Lyn Gala

One writer's journal through one version of reality


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It shouldn’t work that way

Normally I’m not a great fan of het romance. Sure, the gender issues drive me nuts and the “little woman” needing rescue is a trope that should be relegated to the trash heap until it’s new and fresh again… which would be in two or three thousand years.

But as I pondered the last het romance that I read and really liked (C.L. Wilson’s The Winter King), I think I realized why I like that couple so much.

Oddly, it’s not the lack of weird gender insults. Yes, they’re equals. Wynter saves his little woman from monsters, but Kham rescues him from an army and a demon trying to take over his soul, so they’re even.

More than that, though, they have every reason to leave each other. Wynter has made things politically uncomfortable in his own castle by bringing home the headstrong Kham. If he let her leave, he would let a few of those raised eyebrows go back to their normal shape.

And Kham’s brother and nurse come for her. She could walk away. More than that, she could walk away and save her country by being part of the force to conquer Wynter instead of chasing any of this alliance stuff.

Logic said they should split apart.

I think that’s why I like them—because something is holding them together despite that, and that’s where I see all the smudgy fingerprints of love. I could never quite put my finger on why Tom and Da’shay from my own Blowback tripped my trigger so hard, but I think that’s it. They SHOULD break up. They don’t make sense together. So when they insist on holding on despite everything, I can see love winning against the odds.

 

So, do you have couples (het or gay) that you love that when you look at them, they should leave each other, but you know they’ll never, EVER make that decision?


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Where’s my bondmate

In the past, I’ve commented that I don’t get mystical bonds or mated pairs or destined pairs or whatever it means when a couple is biologically driven together.

I didn’t get it when I read fanfic and Blair and Jim absolutely had to bond or they would die. Doesn’t that negate their love because they’re forced together instead of choosing each other?

I didn’t get it when Tony and Gibbs were telepaths or vampires or part of the Sentinel universe. If they were forced to stay together, then where is the beauty in them working through problems together? Where is the power of the relationship when biology trumps all?

When people read Long, Lonely Howl, they tried to read a “bond” into the relationship, but there isn’t one. Casey has a crush on Nathan, but he’s gone years without following up on that relationship, and when they choose to be together, they have to figure out how to make it work in a pack where there is a range of compatibility between the members.

But I think I’m coming around.

Right now I am so emotionally exhausted and whiny and alone that all I want is someone who is biologically required to stand by me, because trust me, I’m not safe around anyone else. My life feels so out of control.

Mom is recovering, but it’s going to be a long, hard haul. LONG HARD haul. My fiction has been sidelined by the need to become an in-home nurse while doing all the cooking, laundry, cleaning, and tending for someone who physically can’t do for herself. And because she’s a two hundred plus pound woman, it’s hard to manage some of these tasks. Nursing care only comes out every third day, and it’s hard. It’s so hard.

Normally when I’m this stressed, I write. I retreat into a world where I have more control. But I’m too tired and too frustrated. I try to sit down with Ondry and Liam, and I find my eyes closing as I type. And I can’t catch the thread of anything.

And god help me when I see a bad review because I don’t have the emotional reserves to deal with any of it. I look at the lack of interest in Drift (three reviews on Amazon, nothing on Loose Id), and I want to cry. I feel like such a failure, and I know I’m not being emotionally fair with myself, but I can’t catch my balance.

I want a bonded mate.

Right now, I just want someone who is forced to like me, even when I’m being a little (or a lot) unlikeable. About the only thing I am consistently finding time for is The Journey Home by Jilly. It’s over on keiramarcos.com/roughtrade.

So I logged on to see if there’s another chapter and if I get myself ten or twenty minutes of indulging in a fantasy of bonded mates and love that stretched across worlds. It’s NCIS/Sentinel fanfic, and it beats up on Gibbs who can be a bit of an ass, so it scratches all my itches.

But then I get a database error on the Keira Marcos site, and I swear I want to cry. All because I want to read a stupid damn chapter of a stupid damn fanfic that clearly means more than it should right now.

 

I hate life.

 

And Jilly, I love your story, even if I’m calling it stupid because I shouldn’t care so much about Tony’s damn bonded mate.

 


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Bullying… reviewing… reviewing… bullying…

You know, I think some people need to look up the actual definition of bullying.

The American Psychological Association defines bullying as follows:

Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. Bullying can take the form of physical contact, words or more subtle actions.

The bullied individual typically has trouble defending him or herself and does nothing to “cause” the bullying.

Let’s dissect that.

Intentional and repeated: That means for an action to be “bullying” the person doing it isn’t just speaking their mind and walking away. They aren’t talking to friends and getting overheard. This person wants to hurt the victim and does that repeatedly.

Do you know what doesn’t fit that definition? Writing a review.

When someone writes a review, they are usually writing it for their friends. It’s the equivalent of stopping in the hall on the way to the break room and saying, “Wow, I read this book this weekend and it really sucked.”

A person might do that because the book sucked. They also might exaggerate the sheer depth of the suckitude to amuse their friends or be funny or even to get attention. There’s no intentional harm to the author present.

However, once people move onto review sites, it’s a little different because the authors can haunt the halls and eavesdrop. God knows I do. So the people in the hallway are different now, but that doesn’t change the conversation or the reason for the conversation. I can say a book sucks with no harm in my heart for the author.

But let’s step back. We can’t look inside a reviewer’s head, so maybe there are sadistic reviewers out there who type out blistering reviews with the intent to harm the author. First, y’all suck as sadists because if you want to hurt someone, writing a review is a pretty lame way to engage in a little pain for pleasure.

However, we have another problem. Bullying is a repeated behavior that causes injury or discomfort. Repeated. As in more than once. I’m pretty sure, but a review is one. And yeah, you then have comments, but the only time I’ve seen comments get heated and people start throwing around words with actual intent to cause harm, it’s because both sides got in there and started instigating.

Both sides.

That means that the second people get in there and demand apologies and blame reviewers for bringing about the end of the civilized world, they are part of the problem. They did something to “cause” the bullying, which means that by definition, it’s no longer bullying.

It’s a public pissing contest.

All that said, I do understand that bad reviews hurt. I’ve had reviews that tore into me for being sick, for being misogynistic, for stereotyping gay people (dude, I am gay), and worst of all, for being boring. Ouch. Yeah, I’m weird, but I’d rather be called misogynistic than boring. By the way, I like to think I’m not either.

I even had a fellow author I share a publishing house with tear into me for writing a story that was nothing more than a PR stunt. Um, my publisher asked for a piece of PR, and it was never intended as a stand-alone story, only as a game piece in a scavenger hunt. I hate that it’s even listed on Goodreads when I never “published” it.

I’ve also had people get reviews so wrong that they misstate the characters’ ages, the events in the book, and even get the names of the main characters wrong.

None of these people set out to intentionally cause me harm. They spoke their mind. That’s not bullying. Bullying would be hunting me down and every time I post on LiveJournal or Facebook, telling me how much I suck. Bullying would be posting hateful words that tried to hurt me over and over when I’ve not engaged them. Bullying would be despicable behavior aimed at me.

Reviews aren’t aimed at me. What’s more, I can turn them off. No one is following me around the internet trying to get in my face. I can escape, whereas bullying victims can’t. Reviews exist in three or four prominent sites (which is a tiny portion of the internet), and I can enjoy a rich online experience without ever seeing those words if I choose.

Now I’m way too nosy, so I will always eavesdrop; however, if I hear something I don’t like, whose fault is that?

 


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Coming Soon

LG_Turbulence_coverlgI’ve never been the popular kid.

Nope.

I was the sort that embraced my unpopularity.  Part of that is that I show up on the autism scale.  I interact with people fine… assuming I have business with them.  Ask me to socialize, and I kind of suck.  I have a good friend who tends to interrupt me and say things like, “Smile and thank her, Lynsey.”

Oh.  Yeah.  Social niceties.

I don’t know how to take compliments well because I see all my own faults.  I am even less in tune with insults, and I’ve been told that it’s annoying that I don’t seem to know to get upset.  As far as I’m concerned, if an insult is true, it’s true.  If it’s not, it’s laughable.

I have embraced my inner Sheldon.

But the odd thing is that every time “Coming Soon” shows up with one of my books, I forget that I’m cool with all this.  If people don’t like me, fine.  If they don’t like Jacqs, it’s going to hurt and I know it.

This week leading into a new release is the hardest time for me as an author.  This is when I worry about whether the ending was good enough and how many grammar mistakes did I miss (because trust me, I miss ’em).  Turbulence comes out in less than a week, and this is the height of my utter misery.

I love writing.  Even when I’m not doing profic, I’m writing fanfic.  Writing allows me to unwind after a long day of dealing with people… and the day I went into admin was the day I frikkin’ lost my mind because I hate dealing with people.  I only need to get through seven more month and I can step back into the classroom.  Students never gave me the grief adults seem to.

But until that first good review comes in, I’m going to be miserable.

I tell myself that it’s stupid to get so emotional.  I tell myself that it doesn’t really matter.  I lie to myself until I’m blue in the face.

Sadly, it doesn’t work.  So I guess I’m settling in for a week of hitting refresh on the Loose Id website and Goodreads, a week of haunting the review sites and searching for my name as I pretend I don’t really care.


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Guilty Pleasures and Annoying Misses

samGuilty pleasures.  $2.99 guilty pleasures, to be specific.

That seems to be the going price for gay erotica, and I’m not going to comment on the fact that my 360 page novel sells through my publisher for $7.99 (two cents per page) and they’re charging me three dollars for roughly 25 pages (twelve cents per page).

Rant over… I promise.

But honestly, the price does often stop me from indulging in these little treats. Well, that and the fact that I generally prefer to lose myself in a more well-rounded meal.  Jane Davitt, Joey Hill, Sabrina Deane, and Heidi Cullinan all scratch that itch for hot and steamy when I get in the mood.

However, sometimes you want a meal, and sometimes you want to shove a handful of salty potato chips in your mouth and get crumbs all down your cleavage.

It started with a craving for Jesse Bond’s “Bound by the Enemy.”  I wanted it, but it was too short, but I wanted it, but there was no way to develop a character in 25 pages, but I wanted it.  The side of me that eats entire bags of potato chips won.  I bought it.

And I was right.  The characters aren’t developed.  There is a hint of Stockholm, a hint of natural submission, but in the end, we see one whipping scene, and a man we are told is a strong soldier crumbles to sand.  After being rescued, he even refuses to remove his collar.

There were such beautiful suggestions of a good story in there, so much that I would give this three stars, but I couldn’t lose myself in a world where I kept going, “But… but… but.”

However, the writing was so damn good that I bought the second book, and while this had more development, I was still ultimately disappointed, not at what I saw on the page, but at what I didn’t see.

The writing is stunning though.  Absolutely stunning.

So, if I was going to really indulge in the darkest of my dark kinks, then I wanted to see what guilty pleasures were out there.  Ophelia Lovelace’s “Riding the Slave” certainly went for one of my guilty pleasures… ponyplay.

Again, I had the whole stupid internal debate about cost because this time the damn thing was only 17 pages.  17! And again, my inner glutton won.

There just isn’t enough ponyplay or puppyplay in the world, and honestly, too much of it rests on the humiliation side of the fence.  Yes, dehumanization and humiliation can be a huge part of this culture, but so can loving and caring for someone. Think about how much you cared for your first pet, for the dog that grew up with you, for a favorite horse or cat.  Now think about all that unconditional adoration transferred onto a submissive.  Honest guys, it can be incredibly hot.

So, back to “Riding the Slave.”

It has some damn good trappings.  There’s a man who chooses to put himself in slavery to study a culture, so I don’t have to worry about non-con, and within three pages, it’s pretty clear that he’s as submissive as he can get, which would explain putting himself in slavery.

That’s all good.

And there’s a nice balance between some dehumanizing moments and the affection of the stablemaster toward our hapless slave.  However, there’s no sinking into submission.  There’s just some verbal wandwaving, and now Mike has no human ambition and only wants to serve master. Between the first day when he was put in tack and then whipped for disobedience and the end where the people from his university come to retrieve him, the story falls into empty generalities.

I want to like it. But I can’t.  Two stars for some very good set up for hotness, but there’s a lack of follow through.

I almost stopped.  I did.  I mean, I can see where this trend is going, but luckily I have no self-control because the third time was the charm.

Jackpot!

I found the 2.99 naughty treat I’d been craving without knowing it.  Brad Vance’s “Sam’s Reluctant Submission”

Sam is straight, and so is Derek.  At least Derek claims he’s straight, but he also has a penchant for competition and screwing the men who lose.  He offers the military bad-ass Sam a deal… if Sam can evade him for two days, he gets $10,000.  These are two strong men who know the stakes and go into it with eyes open.  Derek is an expert at psyops (psychological operations) and stealth.  Sam is an expert at SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape). There are no helpless victims here.

But what I love about both parts one and two is that there are two battles going on. Which man is the bigger military badass?  Which man is the more psychologically honest with himself?  Which can survive seeing the truth in all its raw glory?

Okay, so I wanted more, and I still chafe at the lack of those little details that would help me get to know these men, but the alpha dog posturing, the strong men, and the military details all make this a solid winner.  Four stars.

I still have potato chip cravings.  “Enemy Captive” by Clara Bright whispers to me, but you know, I haven’t had great luck.  And at 11 pages, do any of us really think that Ms. Bright can overcome the potato chip nature of these short treats?

I think it’s time to go back to eating balanced meals.


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Unique voices

I got a wonderful review the other day.  Okay, to be honest, I’m blessed with many, but this one touched me.GalaHunger

I’m on a Lyn Gala kick right now, reading 3 of her books in a row, and often that leads to an awareness of a repetition of phrases or themes, but Lyn really creates original characters and ideas in each book that she writes – her theme of exploring power dynamics is usually there and when she writes f/m books (the other one is Blowback) the female is the Dom. But otherwise the situations and world building and personalities are all unique – which is wonderful!

It came from someone who had just read Insistent Hunger (the weaker of my two F/m books).

I know a lot of authors get caught up in series, and I adore them for it, but for me, it’s all about finding a new voice.  A new character voice comes along, whispering in my ear, and I inevitably chase it down.  I have sequels to all my books in my head… Urban Planning… Long, Lonely Song… Gathering Darkness… Unfettered… Desert World Immigrants… Insistent Night.  Well, not all of them.  Blowback is completely and totally done.

But when I sit down to write them, some new voice will come in, and it’s like meeting someone new and exciting.  I love that my books don’t feel like copies.

I do, though, wonder just how annoying this makes me.  I adore CJ Cherryh, and face it, that woman couldn’t write a stand alone novel to save her career, and thank god because I want to revisit old worlds. I don’t want a new ones.  Well, actually I’m fine with new ones as long as I get the old ones too.

Then I turn around as a writer and I keep leaving those old worlds lying on the table.

Maybe part of it is the dysfunctional thinking required to write books.  Every time I go into a book, I have to think to myself,

Oh my god… this is it.  This is the perfect book.  This time I have everything exactly where I want it and this is going to be GREAT!

I publish.  I wait for reviews. I obsessively hit refresh on Goodreads.

The reviews trickle in, and someone points out that “x” doesn’t make sense and I cringe.  They find a typo, and I flail.  The don’t like my main character, and I go find the wine.

Returning to the universe means returning to the flaws that I’ve been forced to see through the eyes of others. The only sequel I have right now was actually written at the same time as the first book (although they came out separately, and don’t ask, it was a whole “thing”). Desert World was actually intended to be a trilogy and the third book is 50K words in, and I haven’t touched it in forever. I may not ever go back to it.

I thought I had the whole thing perfect.  The first book developed Temar and Shan as people… not as sexual partners. They had to earn each other’s trust.  The second book had them slowly becoming a couple before having to test that relationship.  The third book had them as the old married couple as Shan’s brother (the last minute hero of book one) finally had to face his match in the more gregarious Verly (the last minute hero of book two and immigrant to Livre).

However, the books aren’t perfect, and looking at their flaws now, I always find some new voice whispering.  Right now, Jacqs is practically screaming at me.  He grew up in refugee camps, scrounging for food.  He had to grow up fast after being shanghaied onto a smuggling ship, and now he is a soldier… a soldier who comes off as gruff and downright cruel because there are a million “human” rules about interaction and attraction that he never learned.  He doesn’t understand himself, much less the rest of the human species.

I love him.

I love him with his equally alpha partner, Zeke.  Zeke is personable and passionate and very in touch with himself, and he sees the raw honesty in Jacqs and he feels a deep connection to it.

And this scares me because I see this as a series.

The het couple Lacroix and Allie Grah are begging for a book of their own. Zeke and Jacqs keep suggesting that their planned end is not the end.  I have all these ideas. But this is me.  And I suck at sequels.

Or maybe I just suck.

Or maybe being an author sucks.

Whatever.  No matter how you look at it, suckage is to be had.

 


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Rape Fantasy and Bad BDSM

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” –Nelson Mandela, 1994 inaugural address.

That’s an odd thought to have while reading Power Play: Resistance by Rachel Haimowitz and Cat Grant, but that’s what rattled around in my head.

I started reading the book expecting BDSM with a physically strong submissive. Anyone who knows me knows that is my biggest kink. Tom from Blowback is still one of my favorite characters.

However, I got something a little different. I got what feels like the BDSM version of a rape fantasy. Bran may have submissive tendencies, he may not. After Jonathan decides to take their relationship far past the bounds of any RACK or SSC relationship, it’s hard to tell.

The excessively rich dominant, Jonathan, offers Bran three million dollars in return for six months of sexual slavery. He ignored the fact that Bran has never played and has only a fuzzy idea that BDSM is about being handcuffed to a headboard, which means there is no “risk awareness.”

When Bran uses his safe word, Jonathan tells him that he’s ‘abusing’ the safeword (which will result in Bran violating the contract) because the pain is emotional and not physical. Jonathan does respect the safeword if he thinks Bran is physically at an edge, but Bran is a macho man who endures bruises the linger for weeks and has pain in his fingers from wrist bruising (suggesting internal damage) before he safewords, which means this is not safe.

This is the main reason that good Doms don’t wait for safewords—masochistic subs, macho subs, and subs too far down into subspace can fail to safeword out even when in serious distress.

The book bothers me because it is so extreme, and yet is it really different from the rape fantasies that we so often run into on the internet? Yeah, I’ve failed to backbutton quickly enough a couple of times, and I’ve seen stuff I would have preferred to never see. In each case, an individual is abused… hurt… and they find they like it.

Now, I don’t for even a second believe that anyone learns to like it, although I am well aware of the psychological damage done by abuse and the ways the victim can learn to identify with it. But the fantasy isn’t about identifying with and enduring. The fantasy is about desire.

And there’s where Mandela’s quote comes in (although I’m sure he would be horrified to see his words used in this context).

Alternate sexualities, and that can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, are scary. If you were raised on the penny method of contraceptives (keep a penny between your knees—if you don’t spread your knees you can’t get pregnant) then any sex outside of marriage is alternate. For some people, alternate means homosexual relationships, for others it’s about having a fetish or a dominant or submissive personality.

No matter what the “alternate” taste is, to have the strength to step outside and embrace that is hard because it makes you different. If Bran had stood in front of his coworkers and said, “Hey, I’m gay. Get over it,” that would have been an expression of power.

But that power is terrifying because it comes with consequences. The raised nail gets hit with the hammer. The individual who is different is singled out by a society that claims to embrace individuality even while trying to get everyone to wear the same damn style of stupid mesh shirt.

That power scares us. It scares me. It’s easier to hide in the dark, as Mandela says, but in this case, I see the darkness as the conformity that strips us of our voice.

Here, Bran doesn’t have to embrace that power. He doesn’t have to stand up and risk standing out. He is forced into a relationship he barely understands—coerced by his own stubbornness and his need for that three million dollars. Hell, I’d consider putting up with a sadist for six months if he paid that well. Maybe. Hell, who knows.

But the fact is that this is bad BDSM. Bad, bad, bad BDSM. You don’t suspend someone from metal cuffs. You don’t allow wrist bruising deep enough to impair the feeling in the fingers. You don’t use tazers on someone genitals or repeatedly tazer someone (heart damage anyone??). I could keep going, but let’s face it—this isn’t BDSM.

This is fantasy. This is not significantly different than a rape fantasy. This is all about the fantasy of indulging in an alternative sexuality without having to step up and embrace the power for yourself.

This is not my kink.

I want my six dollars back. I want two hours of my life back. I want a physically strong submissive who kneels for his master. I think I’m heading back to fanfic land