Lyn Gala

One writer's journal through one version of reality


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Disabled and in Love

Does a disability make a romantic hero less desirable?

I’ve been thinking about this lately. I had a fanfic story, Green Eyed Hope, where Blair loves Jim, but Jim is simply not gay. Trust me, when you are gay, this is an entirely too common situation. Anyway, Blair is disabled in a car accident, learns to trust that Jim loves him like a brother and moves on to find his romantic partner in another disillusioned soldier.

One of the most common comments I get on this story is that people are sorry Blair never recovered more. He gets to the point where he can use a cane for short distances, but he’ll never have the strength back in the legs to easily walk.

It reminded me of a big kerfuffle in fandom where someone else had written a wheelchair using Blair, but he was magically healed in the end by a shamanic ritual. Someone else fanficed the fanfic to rewrite the ending so that Blair stayed disabled and Jim loved him just as much.

I can see why someone would want that ending. If a person is disabled, where are the romance stories for him or her?

WilliamIn my newest story, William is never identified as disabled, and I doubt his parents ever got a diagnosis, but he is obsessed with his hobby (American history), has a job where he can handle numbers because he cannot handle relationships with people, he pisses off every boyfriend he ever had, and his social skills were so abominable that his very loving parents sent him to a boys boarding school in the hopes that he could learn to be more social.

I don’t think it’s hard to see the disability, but it makes my heart hurt a little when the comments come in with… Dallin can do better than him… William is just too antisocial… I wish Dallin would have walked out and stayed gone.

Even people who admit that William has a heart of gold are uncomfortable with him in a relationship, and then there are the comments about how William gets too involved too fast. Oh boy. Um… yeah, that’s part of the disability. Lots of Asperger’s kids have to be explicitly taught to not stalk because once someone expresses an interest, they often don’t know where that line between appropriate and inappropriate lies.

Which is why those on the autistic spectrum are so much more likely to abstain from sex. It’s just hard to find a partner.

Now, I’m not saying that William would be easy to love, and even at the end, Dallin has to move his stuff into another closet because William can’t handle having his stuff disturbed, and vacation consists of visiting historical sites that William’s interested in.

But on the other hand, William completely and totally loves Dallin and will do anything for him. There is an upside to having an autistic spectrum lover.

So, does the disability make William less appropriate as the subject of a romance novel? Should Blair be “healed” at the end in order to have his happily ever after? Can you have a happily ever after if one of the main characters is suffering and continues to suffer a serious physical or mental difficulty?

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Do I have a Street Team?

I know authors have street teams. I know it works for them. The problem is that I have trouble enough managing my relationships in real life. The idea of having a team terrifies me. The Internet is where I come to reenergize my painfully introverted soul.

And I said all that to someone on my list.

She promptly started laughing at me. Apparently I’m an idiot.

I don’t advertise this widely, but the fact is that I always post bits of what I’m working on to Livejournal (http://lit-gal.livejournal.com/). Seeing the reactions often helps me figure out how I feel about a piece. If, after two or three chapters, I feel strongly about a story, then I put it under a custom friend lock.

So, who gets to read it? Anyone who commented on the first few chapters. If they liked it enough to say something, I want to have their feedback. My flist then cheerleads, catches errors (both in spelling and continuity) and tells me where they hope the story is going (and that often does influence the direction of the story).

Near the end of the story I look at how many people are still commenting and drop off anyone who hasn’t commented in a while. The story wasn’t for them. That’s fine—no harm no foul.

I then keep that friend filter and when the story is sold or ready to come out, I post where only those people can see it and ask them if they could put out some reviews.

Um… I think that’s a street team. Yes? No? Maybe?

Anyway it works for me.

I may have six people or fifteen reading a particular novel in its raw form. A person has to have a Livejournal account for me to add them to the friend-group, but that’s the only requirement. Anyone is welcome to join.

However, apparently I am not only running a street team but doing it in a really shitty way that means that very few people know where it is. I’m here!

Right now I just finished Two Steps Back and I’m working on an edit for the Desert World books, which have found a new home. However, in about a month, I will be starting work on a new story, so you’re welcome to come by, join in, and be part of the team. And if you don’t like a story and fall off on commenting, no biggie.

We all have our own tastes.

Unless you come in and tell me I suck, in which case my introverted soul will kick your ass to the curb.


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Objectifying Gays

Does m/m fiction objectify gay men?

Um… sometimes? Let’s be honest, some of it is wank fuel. Guess what, that’s not such a new thing in the romance world. Plenty of women in tight bodices with deep cleavage and men with wide chests brandishing swords have been relegated to wank fuel. Gay men are just the latest addition to that little club.

And yeah, I understand the frustration. Seriously, dude, do you have any idea how straight men objectify lesbians? Every straight man seems to want to either watch or join in, and they’ll come right out and say that which is disturbing on a huge level. So I get the frustration. I do.

However, other stories show gay men in a wide range situations. They get to be heroes and villains, brothers and fathers and sons. They get the sort of stories that television and movies refuse to tell.

But the part where my brain gets stuck is when people start saying that if you aren’t gay you can’t write about gay characters.

Buzahuh?

Really?

Well, I guess I’m screwed then. Under that theory, I could only write about lesbians. Okay, so I might have a few gender confused women who liked playing B/D games with men, but no het sex. Or gay malesex. OR straight people or gay men or transsexuals or … actually I wouldn’t be able to write anything I want to write.

Because I don’t write lesbian fiction… it feels a little too much like awkward masturbation. So I write pretty much anyone who isn’t me.

I write about Miss Dolphinia the cross-dressing gay queen who waxes poetic about a time in BDSM history when the rules were looser and Doms could get away with a lot more (fun for Doms, but not always great for the rest of the community)

I write about Jacqs Glebov who thought he was straight because the first person he was attracted to was female, and he really wasn’t one for self-reflection.

I write about Corporal Ace Class Chankoowashtay “Shank” Lacroix who has to be careful to hide his submissive side because people have confused submissive for pushover, and while he is one, he’s definitely not the other. And he is passionately heterosexual.

Allie Grah is equally passionate about her bisexuality.

Carl Ragar is afraid to step up to the plate and confess to the man he loves.

Vinnie Bernardi is too quick to speak up.

And none of these people have sexualities that even come close to mine.

My characters should be judged on their own merit, not on my sexuality. If one of my gay characters or straight characters or bisexual characters or gender ambiguous characters fails, then the fault is not my gender or my sex or my sexual orientation.

Shakespeare writes some kick-ass women. Harper Lee wrote a few of my favorite men, including Dolphus Raymond, who Miss Dolphinia named herself after. And face it, Margaret Mitchell wrote the best damn bastard in all of literary history.

Jeff Lindsay writes a damn good psychopath without ever having murdered someone (I hope), and Anne Rice has never met a vampire although she can write the hell out of them.

Literature is imagination. I won’t apologize for imagining a world where anyone can be anything.

 


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Blog Tour

habeas corpseI often avoid writing about writing because I don’t want to bore everyone. But Nikki Hopeman invited me to do a little blog hopping. She writes some very sharp plotty stuff, and she has a way of bringing old subjects new life. Metaphorically anyway. Habeas Corpse is zombies like you’ve never seen them before. You should definitely check it out.

So, it’s time to tour. I have four questions here:

1) What am I working on?

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

3) Why do I write what I do?

4) How does my writing process work?

 

1) What am I working on?

That’s a difficult question. I am trying to finish the Claimings sequel. Once I get “distracted” from a story, it’s hard for me to pick up the threads again, and my mother’s recent hospitalization definitely interrupted the creative process, so I’m just now trying to get back into the swing of the story. Right now, I have the sequel tentatively titled Assimilation, War, and Other Human Oddities. Ondry and Liam are doing well, but the human base has sent a new trader—a linguist expert—to try and forge a stronger alliance between humans and Rownt because the universe is changing. Captain Susan Diallo will be joining the cast as the government’s new head negotiator.

I also have a couple of books that are well into the process, but I’ve managed to lose interest or lose the threads of the narrative long enough that I don’t know how to pick them up. Desert World Immigrants follows Verly Black and Naite Polli from the Desert World universe. Customary Miracles is about a geeky, unlucky-in-love author who meets an equally geeky professor of comparative religions from India.

After that, I have dozens of ideas, some of which are more likely to hit the paper than others. Saddled, Ghosts of the Living, Exposure, Asymmetrical, Vicissitudes of Magic... they are all alive in my head, and I have no idea when or even if they’ll hit the page.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Wow. Okay, that’s hard to answer. I do think I am plottier than a lot of writers. The sex isn’t the most important part of the story—not even close. I like poking the characters’ psyches. I have an advanced degree in international relations, which includes a lot of sociology and psychology. I think that comes out in my writing. Of course, sometimes that’s not a good thing. I remember I had a reviewer shred Gathering Storm because of how unrealistic the characters were. I laughed a little at the thought of a few years undercover being unrealistic. My bad guy was larger than life, sure, but the news is full of stories of how psychopaths will engage in stalking over for years. That’s what they do. And at the time I wrote Gathering Storm, I was working on a set of classes related to the Middle East and the spy-fest of love that Israel and her neighbors had during the Cold War era. Wolfgang Lotz spent four or five years just setting up his cover before going into Egypt. Avri El-Ad had his circumcision reversed, which was a dangerous and painful surgery in the 1950s. Seriously… who does that? Then of course you have his buddy Philip Nathanson who set fire to his own pants on accident while trying to firebomb the Egyptians so Israel could blame the Moslem Brotherhood (look up the Lavon Affair… it’s really kinda pathetic). Anyway, I think that background makes my characters a little bigger and broader. I won’t say they’re bigger than life because they aren’t, but I draw from a weird part of life that I don’t think many people know.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I write a bit of everything… if you add in my fanfic, I don’t think there’s a genre I haven’t touched. I’ve done gen and romance. I’ve written het couples and gay couples. I’ve done mystery and sci fi and fantasy and contemporary. I like writing everything because life is everything. I get bored doing one thing too much, so I want to be out there exploring new ideas and new psyches. I find myself particularly drawn to stories where I have to research because that lets me get out there and learn something new myself. I spent a lot of time reading research about the Sioux when I wrote Drift because I wanted Shank’s family to have some real connection to the people they would have called ancestors. I read on Jewish culture for Urban Shaman and I read some truly depressing pieces on front line psychology for Turbulence and Claimings. I like exploring the world.

4) How does my writing process work?

When I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

Seriously.

Some stories flow out. I literally can’t write fast enough to keep up with my ideas and I can sometimes get in 10,000 words in a day. I’ve had a number of fanfic pieces like that. Claimings was like that as was Shepherd, Slave and Vow.

Other stories come with the dialog first. In Mountain Prey and Turbulence, I wrote most of the dialog first. I could “hear” the guys talking so well that I would just type as fast as I could as they sniped at each other, and I would go back and add in the action later. Desert World came to me in images first. I wrote out scenes of the desert and of Shan’s bike sliding down the dunes long before I wrote any of the interactions between the characters.

When I write, I always know where I want to end up. Always. Everything else is up in the air. Every book involved a different process. I have figured out one thing though. If I outline a book, I’m sunk. That’s it. Once a book is outlined, I can never work on it again because I either try so hard to follow the outline that I screw myself or my characters refuse to fit into the neat boxes I’ve made and I get writer’s block. So outlines are a dirty word around my house.

 

Now I should have found other authors (published or non-published) to carry this blog post forward. You know… link back to the person you got it from and then answer the four questions. Yeah… I know I’ve mentioned how much I try to avoid asking people to do things because social interactions aren’t my thing. So if you want to, do. I’d like to see what you guys come up with.

Leave a link to your post in comments so I can read it!

And now I’d like to invite you to visit these other authors to see how they view their work and learn more about their writing process.

Scott A. Johnson writes in several genres including nonfiction and horror. Visit his blog at Write Stranger.

Kerri-Leigh Grady is an editor and a writer of dark fiction. She blogs here.

Ann Laurel Kopchik writes fantasy, both of the elvish and bedroom kind. Go see her blog here.

Madeline Price writes dark and sexy fantasies. Find out more about her books and her writing process here.


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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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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.