Queer Lit, New Zines, and More LGBT Market Musing

So I received my first official review for the new Tributaries e-book, and it was four stars! But interestingly, it was one of those positive reviews that seem to lack…positivity? The reviewer wasn’t mean or discouraging, but her review had a tone of bemusement to it. Like she didn’t inherently “get” the book, and I don’t mean “get” as in a surface understanding, but “get” as in…she just didn’t get it! Apparently the reviewer (who was very kind to read my work when it was clearly something she wouldn’t have read had I not asked her to) was confused by the “lesbian romance” aspect of my story. She said the main characters, Nyx and Elmiryn, made her think of Frodo and Samwise from the Lord of the Rings, two close but otherwise “platonic” friends. I sent her an email thanking her for her honesty, but also included a tongue in cheek YouTube link of the (in)famous TBS LotR spot that poked fun at Frodo and Sam’s relationship.

I can’t really say that it’s because she was “straight” that she didn’t get my work. I’ve received emails from straight readers, some of them women, who remarked on how much they enjoy Eikasia (the name of my fantasy series) and how they’re surprised at how much they relate to Elmiryn and Nyx as people. Not lesbians. PEOPLE!

Fancy that!

So then I wondered, “Was the reviewer somehow expecting more…gayness? Was my story not alternative enough? Did she expect the characters to hem and haw about their homosexuality? For them to go through a ‘coming out’ process? Or did she think lesbian women would have been more romantically aggressive?” Because (with all due respect to the reviewer) I was equally confused by her perception that the story lacked a real sense of lesbian romance. Numerous times, Elmiryn propositions Nyx. Numerous times, Nyx displays a fascination and attraction toward Elmiryn’s body. They are close and physically intimate in a way that two women who only met each other wouldn’t typically allow so soon (if at all).

But the reviewer didn’t see how the characters could be gay! She even felt like the kiss at the end of the book was a surprise. I could only laugh, I was so bewildered.

Which then got me thinking (and worrying) that perhaps I’m at a further disadvantage than I had previously believed. Tributaries is a romance story, and the growing relationship does play an important role in the plot, but the romance is secondary to the fantasy adventure. I actually feel apprehensive telling potential lesbian readers about my book, because I don’t want to lie and say there’s RAGIN’ SEX in it (that doesn’t come for at least two more books, ha!) but I wonder if I don’t say that will they be interested at all?

Recently on this blog, I discussed a very small market for LGBT books and a severe lack of support for lesbian fiction. But maybe the problem is more than that for me? Maybe, it is isn’t just a lack of lesbian fiction, but a lack of queer lit. I don’t want to get too attached to terms, as people seem to have different ideas of what to call these small niche markets, but in this case, I’m talking about stories that just so happen to have central LGBTQIA characters in ordinary stories. Stories where the main focus isn’t how gay or alternative the protagonist is, how they struggle with their identity, or how they struggle with society’s perception of their identity.

To reiterate: We’re talking stories where the characters just so happen to be LGBTQIA. Queer Lit. Sounds beautiful, doesn’t it? Say it with me: QUEER LIT!

And I realize now that I’ve been writing in an even smaller niche than I could have imagined. Nearly ALL of my writing to this day (Eikasia, Kliff’s Edge, and Akumu Love Panic!) fits into this curious little sub-genre. And why is it a sub-genre? Why, when the queer characters in these stories are having the same kind of adventures as such famous characters as Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, and Buffy Summers? How can we make queer lit not a sub-genre of a sub-genre? By publishing more queer lit stories! The problem? Many publishers aren’t interested, and that includes many LGBT publishers.

Then I heard on Twitter of this really cool, amazing project. Vitality!

Vitality Magazine is meant to be a Queer Lit zine that focuses on stories with gay characters. Not erotic vignettes. Not coming-out-stories. Not dramas focusing on the struggle of the gay identity. Just…stories. Such a publication is VITAL in proving to publishers (and even readers) that Queer Lit is worthwhile. That it can be enjoyed by a universal audience if people just gave it a chance.

The goals of Vitality Magazine, as listed on their website–

The heart of Vitality can be broken up into five parts:

  • Positive portrayal of queerness
  • Casual integration of queerness into the lives of our characters
  • Interesting works of art and writing
  • Quality works of art and writing
  • Diversity is wonderful

So pardon the long introduction, but I wanted to share why I think this thing is (personally) so important. Why I pledged $100 to help get this magazine out to the world. And I hope that you support it too, for all that I’ve said. They are currently accepting submissions for their first issue early 2015, and entries must be sent by December 15th. They are accepting fiction, art, poetry, and comics!

If you still aren’t sold, you can give Vitality’s minizine a shot. It’s essentially a sample of what they intend to do!

Visit Vitality Magazine’s Kickstarter campaign!

Visit their official website!

And while you’re at it…

Please check out my new lesbian fantasy romance novel, Tributaries, on Smashwords!

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8 Elements to NAILING Your Plot & Owning NaNo

Illise Montoya:

Good tips! I’ve been thinking of doing NaNoWriMo this year (finally).

Originally posted on Kristen Lamb's Blog:

Attack of the Killer Plot Bunny. That rabbit is DYNAMITE!

Attack of the Killer Plot Bunny. That rabbit is DYNAMITE!

I promised not to leave you guys hanging with my last post. Now that I have a lot of you beating your shields ready for NaNo, I’m going to give you battle tactics to come out victorious (or maybe at least alive).

Sure, NaNo is great to just learn to turn off the Inner Editor and get those 50,000 words DOWN. But, if in the end, all we have is a gelatinous ooze that eats people and attacks the city? They call in the National Guard to take out our WIP, because no revision can tame it.

What to do? This post is incredibly redacted, but it’s a blog. So roll with it ;) .

These tips will work for any novel, but they are SUPER important in NaNo, lest we write ourselves into the Corner of NO Escape by…

View original 1,560 more words

Review: Gone Girl

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I’m a huge fan of Gillian Flynn. I first read Sharp Objects, then Dark Places. Loved both. I saved Gone Girl for last, not necessarily because I felt it would be the “best”, but because I wasn’t really sold on the story’s premise. Not even the fact that it was Flynn’s most popular work and being turned into a movie could move me either. I didn’t feel like reading about some narcissistic character (an erroneous descriptor attached to Nick I later learned, the fault of some random review I glanced at on the internet. Nick isn’t so much narcissistic as a bit self-involved and hyper-aware of how others perceive him.) But then, after I read the deeply haunting Dark Places I saw Gone Girl on sale at Costco and thought, “Oh to hell with it. I may as well.”

And boy am I glad I did.

I don’t know if my family can say the same.

You see, I lost myself in this book. I neglected chores, became a couch barnacle, barely ate, and turned into a grunting conversation partner, my eyes always stuck on this…damn…book! Finishing this story was like an exorcism for me, and I knew it. I had to get it all out as swiftly as I could. And I did. And my god, I want to go back and experience it again!

Okay. The back story and fan-girl gushing is done. Now to get to the important details. First, Flynn is an amazing writer with a very modern voice and an uncanny ability to catch nice succinct vignettes that have you nodding your head (“Yeah! That’s totally how it is!”) For example, here’s an innocent bit from the beginning:

A group of loudmouthed white-haired ladies, each trying to talk over the next, a few of them texting, the kind of elderly people who have a baffling amount of energy, so much youthful vigor you had to wonder if they were trying to rub it in.
And even if you haven’t seen this in real life, you can just SEE it, because Flynn sets scenes and characters so effortlessly (sometimes in just the space of a few lines, a few words) that it takes hardly any effort on your part at all to catch on to her thinking and envision what she does.

I’m trying to write a spoiler-free review, but I know many people who have reviewed the book must have commented on whose “side” they were on. Nick or Amy’s. Well since you’re reading myreview, I want to be more coy about my thoughts, because if I really got into how or when I started to sympathize with either character (or both) I might ruin things just enough. This story is really too good to be allowed such a horrible act. Suffice it to say, like ALL of Flynn’s work, things are not always as they seem, and you may very well find yourself changing your mind about things…more than once!

There was even one point where I felt like Flynn was poking fun at me as a reader. “Oh-ho! You thought things would turn outthis way, didn’t you?” Cue loud wet raspberry sounds.

Last point, and again, I have to be vague, but wow. The ending was amazing. I’m almost certain the film just doesn’t do the story justice. Overall, Gone Girl is just an amazing examination of marriage, connection, perception, and even identity. I mean, it had me looking very honestly at my life. It was disturbing and unnerving, and like any of Flynn’s books, the story just stays with you long after you close the cover.

Read this book. Just read it. You owe it to yourself.

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Moar Spirit!

Photo on 10-16-14 at 8.25 PM #2

Photo on 10-16-14 at 8.24 PM

I braved the mess that is my garage to retrieve my Bi-Pride flag. I mean, come on. It’s Spirit Day!

#SpiritDay2014

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Eikasia: A Day in the Life – That Time of the Month

So to celebrate Spirit Day 2014, I wanted to share this short Eikasia piece with you all. It’s just an amusing bit that I may or may not use in the upcoming e-book, In Sight, In Mind. If you aren’t familiar with my lesbian fantasy romance series, you can purchase the first book, Tributaries, on Smashwords at a discounted price, along with its prequels: a low-cost novella and two free short stories here: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/cajeck

I want to do more shorts like these in the future for Eikasia. A sort of “A Day in the Life” series featuring some of the unique challenges Nyx and Elmiryn have to face day-to-day. It’s inspired by the Xena Warrior Princess episode of the same name.

Anyway, without further ado…


 

There were a number of challenges to traveling with Elmiryn, many of which I came to expect the longer I stayed with her, and yet somehow there was one unique issue that I had managed to forget about. That special burden suffered only by the fairer sex.

Yes…that.

It might sound odd that I would forget such a defining trait among women of any species, but you must understand, Ailuran women have long cycles in comparison to humans. Like many shapeshifter races, my feline folk are fertile but once a year. Twice if we are lucky. It’s part of the reason our population is so few in the world. All that said, I never had to suffer the moodiness brought on by such a condition all that much. I myself have only bled maybe nine times in my life. I even skipped a year, after the death of my family, due to severe stress and malnutrition.

So when my sensitive therian nose detected that subtle but telling scent from Elmiryn, I braced myself. Was she especially moody during these periods? I’d seen the redhead irritable before, and I wasn’t eager to see it again. Who would be? It was doubly awkward as she was my only company out on the trail.

But in typical fashion, Elmiryn surprised me. She wasn’t grumpy. She wasn’t depressed. She wasn’t even tired.

No. She was just more…Elmiryn.

“Elmiryn give it back!” I protested as my companion snatched Tobias’s book from near my bedroll.

She flipped through the pages, holding the book aloft as I tried, ineffectively, to snatch it back. “How can you read this?” She giggled. “This Tobias has the shittiest writing I’ve ever seen! My instructors would have been appalled!”

“Not all of us has had the benefit of being noble-born, Elmiryn! Now please, return my book!”

She glanced at me, unconcerned as she held it over my head. “Nyx, this will rot your brain. If you’re not careful, you’ll be speaking in the old tongue!”

I stomped my foot. “Elle, enough! I don’t find this funny! You promised you wouldn’t touch my things!”

“Faireth Nyx! Thou art turningeth the fairest shadeth of pinketh!”

“That isn’t even how they talked! You’re behaving like an asshat.”

Elmiryn pouted and finally tossed me my book. “Me thinketh Nyx doth not knoweth how to taketh a joketh,” she mumbled.

I glowered at her as I returned the book to my other belongings. “It isn’t my fault you humans bleed once a month! Must I suffer alongside you?”

The redhead quirked an eyebrow at me. “Well now! I don’t remember mentioning my personal business to you!”

I flushed and busied myself with gathering my things. “I can’t help it. My nose is sensitive. It is by no means a reflection on you.”

“Oh I suppose that’s good. For a moment I thought I was attracting the wildlife.”

I frowned at her. “Why do you sound disappointed?”

“Well you see, I had this dream wherein a squirrel went down my pants and–“

Stop. I changed my mind, I don’t want to know!”

 

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I Need Diverse Games – Because seriously, I just do.

If you’re not on Twitter, then you are missing out on a growing movement called #INeedDiverseGames. You can search for the hashtag on Twitter, or see my Storify tweet highlights here.

Writing about this topic feels tiring for me. It’s tiring because I feel so weary of the insensitivity that those who oppose the call for diversity in games exhibit. I can’t deny that our side has some holier-than-thou members who get a tad unfair in their quest for equal representation. But the arguments against are just willfully ignorant much of the time. When close-minded jerks like Youtuber TheInternetAristocrat snidely tell me that I should quit whining and make my own games…well, first of all, many of us (including myself) already TRY to make our own content across all kinds of media, including games. We just get rejected by executives and publishers because they’re too afraid to support us. And when we go indie? We struggle to be seen at all, and even get accused by fundamentalist gamers as not “producing real games” like Gone Home was so unfairly told.

We aren’t trying to hijack the gaming industry. Do you want your cishet white guy protagonist, and your tired misogynist plot-lines? Sure! Go ahead! But many of us want games we can relate to as well, and we shouldn’t be mocked or threatened by individuals who refuse to see things from our perspective. And by “our”, I mean women, people of color, LGBT, people of various faiths, and so so much more. I don’t hate white people. I don’t hate video games. I love video games. That’s why I want to see them excel. Video games have shown that they can and are an art form, and studies have shown a growing diversity among its consumers. Game developers should be encouraging that growth, not ignoring it.

As a hispanic bisexual woman, I would like to see more games produced that show positive examples of women in central roles, LGBT characters who aren’t vilified or caricatured, and PoCs that achieve more than speaking like stereotypes and engaging in acts of crime.

As I said on Twitter, I want the video game industry to be something that broadens my son’s view of the world, not narrows it.

If you feel the same way, please check out this hashtag stream on Twitter. Talk about it on your blogs. Hell, reblog this post. Because we need a change. And soon.

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Let’s Get Together! – The Unfortunate Disconnection in the LGBT Fiction World

Since opening up my fantasy novel, Tributaries, to pre-orders, I’ve noticed something that both surprises me and disheartens me at the same time. When I made the decision to write for the LGBT community and its allies, I realized that I would have to face the challenge of connecting with a very niche and (at times) remote audience. In the super-abundant world we live in now, where getting your voice heard is hard enough in a cishet market, I’ve learned that LGBT fiction just plain has it rough. Marketers still have no idea what to do with these kinds of stories. Do you lump them all together under romance? But then what about those stories that are more fantasy/adventure/thriller/sci-fi/etc? Do you list those under the specific genres without mentioning the LGBT aspects? Ah, but the reviewers! What if they complain on their blogs and customer reviews that they felt tricked when the protagonist fell in love with someone of the same sex? Well what about just attaching ‘romance’ to the primary genre, and hoping for the best?

It’s all just one hot mess.

It isn’t unusual for brick-and-mortar stores to lack any self-identifying LGBT work, either. A sad fact, as I’ve read a number of LGBT books that are every bit as good as some of the nonsense that gets on the best seller lists.

But this isn’t the disheartening surprise I alluded to earlier. I’ve known the reality of scarce LGBT outlets for years. No, what surprised me was specifically the lack of support and structure for lesbian fiction. Over the last few weeks, I’ve tried hunting down LGBT blogs who I hope could connect me with my target audience, only to find myself disappointed when the site clarifies that they are actually only interested in m/m fiction. Uh, say what? Why the heck would you use the full acronym if you’re only interested in a single aspect of it?? You see, the fact is that m/m fiction has a much bigger community of support than f/f. (Don’t even get me started on bi and trans…)

It’s not that I haven’t found lesbian sites dedicated to writing or reviewing lesbian fiction. I have. But half of the sites I found were defunct. Then the remaining active sites were sadly narrow in scope (i.e. erotica only, print books only, fan fiction only, paranormal romance only, books with positive reviews of 2 or more only, etc…) And on social networks? I primarily use Twitter for my social marketing (it’s about all I have energy for–though I dabble in Tumblr) and I can’t seem to find any of the les fic authors anywhere. A quick google search also proved that there doesn’t seem to be an LGBT group of writers out there interested in supporting and signal boosting each other. You’d think the LGBT community of readers would have come up with a hashtag or a retweet group to help promote what is already a neglected corner of the market. Something like #LGBTrds or #LGBTbks. Something! Anything! Erotica, paranormal romance, dark fantasy, and horror fiction are doing it, why the hell can’t we? I even tried searching blog hops (which are basically author events on blogs featuring interviews, free books, cover reveals, etc.) and the last LGBT blog hops were last summer! That was over a year ago now! The one LGBT fiction blog hop that I could find that was held this year was actually ended prematurely and shut down for good. Yeah. It apparently went down for lack of participation. Not encouraging.

Now I know what you might be thinking: But Illise, if you hate it so much, why don’t you do something to change it? MarkTheShaw did it with #IndieBooksBeSeen on Twitter and Tumblr, didn’t he?

Simply put, no one gives a fuck about me. I don’t have the status or the connections to set something like this in motion. I suppose I could try to contact someone who DOES have these things to help me, but let’s just all refer back to my first point regarding the lack of fucks people give me, then infer what the result would be.

Okay. I had my little tantrum. I can’t have been the first LGBT writer to have thought along these lines, and I bet those who came before just learned to deal with it. You find a way to make it work, or you don’t. I’ve been promoting my work on a number of Indie Author hashtag communities, and it’s not like I’m not getting some help. The people on #IAN1, #IARTG, #IndieBooksBeSeen, #IndieAuthor, and #ASMSG are wonderful folks! But the point isn’t just to blast your work out to a random audience. It’s to target your efforts so that the people most likely to want to read your work hear about it at all. That’s really the major issue. LGBT fiction feels like a grain of sand lost in an indifferent ocean when marketing to a general audience. You can’t use #LGBT on Twitter either, because dear god, that stream moves waaaay too fast and is inundated with LGBT political and entertainment news.

As LGBT authors, our little slice of the literary world is tough and challenging in a market that already has plenty of obstacles to overcome. But it could be so much better if we could pool our readers together and support one another, especially since most LGBT authors are signed with small press or are self-publishers. It isn’t as if anyone is looking out for us little guys.

If, after reading this post, you feel that I am in error, then please enlighten me! I want to be proven wrong, even a tiny bit. But if you’re in agreement, why not share your thoughts on why the LGBT author community is so disconnected. Do you agree that lesbian fiction is not as well off as gay fiction? Just to be clear, a lack of readers is not the issue. That’s more a marketing challenge, anyway. But why do LGBT authors seem so disinterested in connecting with each other?

Oh, and if you ARE a LGBT author, please please please connect with me. I love RTing LGBT fiction on Twitter! I’m @cajeck. Send me a DM and I’ll add you to the LGBT author list I’m trying to form. :)

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Review: The Immortal Rules

immortalrulescover

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like to do my reviews off the cuff so I’m sorry if it isn’t as organized or well thought out as some other reviews. I like to do things this way because it guarantees that I’m honest and in touch with my emotions.

In this case, I feel pretty positive about my experience reading “The Immortal Rules”, despite occasionally feeling annoyed with Allison, the story’s protagonist. I’m okay with characters making mistakes and/or behaving less than admirably, but there was a moment or two in the first half of the book when I (literally) said out loud, “What the fuck?” There’s one moment I’m thinking of in particular where Allison has this big revelation regarding her vampire sire, and I couldn’t fathom how this POSSIBLY could not have occurred to her sooner, even given her recent transition to vampirehood. I mean, the girl is given a lot of time to think at one point, and she still manages to miss this huge detail about Kanin, her vampire master.

That was really the worst of it, as after some drama goes down, Allison strikes it out on her own and faces a number of interesting challenges. Namely, things get REALLY interesting when she encounters a group of humans traveling out in the wilds, and she decides to pretend to be a human to join them, all for the explicit purpose of feeding off them. That’s the thing that I love about Kagawa’s world of vampires. They are brutal and bloodthirsty, and Allison is no exception.

Like many vampire protagonists in books, one of the key themes revolves around humanity and the loss of it, but not just that, what constitutes humanity at all. Time and again throughout the book, we see Allison exercise amazing self-restraint, meanwhile engaging in brave and self-sacrificing acts. In contrast many humans in the book exhibit selfish, callous, and vicious behavior, betraying Allison’s trust the moment it becomes convenient for them. Does it sound lame? The idea that a girl could somehow discover her humanity as a vampire in ways she never could as a human? Maybe it IS a little hokey, but I thought Kagawa handled the theme well, and it made for an enjoyable read.

Also, props to Kagawa for writing a protagonist of Japanese ethnicity without resorting to a gross amount of stereotypes. Allison is just like anybody else, and her use of a katana as a weapon is more an acknowledgment of her heritage than an attempt by Kagawa to exploit the character’s “Asian-ness”.

This book is a great read, and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoyed “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, or even fans of The Walking Dead franchise (same bleak dystopian setting with dangerous monsters that want to eat you–good fit, right?)

 

If you like my reviews, please consider visiting my Goodreads profile and adding one of my books to your to-read list!

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