Tuesday, January 19, 2021

A Rant About Fanfiction

 Confession time! I like fanfiction. I read it, I wrote it, I still get lost in it. I’ve talked to a lot of folks who read and enjoy fanfiction in different fandoms, and I’m always struck by how similar we are. A lot of us turn to fanfiction when it’s hard to cope.


I started reading fanfiction when life sucked. Grad school was a three-year period where everything that could go wrong in my life, did. In those three years I got married, lost my father, had a kid, and lost my brother. My dad and brother were my only family, and even a cheap funeral is pricy. Kids are pricy. I ended up in so much debt that I ultimately had to choose between dropping out just short of finishing my degree or living out of a car. The worst part wasn’t the grief, although that sucked, but the crippling isolation. Aside from my husband, I’d lost my entire family in those years, and my peers were mostly upper-middle-class, twenty-something trust-fund kids. In retrospect, I’m sure there were some who could have related, I’m sure I made unfair assumptions and tuned-out people who might have been supportive, but at the time I was so full of resentment that I couldn’t even talk to them.


Instead, I escaped into fanfiction. In online fandoms, I found something I desperately needed, beyond the escapist fiction. I found a community. Not a community of people I would ever be privileged to meet in real life, but a community of people who all had come together to celebrate our shared perception and experience of a story. It seems like such a simple thing to have in common, but stories are everything. Stories are reflections of our society, our world, and ourselves. They’re how we communicate emotions, experiences, and the nuances of personality and life that we call humanity.


Fanfiction is unique, because there’s so much of it that you’re bound to find something, in some fandom, that resonates with you as an individual. You’ll inevitably stumble on a story that, by its very existence, shows you that you’re not alone—that someone else out there enjoyed the same anime, book, or movie. That they shared the same perspective you did and experienced the same vicarious emotions and hopes and dreams for the characters. Built around these stories are comment threads, forums, messenger boards, and social media groups that allow you to put names to each work of fiction, to interact with other readers and authors until the entire process of writing and reading fanfiction becomes a dynamic group effort. It becomes an ever-changing celebration of the human experience, translated through a fandom lens, and it’s fucking amazing.


There’s been a lot of chatter on Twitter about the apparent evils of fanfiction, and my thoughts keep circling back to it. Critics are dismissing fanfiction as nothing more than private property that’s been misappropriated as literary training wheels for shitty writers. Then insisting at the same time that it’s all so pathetically badly-written as to be cringe-worthy. And finally claiming that that same cringe-worthy fanfiction somehow detracts from “legitimate queer literature.” By legitimate, I’m not sure if they mean queer authors writing own-voices narratives or if they just mean the grim, all-gay-characters-must-die crap that remains the only form of gay love story allowed into the scared literary cannon.


I’ve spent a couple of days wondering how, exactly, fanfiction might detract from “legitimate queer literature,” but the whole premise is based on the idea that fanfiction and commercial fiction are somehow in competition—for readers, for sales, and for attention. Readers don’t enjoy fanfiction because they’re looking for a free alternative to commercial literature. They wouldn’t rush off and buy books by the thousands if fanfiction didn’t exist. It’s painfully obvious from the nature of their critique that the folks condemning fanfiction have never actually experienced the fanfiction community first-hand, and that’s really kind of sad. If they had, maybe they’d recognize that the true goal of anyone aspiring to produce commercial fiction—or grim, depressing literature if that’s what they get a kick out of—should be to write something worthy of fanfiction.


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Escaping from Dreamspinner Press’s Downward Spiral

This sucks. I hate having to post this, but it’s time. Like so many Dreamspinner Press authors, I haven’t been paid royalties owed to me for my Dreamspinner titles. After months of listening to misinformation and lies about the problem, I’m withdrawing from Dreamspinner.

Dreamspinner’s cryptic updates have painted grand pictures of costly business expansions as their only explanation for what happened to those royalties. They spent author royalties on expanding their business—money authors earned for books already sold that should have been held in trust and paid according to their contracts. None of their authors were given any advanced warning, no notification, and no apology afterward. My royalties were used as investment capital, without my knowledge or consent, and their investments haven’t paid out as planned.

I don’t write a lot, because real life gets in the way, so my demanding my rights back is a fairly small act of protest—but it’s all I can do. I won’t do business with a company who will so callously betray my trust.

Their abuse of authors has prompted Romance Writers of America to place Dreamspinner Press on indefinite probation with their organization, removing Dreamspinner from their qualifying publishers, and preventing them from participating in any RWA events. (RWA members: https://www.rwa.org/Online/News/2019/Advocacy_Update_Dreamspinner_Press.aspx).

 So I’ve gotten publishing rights to all of my books back from them. Audio books and translations will remain with Dreamspinner for now, because they sold those licenses to third parties for a longer term than they had any right to sell… (because what’s one more breach of contract, right?) Given that Dreamspinner still owes me, and hundreds of other authors, royalties that were due on July 31, 2019, I expect that they’re limping toward bankruptcy, so those rights will likely terminate when the company dies anyway.

I’ve decided to put my books into Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program for the time being. This means that for the next three months, all of my books are included for free with a KINDLE UNLIMITED subscription! I’ll likely make most available for wider distribution in early 2020 and leave some in KU forever. Links on my blog and goodreads are not updated yet, but I’m working on it. However, editions are linked on Amazon so the KU editions should be easy to find.

I’m also still plugging away at my current WIP (a 3 book mystery series I am hoping to start releasing in Spring, 2020, if I can find a home for it) and I’ll post a snippet and a few updates over the next month.

I also want to say thank you to everyone who has reached out to offer held and advice throughout this mess!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Trying to Learn the Art of Not Tinkering with Shit

There are a million blogs about how to craft a story. There are so many articles about plot structure, character development, and scenes that ‘a million’ might be a reasonable estimate rather than hyperbolic. But I’ve got a problem that none seem to have addressed—how to stop crafting a story.

I re-work projects to death.

I get 30k words into one story, decide it should be something entirely different, and go back to tinker. And tinker. Fiddling with a story, for me at least, isn’t about the drive for perfection. I’ve got no internal copy editor demanding accurate comma placement. For me, it’s about embracing the excitement of inspiration, the organic growth of plot and characters that occurs during the writing process, when characters’ interactions show you an entirely new side to the person you’re writing about.

Thanks to my fiddling, my current work-in-progress has grown a smidge. It started life as a mystery centered around an on-campus murder, and the university gardener who has to work with an old flame to clear his name. It’s somehow evolved into three different stories, each with entirely different characters, themes, settings, and romance tropes. And none of them are going to be ready to submit any time soon, because despite the fact that I’ve written over 150k words this year, I keep tinkering with the stories themselves so much that those words don’t actually come together to make a whole book, much less the three I intended.

I’m doing a watercolor class that’s really driven home how deeply ingrained my urge to tinker with things is. Watercolor isn’t like other paint, where you can add white or lighter values as needed. Nope. In watercolor, you must plan out your highlights and white values in advance. You have to carefully craft shadows so you can see the light. Unlike with stories, when you screw it up, there’s no going back. And maybe that’s a good thing. If I could erase paint and start over, I might never actually finish a picture.

My attempts at painting have all ended up a lot like my fiction—a little bit too much here and there, until eventually it feels like a muddy mess. It’s taken practice to be able to stop myself from adding more shadows, more color, one more glaze, etc., but I finally managed to keep a bit of empty paper on a project this morning! It’s still an overworked mess, don’t get me wrong, but it’s progress.

When a painting is saturated with color and quickly blending into mud, it’s painfully obvious that you need to put down the brush, go grab a beer, and maybe try a fresh start tomorrow. When you’re crafting a story, though, there’s no easy way to see when you’ve gone one insane plot twist too far, given a character too many potentially issues, added too much sex, or just dragged a scene on too long. Once a story is coherent enough to sell, there are editors who can tactfully make suggestions about where you’ve screwed up—but until a writer gets to that point, it’s all a question of personal judgement.

I stopped painting! Not soon enough, but still....!
If I can learn to walk away from a watercolor and leave it the hell alone, I think there’s hope. If I can apply that lesson to writing, I might finish an entire draft without tinkering with the story itself, then I can finally share these three couples with the world.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Strays Is Officially Available!

I'm so happy to announce that Strays is out! I can't wait to share Jory and Mal's HEA!

Barnes & Noble
Dreamspinner Press 

Orphaned at a young age and raised in the foster system, Jory Smith has no idea he’s half incubus. He only knows he has the power to heal people, making himself sick in the process. Exploited by a crooked faith healer who sells his abilities and his life to the highest bidder and then left for dead, Jory flees, falling into a job at a small-town café where he can put his lifelong obsession with baking to good use.
But the minister who exploited him wants him back.
Exiled hellhound-turned–bounty hunter Malpheus Pelle has no idea why his human client wants him to track down an incubus. Jory is traumatized and afraid to touch anyone, an emotional handicap that could prove fatal for a demon who requires physical contact. Needing answers, Mal concocts a disastrous plan: pretend to date Jory to uncover the truth. Unfortunately, his plan never included dealing with an ancient demon assassin, Jory’s orgasmic pumpkin cookies, or losing his heart to the incubus he’s supposed to be hunting….

Monday, August 6, 2018

Strays, Coming September 25th!

It's time to dust off my blog to announce that my upcoming new release, Strays, is coming out on September 25th! It's officially available for Pre-Order from Dreamspinner Press! 
I'm so excited to share my first paranormal romance, even though it took longer than I'd hoped to pull all the details together. Check out the blurb and excerpt below!


Orphaned at a young age and raised in the foster system, Jory Smith has no idea he’s half incubus. He only knows he has the power to heal people, making himself sick in the process. Exploited by a crooked faith healer who sells his abilities and his life to the highest bidder and then left for dead, Jory flees, falling into a job at a small-town café where he can put his lifelong obsession with baking to good use.
But the minister who exploited him wants him back.
Exiled hellhound-turned–bounty hunter Malpheus Pelle has no idea why his human client wants him to track down an incubus. Jory is traumatized and afraid to touch anyone, an emotional handicap that could prove fatal for a demon who requires physical contact. Needing answers, Mal concocts a disastrous plan: pretend to date Jory to uncover the truth. Unfortunately, his plan never included dealing with an ancient demon assassin, Jory’s orgasmic pumpkin cookies, or losing his heart to the incubus he’s supposed to be hunting….

From Chapter 1:

THE OFFICE door was closed, and a man Jory had never seen was standing in front of it. He was at least three inches taller than Jory, with light blond hair and eyes that looked hazel behind lightly tinted sunglasses. Who the hell wore sunglasses in a warehouse with no windows?
“Can I help you?” Jory asked, folding his hands in what he’d taken to calling Adam’s pious stance.
Jory raised both eyebrows. “Did you need to go into the office?”
“Okay,” he said, managing a careful smile. “Would you mind standing aside so I can?”
The stranger narrowed his eyes. “You?”
Jory made a show of looking around and glancing down the empty hall. “Yeah.”
Keeping his gaze fixed on Jory, the man knocked on the door without turning around. Adam yanked the door open. “Reverend Smith,” Adam growled, shoving the big man out of the way and tugging Jory inside. Jory shot Adam a questioning look. Adam just glared at him. “Thank you for finally joining us.”
“Isn’t he a bit young to be a minister?” The voice was old, laced with pain and the gravelly sound of a deep lung infection.
The office was intimidating. Half of it was a small sanctuary; two small prayer desks and an altar and cross dominated the room. Adam’s desk and the desk the church secretary used during the rare hours she volunteered were set off to the side. In front of Adam’s desk was a withered man who might have been anywhere from fifty to eighty. A clear plastic oxygen tube ran from his nose, around his ears, and down to a large green-and-silver cylinder mounted to the back of the electric power scooter he was using.
This was going to suck.
“Forgive me for being tardy, Reverend Luhmann, but I wanted to check on Mr. Neal and make sure he was doing okay. How can I be of assistance?”
The old man barked out a sound that might have been a laugh. It sounded like stones rattling in a tin can. “That drunk junkie you brought in for the peons? Don’t play games with me, young man. I refuse—” He was overcome by a series of hacking coughs that left him bent over the handlebars of the scooter. “I’m no fool,” he managed, panting to catch his breath. “You’re why I’m here. You’ve convinced a few doctors in Rochester that you’re something special. So you’re either a better liar than Mr. Luhmann here, or the real deal.”
Jory glanced at Adam, who grimaced. Had they finally run into someone Adam couldn’t talk his way around? Jory crushed that thought. Adam might not have found his angle yet, but he would.
He sighed. “May I shake your hand?”
Looking suspicious but a little amused, the old man held out his hand calmly. A single touch was enough to make Jory cringe. The old man wasn’t just sick, he was toxic. “You’re dying,” Jory said simply. “You have late-stage lung cancer.”
“The kid who bags my groceries can guess that much,” he rasped.
“You’ve had….” Jory closed his eyes and thought about the cloud of sticky pain he’d felt in his chest. “Two unsuccessful transplants. How the hell does someone your age even get on a transplant list once, much less twice?”
“Jory,” Adam snapped. “Don’t act like I never taught you to be polite.”
He wanted to roll his eyes. Adam had taught him a lot, but please and thank you hadn’t figured into his education.
The old man waved Adam off. “That it?”
“No. The right side of your heart is big, I think because it’s working harder to pump blood through your lungs. If I had to guess, I’d say that’ll be what kills you.”
“And you drink too much. Your liver isn’t as bad as your lungs, but it’s getting there.”
“You get to the point I’m at and see if you care about the state of your liver.”
“I don’t see myself ever getting to that point,” Jory said bluntly. “I grew up with all those smoking will kill you public service announcements they ran on PBS during Saturday morning cartoons.” And his gift made tar-clogged lungs feel putrid. Fire and pain were normal, but the sticky choking sensation was pure torture.
“And you say he can do it?” the old man asked, glancing at Adam, who was perched on the edge of his desk.
Adam ran his hands through his graying hair and shook his head. “I don’t know how much we can actually help, Mr. Barnett.”
“I’ll agree to two more if he can,” Barnett wheezed without hesitating.
Adam managed to keep his eyes from bulging, but Jory could tell it was a near miss.
“I can’t,” Jory insisted. “It’s not possible.”
Adam smiled. “Mr. Barnett and I have discussed reasonable limitations. I’m not asking you to do anything that would put you in danger, just help however much you can.”
Adam wasn’t asking.
“This isn’t an infection. It’s something I might not recover from. I can’t help him. I won’t.” He shook his head, trying not to sound nervous. He’d never defied Adam, never challenged him.
“You’re going to try,” Adam insisted, his tone quieter. “I’ll grab you some water and cough medicine before we get started. I expect you’ll need it.” With that, Adam slipped out of the office. He shut the door behind him and Jory heard him talking to the man standing outside.
The silence got awkward quickly. “So… you normally bring a bodyguard to church, Mr. Barnett?”
“He’s hardly a bodyguard,” Barnett said, taking a few pained deep breaths. “My son, Corbin. He’s convinced this is just another con, but he’ll indulge me. If you turn out to be another fraud, he’ll make you and your partner regret it.”
“I already told you, I can’t help you.”
That rattling laugh came again, and this time it seemed more genuine. “So you’ve said. I expected you to jump right in—” He hacked again. “—mumble something mystic over me and then, when I come back tomorrow with the report from my doctor, try to tell me these things take time. Or only the truly faithful can be saved, and I obviously don’t believe.”
Jory nodded. “That’s the standard script. You’ve tried more than one faith healer, then?”
“I’ve seen my share. They all spot the lung cancer,” he rasped and held up the oxygen tubing. “It’s a bit obvious. You’re the first one other than my cardiopulmonary doc to spot the pulmonary hypertension. That’s what it’s called, the thing with the right side of my heart. How’d you know? Tell me the trick and I might even convince Corbin to walk out of here without hurting you or the good reverend.”
“Believe it or not, there’s no trick. I’m good at figuring out what’s wrong with people, that’s all.”
Barnett considered him for a moment, his gaze quiet and assessing. “Med school dropout?”
“High school dropout, but I did get my GED.”
Barnett smiled. “So how’d you know?”
“I don’t know how. I can just feel it,” he admitted. “I’ve always been able to do it.”
“The kid with diabetes?”
This guy had done his homework.
“I couldn’t help him either,” Jory said, glancing toward the door. This wasn’t right at all.
“They said the boy would have died, his blood sugar was so high.”
“And I’m glad he didn’t, but I didn’t have anything to do with it. I’m going to go find Reverend Luhmann.”
But the door opened before he reached it. Adam came back in with a large bottle of water and a blister pack of cold medicine he’d needed the last time he’d helped a kid with the flu. Mr. Barnett’s not-a-bodyguard followed him in.
“Are we ready to begin?” Adam asked, flashing Jory the fake smile he usually saved for their marks.
Jory didn’t smile back.
Adam wrapped his arm around Jory’s shoulders. “All you’ve got to do is try. If all you can manage is to ease his pain a bit, that’s something, isn’t it?”
Jory shoved his arm off. Adam was still smiling, but Corbin Barnett was glaring at him and blocking the door. “I’ll try. But when it hurts, I stop,” he whispered.
“No one could ask for more,” Adam agreed.
“Do you need a Bible? Or time to pray or something?”
He huffed and gave in to the urge to roll his eyes.
The moment he touched Barnett’s skin, the burning spread up his fingertips, danced in a spiral around his chest, and settled right in the center of his back, radiating out through his torso. It hurt like a bitch, and he was more than a little resentful that Barnett probably had all kinds of nice drugs to take the edge off. Jory would get to make do with cough medicine. He focused on the burning, pulling the fire and inflammation into his body with a deep breath. At first he didn’t feel anything beyond Barnett’s pain. After a minute, he felt a tickle in the back of his throat; then he had to work harder to draw in a breath. The next breath was harder still, and soon the pain and pressure built until he felt like was drowning in a lake of burning tar.
He ripped his hand out of Barnett’s grip and bent down, setting his hands on his knees, as he fought to catch his breath. “That’s…,” he rasped, then coughed as he ran out of air. He shook his head.
The office was silent around him for almost a minute while he stood there, panting.
“My God,” Barnett whispered, the rattle in his voice gone. He tugged at the oxygen hose and pulled it out of his nose, staring at it as if he were seeing it for the first time. “What are you?”
Jory tried to answer, but he only managed a painful cough that left his chest aching.
“There, now, that wasn’t so—”
“Quiet,” Barnett snapped. “We’re not finished yet. Corbin?”
“Hey!” Adam cried.
It left him dizzy, but Jory lifted his head. Adam had his hands in the air. Corbin Barnett stood behind him, one hand gripped in his hair and the other holding a gun to the back of his head.
“I don’t need to see my doctor to know that’s better.” Barnett’s face was filled with wonder. “You have no idea how long I’ve looked, how much money I’ve spent, trying to find someone like you. You’re going to finish fixing my lungs, boy, or you’re going to watch the good reverend die.”
Adam tried to pull away, but Barnett’s son yanked his head back hard. “Jory!”
“Adam….” He gasped.
“Ah-ah, don’t move,” Barnett said coldly. “Finish it.”
“Jory, please! I’ll help you after! We’ll get you all the help you need, I swear it!”
“It’ll….” It was already agony. But maybe his body would bounce back. He was younger and healthier, just like with Barbara’s pneumonia. If he didn’t try, Adam’s odds looked worse than his.
“Please don’t let them shoot me!”
Barnett dropped the oxygen tube into his lap and offered Jory his hand.
“Jory!” Adam cried as Corbin yanked on his hair again.
Jory grabbed Barnett’s hand and the pain surged through his arm. He pulled, breathed, and pulled again. He let the burning sensation flood through his body until it felt like his skin had become nothing more than a container filled with liquid fire. He tried to draw another breath, but his lungs wouldn’t fill, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get enough air to move past his throat. His chest throbbed and his head spun, the world shifting as his vision grew dark around the edges. His shoulder stung as he hit the floor, the side of his head hitting the tile.
“Well, it seems you were right, Reverend,” Barnett said above him. “He is quite remarkable.”
“I told you he just needed a little incentive,” Adam said calmly. His voice sounded close. A gentle hand shook him. “Jesus, his skin is like ice.”
Someone rolled him onto his back and set a hand on his chest. “Shit.”
“He’s barely breathing.” That was Adam again, but he still sounded calm. Like he hadn’t just had a gun to his head. Like Jory wasn’t dying at his feet.
“Have faith, Reverend,” Barnett said cheerfully. “With my money, you’ll be able to afford the finest funeral money can buy.”
The room was silent. Jory felt adrift until Adam spoke again. “Help me get him out to the woods. When they find him, I’ll tell the police he was sick and wandered off to bed. He must have become disoriented and lost his way.”
Barnett laughed. Even though the rattle was gone, it still sounded the same somehow.

A Rant About Fanfiction

 Confession time! I like fanfiction. I read it, I wrote it, I still get lost in it. I’ve talked to a lot of folks who read and enjoy fanfict...