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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Buy Me Or Not, But This is Who I Am...

You have to follow your own voice. You have to be yourself when you write. In effect, you have to announce, 'This is me, this is what I stand for, this is what you get when you read me. I'm doing the best I can - buy me or not - but this is who I am as a writer.  -- David Morrell 

This week on the internet, I ran across a blog post about book sales. Specifically about popularity of the authors and the popularity's effect on book sales. More specifically about the possibility that some author voices are subject the lonesome literary highway---better known as Reader Bypass---because the writing was too literary.

The post went deeper into the issue---readers' expectations being too low for them to be able to appreciate the literary-type authors. 

I kept thinking about this theory, though. About whether writing with a literary style can keep a book from selling well in the modern market. 

After reading the post and its comments, I looked---for about the trillionth time---into my own writing. Into my personal status of a not-so-popular-and-not-too-rolling-in-royalties-type writer. 

You see, I've been labeled many times as literary. My writing style, that is. My prose has been crucified for being too flowery and pretentious on one spectrum and, on the other end, it's been praised for that very flowery-ness. 

And I've been tempted from time to time to try to emulate a more...well...non-flowery voice. 

But you know what? The temptation part is as far as I've ever gotten. 

Why? Why didn't I try harder to have a different voice---for want of a better term---to my writing? When, possibly, my style is an albatross around the neck of my writing. When my overly-flowery voice might be keeping me from making more money? From being more popular?

But, then, hell. Is it even the writing that makes the popular...well...popular? Or is it personality that draws readers to writers? Can a flowery voice make one not popular? Does it snuff our odds of being 'in'? And so forth and so forth.

I don't really know. And I suppose I don't really care. 

Because my voice is my voice. Period. I could stuff my voice into another suit and it still would be me and---believe it or not---my readers would still recognize me. Changing a voice is much harder than you think. A writing voice, that is. 

The good news is that for every reader who loathes my type or writing, there is one who enjoys it. 

An example.

Take a gander at these snippets from reviews:

...effusive and excessively wordy or verbose prose...

…the words flowing across the page like exquisite brush strokes...

The author is clearly operating under the assumption that if you write with a thesaurus at your side and every now and again throw in a 'posh' word, your writing will look clever and literary. 

The imagery is gorgeous and I totally got lost in the writing.

All four of those samples are taken from four different reviews of a book of mine. One book, four different opinions on the style.

Go figure.

So what do I do?

Do I alter my style and my voice---the style and voice I love, the style and voice I've cultivated almost all my life?---for a handful of readers who don't like it? Or do I keep it and just roll around in the appreciation of the readers who do like it? That group---small in number but huge in my heart---of readers who gets my style? 

That is a tough, tough call for some authors. A lot of variables go into the decision. Too many to count. Too individual to name.

For me? Now don't laugh. There is a part of me that loves what I write so much that it's simply a matter of: I wrote a damn good book and I wish, wish, wish it could reach more eyes so that it could reach more hearts. 

Yes!  That literary floral overdose, for those of us who do write in literary floral overdoses, isn't contrived so that we'll sound...well...flowery. It's our souls poured out, pure and natural. Just like any author. Well, that's how we're supposed to write. From our souls. And if an author is not writing from the soul, driven by their passion for their characters, then they're just...writing. Without that beautiful impetus of loving to write. And for some of us, it just comes out...flowery.

Sometimes it's just got to be about the love of the craft itself. As much as I'd love to, I can't knock a reader upside the head and pound it into them that they would like my story if they would only read it. Like my story, damn you! Nah. This dame can't do that. Because my work is my very heart, it's too delicate to shovel down a literary throat.

I will promote my work in every way I can. Hell, I even bemoaned promotions for the longest time. But, finally, I did realize that more folks would see this work I love if they knew it was there. 

I'd be lying if I said I didn't understand the plight of the lesser known authors (like me) out there in the huge ocean of big names. I do. I'm in that ocean, trying to navigate in a blow-up raft while better known names---royalty they were once called---are cruising in massive ocean liners. I'm out of my league. I'm not popular. And the list of whys goes on and on. 

I honestly---maybe naively---believe that if I write more of what I do write, I could find my work in more Kindles and on more bookshelves.

That's the hard way. But...well...

Until I do get famous and before I do win that Pulitzer and before every person in every household breathes my name and my book titles in reverence...well, please just let me be...flowery. Please accept that it is not phony. I really am not trying to impress with prose. Please accept that this may really, really be this author's true voice. 

Please don't snub authors or condemn them if you do not like their voices. Just quietly put their books aside and let them be who they are. Because their voice is the one thing they cannot and should not change to please an audience. Sure, there may be legitimate issues with books---bad editing, under-developed characters, faulty plots. 

But voice. It should never be compromised for the sake of being trendy. Voice. The one thing, in my heart, that should never be challenged. 

Friday, November 14, 2014


Taboo: A social or religious custom prohibiting or forbidding discussion of a particular practice or forbidding association with a particular person, place, or thing.

The issue has shown its ugly ol' face again--the tired argument that women can't or shouldn't write male/male fiction. And, again, authors are up in arms about it. 

And well they should be. Up in arms, that is. It's a silly notion, figuring that anybody who wants to write should not or can not write what they please. If the  interest is there, nobody should be able to dictate what anybody writes. More importantly, if the passion is there for a subject or a genre, then it's not even a question of just wanting to write it. It's a matter, for an author, that they must write it.

Unless you're one of those unfortunates like me who has trillions of characters bumping elbows in your head, it's hard to understand that drive---the drive to write what's in that silly ol' head, no matter what it is.

So, for the record, I'm here to shout that I, too, think it's ridiculous to pigeonhole talent into genres. We write what's in our noggins, whether we're men or women. 

History would be a teencie bit altered if that concept---the one where certain sexes should only do certain things---hadn't been ignored through the years. Many famous dames who did things that, until their time, only men had done wouldn't be icons in the history of the world. That alone ought to open one's eyes to the fact that you can't put passion and talent into one little box. Cannot be done. Should not be done.


That being said...

As a writer, I've experienced another kind of prohibition of sorts when it comes to genres. 

No, I've never had anyone tell me that I wasn't qualified to write in the m/m genre. I've seen those who have claimed it so, but it's never personally been directed at me. Not to my face, anyway.

What I have encountered was just the opposite.

The stigma of a woman who writes m/m who also likes to write hetero romance. 

That's an area of the fiction world that kind of gets brushed under the old carpet. But it is real, and it's just as silly as the outlandish claim that women ought to keep their literary noses out of writing about gay men.

I've had it from both sides. Those who try to convince me that, because I like to write hetero fiction, I'm only in m/m for money. Not true. Oh, so not true. Let me tell you, kiddos. If I were in this writing gig for money? Well, I'd have had to quit long ago. 

The other side: I'm somehow disloyal to my genre (m/m) because I venture over into the 'other' side---the hetero side of romance. 

Oh, hell, I've met the most comical reactions when I post photos----beautiful photos---of men and women on my Facebook page. Men and women together, that is. I've had some cruel comments about them. I've had to delete some of them, they were so critical and judgmental. One said, in reference to a photo of a young couple embracing, Next thing you know, they'll want to be getting married. I knew where the person was coming from. And I could not blame him for his aggravation as to the freedom that straight couples have as opposed to the struggle for same sex couples to do the same. I seek and fight for equality in marriage as well. 

I've been told by many authors who write both genres that they've received a lot of flack for it. For daring to write both.

So are we who write supposed to snuff out parts of our creative minds and hearts just to stick to one genre? Because somehow it means we're traitors to a genre to feel the same passion for another genre?

If so, why? I've yet to hear a valid answer to that question. 

What I found really strange was some feedback from women authors of m/m to photos of straight couples. One even said, ewwwww. A straight women looking at a photo of another straight women---who happened to be with a man---and being disgusted. One straight married gal---married to a man---said Ugh! Girlie parts

And before you tell me that photos of same sex couples is taboo in many romance groups, I'll be quick to tell you that I think that is wrong, too.

My bottom line is this: love really is love, no matter a gender. It's a really glorious thing, no matter who it is. No matter the gender. 

But that's not my issue in this post.

My concern in this post is that aura of taboo that seems to surround women who want to write both genres. It's rigid. It's judgmental. It's wrong. 

And my biggest concern is this: that this rigidity, this rabid devotion to a genre, can be dangerous. 


Because, for me, one of the most beautiful things about this genre (m/m) is the chance to expose the rest of the world to something that's been hidden far too long. The more of us who write it, the more readers will find it. It is a quickly growing genre, which is wonderful. That means the love between two men can be shared with more and more readers. Embraced. 

But my fear? That this extreme intolerance for some of us to go outside the borders to also write hetero romance could so easily turn a beautiful, passionate, powerful genre into a sort of cult-like thing. Because the reaction I have gotten---the denunciations of my hetero photos and mentions of hetero couples in my writing---is almost cult-like. It's a little frightening. 

It's hollering about equality yet stomping it out in the next breath. Equality means for everyone. Equality is a bigger battle for many than for others. I'll be the first to say that I don't realize how good I have it, my freedom to marry. My freedom to have children, to adopt, to do many things that are taken for granted by straight couples. But I also have to acknowledge that tolerance, still, is not designated for some only. It is for everyone. 

The genres I am driven to write (notice I said driven, not have chosen) aren't causes for me. I don't write m/m as a cause. Even though I hope it aids in a voice for equality, my writing is driven strictly from passion. 

And I will say that the writing of this genre is a gift to me because it has given me a rare insight that I wish the rest of the world could see. Insight into the beauty and nature of love between same sexes. I'm happy I was inspired to write it. It's opened my eyes, it's been a joyful experience, this finding peace in the passion between men. 

Inspired. Inspired. Inspired

That is the whole thing for me, in a lovely nutshell. 

My writing is inspired. Whether it's good or not is another thing. It is, at least, inspired. It's just meant to be. 

So how can anyone out there dare to try and snuff out the beautiful flame of anyone's inspiration? Anyone's?

Is there anyone out there who should be able to condemn another for inspiration? And if a writer is inspired to write about love---m/m love, hetero love, love between two women---it's not up for discussion. 

Because let me tell you something. There's bad writing in all genres. In mainstream, too. But whether it's good or bad or whether the author really gets their subject, has nothing to do with the gender of the writer. Nobody ever looked at the classics authors and said they didn't get it from both sides of their characters, men or women. Nothing's changed over the years. Anybody can write about anybody as long as they are inspired and they really are in the hearts and souls of all their characters. 

Because it's the hearts and the souls of the characters that are the stories. 

And, hey.

Plain and simple: if an author is not inspired, if they cannot get into the hearts and souls of their characters, then they should not be writing. Then a reader can complain all they want because that is what it's all about anyway. If the deepest guts of a character are present, then that writer knows their stuff. They know the souls they're writing about. 

And if you go into the reading of a book with preconceived notions in your head about which gender wrote the damn thing, then you're reading for all the wrong reasons anyway. 

Read a dictionary or encyclopedia instead. Just facts there, nothing to judge. 


Serina Hartwell said, If you're struggling to fit me into a box...then build a bigger box!

I've said all that to say this: don't put so  many stigmas on genres, on who writes what. If we want to be who we are and write men with women and men with men or women with women? Please. Open your minds. Let us do it.