On Writing Slumps and Swimming in Circles

I’ve been in a writing slump.

Writing books. Writing blog posts. It’s why I haven’t been around much on Wonkomance. In fact, I didn’t have a post for today, so I decided to talk about… not writing.

The standard advice for such a slump is to write anyway. Write crap. Then you’ll have something on the page, and then you can revise that something, and thus produce a viable book. Except I’ve been doing this author thing for a few years now. I’ve tried that, more than once. And the writing that comes out is more often not salvageable.

Not salvageable for me, anyway. I can’t infuse voice into a book that has none. I could sit here and fill out a plot worksheet and GMC, and I do, but I can’t give a character a voice… ergo, slump.

There’s one book in particular I’ve been not writing. I’ve been muddling through and banging on and generally circling it, but not writing it. Because it’s due so that makes it kinda important. Okay, a lot important. I have about ten beginnings for this not written book.

So I guess it’s not really not writing. It’s not writing anything good. Or writing and then starting over repeatedly.

It’s not finishing.

I’ve still been reading. Sometimes I feel guilty about that that, because that’s time I could spend writing. Well, some of it. A lot of reading happens right before bed or when I’m out waiting, and therefore not writing time anyway.

But I know the day I stop reading I’m in even bigger trouble. I’m trying to read more indie books. More “cracktastic” books. Books that don’t have as much polish but work because of the story. I need to get back to storytelling.

I am not a plotter.

The word panster has always struck me as weird. I don’t identify with it. I’m almost never wearing pants when I write, and flying by the seat of them? No, not really. Even when it’s going well, writing doesn’t feel like flying.

Writing has always felt more like swimming, like diving underwater. The thing about a lost city is it’s already there, I’m just finding it.

Except when I’m not…

I’ve started this blog post five times. Because that’s just me right now. I can’t write, can’t finish, can’t find the damn story. Seriously, why is it so murky down here? Is that a shark?

I think I need to go up for air again.

I think I need to start over again.

Has anyone been in this place before? Any tips for getting out? Or, like, cookies. If you had cookies that’d be nice, because then we could eat cookies.

 

Posted in Writing Wonkomance | 3 Comments

GRL: maybe a very good place to start?

I spent the last five or so days at two conventions in Chicago: GayRomLit, and the Kinky Kollege Homecoming. Both were fun, and I had an awesome time meeting new people and reconnecting with friends, not to mention getting to spend time in Chicago while the weather was perfect (bonus: all the canoodling with Sarah Frantz).

But here is the thing about GRL and the Kinky Homecoming. One of these cons wasn’t a particularly queer-friendly space, and involved a lot of sexual fetishization I was sometimes uncomfortable with…and the other was a kink convention.

It’s been a Very Queer Month for me, between Queer Romance Month and GRL and other things. Although I’m completely out as queer in my personal life, I’m also divorced from a guy, have two kids, and don’t particularly flag as queer—so most people’s default assumption about me is that I’m straight, because that is just most people’s default assumption, period. And since I usually write het (I have no idea why, that’s just what usually comes out when I start typing), the same is generally true in my professional life. Not through any design or intent on my part, I get the benefit of a lot of straight privilege most of the time, and one of the obvious benefits of privilege is not having to think about things from the perspective of the non-privileged groups. So it’s been interesting this month to shift my focus a bit and deliberately spend some time thinking about issues and challenges relevant to queer romance and queerness in general. And it’s made me realize that I probably have been letting the convenience of borrowed privilege keep me from expressing an important part of myself. It feels good to have a voice, to demand to be heard as who I am, not who people assume I am. That shouldn’t be only a once-a-year experience.

I went to GRL hoping to keep that theme going—to go ahead and let myself be queer, be seen as queer, and maybe find some spaces where that was not only tolerated but celebrated. I really wanted GRL to be a space like that, and I was disappointed that it wasn’t. It was a splendid event in many ways, with a lot of great talks by a lot of great authors, and I had a lot of fun (I got to spend time with some of the Riptide Publishing folks I hadn’t met before, and they are all delightful!). But it was very much a space for writers and readers of m/m…and that’s just not the same as an LGBT/queer-friendly space.

Our own AJ Cousins spent some time talking about GRL on her blog (she was there longer and did more) so check out her post if you’re interested in further deets about the con itself. My own takeaway was pretty personal and had less to do with what I saw at the con, and more to do with what I didn’t see there: I saw room for “gay” (m/m) voices, but I didn’t really see a venue for queer voices. And I saw a lot of fetishizing of m/m sex, in particular. If you name events things like “Cockwalk” or “Sausagefest,” it’s really hard to then claim you’re primarily interested in giving marginalized orientations a voice in romance fiction; you’re focusing on sex, not romance. Instead of saying, “the important thing is the relationship, not the genitals of the people having it,” you’re literally showing that the important thing is the phalluses. Especially since there was no “Fix-Your-Own Fish Taco Night” or “Ace Awareness Bingo” for balance.

I don’t lay all this on GRL, of course. They’re just bringing together existing writers and readers. The publishers are still perpetuating this focus on m/m marketed to primarily straight female readers. Samhain sponsored the Sausagefest. Carina press recently had a “pride month” submission call where they name-checked “the LGBT community” at the top but then asked for exclusively m/m submissions. That isn’t pride (sorry, Carina); that’s an unhappy combination of fetishization (of m/m) and erasure (of every other queer identity under the LGBTQUIA umbrella that “pride” is supposed to apply to).

Publishers are businesses, and they want to acquire what they can sell. Sadly, a lot of publishers tend to lack vision regarding what could sell if they marketed it more widely. Twenty years ago, did any of them imagine they’d have a solid and growing market in m/m? Of course not. So there is progress, even if it’s slow and incremental (AJ mentions this, too, by the way—she attended a panel where somebody asked about interest in more non-m/m queer pairings, and over half the audience raised their hands, so I think there’s definitely hope). But that doesn’t really lessen the sting of being queer and seeing “pride” and thinking, “yay, maybe that means more books about people like me,” and then finding that—once again, and pretty much as always—I might as well not exist in the eyes of most publishers (Riptide is a glorious exception, and I’m proud to edit for them). Or in the eyes of the GRL organizers.

I probably wouldn’t have been struck so much by the “this isn’t actually a space that celebrates me” quality of GRL if I hadn’t also attended the Kinky Kollege Homecoming that weekend, and been struck by how very much that event was a safe, welcoming space for queer voices of all kinds. Trans people, gay dudes, lesbians, poly/leather household groups, whatever. All the identities, all the orientations. Everybody doing their thing and being accepted and celebrated, inclusivity instead of exclusivitiy. And it was absolutely delightful, and just such a relief. And okay, sure, like some of these events do, this one leaned toward maleDom/femsub combos (less of a supportive vibe for femDoms, particularly for the few femDom/malesub pairs in attendance). And there are kinks not everybody gets, so there are always going to be conversations about that. So it wasn’t perfectly balanced or anything. But the conversations were respectful and inclusive of all the perspectives involved. The fetishes were presented as options everybody was perfectly free to take, leave, sample, without value judgments. And overall, in many ways, the convention that was actually about fetishes was engaging in…less fetishization than the convention about romance books.

And no erasure. And far fewer representations of phalluses.

For me, the openness of the kink conference was a hopeful thing, because it proved such a thing is possible. That vibe is what cons like GRL (or cons in general) could aspire to.  That openness to different perspectives is what publishers could aspire to. To reflect all the options out there, rather than focusing nearly all the attention on one “norm,” then allowing a very narrow subset of the marginalized groups in to play on a limited basis and calling that diversity. The open, inclusive model is what GRL could become, and I think they’re off to a great start. After that…RT? And after that, obviously, world domination.

Blog posts are supposed to end with thoughtful questions to prompt discussions, but I’m the worst at that, so…insert your own thoughtful question here, I guess. Something-something-did you go to GRL, what did you think of the Cockwalk-something-something-sure, ask me about the kink con!-something?

Posted in Life & Wonk, Thinky | 16 Comments

a tongue twister, bi-erasure, and some gifs

honey-badger-dance-o

Please excuse me while I engage in some shameless self-promotion. Last week, Amber and I finished our second collaboration. Let’s pause for some honey badger dancing. Feel free to fire the glitter cannon.

It’s another round of raunchy rollicking rock stars (say that three times fast!) filled with some of my favorite things.

If Stefon from SNL were describing One Kiss with a Rock Star, he’d tell you it has everything: sad wanking, boundary issues, epic blow jobs, bi-erasure, finger-banging, double standards, and an ill-advised threesome.

spicy
It is totally spicy. But between all the boning, it’s also sorta-kinda an issue book. Maybe. If you squint. Like, it’s possible I may have referred to it as “the bi book” on more than one occasion. So, AJ’s post on Tuesday really resonated. You should go read that if you haven’t already. (Why haven’t you?) She says lots of thinky things about orientation and self-definition and the intersection of sexuality with love/lust/friendship. I nodded my head as I read it and then I talked about one of my favorite lines from One Kiss in the comments:

bi

Here’s what I had to say: On the surface it’s very much about sex acts and using/not-using them to define sexuality. But it’s also about railing against a binary, against erasure, against having sexuality dictated. (*snort* Dick-tated.) Because orientation can be endlessly complex…a lifetime of searching and questioning and exploring…but it can also be dead effing simple. And maybe sometimes, that simplicity is the hardest to understand.

kaylee

jayne

There’s a moment, the start of an M/M/F threesome, in the first book that people either love or hate. I’m sure there are some readers who are ambivalent about it, but we don’t tend to hear from those. What I did hear, in between all the omglovewhatjusthappenedyes were things like “so, was he gay?” or “ewww I don’t like M/M” or “that didn’t make any sense.”

And yes, it is possible for a male bodied person to be gay while engaging in sexual activity with a female bodied person (see above where orientation is NOT dictated by sex acts) but that isn’t what caused the confusion here. And it’s also possible that we didn’t set it up enough…but it seemed pretty simple to me. They’re bisexual. Which I guess is hard to believe in or accept? No, that can’t be right. Oh, wait…

bigoogle

Really?

pffffft

Krist and Madeline like what they like. Mostly they like each other, except for when they don’t. Their attraction (and its opposite) doesn’t have anything to do with gender. It’s about respect (or lack thereof), appreciation, admiration, and hot back alley smooching. Their sexuality isn’t a choice, a phase, or a trend. Their angst isn’t about navigating the interiority of their desires, it’s about navigating the media’s (mis)perceptions.

I really enjoyed the challenge of tip-toeing through the minefield of Krist’s ultra-masculine rocker world and Maddy’s hyper-sexualized pop arena. And by tip-toeing I mean blithely blundering and frantically groping.

You’ll be able to buy One Kiss with a Rock Star in early November. For now you can add it on GoodReads.

Posted in Shameless Self-Promotion | 7 Comments