Last night I wrote this post which was basically me all caught up in fifty different things at once, and one of the side effects of writing it was that I also started a Patreon. You may or may not have heard of it, but the gist is you pick artists to support, you say, “I will pledge X per piece of art,” and then when they produce art it automatically goes to you. You can cap it so you don’t go broke. You can edit your pledge, you can cancel it. The creators have different levels, like $1 gets you X, $5 gets you Y, etc.
I had huge trepidation about starting this, and I’m still walking carefully, but I’m willing to give it a try. This is my Patreon page. It contains a rambling post about why I started it and what to expect and my suggestions for how to pledge if you intend to, and I’ll elaborate a little more here, then post this post on the site, so everything will get meta very fast.
Why I started it.
There are a lot of reasons, and the biggest one I can’t disclose the reason why. It’s a great story, and you’d love it if you knew it, but it would change the story a lot if you did, and wouldn’t be good for my family or anyone immediately involved, so the one thing you get to know, alas, is that when you hear me talking about my children it’s plural now, two instead of one, so I say “my daughters” and “my teenagers.” I love this new journey, but it’s thrown everything into chaos, especially money and creating story. There is also the health nonsense, which I thought maybe I had an answer to, and then this week it fell back into mess, and I am honestly trying not to think about it and playing “let’s ignore it and hope it goes away,” which will be a disaster, but I’m out of ideas and energy and this is as much as I can talk about it without getting all whack again, so we’re done.
But that leads into the biggest reason I was willing to try this, because regular, faster money sounds badass, but frankly I’m more psyched about the inner circle, rejuvenation thing. Because what I honestly really want from this trial is to be motivated to do a few smaller projects and get feedback from patrons and have some fun and try new things. Asking for money feels disgusting and I don’t want any part of it, but saying, “Hey, come on this weird trip with me and let’s see what happens” sounds like the fucking bomb.
I tried to structure the support levels to be a constant preorder and guaranteed best possible way to get all my stuff the fastest and in the coolest way possible. You can pledge as little as a dollar a story, cap it at a dollar a month, and still get all the short stuff I put out that month. Don’t feel sleazy about it either, because if enough people do it, it won’t matter. Don’t feel sleazy about switching your pledge level around when you know a novel is coming, or a novella. Don’t feel sleazy about pledging $20 and capping it at $20, or $5 and capping it at $5. Or any level. Because that you would do that at all is cool, and I get it. Boy howdy, do I get it.
On my website I made a little button for this, and I called it Tesla-Level Fans because I want this to feel like punching a ticket for a crazy bonus ride. If you really only want to buy novels and novellas from third party vendors, just pledge a dollar and get popcorn. And if you’re leery of Patreon or this feels weird, skip it. Yes, you’ll miss out on a little bit, but if you don’t care about that stuff, you’re not out anything. And honestly if this works the way I want, making story for the Tesla People will end up making story I can sell on the third party sites, so there you go.
The one thing this might be really good for, though, is if you’re someone who LOVES a signed paperback. Because I made the $20 level just that: you get every story, every kind, AND you get a paperback mailed to you, wherever you are. Which can only happen a handful of times a year, and it’s only for stuff I publish independently, but there will be more of that coming. And here’s the thing, you’ll know when that’s coming, and you can swap up when we get close.
If you want to just come hang out and see what I do, that’s totally okay. Seriously, zero pressure. This is just a wild hair. A trial. A ride. I just jacked Baz’s Tesla, and we’re going to see what we can do. All I know is today I feel better and less like I’m trying to swallow a watermelon while juggling expensive china and more like I really am sitting behind the fucking coolest car ever made.
If you feel like getting in the back seat, or the front, or standing out the moon roof, let’s do it. And hat tip: I’m currently sitting on the ebooks of Dance With Me‘s re-release, which I will be uploading this weekend to vendors (and then we have to wait for them to do whatever they do before they’re live), but will give to $5 and up patrons later today. And I think those will be sitting there in case you read this after I post them to Patreon. If not, we’ll take care of it. We’re all in this car together.
I came across this Medium post by Amanda Palmer via her husband Neil Gaiman. It hit home in a lot of ways, and I feel compelled to add my voice to the song, so to speak. I think she’s going to be too busy giving birth to read this, and certainly she has many other things going on anyway, but I’m putting this letter out there to her and any mom or mom-to-be afraid of losing her art to the motherhood machine, because I’ve been there, done that, worn the maternity shirt and the baby sling.
To start, I have to say I love watching you and Neil on social media, the news, and wherever you are. I love how every time both of you are photographed with each other, one or both of you is gazing at the other with naked, pure love. It makes my heart warm every time, so thank you for that. I’m so incredibly stoked you’re bringing a child into that sacred space. They’re going to be amazing, because they can’t be anything else with those genes and that environment.
I’m very sorry, though, that you received that letter from Worried. I’ve received reader mail like that, the ones that catch you at just the wrong moment with words queued up in the perfect way to serrate your self-confidence. Worst, you know the person never meant to do that, they just forgot there was an actual human reading the letter. But I’m especially sorry the letter cast doubt on your ability to create art and be a mother. Those words managed to cut me too, and I suspect every artist mother or woman who wants to someday claim both those titles at the same time.
I’m writing to tell you I can promise you absolutely can be both a mother and an artist, even an edgy, off-beat artist, despite all the horseshit our culture piles on female artists and mothers. I know because I’ve done it. I’m doing it right now. And you will do it too.
My husband and I always wanted to be parents, though I confess the night we took our daughter by birth home from the hospital, we spent the night staring at each other in terror and wondering what in the holy hell we’d just done. We were thrown by how much being parents changed the pattern of our lives, but that wasn’t the worst part: that honor went to the soul-crushing cult everyone seemed to want us to join. Somehow becoming parents meant we could no longer swear, not even in front of an infant. We were invited to activities we never would have considered before and frankly didn’t now—or rather, at first they seemed okay, like maybe we’d meet other parents and get out of the house, but that’s not what happened. Everything felt so Stepford and sanitized. It creeped us the hell out, and we stayed home.
Worst of all, though, was what was thrown at me. I “stayed home,” as in, I continued writing novels and trying to get them published while also parenting, and eventually those efforts paid off. But in between birth and publication, I fielded endless efforts to Momify myself. I hauled my daughter to activities designed to give parents a break, but I was expected to sit with other moms and chat while this occurred. Not talk about my life or my dreams, but only baby clothes and if I was still breastfeeding and nap time and what scrapbook style I was using to document her every move. I endured that for about five minutes and then ran away to a closet where I sat on the floor with my laptop and kept one ear open in case someone came looking for me.
I could fill you with endless tales like that, but a single sample sets the table well enough. Your greatest danger in losing your edge in motherhood isn’t going to come from your contentment and softness. It will come from that societal cult wanting to turn you into the Pietà. It’s going to come at you from every side and every angle, even from within your own self. The programming to normalize and “gentle” is so intense batting it away will sometimes drive you mad.
The good news is, it can create great art. Badass, off-the-wall art.
I have always written romance, ever since I was in high school. But it wasn’t until I was fighting the motherhood normalizer that I began writing really different romance. The frustration and fear stopped me writing prim and proper straight Regencies I thought the publishing industry wanted and made me so crazy I started writing edgy, erotic gay romance. Lots and lots of it, in the dark, sure nobody would ever publish it and certainly no readers would ever pick it up, but I wrote it anyway. I wrote in anger, in terror, and most of all in defiance. I wrote things that shocked me. I wrote things that made me sick with fear and tremulous with excitement.
I made art. Crazy, endless piles of art.
I sold it all, most of it with pretty decent success for a fledgling trope in a genre with no shortage of talent on the stage. As my daughter grew, I wrote and published more of it, though now I was terrified of what would happen when someone at preschool or kindergarten found out Anna’s mother wrote dirty gay sex for cash. I rode that fear and wrote more dirty gay sex for cash. Dirtier and gayer, and wouldn’t you know it, it made even more cash.
My motherhood did not sanitize or settle me. It lit fires in me that still burn. It fueled not only my art but my own self-exploration. It was through the art brought on by motherhood that I discovered my bisexuality. It led me to bring another child into my life, not of my body but absolutely of my heart. It carried me through the loss of those organs which started all this motherhood in the first place, a painful ache which I’m still unpacking, once again, through art.
My story won’t ease your fears, and I don’t want it to. Because that fear is what will keep your art alive. The struggle against the pressure to don yoga pants and listen to a glassy-eyed stranger lecture you about breastfeeding instead of standing naked but for paint with a sword in front of a public library is what will lead you to art you could never have known in any other manner.
Keep that sword handy, because you’ll need it. You’ll face, daily, judgment from total strangers on the choices you make for your child. You, far more than Neil, will bear the clucked tongues and raised eyebrows. Because our culture is sexist and punishing to women, and it wants us to bear all the weight of the world and fix all its problems while also making dinner and tucking in kids and not looking like a slut or using foul language and standing meekly on the pedestals others make for us.
I planted that picture of you at the head of this blog post because it’s the image all mothers need to see. It’s moved me every time I’ve seen it and it will continue to do that long into the future. Because for the first time ever, I saw in you, the mother-to-be, the mother I feel that I am.
Then today I read your post, and even in your aching, beautiful confession, I found support for myself and my own struggles. Because I’m wading deeper and deeper into being an independent author, which is terrifying and expensive, and I’ve ended up doing this while acquiring a second child, and I have two teenagers and piles of bills, and the art is a lot less joyous because I’m desperate to make it as quickly as possible and lying awake at night whispering prayers the next royalty check is better, because holy shit is my life a mess right now. I read your post and for the first time felt I maybe had permission to try a tentative hand at a Patreon. Writing this whole paragraph has happened, to be honest, through a veil of tears: of relief, but mostly of connection. Like I went to one of those parent gatherings and finally met someone who understood what I was trying to do.
I have joined your Patreon. I just spent two hours leaping over my own fears and awkwardness about asking and started my own. I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do with it, or how successful it will be. I’m nervous as hell about it and have almost deleted it about six hundred times, and I’m typing this sentence instead of hitting publish on the blog button because then it will be live and then it will be real. But what I do know is reading your post about fear reminded me we all feel alone but none of us are. That we really do want to be there for each other. But that we have to give each other the chance to help each other if we need it.
Right now according to your Patreon page you’re sailing down to wherever you’re heading to wait for baby. I wish you love and power and peace, but I also wish you a little bit of edge. Something to nag at you in the night and push you into strange new places. I wish for you to also find motherhood to be not a chain or a smothering blanket but a wild, terrifying, wonderful new avenue for your art.
I wish for you to always look in the mirror and see yourself holding that sword, standing naked, carrying your baby into the unpredictable, unsafe, unstoppable well of creativity—the one that resides in you and that nothing in the world but you can ever extinguish.
So on August 20th, my mother went to a hotel in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She was there because she’s been going back and forth to take care of my grandmother, who is dying of congestive heart failure. My grandmother isn’t getting oxygen to her brain, so she’s loopy and weird and spends a lot of time insulting my mother, because she’s not herself and is very sick. Consequently, my mother is very tired. Very. Tired.
Which is why when she went to this hotel (I won’t name it yet, unless they don’t take care of her room for that night), and when she joined what she thought was the hotel wifi and her computer began blowing up with virus warning messages, she panicked. When a box popped up saying she had viruses and she should call Apple Care and the number was next to it, she called them.
“Very helpful” people then spent two hours screen-sharing and “fixing” her computer. These people are Cyber PC Experts.
I’m going to say that name a lot— Cyber PC Experts—and at the end of this story, I’d love you to find a way to link to this story. Share it. Retweet it. Facebook share it. I don’t care how you do it, but the more you link to this, the more when people google Cyber PC Experts, the more likely they’ll be to get this hit. Because nobody should go through what my mother is going through right now.
Cyber PC Experts, after masquerading as Apple Care, took my mother’s credit card information, and her email, and her phone numbers. They didn’t fix her computer. There was nothing wrong with it. Their whole goal was to phish for information—my mother’s private information—and rack up “fixing” charges on her credit card. Happily, two hours in (they were going to have her “leave it open” all night) she got nervous and called me, and I had her shut it down. And cancel her card. And then my brother, who is no slouch about this kind of thing, took her computer and is in the process of wiping it. She’s changed all her passwords, and is getting a new card. She reported the charge as fraudulent.
And now they call her.
From all kinds of different numbers.
And they email.
They are desperate to get a hold of her, I hope to God because their credit charge was denied. But they’re stressing her out, because my grandmother is still dying, and there’s no shortage of other stuff going on. So tonight I said, “Let me call them.”
LET IT BE KNOWN they didn’t dispute that they set up fake wifi outside of hotels and trick guests into logging on and telling them they have viruses. LET IT BE KNOWN they never apologized for anything, never denied anything, and when it became clear they couldn’t scam me, they began refusing to say anything unless they spoke to my mother. I told them they wouldn’t be able to. I told them to stop calling.
While I was on the phone with them, they called her three times.
So, I made them a promise, and I’m keeping it. I’m telling the whole world what charming assholes they are. I taught my mother how to block calls. If she can’t manage it, I’m going to get her to a place where she can be on a conference call with me so they can’t pull that shit anymore and have to listen to me tell them to fuck off. I’m also going to let Apple know what they’re doing. Mostly, though, I want to tell the WHOLE WORLD what they’re doing.
Cyber PC Experts. Nasty scammers who love to prey on non-tech-savvy women nursing their dying mothers. Hang outside hotels and make pop up free wifi that looks like the hotel’s wifi. Harass people when they don’t let themselves be taken for everything they have. Don’t deny they’re scamming scammers.
Be sure you know the EXACT name of hotel wifi when you stay there. If you can help it, don’t use it. Don’t call the numbers on popups, even if you’re tired and they say they’re Apple. For the record, Apple would never do that, and they keep regular hours. And they don’t sell you “yearly computer help.”
I’m blogging angry, which I know better than to do, but this is my mom, goddamn it, and I just listened to these smarmy assholes for fifteen minutes. Whatever. Burn ’em. And be you wise, and never let these or other scamming asshats get you.
And please show this to your mom.
Lonely Hearts is out today!
Book Three in the Love Lessons Series
Even hot messes need a happily ever after.
With the quiet help of his wealthy family, Sebastian “Baz” Acker has successfully kept his painful past at bay. But as the end of college draws near, his friends—his buffer zone—are preparing to move on, while his own life is at a crippling standstill.With loneliness bearing down on him, Baz hooks up—then opens up—with Elijah Prince, the guy Baz took a bullet for last year. The aftershocks of their one-night stand leave giant cracks in Baz’s carefully constructed armor. For the first time, the prospect isn’t terrifying.
Accustomed to escaping his demons by withdrawing into his imagination, Elijah isn’t used to having a happy herd of friends. He’s even less comfortable as the object of a notorious playboy’s affections. Yet all signs seem to indicate this time happiness might be within his grasp. When Baz’s mother runs for a highly sought-after public office, the media hounds drag Baz’s and Elijah’s pasts into the light. In the blinding glare, Baz and Elijah face the ultimate test: discovering if they’re stronger together…or apart.
Warning: Contains sex in a Tesla, sex in a cupboard, sex under a piano, kinky role play, and a cappella RuPaul songs. Just a couple of boys groping, battling, then finally loving their way to becoming men.
RT BOOK REVIEWS TOP PICK!
Audiobook coming soon
Come join us for a huge, prize-filled afternoon and evening full of fun, prizes, and more. Seventeen authors, some fabulous bloggers, and YOU. Come as you are, come when you can: all prize links will be open until 8AM August 12!
Annabeth Albert • Keira Andrews • Jordan L. Hawk • Damon Suede • Laura Kaye • Kate McMurray • Marie Sexton • RG Alexander • Tere Michaels • Rayna Vause • Eden Bradley-Eve Berlin • Amy Lane • Amy Jo Cousins • Karen Stivali • Sarina White Bowen • A.m. Arthur
Joyfully Jay Reviews • Kris & Vik Book Therapy Cafe • Bike Book Reviews • Love Bytes Reviews • Enchantress Design & Promo • My Fiction Nook • Prism Book Alliance • Diverse Reader
And don’t forget the Lonely Hearts Blog Tour is still going strong, with lots of chances to win a copy of the book, and of course this grand prize Rafflecopter package!
Love Lessons is 99¢ for a limited time!
Across all platforms, you can get the first book in the Love Lessons series or share it with a friend for only 99¢. Hurry, because this sale won’t last long!
Do you want to news? Newsing is EASY. Anyone can news! You could journalism, but this is hard. Newsing is better!
Newsweek is best at newsing. Here is how they do news.
STEP ONE: Newsy
Hear about newsy story. NEWSY story is SEXY. Something is CONTROVERSY. Something is TWO SIDES. If story is ALL these things, you have very newsy story!
EXAMPLE: Inspirational romance novel about Nazi and Jewess in love, but actual Jewish people upset about this. CONTROVERSY. SEXY. TWO SIDES. So much news!
STEP TWO: People talking
Find people to talk about newsy story. REMEMBER: two sides is NEWSY. Also, SEXY and CONTROVERSY. Find TWO people, on two sides, who have CONTROVERSY.
EXAMPLE: Interview Jewish romance community members about how they are upset, give author of controversy book statement, but close with random angry misogynist unrelated to book but who looks better in article for SEXY CONTROVERSY TWO SIDES. NEWSY. VERY NEWSY.
STEP THREE: Nothing
Do not research things. Do not fact check title of organizations or details of awards. Just go with what anyone says if it sounds good in story. Do NOT leave out CONTROVERSY SEXY TWO SIDES!
EXAMPLE: If unrelated man compares Nazis and feminists GOOD JOB. Do not correct this. In fact include this. Write all this man says because will be very NEWSY and bring many clicks!
Newsing is new way of news. Only dumb people journalism. This is hard and brings no clicks. Newsing newsy stories is wave of future!
Thank you, Newsweek, for newsing so hard today! Thank you for no research or insight and only sensationalizing painful subjects and bringing in random strangers for SEXY CONTROVERSY and lots of unnecessary trauma to all parties just so you can limp along through clickbait.
It’s only eleven days until Lonely Hearts releases, and a lot is happening to celebrate!
The Lonely Hearts blog tour starts soon, and you’ll want to make sure you stop by each blog for inside information, contests, reviews, and more! Keep track of everything happening and watch for new blogs at this link.
Do you like posting quote meme images and badges on your social media accounts? Want something to make your online review fancy? Check out the quotes, character images, and more at this link.
Come join the Facebook party! It officially starts August 11 at 3pm CST, but you’ll notice there have been a lot of advance prizes already…and there’ll be more. A boatload of authors and all kinds of great prizes await! Join the event today.
Rafflecopter Grand Prize Pack
There’s a great Rafflecopter starting tomorrow, loaded with prizes!
A paper back of Lonely Hearts, a BluRay of Howl’s Moving Castle, a set of Black Butler playing cards, and a darling figure of Howl and Sophie which you might not know much about now, but you certainly will once you read the book. Enter today, and every day!
Not sure why some of those items are in the prize pack? Read on.
Can’t wait for release day? Want to be completely in the know when you read the book? Nestle in and enjoy an advance course in pop-culture references you’ll find in the book. You don’t have to know about these things to enjoy Lonely Hearts, but if you love inside information, you’ve just hit the motherlode.
Want to hear songs referenced in the story or set the mood using the music I used to write the novel? Plug in your headphones and listen away.
Don’t do Spotify? Love a good visual? Here are some YouTube videos and samples of some of the biggest songs from the book. Especially RuPaul!
Howl’s Moving Castle
Haven’t seen this movie? Get on that! It’s a great film, and it’s Baz and Elijah’s favorite too.
Less referenced, but still awesome and well worth your time. In a lot of ways, this is the darker and more subliminal background for Baz and Elijah.
You can watch ALL the anime online, and on several other streaming services—and if you do watch even a little, a certain sexy role-play is going to get a WHOLE lot hotter.
Audiobook coming soon (performed by Iggy Toma)
Nowhere Ranch 99¢ eBook Sale, Nowhere Ranch Audio, Lonely Hearts Party & Tour, Short Health Update, RITAs on YouTube
This is going to be a real hodgepodge of a post, so let’s get right to it. First, bizness.
Nowhere Ranch is available in audiobook.
Are you a blogger? Check out this newsletter to get a review copy.
Are you a regular Joe, Jane, or Jae and want to win a copy? Then head on over to this Rafflecopter contest.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE.
Nowhere Ranch is on sale on Amazon for 99¢ for a limited time.
To celebrate the audiobook’s release, I’m putting Nowhere Ranch on sale for $0.99. All Amazon platforms, all countries. (It will be a different price depending on your currency, but it will be on sale!) Been putting off buying the new edition because you had the old one? Wanted to buy it for a friend? Just haven’t picked it up yet? Now’s your chance.
Tell your friends and neighbors! In fact, that’s part of the contest above.
Here’s the book blurb and a link to the excerpt.
We’re having a party!
On August 11, I’m having a Lonely Hearts release day party on Facebook. Lots of prizes, lots of guest authors. We’ve already started having a few contests. Come on over and join the fun!
Hate Facebook? There will be a blog tour with plenty of prizes too. Watch this space for more information!
Heidi’s health stuff
This is a quickie because everything is still up in the air. The short version is I went to Mayo, it was amazing, and now we’re in the “try this” phase. I go back in early August for an allergist appointment, a pain clinic appointment, and a follow up with my internal medicine doctor.
She thinks this is all an allergy or a virus. She has me back on gluten so they can check celiac, and while at first eating all the wheat I’ve missed was great, it consistently makes my throat sore, and my body ache, and me miserable. They’ve sent me vitamin D pills, and all sorts of other things, some of them too awkward to mention in a blog post. The bottom line is I have no news except that we’re trying stuff, which is good enough for me.
I’ll be signing books, and the RITAs ceremony will be on YouTube
I’ll be in New York July 21-26, for the Romance Writers of America convention. You can come see me Wednesday night, July 22, from 5:30-7:30 in the Westside Ballroom of the New York Marriott Marquis. I’ll have Carry the Ocean and Fever Pitch for sale. You can’t bring in outside books, but if you catch me in the hallway after with something special, I’ll sign it then. Maybe come tell me, though, so I know to wait for you!
The RITAs ceremony, where I’m up for an award with three other gay romance authors and the best and brightest of the romance world, will be on Saturday night, tickets only. BUT! You can watch from the comfort of your home or smartphone! Go to this YouTube channel at 8PM EST. My award will come much later, probably very close to 10PM EST.
This is the end of my news! Have a great day, and good luck with the contest!
Turning the blog over to Damon Suede, a fabulous gay romance author and one of my best friends, on this glorious, fabulous, wonderful day.
I cried most of the morning, happily, but with a keen sense of history.
Heidi asked me to blog about what I’m thinking about today’s SCOTUS “Obergefell v. Hodges” ruling and so I did…though I suspect the insanity falls thick in what follows.
My mom was one of Mary Bonauto’s biggest fangirls.
Actually, my mother predicted today’s events 30 years ago. I was 14 and living in disgusting Texas trying not to lose my shit on a daily basis. Those were the dumbo-bimbo-Rambo years: acidwash and MTV and Twinkie defenses for all. Ronald Reagan was deep into his Alzheimer jellybeans and dismantling the American dream for the suits and shills. Conspicious consumption and trickle-down toxicity. Fags were sick, greed was good, and the country went over the cliff.
Now, my mother was a breed apart. A trial lawyer and a rabid political activist my whole childhood, she fought for her rights and for people too afraid or ignorant to fight for their own. Even in the gross bible-belt surrounded by oil money and bigots happy to crow about the faggot they’d driven over on Montrose, my mom held out hope.
“Gay marriage will happen. Your generation has to do that.”
My mom was on a tear. In the mid80s, Texas was starting to feel the crush of early HIV crisis, GRID had been renamed AIDS and the gigantic LGBT population of Houston was getting Gay Rights and ERA movements from the mid-70s and now she was trying to pass the torch to her loudmouth son, which sounded like pie-in-sky bullshit to adolescent me.
“We did Stonewall. Pride. Here and queer. We got their attention.” She eyed me skeptically and wagged a finger. “Y’all have to pick up where we stopped.”
“Fuck that,” I thought. Mainly I wanted to listen to Depeche Mode and make out with my football player boyfriend without getting beaten to death with a two by four. Pride parades seemed lame and AIDS had turned sex into Russian roulette.
At that exact moment, I was 14 and annoyed because Edwin Meese and Jerry Falwell held sway over the American imagination. I outright hated these rightwing fuck-knuckles, literally hated, in the way only a pubescent gay culture warrior could. Talk about gay mafia! At that age I wanted to kill bigots with rainbow machetes. My hatred for these credulous morons was a hurricane and an earthquake. I got angry because there was so much literal, active rage directed at us, at me. At that age, I dreamed of raining blood and fire down on those hypocritical fundies the way they prayed it would rain down on me. Confrontation didn’t scare me at ALL. I practically craved vicious confrontation because I felt so embattled down in the anus of right-wing Uh-Mer’ka. I ended up getting a degree in religion just so I could disembowel them in public debates
See, at 14 I had spent three years carrying coffins for as most of my mom’s male friends died off in the plague years. I was the only able-bodied male tall enough to wear a black suit and haul corpses every weekend while Reagan tap-danced on our sanity. I was PISSED at the world. The vindication of Stonewall and the Gay Lib movement had dissolved into a hateful magma of know-noting posturing and televised sermons from pompous bloviators who would resign in shame and scandal by the end of the decade: Falwell, Roberts, Swaggart, Bakker. Swindlers for Jesus™ every fucking one of them and may they each rot in the hell they wished on others. Not for nothing: Jesus’ favorite insult in the New Testament was “HYPOCRITE.”
Well, Dorothy, we aren’t in Reagan’s America anymore.
Today, the 26th of June 2015, the Supreme Court of these (purportedly) United States acknowledged that LGBT people actually ARE people and that thinking we’re icky doesn’t give you permission to treat us like a syphilitic can of spam. Who knew?
For the past 2 years, the trendy-but-flabby argument on the Right has become defense from “religious persecution” as if getting permission to marry means I’m bombing churches in Arkansas. LGBT people are shamed, assaulted, and murdered with depressing frequency, which somehow makes us oppressors. Kiddos, that’s some batshit Stalinist logic, there. Actual adults equating concentration camps and cake orders with a straight face. Prima facie stupidity, obviously, designed to stoke panic and con the gullible.
Then again they aren’t making an argument, they’re just filling up media space with words so they can raise money from people who will pay them to confirm prejudices in public. Ground cover for imbeciles. More than anything the fundamentalists are a business, and they make money hustling rubes by appealing to their fear, vanity, and illusions.
Right-wingers often wail about the gay agenda. “Special rights,” they moan. “Godless perversion,” they insist. “Persecuted Christians,” they claim.
The gay agenda is: we’re people.
That’s it. Full stop.
For most of modern history LGBT folks were an easy punchline: a secret “other” that existed everywhere, hidden and omnipresent as a Red Scare communist. Ooga-booga, the queers are gonna get ya. We hid in closets like every boogeyman every invented. “The volleyball coach is a dyke who’s after our daughters.” Or “That fag’s gonna infect the swimming pool with AIDS and disco.“ For large swaths of America huddled in their shed with an oil lamp and a 12-gauge, the convenient, pervy homo other gave them a hated target they could agree on.
Now gang, if anyone wants to believe that their imaginary Sky-daddy doesn’t want them to do things, they’re welcome, and LGBT folks are ALSO welcome to live like human beings with or without magical friends of our own. The conservative argument is hilarious if you think about it, because a mishmash of persecuted minorities founded this country for the express purpose of believing as they wished even when they disagreed with their neighbors. For the record, the colonies (and eventually the states) existed to prevent the formation of a fundamentalist hegemony like the one they’d fled.
Pity the poor fundamentalists too illiterate or willful to even glance at history. Well, you can pity them if you feel inclined. My well’s dry on that score. Far as I’m concerned, they can suck all the dicks.
Of course this historical reality and the Constitution that created this country turns any “religious liberty” arguments into corn chowder. Freedom to practice your religion is NOT freedom to memorialize and promulgate your religion through government policy.
And the fundamentalist Right can suck on that and swallow.
Today, I feel almost sorry for them: bigots across America just lost the perfect punching bag. Worse, they just learned that every time they swing at it, they’re going to lose more. It’s their own fault. They should have seen this day coming, but then, foresight and insight aren’t among their strengths.
Sad truth: the uptight righties know all this already, but gosh-darn-it they’re running out of ways to say that the homos gross them out. Fundies certainly don’t seem to give two shits about divorce or shellfish or mixed fibers or adultery or teen pregnancy or any of the other Leviticus “abominations.” Heaven knows they have no problem making excuses for hypocrisy like greed, graft, incest, abuse or any of the other systemic horrors their community defends and ignores with grim kneejerk determination.
Bless their hearts. May they get better than they deserve, every one of them. What they deserve is nothing I want to contemplate.
I’m convinced this screeching about LGBT people and all minorities is right-wing projection because the actual, trackable numbers make these goobers look like hell in a nighty. Check out the statistics for suicide, addiction, and rape in conservative communities. Look at teen pregnancy where abstinence is the only option, or spousal assault in patriarchal homes, or the rampant sexual abuse in religious communities. Hell…just last month, after merrily bashing LGBT folks for a couple decades, the disgusting Duggars just convinced most of Fox Nation to do a creepy apologia for INCEST, y’all. Without irony. INCEST!
Bigots point at minorities as perverts and criminals as a frantic distraction from their own gnarly eye-planks. Hypocrisy on a scale unfathomed. Here endeth the lesson.
What we are witnessing is the death throes of a delusion. Fundamentalism is fucked. If our country’s founders believed in equality, then intolerance and oppression have no place here.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident…”
Today was a hinge in history, not just for LGBT people but for America as an ideal. The current SCOTUS, one of the most conservative and corporate of any in our history actually drew a huge line in the sand for equality that is consonant with everything the Founders that sparked that engendered those beliefs and sent them across the Atlantic in the first place.
It bears repeating: our country’s founding fathers were not only not primarily Christians, they weren’t particularly religious… because like the intelligentsia of EVERY era, organized religion invariably rubs thinkers the wrong way. What person with education critical faculties swallows dogma without chewing? For those of you paying attention to history, the Protestant Reformation required doubt to occur which means these hateful fundies could stand to read a book every once in a while.
True faith requires doubt, ergo no fundamentalist can truly believe in anything.
For the Tea Party to pretend a cultural inheritance and ignore that basic truth has always baffled and enraged me. America’s long slow climb up the hill of their ideals keeps lifting us towards liberty and enlightenment era tolerance. Fundamentalism exists in direct contradiction to every principle that sends people to a new continent to set up communities that tolerate difference.
The hellacious conundrum facing all the bigots and nitwits is that America was founded as an Enlightenment Era experiment in humanism, prudence, and social justice. How can they claim to be inheritors of the founding principles of our great nation is they cannot accept the most basic principles of its founding. My mother used to go toe to toe with these people, against all odds, trying to start conversations.
Anyways, that’s a much larger (and) sadder conversation to be had about stupidity and its role in the politics of our country. I’ll say this much: whatever your beliefs, however you fall on the political spectrum, if you aren’t voting and participating in our democracy shame on you.
On this beautiful, optimistic, historic day, what I want to get at is the sheer scale and scope of what this SCOTUS ruling means to America. I want to express what my mother was trying to make me see at 14.
As of right now, this moment, no American children live in a state where LGBT people can be denied marriage. No LGBT folks can be kept away from a loved one’s sickbed or can be turned out of a house by a hateful family. A hundred years of waffling about lover, mate, partner, significant other… and all the other veils and blinds have fallen away. We don’t need code words for our relationships because they do not NEED to be coded.
That may seem like nothing, but to a nervous teen surviving on “It Gets Better” reassurances while counting the days till their getaway, this ruling is a beacon in darkness. What would this have meant to Matthew Shepard or Sakia Gunn or Ali Forney or Matt Epling? The Supreme Court just announced that these kids were people and they were allowed to love someone.
“You are a person. You have rights.” Shocking, right?
What’s sobering to me is that today’s SCOTUS ruling is being rightfully hailed as a huge step forward for the entire country, not just LGBT folks but all marginalized populations. Today’s triumph only underscores how much further Uh-Murika has to go as a civilization. What infuriates me is how the religious right keeps trying to cast basic human dignity as a privilege. What inspires me is the gifted women and men who slaved and scrabbled to get us to this point…one decision, one ruling, one squabble at a time.
Here’s what today’s decision made me realize:
Today, literally thousands of gifted people who have been battling for our basic right to marriage equality need a new job. These brave, tireless folks have been righteous warriors fighting gobshites and numbskulls for DECADES. They have gone to law schools and election offices voice the ineluctable arguments that the inestimable Mary Bonauto used to decimate Alito and Scalia today.
Well, as of this morning, those marriage equality soldiers are out of a job. Blissful pink slips all round! These are smart, strong, savvy communicators who know how to get shit done and they have tasted bigoted blood…and they’re ready to rumble. Entire organizations will retrench and refocus on other critical LGBT fronts: workplace and housing discrimination, public facility access, coercive therapies, adoption and child services, abuse and violence, suicide prevention, homelessness. We are nowhere near done saving the world from idiots and thieves.
And there’s the glorious silver lining in today’s rainbow…every one of those OTHER issues just got a huge influx of brainpower and passion and talent ready to make real changes happen for people everywhere, LGBT and otherwise. We’re gonna make things better even for the motherfuckers that want us burned alive. We’re going to beat them by saving them from themselves.
At the same time, legions of far-right crackpots will have to find new ways to demonize and marginalize us for a dwindling klan that is literally dying off and taking their prejudices with them. We have MANY other battles ahead, and that will be transformative not just for LGBT people but for any American who believes the world gets better when we help and trust each other.
Do unto others, or else.
My mom died in 2008, but she lived long enough to see marriage equality happen the Netherlands, Canada, Belgium, then Massachusetts, Iowa, Washington, California, (although she passed before the Prop 8 idiocy thankfully). I’m happy to say she lived in hope and died knowing that she’d been right. I’m ecstatic to have been wrong. I can only plead adolescence and Texas.
Today has been a breathless, exhilarating, world-changing day. Like Windsor v. United States, today’s ruling will expedite future efforts to guarantee quality and hope for all Americans. We have many roads to walk and after decades of trench warfare a whole army of skilled, canny LGBT activists have been released from one long-ass tour of duty.
All these years later, the entire LGBT community has been invited to sit at a table my mom started setting 30 years ago… and I have to tell you, it’s delicious.
Damon Suede grew up out-n-proud deep in the anus of right-wing America, and escaped as soon as it was legal. Having lived all over, he’s earned his crust as a model, a messenger, a promoter, a programmer, a sculptor, a singer, a stripper, a bookkeeper, a bartender, a techie, a teacher, a director… but writing has ever been his bread and butter.
Though new to romance fiction, Damon has been a full-time writer for print, stage, and screen for two decades. He has won some awards, but counts his blessings more often: his amazing friends, his demented family, his beautiful husband, his loyal fans, and his silly, stern, seductive Muse who keeps whispering in his ear, year after year. Get in touch with him at DamonSuede.com.
Dance With Me is, according to Goodreads and my sales receipts, one of my most popular books. It got started as a story germ after I went to the gym for my physical therapy and couldn’t hear myself think over an aerobics class. I wrote it as I wrangled my own health and sobbed my way through writing the fictional Ed Maurer’s pain goals. Through this book, I’ve met a lot of readers who say it means a lot to them because they struggle with chronic pain too. Several of them have become close friends, one of them so close I’m adding her to the dedication page in the second edition.
The first edition of Dance With Me is still for sale for another month, and then it will go away for a brief period before returning, probably in September. Initially I’d wanted to do an immediate turnaround, but ironically enough the same health issues plaguing me when I first drafted it are bearing down on me now once more, with increasing intensity. I can’t get the edits and processing done in time for a late July turnaround. But rest assured the second edition is well underway.
As I did with Nowhere Ranch, Dance With Me‘s second edition will be self-published. I want to do another direct-sale autographed print copy sale, but it might have to be dependent on my health. There will be audio, and it will be done by Iggy Toma.
People always ask me if there will be new content, or if they should buy the new version. As always, this is entirely up to you. If you’re into writing craft, buying the new one and viewing the versions side-by-side might be interesting, as I’m largely tightening prose and reducing overwriting. This means the story is the same, and if you loved the first one, you’ll love the second one and either notice no difference or only feel vaguely like it’s smoother and better written.
I will, though, be tacking on a little coda at the end of the story. I haven’t yet decided if I want to do a scene from the wedding, write a short, or something else entirely. (Laurie and Ed’s first Christmas?) I’ll tell you right now, though, whatever I add I will post for free on my website. I’ll hide it a bit so people don’t accidentally spoil themselves, but I’ll share it with you, especially on my newsletter. That’s where you can go also to make sure you don’t miss the book’s release and any other pertinent information.
None of that is ready right now, alas. What is, however, is the new cover. It’s by Kanaxa, and of course, it’s utterly gorgeous.
Please do click on that and make it hella high-res. Please do also go to her website and hire her to do a cover of your own. And as for that aforementioned editing? You want Sasha Knight. I gush about her all the time, but let’s break it down. I’m going to pay two grand to re-edit a book you already love just the way it is because I want so much to work on this with Sasha and make it even better, even stronger, its dance even more elegant and wonderful. If that doesn’t convince you she’s the best editor ever, I don’t know what else I can tell you.
But if you’re a reader who has no need to hire anyone, feel free to gush about this beautiful cover in the comments, because Kanaxa will see them!
Today we’ll unpack an article from The Mary Sue. “Tropes of Love: Gender Roles in Romance.” Sounds like a wonderful topic. We need more discussion of romance, and gender roles, and tropes are the best! Let’s go.
“I’ve always felt a strange fascination with romance novels. There’s no genre that the general public will associate with bad books faster than romance, with their bawdy covers and superficial plotlines. Of course, that’s an enormous generalization.”
Yes. That’s quite a generalization. It’s also disrespectful, it’s perpetuating an insulting stereotype, and it’s demeaning. Wow. Awkward start. But do go on.
In truth, romance has its good and bad books just like any other genre. Some are brilliant and some will make you feel ill. But there is something special to be said about bad romance novels: they illustrate gender roles better than any other form of media. It’s the books where the authors aren’t trying to do anything special that really show the ideas about gender that are most engrained into our society.
More awkward–some are bad, some are good, and what’s the point exactly?–but setting this aside, you make an excellent point about gender roles in romances. We talk about this all the time! We’re always pushing the envelope. We write a lot about sexual liberation, though we aren’t pedantic about it. We write gay men and women, often in leading roles. There are more and more transgender romances, and bisexual. We’re all about agency.
I mean, I could write a whole article about this, but I love that I don’t have to! I can’t wait to see all the documentation about what roles in what books spoke to you. I know about thirty off the top of my head. Some are great because they’re still speaking to old tropes, but they’re revolutionary because of the way they lead us to new ways of thinking about women and their role in culture.
Though to be honest, a lot of the time romances are an escape. An oasis where people can’t make wild generalizations about who women are. We aren’t put on pedestals or slut-shamed or mocked for what we want to embrace and pursue. But I’m so psyched to see The Mary Sue take this on. I mean, a blog about women in culture? I know you really stepped in shit in the intro, but maybe you’re going to be ironic with that twenty-five year-old cover you slapped at the top with no context. LET’S GO. What’s your research? Your examples? What insights are you going to give us? How are you going to champion women and what millions of voracious male and female readers often marginalized and dismissed in popular culture want to read?
Men Have Power, Women have Spunk
Many romance novels draw their appeal from playing with power dynamics. It can make the starting premise more interesting when one person unexpectedly has power over another. Maybe it’s an unconventional boss, a new social or business rival, or just that one person who can somehow get under the stoic loner’s skin. One common setting with inherent power dynamics is in any books set in the past, often regency or Victorian England. There the women may have pretty dresses, but their social status is always limited and secondary to men.
Um…so, I don’t know if you noticed, but you don’t have any examples here. The first paragraph in this section is really thin, and snide, and then there’s no source. Literally nothing. Also, the whole bit makes no sense. You’re pointing out men are usually in positions of power. I’m not sure if you noticed, but this is the way the world is. Are you trying to say we should write the world differently? Okay. Except, we do sometimes. Try Alisha Rai’s A Gentleman in the Street. This one also gives you some diversity. See the list below (Appendix A) for more recommendations of women in positions of power in romance.
But the biggest problem here is that, to be blunt, you’re not very smart about how to show power. The real way to subvert those in power is to let them look like they’re in power and then quietly undo them. Women have been doing this for millennia. In The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, the oft-taught “human” fight-or-flight response is rebuffed as a male-only option from a primeval perspective. Men certainly had this luxury, but women rarely did. Our female ancestors were often impregnated when young, sometimes against their will. They then had children, and if they survived all this, they were older and less hale of body. They could never run, and even if they had the physical strength to fight, they usually had children to protect, who were not strong.
Women survived this reality by bonding with one another. Uniting with each other. They endured capture, rape, and indignity by learning how to subvert their male dominators. This led to the stereotype that women are wily and dangerous, especially when sexual. In “civilized” society, we were taught to be the weaker gender, to eschew sex except for getting children. While men could have sex with other women (those tossed aside socially), “good” women could not. This doesn’t even begin to speak to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons in a historical context, though sadly that one is easy. They had to be silent, or they would often be dead. They were viewed as deviants and dangerous to the culture. Threats to the rigid sexual code.
In the Victorian era, and Regency, and Georgian, and Edwardian, men were the dukes lords and viscounts. You complain about novels including this as if somehow we should do something about it. It’s true, we could all write alternate history where the men were subservient, and maybe someday we will. What you don’t understand is that this isn’t something that serves the zeitgeist right now. There’s not a lot of power in pretending female subversion never happened. What is immensely powerful is seeing that dynamic kept the same but showing stories which could have been.
Tessa Dare’s Romancing the Duke has a man as a duke (which is, again, historically accurate) and even gives him the power to further reduce the heroine’s minimal and hard-won independence. She has, in fact, spent her life struggling valiantly against men, some who love her, eroding her power and agency. The duke does not give her agency. In fact, what he does is surrender to her strength and fortitude, seeing her as an example of how to reclaim his own power. Dare is eloquent in her portrayal, but to be honest the duke is far weaker than the heroine. She is the star of the story. She succeeds against all odds and finds not only love but happily ever after. She has full agency and power in a time when in reality women rarely had any.
This is but one example. Please see Appendix B below for more examples of historical romances where women achieve agency and power despite patriarchal, historically accurate dynamics.
So the first section of your article was disappointing. Let’s proceed to “Men Are Stupid About Emotions, Women Are Stupid About Everything Else.” I’ll admit I’m nervous about your phrasing, but let’s give it a try.
Because of the commonly unbalanced power dynamics in romance novels, Female Hero obviously has to bring something else to the table to give the illusion of equality to her relationship with Male Hero. Once they’re close enough that she doesn’t have to be snarky anymore, she can start showing off how emotionally sensitive she is. Perhaps then, just maybe, she’ll be able to heal Male Hero’s hidden pain.
Okay, once again, you have no sources. Zero. You give a few quirky examples but no titles, no tangible research except little jokes frankly coming off as awkward flatulence. So, again, you’re a very bad journalist and a pretty mediocre writer. But you’ve written this, and you’re making a mess, so let’s go on.
You mock the idea that men have pain and that romances address male vulnerability. Once again, you illustrate dynamics between men and women which have not only occurred for ages and ages, but are more and more being seen as harmful influences on our society—and you want romance novels to magically make this go away.
I said this before, but clearly we need to hammer this in with a big stick: what you’re doing here is perpetuating the old and very damaging device of making women in charge of cultural change. This is the pedestal women are always put on. We are asked to be the angels of light who lead humanity (read: men) out of their darkness and chaos. We are divided between sluts and saints, mothers and whores. We are, in fact, asked to cure men all the time. We must dress nicely, behave nicely, and have every aspect of us meet a pre-set image.
Romance novels prioritize emotions in a way most other fiction does not. It also prioritizes men—the males who are ejected from the patriarchal vision of man and who are still in a horribly large chunk of the world and the US as deviants. I write primarily gay male romances, though I’m also often talking about women and always about gender roles, gender stereotypes, cultural expectations, and above all, male vulnerability. Gay romance, lesbian romance, transgender romance, and bisexual romance push the conversation beyond male-female binaries and into examinations of what our patriarchal culture asks of all of us. These stories also provide agency and visibility for a population who has traditionally been excluded from mainstream romance culture and is now fully integrated and seen as equal to its peers. We have won awards, placed on bestseller lists, and more importantly, affected readers.
There are of course scores of romances, LGBT and straight, which positively represent male vulnerability. Please explore them in Appendix C.
It’s at this point I’d like to stop reading and discussing this article, but because part of the point of this essay is to remind people we should always do our homework, all of it, I’ll continue.
Men Are Sex Psychics, Women are Unconscious Dick-Exploders.
A lot of people like to say that romance novels are porn for women. I’d disagree. We have actual porn for that. But there’s no denying that there are some very basic gender-based fantasies that romance novels seem to try to fulfill. Many women have mixed feelings about sex. We might want to enjoy it, but we’re also constantly faced with messages about how bad it is to be a slut. And, of course, ‘slut’ is a word with such a broad definition that a woman who even thinks about sex can be in danger of being labeled with it.
Yes! This is true. See everything I’ve said above. But after this paragraph, you are back to unsubstantiated generalizations and mockery. You are a tired old horse who cannot understand that romances present the world as it is and subvert it quietly while also giving women a good time.
Yes, in many books the men are well-sexed. If you’ve read romance lately, you’d notice the women are too. In older romances (which seem to be the only ones you’ve read, though who knows because again, you have no sources cited) women tended to be more virginal. This represented where our culture was at the time. Had you done research, you’d know most authors wanted more experienced heroines bue were quite often told by their publishers they weren’t allowed to present this. This, happily, has changed.
But in these books of thirty, even twenty years ago, women were still struggling with sexual agency in a very basic and baseline way, and the narrative which worked for them was the illusion of innocence removed without them having to descend into being a slut. This was the age where everything Madonna did or said was scandalous, but those same antics are yawn-worthy today. This was when women were only just reaching for real political power, and we still didn’t have very much. This was when an intern enjoyed a dalliance with the most powerful man in the world, and her life was ruined while the man barely had to dust off his shoulders.
Today, women in romances come in various shapes and sizes, various experiences in sex, various needs and wants. There are romance novels with men as virgins. There are romance novels where the woman is the aggressor. There are romance novels where women dominate men sexually as well as socially. There are so many flavors I cannot afford to give each one an appendix. But in Appendix D, you will find examples of all these mentioned above, and more.
In the last section of your article, I’m sorry, I must simply say you are ignorant, impossible, and insulting.
Men Are Terrifying and Women Have No Idea What A Healthy Relationship Looks Like
By far the worst part about bad romance novels is what they think is romantic. In these stories the couple-to-be usually starts off with some sort of conflict between them so that there’s tension to overcome before they get together. The trouble with these conflicts is that they lead to the men doing terrifying things to the women. I’ve seen the women in these books get kidnapped, held hostage, be psychologically manipulated, forced away from friends and family and even their whole culture, forced out of career opportunities, forced into sudden engagements, manipulated into sex, accused of attempted murder, and set on fire, all by the men they are destined to fall in love with. Most of the time the men never even apologize for these actions and it’s passed off as more silly shenanigans. By the end of the book Male Hero and Female Hero are still happily in love, joking about the odd circumstances that brought them together. You know, all that quirky abuse.
Goodness, I haven’t had to clarify this much since I taught seventh grade. ONCE AGAIN, you are reading thirty-year-old novels. I imagine there are still a few of these types of romances published today, but let’s lay things on the table. Oh yes, the 70s and 80s romances were full of rape and kidnapping. But AGAIN, this was reflective of the culture regarding females as a whole. Women were not able as a large community to have permission to seize sexual power and pleasure themselves. It had to be thrust upon them. Rape and abduction and even abuse was the only way we were culturally allowed to enjoy sex outside of quiet, married monogamy.
Even these novels, however, showed power. There are countless articles and discussions about both historical and contemporary romances novels using these tropes to show sexual and gender agency. (See Appendix E.) Because what you’re failing to note is even in the bad romances, as you so grossly put it, women win the day. They overcome rape and kidnapping and even abusive men. They enjoy the starring role and achieve power and happily ever after.
You’re also ignoring The Lord Won’t Mind and scores of other LGBT romances published decades ago, largely distributed underground within the LGBT community. But at this point I would hardly expect you to know or care about anything with depth or relevance. I’m convinced you wrote this article after waltzing by three grocery store paperback carousels in 1992, then leaned on stereotype and casual mashups to make an article.
You do not understand romances. At all. Romance novels are not flat, suburban dreck women use as drugs to stunt their brains. Romance novels are about hope. Whatever the era, no matter the cover, romances give hope to women and men (yes, men!) who do not feel they can have agency in our culture. They give power to people who cannot fight or flee. They give power to people hungry for community, an umbrella under which to escape a cruel culture. One which sends out ridiculous, presumptive, insulting tripe like this one.
Is this really our “porn for women”, our romantic fantasy fulfillment? I think it’s actually a regurgitation of some of the basest forms of sexism sugar-coated with the guise of romance.
Romance is neither.
Romancelandia is an incredibly strong community. We have and will continue to endure censure, derision, and dismissal. We will also continue to make billions of dollars. We make millions upon millions of readers blissfully happy. We give hope to women and men riding out dark times. We give voice to those popular and literary culture don’t deem worthy of notice—bad people, perhaps, Mary Sue?—and we don’t simply give them a starring role. We give them happiness. We give them hope. We give them power.
There is nothing wrong romance novels as a general concept. People deserve to read stories they enjoy, but also stories that make them grow. We deserve to read love stories without feeling guilty about reading something “trashy”. But what we deserve most of all is to have a romance genre that actually respects women.
We do respect women. And men too. But ah, Alex Townsend and The Mary Sue, you don’t. You have, clearly, a limited vision of who men and women can be. You don’t respect us enough to do research or think for a single second how insulting and reductive this article is. How incorrect. How outdated. How damaging not only to authors but to the readers.
Romance is, has ever been, and will remain for all time the only way publishing financially can continue to exist. We are the bankroll of ever other genre who loves to call us trash, who refuses to examine our strengths but only spins out stereotypes and misrepresentation. We are the ones who can never outlive clinch covers even though they have been dead for decades—even though they are not to be derided but to be studied as what kind of mountain women must overcome to be seen as full sexual beings with cultural agency.
We do allow growth. I have heaps and piles of emails, letters, and anecdotes of meeting readers who said my works and that of other romances have moved them, made them think, and helped them through hard times. Are you one of those awkward souls who thinks we can only grow through reading the literary fiction genre, prioritizing unhappy endings and erudite heroes? Or is this more sloppiness and insensitivity?
But yes, I know. You said you were only talking about “bad romance,” as if you were Lady Gaga. You were sloppy and ridiculous, but you did give that clumsy caveat. Fine. Shall we judge science fiction and fantasy by your ugly and horrifying debacle with your puppy problem? Shall we pick up three pieces of dreck in other genres and call them insipid? Shall we judge science fiction and fantasy for your horribly sexist portrayals of women on many covers and in many books? Shall we judge literary fiction by its pedantic and insulting assholes?
Shall we judge The Mary Sue for printing an article with zero research, insulting speech, and rude treatment of women and men who read romance? Shall we assume then The Mary Sue is no better than every other publication, small or large, who sees novels about women and power and sex and love and hope as things to be mocked, a genre and its legions of readers not worthy of respect?
I suppose we shall.
The following is a compendium of romance as supplied by a quick request on Twitter. Better research would supply more, but since Alex Townsend and The Mary Sue saw fit to do zero, please cast stones in their direction first. As it’s quite long and this article is already lengthy, I’ve placed the appendices after the cut.