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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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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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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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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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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Five Star Self

Don’t rate your own books!

That’s the advice from most people, but then I’ve never been much of a rule follower. Oh, I follow rules that I agree with or even the ones I think questionable but I understand the rule-creator’s purpose. I really do try to avoid “naughty” words with my high school students, although a “hell” slips out every once in a while.

However, rating your own books hardly seems like a great sin.

What is the harm of rating a book? I suppose some would say it skews the statistics. Well, so does the one-star rating I have that berates me for on-page underage rape in Desert World. 1) There’s no on-screen rape. 2) All the characters are adults.

Shrug. It happens.

So if the overall ratings are already skewed, what’s the big deal?

I suppose the bigger sin is arrogance. After all, if you think everything you write is five-star, doesn’t that make you a raging egomaniac? Is that simple pride in your work?

Trust me, I don’t think everything I write is perfect. I have 17 works on Goodreads. One is simply awful, and I don’t know why it’s even listed there because it was part of an “Easter-egg hunt” on the Dreamspinner website and was never intended as stand-alone story.

I wrote one novella during one of the darkest times in my life when I was inches from unemployment and being harassed by a boss who was breaking the law and I had no proof. I think that negativity came through on the page because when I read it now, the words seem far more jagged than I ever intended.

However, out of 17 works, I have rated five of them as five-star because I want to tell people which of my novels I am truly proud of… the ones that I wouldn’t go back and rewrite, even if I could magically make the previous version vanish.

If people look up my profile, I use those stars to try and tell readers where I think they should start.

Desert World Allegiances and Desert World Rebirth taken together create one of my favorite couples. They start as idiots and each has to come to terms with his own demons before they come together.

The two BDSM novels I’m really proud of, Fettered and Gathering Storm, both treat BDSM practitioners as real people, and that’s the one thing that annoys me when I’m reading—the idea that those into the lifestyle do nothing except brandish a whip all day every day.

And my beloved Blowback. Blowback is what I want out of femdom. The female lead is strong enough to let her sub be tough as nails without ever doubting her own ability to bring that junkyard dog back to heel.

So I rated them five stars, and I’m sticking by it. They are the only books I’ve written that I go back and reread myself.

However, with every book I hope to create that new five-star read that I will read in bed on my Kindle with the lights out. If, a few months after my new book comes out, you find that I’ve rated it five stars, then you know I’ve been able to reread my work without cringing at the things I didn’t do and the scenes I could have written and didn’t.