Not That Kind of Sub

There are a couple of parallel discussions going on right now that have Venn-diagrammed their way into my feeds, and last night’s #RWChat cemented something I’ve been feeling vaguely “off” about for a while.

I’m not a sub-genre.

Let me explain.

Sub-Genres of Romance

There are a couple of places you can go to get different lists of sub-genres for Romance. Obviously, the RWA has a list: Contemporary, Erotic, Historical, Paranormal, Religious/Spiritual, Suspense, and YA. Wikipedia adds a couple: breaking down part of what the RWA calls Paranormal into Science Fiction and Time-Travel, and adding Multicultural (more on that in a bit).

That was the stage set, so to speak, for the discussion on #RWChat about sub-genres in romance, and one of the questions was “should there be new sub-genres?” and, of course, queer came up as a suggestion.

And that’s where I started to flinch.

Queer as a Sub-Genre?

Now, before I start, I do want to point out where the notion comes from in the minds of most, and that it’s from a good place. Let’s be honest, queer characters don’t get the recognition in romance that their allocishet counterpart characters do. That’s just the current reality.

To ground this in my own experience, I’ve been waffling over joining the local chapter of the RWA. I got invited to a lunch, I already know a few of the authors though awesome events like Romancing the Capital, and my romance output is rising, so it seemed like something worth exploring. Shortly into the dinner, one of the authors announced that they didn’t believe men could be bisexual.

So. I had a choice. I could make a bit of a scene and speak out, or I could wait and see what happened. I chose the latter (I regret that) and nothing happened. I think I managed a weak “I’m not sure you get to decide that,” a few moments later than would be effective.

I haven’t joined the RWA. Maybe another year.

So, when I see organizations like the RWA and their awards go (almost exclusively) to allocishet characters, I’m totally not surprised. And I get why it seems like making a sub-genre just for queer characters is a great idea. I can even see how there’s some merit to it.

Yes, Queer is a Sub-Genre!

For one? There’d be a queer winner of a RITA every year, right? There’d have to be, if there was a sub-genre just for queer characters in romance, rather than the occasional one here and there, and some years not at all.

For another? Visibility. Those titles short-listed would be a quick, easy, one-stop shop to show people some queer characters in romance.

Even more? Legitimacy. If someone like the RWA (okay, maybe not my local chapter) was loud about saying “Queer Characters are Welcome in Romance!” that’s a big deal. Their history with that isn’t so great, and it would go a long way.

So why don’t I like it?

No, Queer isn’t a Sub-Genre!

Honestly? It’s the flip side of the positives I listed above.

For one? There’d be only one winner of a RITA every year with a queer character, because any book with a queer character would be shunted into the queer character box. Never mind if there was a contemporary romance with queer characters that was far and away better than the allocishet character contemporaries on the short list, and also a YA romance with amazing trans characters that blew the allocishet character YA romance shortlist out of the water: only one of them could win. Because they’re queer, and they get one award, competing against each other, even though they’re vastly different sub-genres with only their queerness in common.

For another? The rest of the awards become a queer-free zone by default, and the notion of allocishet characters as “normal” or “default” is increased. Because if there’s one queer romance sub-genre, but thirteen other genres that aren’t, how is that not the message? Books with allocishet characters would get to be considered in groupings of their plots, tropes, and against similar titles. But queer would judged for being queer.

Last? From a publishing point of view, it can actively delegitimize. “We have a sub-genre for queer stories” sounds solid until that becomes a limitation. Think about what women of colour face in the romance world (and, thereby, their characters). “No, we have the four titles we’re publishing for our black-women line this month.” “Oh, but my book is a romantic suspense with a black lead, you publish eight romantic suspenses a month, so…” “No. It’s a black-woman, so it only goes here. Four titles a month. Period.” This is why I get twitchy about “Multicultural” as a sub-genre, too.

Not to mention queer people of colour exist. Where do they go? The multicultural romance, or the queer romance? Which one trumps the other? This is why “people as a sub-genre” gets messy. People are messy. We don’t fit one box.

Oh, yeah, and what happens when that line gets canceled?

Okay, Smart-Guy, Solutions?

Yeah, I didn’t say I had a solution.

Well, no, I do: judge romances with queer characters alongside those with allocishet romances and do so on a level playing field with judges capable of reading them without bias but ha ha ha, yeah. I could barely finish that with a straight face. After all, men can’t be bisexual, right?

Heavy sigh.

The good news is I’ve heard from other readers that romances with queer characters are making strides. Radclyffe, who writes lesbian romances across many romance sub-genres, has been a finalist in many RWA chapter contests in the correct sub-genre category for her books (thanks for that info, Ruth!). That’s progress.

I also totally respect the opposing opinion here. I’m just as tired as anyone else of queer characters barely making it to the foreground of awards and recognition and bestseller lists, and I can empathize with “I don’t care if it means there’s just one winner every year and one short list. At least it would exist and shows we exist.” Like I said above, that’s a fair freaking point.

And maybe it has to go through that step first in places like the RWA, with the ultimate goal of later disentangling it into the sub-genre awards? I don’t know. But I think things like the Rainbow Awards, the Publishing Triangle Awards, and the Lambda Literary Awards (and other queer awards) fill a niche of queer-character writing awards, and they have genre breakdowns built-in. It’s still about the genres there.

I want places like the RWA and Goodreads to step up, not pen us in.

So, I guess, that’s my solution. Not that the RWA and Goodreads will do it, but that we need to make them do it. Groups like Women of Color in Romance (if you don’t follow them, go follow them, right now) do fantastic work to make noise and highlight the incredibly talented women of color writing romance out there who already exist but don’t get the same massive attention the white authors do because publishing is so very, very white.

Publishing is also so very, very allocishet.

I want more noise. Noise about all the #ownvoice writers and characters that exist in romance—queers included—and maybe that’s what it will take to get those books on the shortlists in the sub-genre categories where they belong.

Wait, Goodreads?

23113675_10156867781706110_1038419415_n

Handmade Holidays is a contemporary romance. It has gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and trans people in it. It’s still a contemporary romance.

Yeah, that was the other circle on the Venn Diagram, and I don’t want to say it all again, but once again the Goodreads Choice Awards are up, and soon it’ll be time to vote and there’s a petition going around to create an LGBTQ+ category to vote in.

And all those same reasons for it to be good—and bad—apply. Because I think back to 2014, and Two Boys Kissing deserved to be the winner in YA, not LGBTQ+. Ditto They Both Die at the End this year.

But there were next to no books with queer characters on the initial list of titles. And that’s not a surprise. Because while queer people are expected to read allocishet books and be satisfied, the opposite isn’t true. And no one can force someone to read a book they don’t want to read. We’re outnumbered, and will always be so.

So, no. I’ve got no happy solution. But I did write-in a book with queer-characters into every slot where I thought that book was the best book I’d read this year. That’s what I can do with the system the way it is, and so I do. And sometimes I didn’t add a book with queer-characters (I voted for The Hate U Give in YA, even though there’s zero queer content, because that book was amazeballs and freaking important and I want it to win all the prizes and I hope They Both Die at the End wins all the Lammies and PTAs and Rainbows and that’s why I love that there are queer-character awards, too).

I’m not a Sub-Genre.

My final thoughts on this snarl are exactly that: just mine. I’m not speaking for all of queer kind here. I can’t. I’m only queer in my own way.

As a reader, I want to see queer reality in all the genres. In science fiction, in mystery, in literature, in romance, in YA, in all the categories. All of them. Even horror, which I barely read. Readers deserve to see themselves. The magic of digital tagging means readers can drill down to find those titles, too.

But I—again, just me, speaking for me—don’t want it to be “Queer,” with a sub-category of “Romance” if that means when I click “Romance” there will be no queer. Queer belongs in romance. Period. I want to click “Romance,” and then “Contemporary” and then be able to find the queer titles. And I want to see shortlists for awards where “Contemporary Short-form Romance” includes a novella with trans characters.

If that means places like the RWA have to learn men can be bisexuals first? Well. It’s time to roll up my sleeves and get back to teaching instead of waiting to hear what they currently say.

 

Advertisements

Coming Down from CAN•CON: The Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature

So much fuzzy brain.

One of the things about being a writerly type and heading to a convention is how actively unlike the rest of my life the convention is. So many people. So much discussion (and discussion with people who aren’t bored talking about writing). It’s overwhelming, in a good way, and when it’s done it’s a little like popping the clutch.

Oh. Right. Time to walk the dog and sit down and write and…

Like I said, fuzzy brain.

So, CAN•CON. I had a pretty awesome time. You know you’re in a great place when the first thing you get to do is roll up your name badge character sheet. (No, seriously.) Alas, all the stats were rolled with a d20, and while I natural-20’d my Intelligence (yay!), I also rolled a 2 and a 4 (for Strength and Dexterity) which took me out of the running for any battles. Still, it was a neat flavour to the conference to keep track of experience (you got experience for attending panels, visiting the dealer’s room, getting a book signed, and so on), as well as earning equipment every time I picked something up from the dealer’s room (I’d look great in leather armor, thankyouverymuch).

img_5449

Sam Morgan and Sheila Williams

Post character generation, I hit the opening ceremonies and enjoyed Derek Künsken‘s introductions of the guests of honour, which included Tanya Huff (or, as I kept referring to her, Tanya-Freaking-Huff!), Shiela Williams (who I didn’t manage to speak with but loved everything she said), Sam Morgan (that man is so damned funny in such a sneak-up-unexpectedly-way you have no idea) and Eric Choi (ditto).

img_5448

Eric Choi and Tanya Huff

This was such an incredible amount of knowledge, experience, and influence to put in one room, and frankly it was a little bit intimidating to be sitting there listening to wealth of first-hand voices at play. Happily, as each guest was introduced and spoke, it became clear the vibe wasn’t going to be anything of the sort.

I’ve been to conferences where the guests of honour were “one step removed” from attendees, but this was not at all the case, and it was so lovely and relaxed from the moment things began. Especially when Derek handed Marie Bilodeau the mic along with a list of suggested things to say were she to stay on script.

It’s like he doesn’t even know her, eh?

Marie walked us through some of the adventures to be had for the upcoming weekend (including some of the unintentional adventures included in the program like room names that were… uh… encoded for those of us who love adventure and blazing new trails without accurate maps). If you’ve never heard Marie speak before, you need to, and you also need to make sure you’re ready to laugh, because she’s freaking hilarious.

Now, one of the things a newbie to CAN•CON might not know is the two-pronged focus. Derek mentioned it in the opening, and it struck me it wasn’t something of which I’d been completely aware. CAN•CON focuses its efforts in doing two things very well: speculative fiction discussions, and science discussions. And wow does it succeed.

img_5452

“Any virus that kills its host is a crap virus.” (Agnes Cadieux)

Case in point? The first panel I went to, ‘SARS, Ebola, and Zika: What Have We Learned?’ Here I got to listen to Dr. Dylan Blaquière, Dr. Anatoly Belilovsky, Agnes Cadieux, Dr. Melissa Yuan-Innes, and Dr. Alison Sinclair lay some awesome science bombs down, and the discussion was lively, informative, and pretty much bursting-at-the-seams with plot nuggets for science fiction writers who want to up their science game. There was also much laughter again (I often think humour is used to deal with otherwise awful realities, and this drove home that point) and I think the winning statement of the evening went to Agnes Cadieux, with her line about “crap viruses” (see right).

All the knowledge flying around here was intensely satisfying, and the whole panel was so “on.” Really engaging, and now I want to rethink so many things I’ve accidentally picked up from the media about viruses. (That was another great line from one of the panelists, “Have you noticed the media can’t say the word ‘virus’ without the word ‘deadly’?”)

From there, it was my turn to speak, so I joined the aforementioned Dr. Blaquière, Angela S. Stone, and Talia Johnson and we hit our panel: “The Mechanics of Sex.” This was a blast, and the audience was so open and willing to engage (how can you not, when Angela is offering you sex toys and chocolate for asking questions?) and we hit some really awesome points. I love, love, loved having Talia there to bring the lens on trans experience with the medical professional community, as well as having Dylan and Angela, who, as a doctor and a nurse respectfully, had insights from within. It was a great freaking talk, and a wonderful way to end the first day.

img_5458

Ian Rogers, reading from ‘Every House is Haunted.’

Bright and early on Saturday, myself, Matt Moore, and Ian Rogers were blocked in to read at the first 10:00a slot, and so I got to hear from But It’s Not the End and Other Lies (Matt’s upcoming book from ChiZine) and Every House is Haunted (Ian’s book) and they suffered through my Firefly-mentions for Triad Blood.

I then made the dash from the tower, downstairs, across the lobby, and up to “Brave New Baby,” to hear Dr. Anatoly Belilovski, Angela S. Stone, Lesley Donaldson, Julie Czerneda and Hayden Trenholm discuss genetics in awesomely unique (and sometimes frightening) ways. As I mentioned before, this focus of the convention on science is one of the more awesome parts of the convention, and I love having a chance to be exposed to topics I otherwise don’t often come across. From designer babies, to extrapolation on trends, to some myth-busting about what can—and can’t—be done as of yet (but maybe soon), the information here was a landslide of treasure for anyone who writes a genetic component to their stories. Between this panel and the panel on viruses and outbreaks, I think any writer had enough to work with for the next dozen novels or so.

IMG_5462.JPGAt this point, I had to dash out for a friend’s birthday lunch (luckily across the street at the Loft), but I made it back for the author signings hosted by Indigo, and tried not to fan-boy too hard at Tanya-Freaking-Huff. She was very gracious, and signed my copy of Summon the Keeper and made me snivel a bit with what she wrote.

I perused the book selection, picked up quite a few anthologies (seriously, so many anthologies). I love short fiction, as you all know, and seeing so many anthologies of science fiction (and often specifically Canadian science fiction) was a flipping joy. I dodged into the Dealer’s room specifically to nab a copy of Clockwork Canada, and found out some of the authors would be doing a reading on the Sunday, and changed my plans accordingly.

I went to the DAW Authors reading (Violette Malan, Ed Willett, Julie Czerneda and, once again, Tanya-Freaking-Huff) and basked in the glow (and added more books to my To-be-Read pile). All four have a reading presence that is organic and engrossing, which is a rare treat. Each drew me in, and it was lovely to see Julie again especially, as she was the second-ever signing I ever hosted as a bookseller mumble-mumble years ago. Violette’s book seemed right up my alley (telepathy! humour!) and Ed’s setting grabbed me from step one.

Like I said, more books on the pile.

This was followed by a panel on Adapting Literary Works to TV and Movies, and alongside Tanya Freaking Huff, Ian Rogers, and Sam Morgan (all of whom I’ve already mentioned) this was my introduction to Jay Odjick, who walked us through the processes that got Kagagi produced (short version: a tonne of work), and was thoroughly entertaining and amusing. In fact, all the panelists were, and I can’t mention enough how sly Sam Morgan’s humour is. I know I personally have zero chance of writing something that would ever end up on someone’s desk in this sense, but it was fascinating to learn about the processes involved, the systems at play, and I lost count of how many times someone said on the panel “I was lucky.”

At 5:00p, it was my turn to doff my educator hat again, and I joined Caroline Frechette, Talia Johnson, and Derek Newman-Stille for what Derek introduced as ‘the Fabulous Panel! (picture glitter here)’ And it was. Nominally, we were there to discuss “Beyond the Coming Out Story – New Queer Narratives in Speculative Fiction,” and boy did we start there and go elsewhere. The themes were very clear: trans representation (and how abysmal it is, and how it needs to be so much more than a transition tale), bi-erasure, the lack of narrative inheritance to our histories and how exhausting it can be to be the constant educator (yeah, that was me, and the link is to a twitter discussion that followed after the convention), and all over the place in to YA, the inclusion of intersections (quite a few notes about persons with disability), and #OwnVoices and what that means. It was a fantastic freaking audience, and we were also lucky enough to have someone in the audience who could speak quite a bit to ace and other lesser-heard narratives.

Unfortunately, when I went to grab a snack and a drink, my head informed me I was done for the day with some scintillating scotoma, so I booked it home. My apologies to those I’d really wanted to see in the evening sessions. Sometimes my head does that.

img_5471

Head Full of Ghosts. Write that down.” (Brett Savory)

Sunday I’d recovered, and began the crack of dawn with some horror and weird fiction (the way you do) by coming to hear Brett Savory, Rebecca Simkin, James K. Moran, and Sean Moreland speak about the stuff they’d read that we needed to read. Now, y’all know I’m not a huge horror fan, but I like weird, and the topic really did balance the two (as well as define the two, in many ways) and all the panelists were fun and charming.

And, of course, way more got added to my list.

Also, there was a surprising amount of parenting advice. Books on demons and demonology might not be the best gift for the under-ten crowd.

Or, they might be just the thing.

Eiher way, good to know.

I popped in to the brainstorming/feedback session after that with Evan May and Brandon Crilly (and this was also where I finally got to have a few quick words with Eric Choi, who, again, awesome), and I cannot give enough props to these guys for taking in advice and feedback and ideas from those gathered. It was a packed room, and the discussion never stopped. You know a Con is on the right track when they include this sort of feature while the con is in play, and don’t just rely on feedback forms and e-mails later, as there’s an opportunity for brainstorming and Q&A right there and then. Loved this.

img_5476

Kate Heartfield, reading from “The Seven O’Clock Man.”

As my last thing before I had to go rescue His Fuzzy Lordship from the tedium of being indoors, I found Dominik Parisien, Kate Heartfield, and Brent Nichols and basked in the glow of Clockwork Canada, which I mentioned above.

It was obvious from listening to Dominik’s introduction that this project meant a great deal to him—to take truly Canadian narratives, and especially often colonialist-repressed histories, and meld them with spec fic elements was the driving force, and from what Kate and Brent read? I’m a believer. I’ll be bumping Clockwork Canada high up on my pile.

Both readers were really engrossing, and it was so lovely to take part in the discussion after with them, especially as the topic rolled back to being a Canuck in what is often a very US-centric ocean. It was pretty cool to see similar experiences being shared, too, that it’s not anywhere near as uphill a battle to pitch a Canadian setting as it was even a decade ago.

So, from that point, I took a moment to finish working on my character sheet (I managed to get my lousy “2” in Dexterity into a fairly impressive 14 defence score by levelling up my leather armor, but there was no helping my attack score, so no battles after all), I made sure to find and say farewell to a few people, missed others I really wanted to talk to, and went back to the real world.

The real world doesn’t have a lot of the awesome things the convention had, but it does have this guy, and he was totally ready to hit the park.

coach

“Where the heck have you been, human?”

Until next year? Thanks, CAN•CON, for everything. The opportunity to be a queer voice in Spec Fic is a huge deal to me, and I can’t tell you how much it means to be invited.

Giving Back

I don’t do this kind of post very often, but I hope you’ll give me your ear.

The book business is tough, period. But when you step further from the mainstream, things get tougher. And, if you’ve heard me chat about the subject before, you know that by “mainstream,” most of the time we’re talking “straight, white, and cis-gendered.” I talk a lot about how important diversity is, about how important access to diversity is, and about how important #ownvoices and our own community itself is.

And it occurred to me that I’ve missed a few opportunities to point out a way to support those communities.

Recently, Glad Day Books came to a crossroads. They needed to adapt their space (it was small, it wasn’t accessible, and from a business point of view, it’s pretty damn tough to make an operational profit with books these days—they were, and are, doing very well, but business isn’t about getting by, it’s about growth. They hosted a fundraiser, and pretty soon they’ll be opening up at 499 Church, as a bookstore-slash-bar-slash-coffee shop.

Frankly? I can’t wait to see it.

Which brings me to my first point.


Screenshot 2016-08-27 15.34.04

When Light was on its way to becoming a real, live first novel of mine, Ottawa’s LGBT Bookstore was on the edge of fading out. After Stonewall opened June 18, 1990 as the LGBTQ’s community place for literature and magazines. It became a place to meet and discuss books and find out what is going on in the community, and by 2012, David Rimmer, the owner, was ready to retire.

Luckily for the whole community, along came Michael Deyell.

The sharp eyed among you might realize both those names have characters named after them in my books, and that’s no coincidence. Michael took After Stonewall and created Stonewall Gallery, which kept the LGBT literature, and became Ottawa’s Art for Everyday Living experience. In October of 2013, among beautiful paintings, gorgeous jewellery, stoneware, glassware, and—yes—LGBT literature, I got to host the book launch of my dreams at Stonewall Gallery. Friends, family, and people I’d never met but immediately decided were individuals of obvious taste, merit, and class showed up for my reading, and the launch was brilliant.

Launch - Table

The table at the Triad Blood launch.

And entirely due to Michael, and everything David had done before him.

Fast-forward to this May, and I got to do the same thing for Triad Blood.

Again, due to Michael.

Through Stonewall, I’ve been able to bring stock to conventions, and not only get the word out about my work, but also support the bookstore who made it possible for me the launch my title in the first place. Every copy that Stonewall sells of my book is like a small, personal thank-you to Michael, in my mind.

Now, if you look at the title up there, it says “Stonewall / Wilde’s.” So what’s that about?

Wilde’s first opened in September 1993. After a couple of moves, Wilde’s settled onto Bank Street and has become the Village’s oldest adult store. The business was sold in 2015 and continues to evolve. Adult toys and accessories are more popular than ever. LGBTQ and Pride merchandise are more in demand.

And the space is no longer able to supply that demand.

Now, the business happened to sell to an awesome man named Trevor Prevost, and it just so happens Trevor and Michael are partners, and they’re looking to make a similar state for their businesses.

Stonewall has a basement that, with renovations, would not only revitalize Wilde’s ability to stock and sell, but would let both businesses operate under one location (and basically restructure their entire operational overhead).

What does that mean? It means more art. More literature. More events. More toys. More pride.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been asked ‘What’s the best way for me to support you with your books?’ I’m beyond blessed that is asked of me, and I know it’s a position of privilege to be in. But one huge way you could do so, right now, if you’re willing?

Help Stonewall Wilde’s happen. Their Indiegogo campaign is right here. There are reward levels, and they’re pretty darn awesome. And, if all goes well, I’ll be launching Triad Soul, and all the other books I’ve got in me, at the new and improved Stonewall Wilde’s. This is something I believe in enough that, just like with Glad Day Books, I donated my book’s advance to the goal.

I’m lucky enough to work at Stonewall on occasion, and when I work, I get to do the thing I love the most: I get to talk about the art of others, and suggest it, and sell it. Bookselling has been a passion of mine for decades. Heck, if every author I’ve ever hand-sold dropped some cash in the jar for this merge and renovation, we’d be half-way to the goal already. I love bookselling, and I’m good at it. I say that with pride.

I want to keep doing it.


 

Lethe Press

While Stonewall Wilde’s is a single fundraising goal (with a very real deadline), these next two are ongoing through Patreon, which is a fundraising process that is more of a subscription and monthly investment.

What’s Lethe Press? In their own words: Lethe Press began in 2001 as a home for queer and speculative fiction. Since then we have won numerous awards and acclaim for our books. Many readers feel like outsiders because of the sexual identity—our books are welcome reliefs to this problem; the gay and lesbian protagonists in our books have adventures, chase danger, fall in love, lead rich lives, and overcome the taint of homophobia. Our speculative fiction is imaginative and strange and wondrous.

We are the only publisher with Year’s Best anthologies aimed at gay and lesbian and (as of 2016) transgender readers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror.

Lethe Press is home to many, many of my short fiction pieces in the various anthologies the press has published, and as a writer of the fantastical, without Lethe, I have no doubt many of those tales simply wouldn’t have found a home.

Now, with Patreon, you can select a monthly level and garner rewards. I can tell you whole-heartedly that this level of support of a publisher creates a stability otherwise unknown in the publishing industry, and allows investment in new projects. I jumped at the ‘audiobook’ reward myself, because I constantly listen to audiobooks, and I’ve already started my first Lethe reward book. It’s awesome.

So, when it comes to #ownvoices, again people have asked me: “How do I support this?”

Well, if you’re wanting to promote LGBT voices, and you’re at all a fan of spec fic, sci-fi, fantasy, or horror? Look no further than Lethe’s Patreon, here.


WOCinRomance.png

Last in my trio discussion of ways to give back—but by no means least—I present to you WOC In Romance.

From the Facebook page:

Promoting the works of Women of Color in Romance Fiction. Brought to you by romance author Rebekah Weatherspoon.

This is place where readers and authors can find Women of Color who write Romance Fiction. **WOCInRomance Is Trans inclusive and open to gender fluid and non-binary authors as well.**

What defines “Romance” fiction?

Per Romance Writers of America: Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.

A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.

An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.

Romance novels may have any tone or style, be set in any place or time, and have varying levels of sensuality—ranging from sweet to extremely hot. These settings and distinctions of plot create specific subgenres within romance fiction. Click here to better understand the subgenres within romance.

Can I submit my work?

Are you a woman of color, well then heck yeah.

Can I submit someone else’s work? HECK YEAH!

We are always happy when any author includes characters of color in their work. We would love to keep this space of Authors Of Colors. Please do check out the #DiverseBooks movement and #WeNeedDiverseRomance, both of which focus more on characters in the books.

(If you want to submit work, either your own or a favourite author’s, go here.)

Now, you all know I love Rebekah (again, note the character name appearing in Triad Blood), and her work is brilliant. And so is the work of WOCInRomance. Via Twitter, I’ve discovered so many new authors.

Again, #ownvoices matter. Again, people ask me how they can help. Well, the Patreon page is right here. A sustained, important effort to bring noise to authors who are so often ignored and skipped by mainstream media, and connecting them with readers who are hungry for the stories that include them.


 

Husky Running

Success for these projects will directly lead to this Husky getting more peanut butter, and that’s a fact.

I know there are a billion things asking you for some of the limited attention, money, and time you’ve got. I live that, too. If you can, and you believe in these communities, please do give. If you can’t give, boost the signal. I don’t often ask for “shares” or “likes,” but this time—because it matters to me so freaking much, and I love these people—I’m going to ask you to do it.

And thanks. I’ll get back to crazy short story stuff, and silly updates, and lots of pictures of Coach pretty soon.

Coach, by the way, supports this message. The price of a coffee a month could make this dog smile. And lick his chops. And wag his tail. And don’t even get me started on his eyes

Crazy? Check. Canuck? Working on that. Definitely Hopping Though!

 

Canada Day Blog Hop

Something a bit different this week for me. I’m taking part in a Canadian blog-hop, along side some awesome Canucklehead authors (a couple of which I’ve had the pleasure of meeting through Romancing the Capital). There are prizes. There are blogs. Also hops. Wait. No. That sounds like beer. There’s hopping. You can remain seated, though. I am assured the hopping part is virtual.

But it’s all about the romance, all about the Canada, and definitely all about the crazy.

Now, if you’ve been following along at home, you know I’m almost Canadian. I’ve been living in Canada as a permanent landed immigrant for mumble-mumble years, and after I married my fella, and got my surname legally changed to match his (let me tell you, that’s a whole extra ball of fun when you have to explain over and over that yes, usually that’s what the wife does, and no, there’s no wife in this marriage, ha-ha, yes, now you get it, wasn’t that awkward?) and gathered all my newly minted ID, and then started the process of citizenship.

I’ve since passed the test (also not a walk in the park, by the way) and now I’m just waiting to swear my oath. Then it’ll be official.

But my tangling with red-maple-leaf tape isn’t why you’re here.


Why Canadian?

Foolish Hearts

My romance short story “Struck” takes place mostly at the Rideau Centre, including spending some time in the awesome park on the roof.

I love romance, and I love Canada, and as such the two often end up together in my stories. Almost everything I’ve ever written has taken place in Canada (usually here in Ottawa, where I live, or otherwise in British Columbia, where I spent quite a bit of time in my high school days). There are a couple of reasons for that, but first and foremost is as a writer, I do want to get things right.

I’m fairly likely to get the details right when I’m talking about Ottawa. I’ve spent more than half my life here (a feat I never thought I’d ever be able to say about anywhere, but that’s my nomadic childhood speaking up). More, it’s kind of liberating to head down to the NCC hosted kiosks and ask things like, “So, tell me about the Grand Trunk railway station, would you?” It’s always fun to talk to people who love their job, love their history, and love their city.

And I do love mine.

But it’s more than that. Given that I write queer romance, the setting has an extra layer of details to worry about. For example, I married my husband ten years ago (I proposed the day the Federal law changed in Canada). The US just had the one year anniversary of the Federal legalization of queer marriage. There are a million little differences that were in play during the time where my marriage was legal up here—but not down there—that could throw a wrench in a narrative set on the wrong side of the border.

I think it was my writer friend Greg Herren talking about New Orleans who said, “There are things that happen here that could only happen here.” I feel that way about setting my stores in Canada. The setting is often as much a character as anything else.

Why Queer?

I DO TWO

“Cakewalk” is about a guy who is unexpectedly looking after his boyfriend’s tween daughter. It appeared in I Do Two!, from MLR Press.

The short answer? Because we deserve some happy-ever-afters.

The long answer? I write queer characters (and especially when I write romance, I write queer romance) because representation matters. Visibility matters. Seeing stories that involve people like yourself matters. When I was a queerling, mumble-mumble years ago, there was nothing I could find. I don’t doubt things existed, but the access and the presence of those things were zilch, which meant they basically didn’t.

And the first darn thing I did find with a gay character was a story I had to study in an English class, and the queer character died and the general consensus of the story, the teacher, and the class was ‘Well, that’s what happens.’

Imagine for a sec the first time you saw a character that was someone you could connect with on a deep and visceral level died and everyone around you shrugged and said, ‘Of course.’

Yeah. That sucked.

I write the queer romance characters I write because I want queerlings to find themselves in the pages of books with futures and romances and happy-ever-afters. I once got a letter from a closeted kid in small-town Illinois who’d read a short story I’d written, “Cakewalk,” and his message to me—that this was the first time he’d read a story with a gay couple who had a kid and were a family and it was all just so possible—had me sobbing on the bus.

Understand, we’re not talking “Wow, that man is moved” sobs. We’re talking full on snot-bubble blotchy-faced ugliness on the freaking 97 South Keys bus. People moved away from me, and did so with alarm. I looked unhinged.

That one e-mail is worth more than any review I’ve ever gotten, the nominations for awards, and anything else.

It also taught me not to read reader feedback in public.

Why Crazy?

NJAPF_Cover

In “Bound,” (included in the anthology Not Just Another Pretty Face), I have a guy who sees the future fall for a werewolf from the wrong side of the tracks.

I love to laugh. The reality of being a queer guy (and, let’s be frank, I’m a white cis-gendered queer guy, so I walk with a very full backpack of privilege) is not always fantastic. There are—no lie—daily reminders that people would rather I not exist. My response to that struggle is, and has always been, to try to laugh as much as possible. Find the joy. Find the happiness. Spread that stuff around like it’s oxygen.

I generally write on the spec-fic side of the street, even when I’m writing romances. I love a dash of the unreal, or the magic, or the psychic, and part of that is how easily those things align with the reality of being a queer guy. We’re already uncommon. We’re the opposite of what’s assumed and expected. So why not take that and run with it?

All that generally combines into a magical (or psychic) world where people come face-to-face with situations that are a bit “out there.” In Light, I’ve got a gay guy trying to enjoy pride week who just happens to be telepathic and telekinetic (though he’s not very good at either, to be honest) and I hope that readers spend as much time chuckling as they do getting wrapped up in his struggle to save pride from a very dangerous foe. Also, he starts dating a yummy French Canadian leather man, because he doesn’t have enough on his plate.

In my various stories, I’ve got a psychometrist who writes history books, a psychokinetic quasi-superhero, a physical trainer who can heal, a town in B.C. with a population partly descended from naiads, a guy who can talk to the dead, someone who can see the past, a telepath or two, and even a bottle of magic ice wine. Falling in love is tricky. Falling in love when you’re psychic?

Crazy.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Wait, you said “prizes…”

I did! Well spotted.

Light

I’m giving away a copy of Light. It’s about a gay telepathic psychokinetic trying to save Pride and maybe get a date with a hunky leather man.

Okay, each stop on the blog hop has an individual prize, and then there’s a grand-prize, to boot.

This means there are seven chances to win various prizes, and then an eighth chance to win the grand prize (a $50 Amazon or Chapters/Indigo e-Gift Certificate). To enter for the grand prize, you’ll want to visit this link to Rafflecopter (note: Rafflecopter is not, in fact, a Transformer with a gambling problem. I asked.)

For the individual prizes you’ll need to visit the blogs and follow the individual instructions. For a copy of Light, the prize I’m giving away, all you need to do is comment here, or on my author Facebook page where this post will be referenced. I’ll connect with the winner to figure out how to mail said winning prize, so make sure you leave e-mail notifications on for replies to any comment you leave, or check back to see if you won on the 9th of July.

What should you comment? Any of the following:

  • Why you love Canada (The hotness of our Prime Minister is a valid option).
  • Why you love Romance (Queer or otherwise).
  • Why you love Crazy (Please specify the crazy in question).

That’ll enter you into my contest. But don’t forget the other seven blogs!

Which blogs? What prizes? (This list also available through that Froggy button):


 

And, finally, huge thank you to Lisa Emme for organizing this blog-hop and being so over-all cool in general.

Romance in the Big O

RTCbanner02_300dpiIt’s been a couple of days since Romancing the Capital ended, and I’ve gotten my voice back (finally!) so I thought I’d sit down and try to give you an idea of what it was like (if you weren’t there) and why I can’t wait to go back, assuming Eve Langlais is willing to put herself under the stress of being the sole conductor for the insane train again.

Before anything else? She needs to be called out for the incredible job she did in organizing and setting everything up. In my past life as a bookseller, I spent twenty years going to various book events, and I have to say that for readers, Romancing the Capital is so reader-focused—not to mention overflowing with prizes, swag, and fun—that I’m not surprised it sells out so quickly. When you’re dealing with hundreds of people (all of whom have the wide and varied reading tastes that romance encompasses) making everyone happy and energized should be impossible, but everyone was jazzed and moving and laughing throughout.

I adore romance.

RTC - LGBTQ Romance

Spot the queer guy’s bag.

I didn’t manage to make the “bonus” Thursday events for those who’d gotten into town early (His Fluffy Lordship requires me home for evenings), so for me, everything began Friday. First thing on the schedule was our LGBTQ romance panel. Kristine Cayne, Elizabeth Lister, Kayleigh Malcolm, Angela Stone, and myself chatted about the areas of LGBTQ romance that we love (and maybe some things we don’t love so much, such as ‘Gay-for-You’ and a few other clichés, misinformation, and unintentionally erasing stuff), how we started writing it, then notion of “own voices,” the joy of menage stories where—as Kayleigh put it—”the swords cross,” and so much more. There was a lot of laughter, which is huge and always one of my main goals, and to say we have five chronically under-caffeinated authors at the opening panel, I daresay it went well. The author chemistry was awesome (like sitting down with people and thinking, ‘Oh, hi, you’re my new best friends!’), which is always a bonus, and none of us were high-structure people, so basically we ran it by the seat of our pants, and it was far more Q&A-focused than lecture in style.

RTC - Angela Stone

You need to hear Angela Stone speak. Need.

After that, I went to hear Angela Stone give her Q&A session on “The Science of Sex” and it was freaking fantastic. She’s a brilliant speaker, comes from a position of passion and knowledge (she’s a nurse) and has exposure to and has worked with youth, adults, people with disabilities, LGBTQ folk… Basically, the breadth of knowledge on display was titanic, and her approachability and humour meant no one was too afraid to ask a question. I learned quite a bit, as did everyone around me, and if you asked a question, you won a sex toy, which was just icing on the cake. She was sort of like Sex Oprah. “You get a sex toy! And you get a sex toy! And you get a sex toy! Everyone gets a sex toy!”

After that, I got to listen to Opal Carew, Anne Lange, Sasha White, and Zoe York talk to the room about erotica at their panel, “Erotica to Make You Sweat.” These ladies sure knew how to talk smut, and I have to say I was really impressed a the range of discourse, heat level, formatting, indie/trad range the authors discussed, as well as their own personal paths from where they began.

RTC - Erotica Panel

These ladies know their erotica.

It’s not often you get to hear that much experience in one place, and I know I came away more the richer. Also, last year, I didn’t get to hear Opal speak once—we were directly opposed to each other at every panel/time-slot we were involved with—so it felt like putting things right. Opal was one of my hand-selling go-tos for so long, it was lovely to have more than a moment to say “hi” in passing.

A break for lunch (where I got to catch up with Elizabeth Lister, since even though we live in the same city, we suck at socializing and not being introverts), and then I dove back into the mix with renewed energy and a full tummy, heading into space for “Space, the New Romantic Frontier” with Viola Grace, Susan Hayes, Eve Langlais, S.E. Smith, and Jessica E. Subject. Oh. My Gosh. My nerd and geek mind was having so much fun with this, and even solely from a point of view of exploring “how much science to mix with how much romance” it was fascinating. To hear some of the experiences of the authors with their brushes with the Science Fiction communities and conventions was also illuminating (as well as depressing and definitely reminded me of the same conversations I have when I mention I write gay speculative fiction—oh, sorry, no, we prefer real science fiction.) These ladies rocked it out of the park, and I want a purple alien, a cyborg, and maybe an abduction would be nice. (Also, I want Susan Hayes’s hair.)

RTC - SF Panel

Science Fiction is Sexy, Damnit!

Then I made a mistake that turned out to be a lot of fun. I know a lot about book covers from the point of view of being a bookseller and knowing what can work from a bookshelf, but not so much from the point of view of an indie author—which I’m thinking of becoming for some short novellas. So I went to Cora Seton‘s “Crafting Covers with Cora” thinking it was about cover design but…

Turns out it was actually crafting covers. Like, physically. So I used a glue stick (I am not good at glue stick) and grabbed a few things from the word pile and some magazine cut-outs and a pair of scissors (also not good at scissors) and… TA-DA!

RTC - Cover Craft

This was my romance cover. About a cowboy who has just suffered profound hearing loss, but that doesn’t mean he can’t hear someone say “I love you.” Or something.

After that I hung out in the corridor and then outside with some authors and readers I wanted to touch base with—I should point out there were still people I missed during this weekend, that’s just how full the darn days are—and headed home to his Fluffy Lordship while everyone got ready for their Cowboy themed dinner.

On Saturday I was once again bright and early guy, hosting a chat on LGBTQ Characters. My goal was to get readers (and authors) thinking about what inclusivity means and how to do it and what it might take to do it well, and I have to say the whole hour flew by and everyone was fantastic. I was stunned at the turnout—I had twice the people as the year before, so I couldn’t quite do my “draw the chairs into a circle” so much as a big banana and the conversations never stopped.

We started by drawing out a pretty basic idea for a typical romance with a lady and a fellow, and I have to say it was a blast brainstorming this part with everyone. For the record, the group came up with this:

  • Heroine: a CEO of a large PR firm.
  • Hero: a younger man, a hockey player from a legacy hockey family, who is a part of the firm and has a reputation (which the PR firm is working on) for being a bit of a player and a party animal.
  • They meet, sparks fly, but of course his family isn’t cool with her (especially the age difference and the fact she can kind of hold part of his public persona over his head), she has to worry about the other people in her company and her reputation.
  • They meet, spark, give into temptation before they learn who each other is, then put everything on hold once they realize what’s at stake, until, of course, they realize how much they mean to each other and the fight for every inch they can get to be seen as the couple they wish to be.

First off, I love the room gave her more power and made her older. Just sayin’.

RTC - Nathan Teaching

I talk with my hands. A lot.

So, then we took that story, and made the romance a gay one. Two men. The insights flew fast and furious about all the things that were different, even if the core narrative remained the same.

  • This would be the first openly gay NHL player, if it happened.
  • Are his parents aware? (I loved that the group decided they were, and although they were supportive, they thought it best he get settled into a career with a team before he came out, as the father would know full well how hard a road ahead his kid would have).
  • The PR Firm heroine (now a hero) didn’t need a lot of tweaking. Likely he didn’t suffer sexism on the rise up to the top, but he would have had some homophobia to deal with, but all in all, a PR firm seemed like a fairly safe environment—though, likely he’s not super-out to the sports teams and sports contacts he has.
  • Their spark and meet and one-night-stand would play much the same, as would their realization of who each other is.
  • If the hockey player was bi, rather than gay, there’s the extra pressure to choose a life that would cause less ripples (and find a girlfriend)—this also led to the dangers of the “Gay for You” tropes and “Bisexuals are Sluts” tropes. Also, I went off on a tangent about how the B in LGBTQ is not silent. Bisexuality exists and needs to be spoken of.
  • Whereas the CEO as a woman might have had a kind of cachet as a “Cougar” and the young hockey player being seen as rather studly in the original story, when you put an older gay man with a younger gay man, likely the press (and the public) are more likely to paint a more “predator” tone about their relationship.
RTC - Nathan and Kadian

Kadian and Me. Love this lady.

And so on and so on. By the end of that exercise, I think I’d achieved what I’d set out to accomplish, which was to point out it’s not just a matter of deciding a character is gay and otherwise everything else doesn’t change, but that a character being queer in any way means there’s potentially a lot of different thoughts to have in the confines of a narrative, even if most of it doesn’t necessarily see the light of day on the page. There was some solid discussions of race and intersectionality, too, and that was flipping awesome (Hat tip to Kadian Tracey for some brilliant insight here).

From there, we basically just did Q&A and it was fantastic, with a lot of people sharing some great real-world examples, and really supporting the notion of “own voices” as the best kind of research for those wanting to include queer folk. Hopefully, we busted some clichés and made the room a bit more confident in approaching their writing with a queer lens. And, as always, I’m totally open to questions and follow-through for anyone who’d like to chat.

After that ended, I dashed over to the other end of the hall and sat down for some Author Speed Dating, which was hosted by Kali Willows and Kacey Hammell.

I have no idea how to describe this beyond organized chaos. It reminded me of being at the height of Christmas Retail, where you’re lucky to have more than two minutes with a customer before you have to help the next person, only you get to sit down. Basically, in the space of two hours, I spoke to sixty readers, all of whom moved one seat along the loop every time Kayleigh Malcolm’s husband Chris yelled “next!” (That man is a joy, by the way.)

RTC - Speed Dating

Speed Dating, Author Style!

So it was something like a mix between an elevator pitch and an author chat, and I had the time of my life even as my voice vanished. By the time it was done, I was hoarse. The readers were amazing, super open-minded, and quite a few offered to take a chance on some gay romance after our chat, so I owe Kali and Kacey a huge hug. It’s rare an author has an opportunity to meet with sixty new readers, I’ll tell you.

From there, I had a silent lunch (no voice!) and two cups of hot tea with honey (voice slightly returning!) and then it was time to set up for the Bookfair. The Bookfair was open to the public, and oh my God! When the doors opened, the place filled up immediately and it was more organized chaos. Both myself and my table-mate Elizabeth Lister sold down to a few copies before it was over (So! Awesome!) and it was fantastic. I handed out bookmarks and magnets aplenty, and people were, once again, super-nice. One of my former co-workers brought me cupcakes, so I nearly cried on the spot. It was amazing, and I signed so many books.

RTC - Bookfair Crowd 2

Seriously, it was packed.

After that, even though I’d have to miss the 80’s Night dinner to follow, I had to head back home for His Fluffy Lordship once again, and to be honest, given the state of my voice (nearly nonexistent!), I really, really wanted another cup of tea. Most people were deep in discussion with others (though I did get to have a quick chat with Opal Carew, who was as awesome as ever) and as such I didn’t quite manage a proper goodbye to most, but that meant I didn’t blubber like an idiot, so there’s a positive side.

Eve’s already talking about next year, too.

Me? I can’t wait.

RTC - Nathan Elizabeth and Kayliegh

My author spot was right between Elizabeth Lister and Kayleigh Malcolm. I have all the luck.

 

 

Queermas for the Young’uns.

Yesterday I spoke about some of the awesome books I’ve encountered more-or-less recently that would make great gifts for the queerfolk on your list, and today I wanted to revisit said idea but with the notion of young adults and new adults. Now, I’m not nearly as well-read in this area, and I’d be super-happy if you’d add your own comments to the list for other titles and authors you suggest. But that said, I do know some, and so here we go…

UnwantedFor anyone who loved the Percy Jackson series (or, who, frankly, just loves anything mythologically based, especially the amazons), I’m going to start with Jeffrey Ricker‘s The Unwanted. Here you meet a young gay boy who finds out he’s one of the unwanted sons of an Amazon, as in the Amazons. Tackling the Amazon mythology with a fresh take, The Unwanted throws in some great humour moments as well as mounting tension toward a very Greek-style quest-and-prophecy plot, and will definitely leave the reader satisfied. Bonus points for parents who aren’t foils but actually supportive, functional adults, and majorly kick-butt women characters throughout.

For YA with a leading young lady, I fell in love with The First Twenty by Jennifer Lavoie. I’d read all of Lavoie’s other books, which featured gay guy protagonists, and was super-stoked to read her young women, who not only get a post-apocalyptic world to explore, but even a bit of supernatural ability. The First Twenty does some really fresh things with the genre: it’s not doom and gloom and fighting over scraps, it’s about rebuilding, hope, and trusting and working together. I loved it. Bonus points for two gay dads, and also for a society that has clued in—finally—that there are bigger things to worry about rather than who fancies who.

Double Exposure

New to me this year was author Bridget Birdsall, who I met at The Saints & Sinners Literary Festival on a panel discussing YA. Her YA novel, Double Exposure, was the first I’ve read with an intersex character, and the exploration of Alyx was wonderful. Alyx’s parents were cautioned not to make decisions upon Alyx’s birth (Alyx is born with ambiguous genitalia), and as much as they try to navigate a world without pronouns, Alyx’s parents slip into “he” with Alyx. Raised as a boy for fifteen years, Alyx knows otherwise: she’s a girl. And a move makes it possible for her to do something she’s never done before: be herself. There’s some dark stuff in this book that’s very real: bullying, truths about genderqueer folk and their treatment in the past and present, but the book is ultimately redemptive, and it’s about time we had those kinds of stories.

As I mentioned on Thursday with my “how to write a review” post, I also heartily suggest Cub by Jeff Mann if you’re buying for a New Adult gay reader who doesn’t fit the far-far-over-represented gay kid who is yearning for the big city and escaping the small rural town. Though content-wise you definitely want this one for older teens and new adults, the story here finally gives voice to a kind of gay kid I’ve never seen in YA fiction prior to this: the big burly rural guy who doesn’t want to escape to the city, but wants to stay and find happiness in his rural town.

Similarly, if you’ve got a goth queer (or even just a lover of ghost stories) you’re buying for, take a peek at Vintage. A YA novel by Steve Berman, Vintage does for the goth and alternative kids what Cub does for the burly bear-cubs: it adds a voice you don’t see very often represented.

The Big SummerLastly, I’ll leave you with The Big Summer, by Jamie B. Laurie. Before anything else, I should point out how wonderful (and rare) it is to have a teen writing YA, and doing it so freaking well, and Laurie does just that. Here we bump into Will, a kid who has been betrayed and beaten down by his “friends” over his coming out, who decides that it’s time for a change. A big one. Taking a chance, he heads to a new town for summer with his aunt, and makes a list of things he wants to achieve before school starts again. The authenticity in this book is over-the-top on target, and the overall effect of the book was to leave a dopey grin on my face. I can’t wait to see what Laurie does next.

So there you have it – some YA and NA fiction you can pick up for the queer younglings in your life. I hope I was helpful, and like I said way back up at the beginning of this post, please please please tell me the Queer YA and NA books you’ve bumped into this year that were awesome. I love to learn more, and I love to read them (who says YA is for the young?)

Happy Shopping!