Writing Wednesday — Bury Your Trope


(I originally tried to say all this without spoilers, and I give up. Spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery.)

So, last night, the husband and I were watching a television show we’ve really been enjoying. A significant part of really enjoying this show for us? A out, open queer couple who obviously love each other, even when they bicker (and their bickering was fun), and who have some communication issues, and who are quite different from each other and even—fantastic!—not a pair of white guys.


Here’s a picture of my dog. Because I’m annoyed and he makes me happy. 

Now, jokingly (but in that tired, worried way) I recall saying, “Which one do you think is going to die?” when they were introduced, but I’d dismissed being fully serious because, after all, we’d been told this was going to be awesome representation, it’s a franchise I love, and it was finally, finally giving us some queer love.

There was even incidental, albeit nameless/blink-and-you’ll-miss-it queerness: two women dancing together at a party. Rock on, ladies. It’s probably best if you never get names or lines.

Because last night, while we watched, it happened. And the thing is? We just turned to each other and sighed. I think I said, “Well, there it is.” Or maybe my husband did. It wasn’t shocking, it was exhausting. Because in some way, we were both braced for it from the beginning, just in case.

Now, the PR and actors and show runners and even organizations are chiming in to say, “No, wait, don’t get mad! It’s going to turn out not to be as bad as you’re thinking, and we’d never do that silly Bury Your Gays trope, this is a subversion! This was always the plan!” and so on.

And I honestly just don’t care. You made me watch one queer man die, needlessly and pointlessly, in front of the other queer man (who, bonus points, was already suffering and unable to help, and so can only watch it happen).

Do the queer characters have to be immortal and immune to danger and never suffer in any way? Of course not. But you know what? If you’ve only got two queer characters who have names and speak lines and who are given a relationship and you decide to kill one off? It’s Bury Your Gays. You might do something amazing later on. Really. But in that moment, right then and there? I can decide to eject. And that’s fair. Because watching one of the only two queer characters die needlessly?

I’ve been there and done that so often it could have been my subplot on “Cause and Effect.” Forget Beverley’s glass. I’d be the ensign in the science department going, “Welp, one of the queer guys died again. I can’t tell if we’re in a time loop or if it’s just another Bury Your Guys, though, because déjà vu doesn’t begin to cover it.”

And that’s the rub of it. I didn’t want to watch the surviving partner suffer and be oh-so-motivated-by-the-loss. Again. I wanted, just this freaking once, to finally have a show where the queer people fought the bad together. Where they protected each other when things were dire or they were in pain or injured or what-have-you. Where moral dilemmas didn’t mean one queer had to heroically sacrifice himself, or one queer was left behind, or… Well, basically, I just wanted the queer characters to survive the first whole damn season.

Now, it’s science fiction, and the actor is on record saying we’ve not seen the last of the character, and given the show is currently in an alternate universe populated by their doppelgängers, there’s a chance of doppelgängers, and again, I just don’t care.

The last time this franchise did the doppelgänger thing? It did a two-episode run that in many ways set up this show’s visit. It was separate from the main storyline, never referenced within it, and most of the main cast died. Because doppelgängers. These aren’t our beloved characters, they’re an alternate version of them. The franchise show  prior to that that went to this alternate universe was incredibly brutal to the doppelgängers. Most of the main cast’s doppelgängers died, and some characters who had died in the prime universe who hadn’t in the alternate one ended up also being killed off, too. So we could watch them die a second time. Oh, and extra points? Some of the alternate universe—and, by the way, evil—doppelgängers were made to be queer, unlike the characters we got to see each week.

So, if it turns out the “solution” to this not being a trope is somehow the doppelgänger of this character will end up in a relationship with the surviving queer guy from the main plot, I’m not going to throw a parade, and I don’t think that undoes the trope at all, like they’re claiming the plot will do. That queer guy’s love is still dead—he’s still gone. Frankly, if they’re being honest that this character and love story isn’t done, I’m guessing time-travel will come into play, and maybe the whole event will be undone.

I suppose that’s the best that I can hope for, if I keep watching.

Anyway. If you don’t want to have a chorus of “Bury the Gays!” complaints, there’s a super easy way to avoid this pitfall. Have more than two queer characters. At least then it’s not “Oh look, there are queer people. And now they shall suffer a death. Yep. There it is.”

Or, y’know, stop treating “and then one dies” as the only damn plot line you could possibly come up with to tell the story. If the narrative is predicated on the death of a queer person, maybe it’s time to stop and consider how the rest of the queer characters in your tale are handled. If there’s only one other, and they’ve just lost the love of their life because—surprise!—the only two queer characters with names and lines are in a relationship with each other?

Well. That’s a choice. And you sure did make it.

Writing Wednesdays

Whoops. That turned into a bit of a long slog. Sorry. Writing Wednesdays is supposed to be my weekly check-in on how things are going writing wise with various projects. So I’ll be brief.

Triad Magic

It’s going well. I need to polish and put together the actual pitch, but I’m beating my writing goal each day, or—in the case of one day—I let a headache run its course and have redistributed that goal to other days. I was already ahead of goal, but still. I’m looking forward to introducing new characters and revisiting old ones. The plot is gelling, but the synopsis is fighting me as I try to write it.


I doubled my word count goal for this today, so it goes well. I’ve never written a “Fake relationship” story before, and we’ll see how it goes, but so far, this novella has been fun to work on.

Saving the Date

Last year, Angela S. Stone and I submitted an alternate-view novella for the 1Night Stand series, and we just got our edits back. It’s always a little bit of work to get back into the heads of the characters when it’s been a while, but I like Morgan, and it’ll happen.

Short Stuff

I’m going back to my usual goal of submitting something short once a month for the year, and also trying to remember reprints are a thing. I haven’t submitted anything just yet, but January isn’t over.

Open Calls for Submission

I also try to list off calls for submission I find (and find tempting) every week on Writing Wednesdays, so without further ado:

  • Chicken Soup for the Soul—Various titles, various themes, various deadlines, 1,200 word count limit.
  • Mischief Corner Books—Open to submissions for various themes, including Legendary Love, Everyday Heroes, Cowboys and Space; these are open rolling calls, so no deadline.
  • NineStar Press—Open to submissions for various length prose, paranormal, science fiction, fantasy and horror; Click “Currently Seeking” header for details; word count limit variable.
  • Spectrum Lit—This is an ongoing Patreon flash fic provider, 1,500 hard word count limit; LGBTQ+ #ownvoice only; ongoing call.
  • A World Unimagined— Left Hand Publishers; 4,000 to 9,000 word count limit. Speculative fiction, deadline: January 21st, 2018.
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to F*** Them—Circlet Press; Erotic short stories with magical beasts and shapeshifter tropes; 3,000 to 7,000 word count limit; deadline February 1st, 2018.
  • Lost—NineStar Press. LGBTQIA+ romantic pairing. Both HEA and HFN are acceptable, Click “Lost” header for the theme. 30k to 120k word count limit; deadline April 30th, 2018.
  • Happiness in Numbers—Less than Three Press; Polyamorous LGBTQIA+ anthology, non-erotic polyamorous stories that explore the idea of “Family”; 10k to 20k word count limit; deadline April 30th, 2018.
  • MLR Press—Quite a few different themes are open; 10k to 40k word count limit; deadlines vary, but the earliest right now is April 30th, 2018.
  • Artefacts and Alchemy—Edge Books; Tesseracts 22 is doing a historical magical realism theme; 5k word count limit; deadline May 15th, 2018.

I Shouldn’t Have to Tell You Queer Bashers Aren’t Hot

Yesterday I clicked and read a freebie book on my phone, and it made me so very angry. I clicked it because the blurb made it sound like a “gay guy goes back to small hometown where he grew up and swore he’d never return” story, and I generally like a second-chance romance. I like the stories where the gay guy comes back to the place that made him feel small and wrong and shows them that he is neither, and falls in love along the way, probably with his “arch nemesis” (described in the blurb).

That’s what the book sounded like. But the blurb was way, way off.

It went to incredibly off the rails on nearly every level. If I’d just looked at some of the other reviews first, I might have avoided it (I say might because this book has mostly positive, gushing reviews about how lovely the romance was), but I was on my phone, I didn’t, and there’s a lesson learned.

Instead, I got a book where a former bully is a romantic lead, which… okay, that’s one way to consider an “arch nemesis.” The guy tossed him into garbage cans, for one example, but I’m supposed to buy him as the romantic interest, which is iffy enough.

It didn’t stop there. The book doubled and then tripled down on how it treated abuse survivors.

  • Give the main character an abusive, alcoholic parent who kicked out the queer guy but who deserves forgiveness and a second chance? Check!
  • Main character wasn’t just bullied, but was nearly beaten to death, including broken skull among other bones and long-lasting trauma over the past five years (including passing out at random)? Check!
  • The man who nearly bashed the main character to death turns out to be a closeted gay? Check!
  • Surround the main character with “friends” who constantly suggest he needs to check in with the abusive father who kicked him to the curb? Check!
  • Those same friends non-stop questioning the main character for not being over it (it was only five years ago he almost got beaten to death, but hey, get over it) and telling him the town has changed since then? Check!
  • Main character has a moment of “realizing” that tolerance has to go both ways? Y’know, he needs to be more patient with the “you are sin” crowd? Check!
  • Massive amounts of forgiveness to everyone all around—including inviting the closeted gay guy who nearly beat him to death to come live with them once he’s out of jail, and forgiving his father within moments of being given an AA chip and an apology? Check!

Now, I’ve talked before about the whole how reconciliation with a family that kicked out a queer kid is not a happy ending before and is such a misstep if you’re crafting queer characters, and I’m not going to reiterate it all again, but it’s here if you want to read it.

I should also mention that when we see, over and over, forgiveness as the only path to peace for survivors of abuse that we’re doing a massive, massive disservice to actual survivors of abuse. Moving to a peaceful, happy place and thriving after surviving violence does not require the forgiving of the abuser. Some people do. Many don’t. If only forgiveness is shown as the path, that’s a problem. Say that as many times as it takes until it sinks in.

But, back to the bashings. That’s right, plural, because this novella doubled down, but I’ll get to that in a second. First, let’s talk about the main character’s history—again, the blurb gives no mention of this, just “bad memories”—which has left him with trauma. He was so violently bashed he had multiple bones broken, including part of his skull, and has fainted a few times over the last five years since thanks to said trauma.

As someone who has bled on a sidewalk, I cannot tell you how infuriating it was to watch his friends be surprised he hadn’t “gotten over it” and how much of the narrative centred around the character himself buying into this narrative. He starts to berate himself as a coward for leaving town, for letting it chase him away. Are you shitting me? You do not stick around when people try to beat you to death. Especially when you’re kicked out by your parent. If you can possibly do it, you go, you find somewhere safe, and you never look back. Or at least, you do if you’re an actual, living, breathing queer person who has somewhere to escape to—and he did, he got away for school. But instead, by the end of the book, this character is written to consider that “tolerance goes both ways” and he should be more patient with the people who want to cleanse his soul.

Queer people do not have to tolerate the intolerant. It is not bigotry to oppose a bigot. For crying out loud, this is basic stuff. If someone calls queer people sinful, you don’t have to listen to their freaking beliefs and be patient about giving them a chance to “explain their side.” That’s not a free-speech moment or a rational debate, that’s someone deciding you are less than human because you are queer. That’s just wrong.

But I mentioned bashings plural. And this is the real point I wanted to make today, though it’s taken me way too long to get here, and I’m mad, and this isn’t coming across anywhere near as calmly as I’d like (but see the previous paragraph about not having to be okay with people treating you as less than human): I can’t believe I’m saying this, but: abusive hate, bullying homophobes, and violent bashings aren’t romantic lead fodder.

So, in this book, the main character—who survived a violent bashing, as I mentioned—has one real good gay friend in school. That friend is an athlete and studying to be a teacher, maybe phys-ed or something. Near the end of the book, said friend is bashed nearly to death. His hip is so damaged he will likely never walk again without a cane, and—wait for it—the hero of this book berates himself because it’s not the first time this friend has maybe hit on someone he shouldn’t have, and if only the hero of this book had been around to make sure he didn’t do that.

Did we really just blame the guy who might die from brain swelling, the guy with the shattered hip, the guy who was nearly beaten to death by some random homophobic sociopath for being nearly beaten to death? Yes. Yes, we did.

But wait, there’s more!

The hero of this book asks if his friend can come live with them for recovery, and of course his redeemed bully of a lover agrees and that in and of itself would be decent (because, again, this man’s family has also disowned him), but then we find out that the man who beat the hero of this book nearly to death is also going to come live with them because, after he went to jail/came out, the redeemed bully character said he could come stay with him once he was out of jail.

And his victim is okay with that. Because forgiveness.

If I had only bumped into this “former homophobic bully/abusive asshole” redemption-as-love-interest notion once, I’d maybe have tossed it aside. But I keep bumping into it in book blurbs. And after reading this one? I just… I just need to ask.

Why is this okay?

Why is this a trope in romantic fiction about gay men? It makes zero sense, it certainly isn’t respectful of queer men, and personally feels like someone going out of their way to punch me in the stomach and say, hey, that trauma of yours? It totally made me think sexy thoughts.

A man nearly beat another man to death. He is not a hero. That is not sexy. And when he shows up in book two, he’ll be paired with the best friend from college who has been beaten just as badly as this man beat the hero of the first book. The storyline next time is about a survivor of a hate crime hooking up with a person who went to jail guilty of the same damn hate crime.

I’d like to take a moment to discuss how many fellow survivors I’ve met and how many of those survived at the hands of someone who later came out as a gay person and turned their life around. Respectfully? Dozens, and none. Do closeted queer people make the worst homophobes? It’s up for debate—there are studies out there where arousal responses correlate with more vocal homophobes, but whether or not they make for the most violent homophobes isn’t known, and anecdotally, I can’t think of a single instance, like I said, where after a violent bashing someone (a) came out, and (b) turned their life around, so why is this such a propagated falsehood in what’s supposed to be a romance?

And that’s key. This is supposed to be a romance. I’m supposed to want this man to have a happy-ever-after. I’m supposed to look at a man who was beaten nearly to death by a man because he was queer, and want him to spend the rest of his life happy with someone who beat another man nearly to death because he was queer.

That’s… I don’t even know what that is. But I do know what it isn’t. It’s not romantic. And it would never fly if it wasn’t queer men.

I mean, I can’t imagine this storyline would ever, ever hold up in a heterosexual romance: a woman is nearly beaten to death by a man who can’t control his feelings for her, and the next book in the series is about him finding love with another woman who has survived nearly being beaten to death by a different man, all while they stay together in the same house while this second woman recovers from her assault and the man just got out of jail? Do you see how ridiculous that is? How harmful and hateful and not romantic? No chance. Not redeemable as a romantic lead.

But somehow it’s okay—not just okay, but romantic—because… why? Because it’s gay men?

There is so very much wrong with that I don’t even know how to begin.

Where I’ll be at @CanConSF this weekend!


This is what I look like. Say hi.

Hey Ottawa people! So, starting this evening and through the weekend is the awesome Can*Con 2017 event at the Sheraton Ottawa, and though I’m sure you’re sick of me saying so by now, a reminder: I’ll be there.

So will some exciting people, so don’t let my presence put you off (ba-dum-tish!).

Registration opens at 5:00p today, and there are awesome panels, discussions, events, and readings to see.

Importantly? The Dealers Room is open to the public throughout the event, so if you see a name on a signing, or you want to check out some awesome books and products in support of the publishers and artists of Can*Con, you totally have access. Also, if you want, there are day-passes available as well as pricing at the door for the whole she-bang.

If you are looking to see yours truly, however? Allow me to make it easier for you.

Friday, October 13th, 2017.

I’m not on any panels or readings this evening, however, I totally think you should check out my husband taking part in “No, You Can’t Actually Do That With a Computer” at 9:00p, Salon D, because he’s cute and he knows his stuff when it comes to computer security; or for the horror fans, “Homophobia and Monster Stories” (which includes fellow BSBer Christian Baines), 9:00p, Salon F.

Also, I’ll be carrying two d20s so we can duel with our official Can*Con RPG characters.

Saturday, October 14th, 2017.

Okay, deep breath…


Romance! Second Chances! Time-Travel! Tropes aplenty…

At 10:00a, I’ll be talking “Romance Tropes We Love,” alongside Jessica Ripley, Angela S. Stone, and Jennifer Carole Lewis, in Salon C.

At 11:00a, I’ll be taking off my romance hat and putting on my queer hat for “Finding a Home for your Queer Stories,” alongside Caro Frechette, fellow BSBer Stephen Graham King, Kelsi Morris, and Derek Newman-Stille, in Salon F.

Then, at 12:00p, I’ll be taking off the queer hat and putting on my bookstore manager hat for “How to Interact with a Bookstore,” alongside Charlotte Ashley, Leah Bobet, Benoit Chartier, and Linda Poitevin, in Salon D.

At 1:00p, I will likely be running out the door to find something to eat. I’m totally available for nearby food inhalation.

At 3:00p, Leah Bobet and I will have the open-to-the-public Dealer Room signing real estate for half an hour, so drop on by, say hi, and maybe I can scribble my name on something for you.

Finally, w-a-a-a-y in the evening at 9:00p, I’ll be propping myself up beside fellow spoonies Caro Frechette, Cait Gordon, Talia Johnson, Jamieson Wolf, and Derek Newman-Stille, and attempting to be coherent about “Spooning with Spoonies,” in Salon E.

Sunday, October 15th, 2017.

I am foot-loose and fancy free all Sunday, so if you see me, corner me and say hello. Also, much like Friday, I shall ensure I always have two d20s with me so we can duel with our official Can*Con 2017 RPG characters. (I think I’m going to be a wizard).

Hope to see you all there!