discussions at cons about why there is STILL so little diversity in fiction.

The answer has always been that the people who buy/produce/market books don’t resonate with diverse voices.

I hope to see change in the near future, so that new authors (or even, hell, salty old curmudgeonly authors like me) don’t have to fear not being picked because we speak out about problems we see or things we experience.

I won’t be holding my breath, though.

There’re are very valid reasons so many marginalized writers are self-pubbing or going with boutique presses.

It’s the only way we can get our stories out.

Another thread that may be of use to any of my marginalized readers.

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Mental Health Hiccup

Sorry, it’s another not so pretty blog post. You can pretty much tell my mood by how much effort I put into to putting images and what not into my blogs.

I had a mental health hiccup this week.

For so many reasons.

Let me count the ways. (That’s a Shakes joke, laugh already, I’m funny!)

Where to start though?

I don’t know how to make my life work again.

I found myself wandering in the aisles of a store, looking for something I was supposed to buy and wanting to just stop. Not be, anymore. At that moment, if I could’ve pushed a button and not been? I might have.

What it comes down to is this.

I don’t know how to pick up the pieces and rebuild my life, again.

Regular readers of my blog or people I talk to on twitter know that the past year has been absolute hell for me.

We lost our home. It was the second house we’d lost that I’d thought we wouldn’t ever leave unless we wanted to. First one was in the ‘housing bubble’ in the US. We were some of the people taken advantage of by shoddy mortgage practices because we didn’t know any better (I even thought I’d done my research, HA!). So that was house one.

We eventually moved to another country based on promises of family to help us get established. Hubs family is well off, to put it blandly. WE are not.

Nothing has ever seemed to work the way things are SUPPOSED to.

Hubs and I are both well educated, we listened to our elders and betters and went to University, got the degrees, got the jobs with the decent paychecks.

We still lost our house. (Some of that was our fault because we didn’t manage money well, most of it was rapacious mortgaging practices).

We’re both professionals, between the two of us we hold 6 university degrees and multiple certifications and clearances and what not.

Still couldn’t make ends meet in the states once we had a kid. I didn’t make enough to pay for what childcare cost, so we elected to have me stay home.

Then came the invitation to uproot and move to a different country with help from family to get us settled.

Except, when it turned out that it would take 6 years (instead of the 6 months it should’ve taken) to get my immigration paperwork ironed out (because we again, listened to our elders and betters and used one of their lawyer friends, who subsequently fucked us over) their help and patience with us dried up like a drop of water in a desert.

No matter how much we did for them to try to help them, the fact that I legally couldn’t work in this country was somehow our fault. It was somehow our fault that my hubs company closed the branch in town he worked at and he was, once again, unemployed.

(The Parents In Law take narcissistic toxic relationships to the next level, just saying.)

It didn’t matter that he went to work at one of his parent’s companies for a pittance, just to keep food on the table.

All that mattered, to them, was that we ‘hadn’t held up our end of the deal’ (That we’d take over the mortgage in full, vs in part.)

We were really close too, about 3 more months would see my husband’s practice start making enough that we could afford the mortgage and start paying back the 8 months of back payments to them. We’d been up to date until he lost his job. (I did mention that they’re well off? Between the pair of them, they make easily over 400k a year, and that’s not counting the millions they have in investments from previous businesses, sales, and working in tax free countries.

But they’d made up their minds. They were done supporting us. (They weren’t. The amount of things we did free of charge for them as far as working on their house, helping them with things, being paid less than minimum wage to work at the business… yeah… it equaled out, if you’re talking sweat equity. The number of times I changed my plans to watch their stupid dogs, or to feed their stupid fish… all so that we could somehow make recompense for the shitty hand we’d been dealt? It equaled out.)

We never got back the 40k of our cash we sank into the house in upkeep and repairs, either. Because that wasn’t counted in the final reckoning.

So.

The house, my kids backyard with playset, sandbox, deck. My garden, which I’d poured blood, sweat, labor, and tears into for 6 years.

It’s all gone. We’re in a much smaller, crappier house (which is, ironically, more expensive than the mortgage was, and we’re paying it, for now, until something else goes wrong).

Then November 8th happened, and my family showed me their true colors. I’m totally not going there right now, if you go back to November in my blog you can read up. I talked about it there.

Then in February, I started querying again. With my fifth completed novel.

Let me tell you something. I love writing like I’ve rarely loved anything I’ve ever done in my entire life.

This should’ve been obvious I suppose, I did start writing when I was 11 (officially anyway, I drew/wrote my first book in kindergarten, with the cover on upside down).

I’ve always written, it seems. So it really shouldn’t’ve surprised me how much I love to write.

The business aspect of attempting to land an agent and a traditional publishing deal has completely gutted my already fragile mental health.

I decided to try one last time, with this last book, book 5. I slogged through the shit-covered swill of the query trenches. I’ve sent over 150 queries to agents and small press on that book.

Lol, yeah, I know what you’re thinking, it’s the writing? The pacing? The plot?

Nope. Sorry. All these rejections would be easier to take if it was. I have multi-published authors as critique partners, & one of my CPs is an editor at small press with tons of history in the field. That book has been beta tested to upwards of twenty readers (strangers, not friends or family), they’ve all, each and every one, enjoyed it or outright loved it.

Agents, obviously, don’t.

Small press… so far… obviously doesn’t.

Wait, Kae, don’t you own a press? Indicating some knowledge on how to get books onto the market?

You’re perceptive aren’t ya, my reader? Yes, I know how to do all that.

Yes. I opened a press to act as a safety net for marginalized writers who write good stories and don’t want to self-pub. As I say on my website though, editing and publishing are not my first love. Unless I or one of my editors absolutely LOVE a story, we’re not going to sign it. Just because it isn’t our all-encompassing, driving, passion, to be publishing books. We do want to make a difference, we do want to offer more marginalized stories to the world, but… none of us are going to make money doing this, and we all have lives and jobs and our own books to write.

I have no chance of making money off of all of my hard work if I go with my press. If I had a traditional publishing deal, I might get an advance, I’d at least have the cachet of a ‘name’ behind me. That still, oddly, given the quality of books they’ve been putting out lately, has meaning to so many people. (Not to me, unless I KNOW an author is good, I don’t buy big5 books anymore. I just don’t. There are very few authors who I do, and that number is falling fast.)

Which is why, even in the face of desires to self-harm for the first time in over a decade, I still kept on sending queries out.

I have to stop though.

I have to.

The advice to keep trying, keep trunking novels… you know, that might work for non-marginalized writers, it certainly works for agents, cause they have the pick of the crop to their own taste.

I know that I, as a marginalized writer, can’t keep doing this. Their system is broken and wasn’t ever meant for someone like me.

Keep Writing! We’re excoriated. When out on submission, write something else!

Okay. But what if you can’t?

I literally cannot write when I’ve got a book stuck in the query trenches. I can’t do it.

It’s going on a month and a half, at least (probably more, but I’ve been trying not to count). Since I’ve been able to put words on screen.

Considering that writing is my principal method of coping, self-care, and helping myself get on with living in the face of anxiety, depression, PTSD and searing loneliness?

This whole situation isn’t working for me.

It’s making me more suicidal than I’ve been since I was a young adult.

It’s making me want to cut myself, just so I can feel alive and have some control over my pain.

I’m a mom, and I won’t deprive my kids of the shambling wreck of a being they have to call mother. My mess behind the loving mask they see.

I’m better than nothing, I guess. Sometimes.

I’m constantly battling with my own mind that is always whispering to me that everyone I know and love, my husband and kids especially would be better off if I died.

If I weren’t a burden to them anymore.

In my rational moments, I know this to be the depression talking. I know it’s my mental illness. Not the truth.

My rational moments are fading into static.

Depression meds don’t work for me by the way, in case you’re wondering why I don’t seek them out (not that I could afford them, really… but, you know, that’s a separate issue). They cause a whole mass of problems that are worse than the symptoms.

Writing helps. When I can do it. I’m a much happier, more stable person when I’m able to write every day (or most days).

I’m a much happier person when I hear from a reader who loves my words or read a review that lets me know that my work meant something to someone.

Yet. Standing in that aisle at the store on Saturday? I didn’t want to take another step. I didn’t want to suck another breath.

I wanted to stop.

Everything.

Knowing the kids were waiting for me at home was the only thing that made me take the next step, made me suck the next breath.

I don’t know if they’ll ever know how many times they’ve saved my life. Kept me breathing, kept me doing and moving.

I can’t say I’m entirely grateful, weeks like this week, I’d just as soon lay down and never get up again.

Dying is easy. It’s living, and bearing up and continuing on despite wanting to die that’s hard.

So hard.

One of my favorite activities used to be gardening. I let the kids talk me into getting some organic plants to put in our tiny patch of ground out back. We used to garden together every summer. So we did it, and I have the sore ass and thigh muscles to prove it.

I found no joy in it though. Only more pain. I find no joy in anything anymore. I don’t know how to pick up the pieces of my life and make them make sense again.

In mental health jargon they call it resiliency. The ability to take a knock and keep going, to pick yourself up and start again when things go wrong.

This last blow, and maybe the continuing blows of rejections, closed-no responses, etc on my queries…

It’s all reduced me to a bag of bloody, broken shards of glass.

Nothing fits, and I cut myself to bleed all over whenever I try to glue the pieces back together.

With dried up super glue.

I’m not a danger to myself or anyone else. I can’t will myself to stop breathing, body won’t let me do that. I’ll never willingly take my life away from my kids.

Even this piss poor excuse for a mother is better than none.

It doesn’t make it easier to keep going though.

Some days. I just want it all to stop.

I’d like to feel joy, excitement, and passion again.

Maybe someday, if I keep sucking wind, I will.

Optimist. That’s me.