Lyn Gala

One writer's journal through one version of reality


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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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The Early Demise of Fanfic

Reading through the archives over at SGA Storyfinders, I have spent an embarrassing amount of time reading the adventures of John and Rodney, two seriously horny space explorers—at least they are in fanfiction. In the show John actually seemed a little clueless with the sexual relationships unless someone was knocking him over the head with it—often literally.

But I’m surprised at the number of stories that are gone.

Just gone.

It’s not that the authors stopped paying for their websites and so they vanished, only appear again through the magic of the web archive. It’s not that they deactivated their LiveJournal account and the fic died as an unfortunately side-effect.

Okay, sometimes it is exactly that.

But a lot of times, these stories were intentionally removed by the authors. The authors went through all the time and effort to create stories that people liked well enough to ask for them. In some cases, I see the same story asked for over and over and over.

Has anyone seen that one… you know… the one where they break away from Earth version 523? Has anyone seen the one with bug John where he’s in the crate?

Sometimes I can even track down the stories, and they’re good.

But they are, for the most part, gone. These children of some creative mind have been shuffled off to an early grave.

I wonder how many have died the death of the bad review?

Now, I’m not talking about professional texts. People are paying for that, so my tolerance for asshatary goes up.

gibbsEven the person who one starred me and ripped into me for having a child raped on screen gets a pass from me, and those of you who know me know that I would spork my own eyes out before I ever wrote that so I don’t know if the reviewer confused my book with another or if they were skimming so fast that they somehow got confused and honestly thought my character was underage. Oh, and the rape is off-screen, but whatever. I get paid to write that, so I should be able to take some hits, right?

It stings, and sometimes I think of taking up voodoo, but I take it.

However fanfiction is a hobby. This is a fun activity done by fans who want to geek out and writing stories gives them a chance to do that. I’m writing a fanfic series right now where Gibbs and Tony are in Atlantis and I’m having fun turning Gibbs loose on some of the general stupidity. They want to walk through with very few supplies? Well, Gibbs (and his tok-ra like passenger) have a few things to say about that. It’s fun. See? FUN… in a masochistic, carpal tunnel inducing sort of way.

But then I get someone announcing that he doesn’t like my logic and he refuses to read more. Why? Because I had John kidnapped on Earth. Oh, and no Stargate characters ever get kidnapped on Earth… no. *insert eyeroll here* I was setting this during the beginning of Season Two when the Trust is one of the big bad guys, but if John were on Earth for six months, they wouldn’t take a shot at him, and because I think they would, he tells me I’m wrong and he’s out of there.

Good. Don’t let the door hit ya where the Good Lord split ya.

Why do people try and treat fanfic like professionally published works? Guess what, I don’t pay to have my fanfic edited. *gasp* That means it has grammatical errors—a lot of them. If that were for actual publication, I would track those suckers down and kill every bad pronoun reference.

However, hunting pronoun antecedent references and split infinitives isn’t fun. It isn’t even on the same continent with fun, and I want fanfic to be FUN. If people send me corrections, I often (not always) get around to fixing things on my website while I watch TV. I refuse to feel bad if I don’t, though.

I guess I just wonder how much really good fanfiction has been shuffled off to an early death because a fanfic reader started treating fanfic writers like professionals? How many creative minds have shut down in the face of criticism that is really unnecessarily harsh for a playground? I am totally willing to call Damien Hirst’s work utter shite, but I’m not going to say that to the couple doing chalk art on the sidewalk.

It just makes me sad that link after link is dead, and many of those authors intentionally took their balls and went home—or John and Rodney’s balls anyway. If there’s no money changing hands, it’d be nice if people used the backbutton instead of the snark button.


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Finding your Muse

I rarely have writer’s block. I’m more likely to get buried under ideas.  I’ve read all sorts of posts from other writers (usually in professional self-help books) about how to find the muse.

Some advice is amusing; some seems downright dangerous from a writing point of view.

So, what do I do? I follow my muse wherever she wants to go.  Generally that means I go to dialogue first because that is my favorite part of writing.  When I really get going, I can almost hear the voices, and I don’t bother with quote marks or physical action or anything… that’s part of revision.

I think every author should do that.  No, I don’t think everyone should do dialogue first… I think everyone should write what makes them happy.  You should start with the part that you love, and then you create something others can love too.

Take this.  This might never be more than a snippet on my hard drive.  I may come back and write this later.  Who knows. I only know I loved writing it.  If I want to do more with it later, then it becomes work. Right now, this is pure joy as Avery, a die-hard feminist raised by two lesbians tries hard to reconcile her independent nature and her unexpected reaction to Fifty Shades of Grey.  Her husband is just confused.

 

Old Married Kink

Okay, either I’m losing my charm or something’s wrong.

Nothing’s wrong.

Well, that’s actually a little upsetting because the logical conclusion would then be that I’m losing my charm.

Of course you’re not, you giant stud muffin of studliness.

Damn right. Right now, I’m going with the assumption that something’s wrong because my studly powers are at full strength.

You’re a dork

Guilty as charged, and I have the Babylon Five soundtrack to prove it. Now, if you’re through avoiding, maybe you can tell me what’s wrong.

Okay, but you can’t laugh.

Not my first thought. I’m actually starting to worry.

Rachel loaned me a book. A really stupid book, but I can’t get it out of my mind.

A book? Why would I laugh about a book?

Because of what book it is?

What? You read one of those Harlequin romances with that long-haired douchebag on the front? Oh crap. You didn’t, did you? Not that I would judge. Much.

No, I didn’t. They stopped having douchebags on front back in the nineties, anyway. You know, I could make an argument that those covers were at least a salvo in the battle of the sexes. Women have been objectified forever, but for men, Fabio was a new phenomenon. None of us wanted to hear from him. We wanted him to shut up and look pretty. God, that’s actually really pathetic. Instead of trying to change the objectification of human beings, we just spread it.

I think that was the Harlequin people, not the feminists.

Probably. Most feminists were running as far from those books as they could get, which is why I considered them prime rebellion material. God, my mothers would have spontaneously given birth to puppies if they’d known I was reading those.

Wait, you’re admitting to reading cheesy romance novels, but you’re still embarrassed about whatever Rachel loaned you? You have now successfully distracted me from sex with my beautiful wife.

Well that’s ironic.

Okay, talk or I’m sending a strip’o’gram to your office.

Rachel would worship you if you did

Rachel is a fruitcake so I would prefer she worship someone else. Now what did she loan you?

Fifty Shades of Grey.

That sex book?

Wait, how do you know about it?

Hell, all the guys at the firm are talking about getting their wives and girlfriends to read it because they want to have kinky sex and they don’t have balls big enough to ask for it straight up. Oh shit. Do you…

I have balls, even if I don’t have balls.

I’m not doubting it. I’ve seen you make accountants cry.

This is stupid.

What this are we talking about?

Do you know how sexuality is turned into a weapon against women?

Did we change the topic?

And now women are just handing over their power because they think it’s sexy. They expect the man who ties them up to magically turn into Prince Charming with his billions and his jet.

I don’t think Prince Charming had—

Christian Grey is an ass. He’s an abusive son of a bitch who uses his privilege like an ax, like an ax he doesn’t even know he has because he’s Christian Gray so of course the world bends itself into a pretzel for him.

Okay.

Ana needs to grow a metaphysical pair. If you ever talked to me the way Christian talks to her, you would be in search of a therapist or a divorce lawyer, depending on my mood. But I wouldn’t go sighing and weeping away.

Note taken

I mean, I love the shit out of you, but I would kick your ass up between your shoulder blades.

Uh-huh.

It’s like the feminist revolution never happened, and I am not talking about the kink. If people want to be kinky, that has no bearing on their actual power.

Really.

Did you know there was a study showing that people involved in kink were actually mentally healthier? They faced the hard psychological work of accepting themselves and didn’t get caught up in defining themselves by how the society defined them.

You researched this?

Of course I did. I research everything. But that’s not what we’re talking about.

Right now, I could really use some bullet lists.

I liked that stupid book, which is stupid.

Stupid, check. Now, when you say you ‘like’ the book…

Women have fought to get their power back, and just handing it over like that feels… wrong.

Power?

The sex in books never even approaches reality. The whole submitting thing is probably just bullshit.

Submitting like tying up?

Why would that make the sex better? Sure, I can imagine that it reduces performance anxiety. You can’t be blamed for something going wrong if you’re tied up, that that is so dishonest. The whole ‘lay back and think of English’ bullshit is part of our history. Of course, if certain people have their way, women are going to be right back there again.

Stop. I’m getting seasick here.

And us. We’ve been married four years. I’m good at sex, so it’s ridiculous to think I need an excuse to… I don’t know, lay there and do nothing.

Seriously, Avery, I’m starting to really get lost here. Are we talking about spicing up the sex life?

Power games are fine for people who need them.

And they’re fine for people who are just playing around.

Really? Would you lie down and let me tie you up and ride you?

Okay, the little head is voting yes. And you sound like you’re trying to use feminism to guilt trip yourself.

Hey, don’t bash feminism.

I’m not. I’m bashing the idea of using feminism to make yourself feel bad. If you want to spice up the bedroom, I am not going to turn you down.

You think we need spicing up?

There is no answer I can give without digging myself a hole to China. However, I will say that I am a man, and as a stereotypical, testosterone-driven male, I will take sex any way I can get it.

Even if it involves rope?

Oh hell yes.

You’re supposed to be making fun of this book with me. I mean, I never thought about this stuff until I read that book, and now I can’t think about anything else.

So, we try something. Either we like it or we don’t.

Or one of us likes it and one doesn’t.

Let me repeat—I’m a man. I like sex. I’m going to be good either way, but when you’re enjoying yourself, I have a lot more fun. So, if you like it, we keep doing it. If you don’t, we don’t.

That’s totally unfair to you.

Seriously, Avery. Stop overthinking it. In my mind it goes sex equals good.  Any sex. So tell me one thing you’re thinking about. Just one. Please.

 

 


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Reader first

ImageWriting isn’t about writing. It just isn’t.

Writing only becomes significant when it is read. If I write a masterpiece, but I do it in a language that only I can read, I’ve failed.  I’ve failed to use my words to entertain or enlighten.  I’ve failed to take anyone on an emotional journey.  So that brilliant story written in my special code is an utter failure.

What is important is how people read a text.

I am the first to make fun of 50 Shades of Grey.  Truly that book is… yeah.  However, it is successful, and not because of the money.  Okay, not only because of the money.  Face it, that book convinced women to open their minds and explore their own sexuality.  That is powerful.  And the power doesn’t come from the act of writing—all the power comes from the reading.

I never intended the message of Fettered to be that SSC is wrong.  I meant to show that it’s not the only philosophy out there, and by putting Guard in the plot, I hoped to show that everyone had to find their own dynamic. Guard would be the better partner for most subs, just not for Dylan. However, the reader who takes it as an attack on SSC isn’t wrong because that is the interpretation they took from the book, and I can even see where it came from.

My intent is not the ruling factor in understanding my books.

It’s like C.S. Lewis who didn’t intend to write an analogy of Christ, but his children’s book The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, is exactly that.  His intent doesn’t matter as much as the message the reader takes.

But that leaves writers in a difficult situation, especially since for some authors, the line between author and work is dangerously narrow. We all put ourselves in our novels, even when we claim we don’t. So when readers seem to look at our book through a different lens (not wrong, just different), it’s hard to stand back and let that happen.

I know that some authors avoid the review sites because they don’t want to see how others are taking their work. They want to hold onto their own pure image of the text and the tangle of conflicting interpretations strangles their muse.

I’m not so good at avoiding reviews, though, so I have to go into every new review remembering that my books aren’t me.  Readers, reviewers and even my friends have a right to dislike my work. Given that I range from action to scifi to contemporary to paranormal, there’s a good change that any given friend will dislike at least one thing I’ve written.  Add in fanfic, and I’ve run the range from rape recovery fic to pony play to bukkake. Yeah, don’t judge. It was for kink bingo, and I actually made it about the woman-power.

But the point is that someone is going to dislike a story. It doesn’t mean they dislike me.  I had a creative writing professor who put it this way—you have to put your kid on the bus and let other people call him ugly. If you don’t, that story will never grow up and find his way into the world.

Great advice, but not that easy to take.  I think I’ve had it easy because I came up through fanfic.  Say what you want, but fanfic is a playground in more ways than one.  Sure, you make sandcastles out of other people’s stories, but you also learn about the playground rules.  And trust me, there are some nasty playground fights in fanfic.

If you can’t learn to enjoy fandom and shut off some of the nastier comments, you’re going to get driven right back out.

So it’s easier for me to put my kids on that bus. It’s easier for me to have other people call them ugly. It’s easier for me to separate myself from my stories and to step back when someone calls my kids ugly.  Sometimes, I’m even willing to admit that I’ve birthed a few ugly children.


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Narrator… Author. Author… Narrator

220px-Geoffrey_Chaucer_(17th_century)The narrator tells the story.  The author writes the story. And those two would seem to be the same, only they aren’t.

The idea that an author “owns” every attitude espoused by a narrator is assuming that an author is incapable presenting another point of view.

It is assuming that Sherwood Anderson is clearly in need of psychiatric attention for his multiple personality disorder as each narrator steps forward and takes center stage for his or her own story in Winesburg, Ohio.

If the narrator and the author were the same person, then the slam poetry I once watched shouldn’t have existed.  A black woman wrote poems from the point of view of a white racist. She then rapped words as if she were that asshole.

A-MAZ-ING

That is the only word for her art.

However, she is not her narrator.  I am not my narrators.  You cannot assume any author is the narrator of that author’s books.

In “Claimings, Tales, and Other Alien Artifacts,” Liam wants bondage, but not pain.  In Fettered, Dylan wants bondage and pain.  In Desert World, neither Temar nor Shan would even understand the concept of power exchange.

More importantly, none of those tell you anything about my sexuality or sexual orientation.  Because I am not those various narrators.  Those characters have lives of their own, and true, those lives exist only in my head.  Still. They have lives.  Beliefs. Preferences based on previous experiences. And none of those are mine. Believe it or not, I’ve never traveled to an alien world or… wait… I have gone to BDSM bars.  Okay, I’ve never gone to male-oriented leather bars like the Stonewall. See?  I’m not them.

Let me illustrate with Chaucer.  Geoffrey Chaucer was a white man, a bureaucrat, a writer, a father, and a some-time scientist.  He was not a widow, yet he wrote a story from a widow’s point of view… a lusty, manipulative woman who wanted power over her husbands.

He also wrote from the point of view of a knight clinging to his outdated beliefs, a drunkard, a rich official who was always trying to find a way to rob one more person out of a dollar and a bad-tempered estate manager.  He is none of those things.  When the Pardoner butchers the Bible for fallacious arguments and tries to con people out of money, this is a reflection of the character, of society, of the world. It is not Chaucer owning those positions.

And this would seem to be obvious.

Stories reflect the world, or a world anyway, but they don’t exist as simplistic avatars of the authors’. At least I hope they don’t.  Stories should be exploring other points of view, not regurgitating the author’s beliefs over and over and over.

Is Fettered about the conflict between SSC, RACK, and old-school flagging?  Sure.  Does it represent my point of view?  Nope.  It represents a point of view in the conflict.  It represents an interesting point of view that often does get overlooked as other assume that the gay community or the BDSM community speaks with one voice. They don’t.  Categorically they don’t.

That’s the point of view I find interesting, and that’s where I chose to park my story.


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ImageAs I’m struggling to decide which project to work on, I’ve come to a decision. I want some people to dislike my books.

Yep, I’ve decided that I value some of my bad reviews.  I want bellyaching.  I want complaints.

Because there are people out there that I don’t want to like me. If I please them, I seriously need to worry about what I’m doing in my stories.  For example, I keep getting complaints that there’s too much plot in my story. “Where’s the porn?” they ask.

Maybe this is because I am gay, but I get really kind of grossed out by the suggestion that gay people have sex all the time. Vin and Dylan are perfectly happy having lots of sex, at least before the drama with Gary, but that’s because they’re young and horny.  Miguel and Nikolai are older and crabbier. Nikolai is Jewish and still has a gut-deep dislike of “wasting” his seed, and Miguel… well, he’s Miguel. He’s not a very physical man.  And don’t even start with Vinnie and Charleston.  They’re running from a serial rapist. They are not going to take a break to boff in the bathroom.

If I am ever tempted to have characters catch a quickie while running from a murderer, I hope someone takes a pair of scissors to my internet landline.

So all those people who complain that they want more sex… I’m okay with them complaining.  I really am.  Go on and gripe because I don’t want to write a book you like because you seem to be suggesting you would like pure porn. Sex is not the center of my life or the lives of my characters.

I am also unimpressed with complaints that the characters don’t say the “L” word.  I’ve had people claim to love me.  In my life, I’ve had too many tell me that love me, and it never ends well.  It has not ended well multiple times. People who say the words impress me less than people to act in a way that shows a deep and abiding love.

Vin may not proclaim his love, but he puts up with awkward family dinners, invites Dylan into his life and business, and protects Dylan from everyone—including his family. Those are the actions of a man in love. He doesn’t have to say the words.  One day he may, but he knows that acting in a way that is supportive and loving—acting that way consistently and over a long period of time—is far more important than any words whispered in a lover’s ear.

Now, I am not saying I’m perfect.  In hindsight, I wish I could make Long, Lonely Howl disappear.  I tried too hard to break the trope of “mates” and the story is just a little awkward.  I think the huge problems I was having in real life spilled into my writing.

I adore my Desert World books, but I do think the first one needs a stronger edit. I left things in there because I loved them, but I think I loved the world too much and that encouraged me to wallow in it.

I also think Insistent Hunger needed about six more chapters to smooth out that ending, but I was so disappointed in the sales from Blowback (one of my hands-down favorites) that I think I gave up on the story (they were for the same publisher).

So, if you dislike those books for those reasons, I’m likely to cringe and slink off to my corner because I know I screwed those up. Hell, you should see the shit I have on my hard drive because I can write pure and utter crap the likes of which you have never seen… I hope.  Seriously, for your sake I hope you’ve never been forced to read dreck as bad as some of my half-done monsters.

However, if you want to gripe about having a plot or having gay people who occasionally have a day without sex, then I’m going to do a jig.  Woo Hoo!  I didn’t write the book you wanted.  That’s okay, because I wrote the book I wanted.  Well, usually.  Sometimes I just do screw up.  The reviews that point out those mistakes really hurt.

But some bad reviews amuse me.  Go me!  I wrote something that didn’t meet someone’s expectations