Why Yes, There are Books Out There That Aren’t About Rich White Dudes

Sometimes I forget I don’t live in a safe, feminist-thinking, people loving bubble.

I mean, at home, we have two mostly non-verbal kiddos. It’s a love-fest of speech coaching, playing in the hose, and sneaking words in on the stair case when the kiddos aren’t looking. My husband is the wokest straight white dude I know. He’s pretty fantastic actually.

I work at a bar/restaurant where they ask for preferred pronoun on the application.

And I choose not to engage with bullshit online trolls, because I ain’t got time for that shit. I have novels to write, damn it.

But last night. Oh, last night, sexism smacked me right in the face.

It was about 11pm. I’d just gotten off work and was at the bar paying for the cajun tots I was bringing home for Brock. (Midnight cajun tots is where it’s at, yo.) Sitting next to the bar register is this older white guy by himself. I pretty much ignore him. I’m off the clock, but still wearing my work shirt, so I’m transitioning out of customer service mode.

The bartender asks me when my book is coming out. I cheerily tell him it came out last week, and his (appropriate) response is to say, “Well, I better get on the Amazon then.”

The guy sitting at the bar turns to me and says, “Oh, are you an authoress?”

First off, I give him the benefit of the doubt, dude might be trying to cutesy, but I still have to grind my teeth at the word “authoress.”

I answer that, yes, I write novels.  When asked, I specify that they are romance novels.

Now, I am not ashamed in the slightest about the kind of stories I write. In fact, I am damn proud of them. That shit is hard to do, but I show up everyday and get the words down and do the revisions and do the promotions. I am making a career for myself, and I don’t give a crap if people think it’s useless.

At the same time, I know when people aren’t going to appreciate the work I do. I already knew this guy was going to brush my books off as unimportant, but when the next words out of his mouth were, “Are they tawdry books for bored housewives?”

I almost kicked him in the shins.

But, since I was still mostly in work mode, I kept my tone of voice kind of light, almost teasing, and said, “I wouldn’t call them tawdry. There’s a bit of tawdriness, but they almost straddle the line between romance and women’s fiction.”

Now, before we proceed. I would like to say that there is absolutely nothing tawdry about my books. Is there sex? Absolutely. But it’s never gratuitous. Sex always helps advance the story in some way, but I wasn’t going to defend my work, and they people who read it to someone who clearly doesn’t give a damn about any of us. And The Other Lane does butt up on women’s fiction is places, but it is still first and foremost a romance novel. Could I have made it literary? Absolutely. Did I want to? No. The rest of my books are more romancy, because that what I have the most fun writing. Sue me for doing fun things that bring me fulfillment.

Then, dude dropped to a whole new level of scumbaggery.

He said, “Huh, women’s fiction. I didn’t know that was a genre that existed.”

I’m pretty sure my head exploded. I know I said something after that, but I have no clue what it was. I’m assuming it wasn’t the “fuck you” that was echoing through my head, because the guy left me alone after. I finished up my transaction and escaped, because I like my job, and telling a customer to fuck off while still in uniform sounds like a good way to lose it, but I’m still spitting mad about it this morning.

I couldn’t think of a way to defend my work and the people who read it (Bored housewives my ass. Women who stay home, with or without kids are still people with minds and emotions that are valuable) without sounding like a petulant child. At the same time, I’m angry with myself for not doing so, because I have a voice.

Next time, I start in on the lesson in intersectional feminism from the word, “authoress.”

 

Announcing The Other Lane

Can’t wait for July and need a sneak peek now? You’re in luck, I have one.

On November 1st, 2014, I opened my laptop with a steely determination to actually win Nanowrimo and finish a novel by November 30th. I had been out of school for three years by this point, and the writing burnout from earning my creative writing degree was finally fading. My income had evened out. I was married. Living in a great house. Felix was about six months old and growing more independent every day.

The writing bug had been nibbling at me months. I felt that pull toward the keyboard. Write. Write. Write, it said, but I didn’t have a story in my head yet. I had zero clue where to start.

I also had zero excuses left not to do it.

And all I wanted to do that November was finish something.

So I sat down November 1st and wrote.

And then I did it every day for the next 27 days until I was done.

It was mess of a first draft. And it should have been. Despite the degree, I had never written a novel before. Two years of revision, a few months starting a second project and having another baby, and many late night pep talks later, I had a finished draft of The Other Lane.

And the most exciting news of all is that three months from now, I am going to hold a published book in my own two hands.

That’s right. I said it. I’m doing it.

I’m publishing my own books now.

And the first one is coming out July 10th!

I am doing what is known in the publishing industry as publishing “wide”, which means The Other Lane will be available on  nook, Kobo, iBooks, Amazon, and also available on library services like Overdrive.

There is still a ton of work to get done in the next few weeks, and I will be updating the blog as the big day gets closer. But, if you want to hear all the new before anyone else, join my newsletter. If you do, you’ll also get the first 50 pages of The Other Lane to peruse at your leisure on your favorite ereader.

Here we go big scary world. Let’s do this thing!

I Dream of Romance Heroes Who Defy the Patriarchy

On Saturday nights, my oldest son and I stay up and watch something together after the little kids go to sleep. It’s time just for the two of us. After finishing all of the episodes of Bake-Off on Netflix, we were at a loss of what to watch, until we happened upon a bunch of early 90’s Disney live action films. We watched The Mighty Ducks and Cool Runnings and some others I remember enjoying when I was his age. For the most part, he’s gotten a kick out of them, and we can talk about them later, what’s positive, what’s problematic.

This week Netflix suggested Mulan, and I thought, sweet! A movie about a woman who defies the patriarchy and kicks some major ass. So we watched it, and Mulan does defy the patriarchy (mostly), and she does use her brain and kick some major ass. (By the way, did you know that Miguel Ferrer voiced the bad guy? I had no clue. He was also the villain in Blank Check, because yeah, we watched that classic too.) But the message about gender roles, like how Mulan can’t help but be nurturing bothered me. Then the song about what a real man is was so full of stupid toxic messages that I almost stopped the movie to tell my son that no, that’s not what a man is. And while I am that lame mom that’s going to make him talk to me about, I’m not so lame that I’ll hold up the movie.

But good Lord, I cannot get that song out of my head. I mean, it’s a Disney song sung by Donny Osmund, so it’s catchy as hell, and I’ve been singing it for days. But the chorus has been bothering me for other reasons.

The Chorus (from Google)

Be a man
We must be swift as the coursing river
Be a man
With all the force of a great typhoon
Be a man
With all the strength of a raging fire
Mysterious as the dark side of the moon

These qualities are describing what it means to be an ideal man: swift, forceful, strong, and my favorite, emotionally unavailable. Looking outside Mulan, how often do we see men depicted this way across pop culture? Real men are strong, real men are assertive, real men are stoic, real men know how to take charge of a situation.

Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Bullshit.

All it takes to be a real man is to identify as one, but the expectations of toxic masculinity still permeate our culture. They are especially rampant in romance novels.

While the last couple of decades have seen heroines in romance novels gain agency, purpose outside their relationship, careers, and independence, the heroes haven’t come nearly as far. Far fewer of them are rapists. But the popularity of manipulative dipshits like Christian Grey and his hundreds of cheap billionaire-fiction knock offs greatly disturbs me.

I can’t figure out what is sexy about an emotionally disturbed, abusive gaslighter who lets you think you’re being independent while manipulating every move you make. Apparently, all is forgivable (even desirable) if you are young, rich, white, and conventionally handsome.

Christian Grey and his ilk is where toxic masculinity leads us, and just like romance writers need to do better by women than limp noodles like Anastasia Steele, we need to do better by men than Christian Grey.

Compassionate, caring heroes do exist in romance novels, but often I find they are still put on a pedestal by the heroine. He is the sexual agressor and/or tutor. He is the long time crush that makes her feel insecure. He is the suave businessman who somehow wows her with his cool disregard. And she is always striving to be worthy of him somehow.

There is never any question that he might not be worthy of her.

I want to see more heroes take an emotional journey of their own. I want them to come to understand how their socially ingrained misogynistic mindset can work against a successful relationship.

As he was reading latest novel, my husband commented that Ethan, the hero, had to overthrow his inherent misogyny to be with Juliet. I took it as a huge complimemt because my husband is a smart dude, but I hadn’t really thought of it as anything special before that.

Who doesn’t want their partner to think of them as their equal?

That’s fucking sexy.