Where’s Twitter?

English: George Takei at the 2011 Phoenix Comi...

English: George Takei at the 2011 Phoenix Comicon in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gone.

I don’t use it.  I find it even more useless than Facebook … which is saying something since Facebook’s psychotic algorithms for deciding what to actually show you in your feed (because the things that you’ve followed can’t possibly be the answer to such a nuanced and complicated question) drive me insane usually.

I’ve got a private, personal Facebook.  It’s for cat pictures and the like.  Twitter wasn’t even that useful.  I don’t have a personal Twitter, and as of this morning I’ve quit having a professional one.  That’s that much less SPAM in my email, that many fewer notifications for which I give less than no damns about showing up on my phone, and that many fewer potential security holes in my personal data.

I’m not sorry to have got rid of it.  I’m sure none of you were all that ardently following me on social media, and it seemed silly to “keep a social media presence” when I don’t use social media, do not follow social media … noticing a pattern here?  Seriously, if the iOS News app thingy had an option for “funny things George Takei has shared”, I’d have virtually no excuse to have a private Facebook; the remaining reasons being that’s where my high school reunion is usually planned and some family event things tend to get announced.

Tumblr may be next on the list, but as it’s sort of a blogging platform more than it’s a social media platform I am more inclined to keep it – makes a somewhat handy mirror of my blog … until I recall that it only posts excerpts with a link back to here … okay Tumblr may go some time soon too.  Who knows, I usually forget I have it and am not 100% sure I even know the password anymore so it’s obviously far less intrusive and obnoxious so can stay just because it’s forgettable.

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Thinking about Leelah Alcorn

Ed Greenwood

Ed Greenwood (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been thinking about Leelah Alcorn’s death and her suicide note a lot lately.  There’re numerous reasons that hers would affect me in ways more personal than most … but they all come around to, that note resonated a little, uncomfortably, close to things I’ve thought or felt at various points.  I, thank all the watching gods, have a wonderful family who is supportive and understanding of who I am and that led me to have … well, it’s why I’m able to be 33 and happy instead of the alternatives.

They’ve made me think long and hard about the way I tend to see the world and the people in it.  I don’t know that Leelah was a bookworm.  I don’t know, if she was, if she liked the sort of stories I write.  It doesn’t matter, she’s gone from the world, but there’re others still here facing a struggle similar to her own – even the happy (or maybe I should say “happier“) ones.

I think, in our society, there’s an odd balance between the status known as celebrity (no matter how minor) and privacy.  I think, too, that while we spend a lot of time trying to erode the privacy of some kinds of celebrity, we’re willing to provide virtual anonymity to others.  To most people, for example, a writer – be it a columnist, a journalist, a novelist, a poet, a playwright, screenwriter, et al we tend to let those who wield quill and parchment all the reclusiveness she might crave and be content for her to be naught but a byline and maybe a short, uninformative bio at the back cover or last page of a book and one that neither the text nor photo of ever changes in the course of a 30 year career.

But in today’s world, with social media and everything else, we find ourselves able to interact on a quasi-personal level with those authors we love.  Twitter, Facebook, Ello, and … okay, I’m not really big on the whole social media business so I’ve exhausted me list of interact-able venues.  Well, Goodreads, somewhat and, of course, our blogs.

English writer Neil Gaiman. Taken at the 2007 ...

English writer Neil Gaiman. Taken at the 2007 Scream Awards. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

More and more authors are gaining a level of celebrity.  We do start to learn about them as people.  They suddenly do have a face.  We know things about the lovely Ms Rowling, the quirky Mr King, and the hilarious Sir Pratchett that, maybe even 20 years ago we never would have.

There’ve ever been the ones who were very open, forward, and willing to share and interact with the world.  I present as Exhibit A, the sweetest and most generous human I’ve ever had the pleasure to speak with:  Mr Ed Greenwood.  There’re so many wonderful stories from the early days of TSR of him at gaming cons being just the most personable “star” anyone’d ever met; like a bearded and jolly George Takei or James Doohan (the latter, I suppose was fairly jolly himself, now I think on it).

I’ve guarded my own privacy … well, there’re many ways one can use the phrase “guarded jealously”, and I feel rather like I might be justified in claiming more than one of them.  In my own defense, I do not think in terms of caring who an author is as a person.  I make an assumption that the photo of Dennis L McKiernan, in the back of my copy of Dragondoom, is actually him so I know he’s a) a him (or it’s a reasonable assumption) b) he’s bipedal c) humanoid d) apparently monochrome! e) incredibly young!  (I’ve an OLD copy of the book).  All I much know about him is he’s good, and I love his work.  Then I realised, I do know more.  Because of the internet I know that Mithgar grew out of his own pen & paper RPG sessions.

We can’t, I think, avoid learning bits and things about the people whose books we enjoy.  Human curiosity and the internet work together to ensure we can learn more and we often go looking for it.

I’ve guarded my privacy because I didn’t want people to say they love or hate my work because of me, I wanted them to do so because of it.  I wanted Lauren and Sally, Allison and Jake, all the rest, to be the role-models and to be judged by my skills and talent as a writer.  I’ve said before, and I know it’s a real thing that people who know a book is by a woman, or a homosexual, or a 17′ tall rabid badger from Mississippi will buy it or reject it just because of that.  It grates against my sensibilities.  A person can have a wonderful library of diverse characters and tremendously wonderful role-models of setting and characters and every single last one of those works can be by rich, straight, white, ennobled, cisgender men.  All it takes is for those authors to be empathetic, sensitive, thoughtful, imaginative, intuitive, creative, and talented story tellers.  Exhibit B:  John Scalzi.  I can’t, to be honest, speak related directly to his novels, I’ve never read them (my wife has, but only one so she’s no help), but if his blog is any gauge …

Maya Angelou with Bloomberg and Nadler

Maya Angelou with Bloomberg and Nadler (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That said … to hell with it.  My own examples:  Ed Greenwood, John Scalzi.  I’ll add the likes of Neil Gaiman, Seanan McGuire, and Patrick Rothfuss … yeah, lot of those are SF/F authors, I told you that’s most of what I read.  They all interact with the public.  And I’m no recluse living in a cave with no social media accounts or ones only known about and accessed by some intern working for peanut butter and saltines.

I don’t follow their blogs.  I don’t read them every day.  But I do read an enjoy their blogs when the whim strikes me.  I do get to know them as people.  I’ve interacted with Ed Greenwood, mostly via Candlekeep.com, but I have.  With the Takei’s … these days celebrity aren’t lofty, remote deities to be admired from afar.

I forget, too, I grew up in the 80s, and early 90s.  I own (no, not past tense, I still have it) an 80286 with a 2400 baud modem.  I’ve got floppy discs with Prodigy on it from before there was an internet for it to access.  I’ve used BBSes, FIDONET, and IRC.  I remember with ICQ was brand new, and Search.com was what Google is now.  Maybe I see the world, sometimes, through the lenses of an 80s kid instead of a 21st century one.  I’d have had virtually no way to know the sexuality or birth-assigned gender of a favourite author.  I’d only know their race if the book had a photo, and I’d have their name (and said not-guaranteed-to-be-present photo) to guess their gender … but today that’s just not true.  When books really make an impression on people it often includes the author becoming someone they might look up to.  I’m no Maya Angelou, but … then again, early in her career … was she?

I plan to begin trying to write a for really real author bio for the places I’ve got my current silly one.  I may miss one, please feel free to point this out to me, I’ll be very grateful.  I may begin to include one, though probably a bit different, in my books.  Certainly I’m going to be more open about myself from now on.

George Takei on the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Pr...

George Takei on the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Pride 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If my books had only 1/10 the sales figures I do, I might assume that too few people know I exist to actually care, but I have hit best seller charts.  I have sold as many or more copies of Love or Lust than most first printings of a new author’s first book.  I finally had to admit to myself, like it or not, a blog with some 500ish followers, a decent daily hit rate, etc. means I’m achieving some degree of notice and that translates to celebrity even if it is very minor.  More bluntly, people know who I am, know what I wrote, and might be curious about me.  Some of those people might be Leelahs, and I want them to know that it can (I won’t say does, that depends on factors both in and out of the individual’s control, but it undeniably can) get better.  On the outside chance that there’s someone struggling with sexuality or gender identity or whatever who needs someone to look to for an example of that “can get better” business … I present myself.

Hello, world.

I am Ms Jaye Em Edgelciff.  I am a transsexual lesbian living in the Georgia in the United States and from the Ozarks part of Arkansas.  I am happily married to a woman who I met in college, I have two ridiculously odd, but wonderful little kittens and a hyperactive (as in for the breed) black-mouth cur.  I, sadly, do not have any children … yet.  I’m 33, and my birthday is 8 July 1981.  I’m an Army brat who never got to see too many places but I did get to live in San Antonio and Honolulu.  I’m a geek, and always have been.  Hard as it is, looking at the world today, but even if I’d known what I was as a little girl I could not have transitioned … it just wasn’t done back then.  I didn’t know what I was, or why I felt the ways I did.  I was awkward, I was shy, I was … I won’t say unhappy, as I had wonderful friends and a good family, but I was terribly depressed and had more than a few suicidal thoughts growing up.  As a teenager I finally started to get words around how I felt … I clearly had spent many of my past lives as a woman and had made the exceedingly foolish choice to come back around as a man (or had done something awful and was being punished with a penis, in some of my more self-hating moments).  Eventually I learned what transgender and transsexuality actually were (as opposed to the rather limited and skewed understanding I had under the term “sex change operation” where one envisions a guy going to get it cut off because he wants to be made into a woman … language matters, and connotation of sentence choice makes all the difference in the world).

With the help of hormones, and all the other fun things that go along with transitioning I am now a much happier, much more confident, much more me person than I was when I was young.

I don’t really write my books for myself.  Joe doesn’t exist to represent me or what I am.  Joe exists because, in the ficton of Now & Forever, Joe exists and is a transsexual man.  Lauren and Sally don’t represent myself and my wife … the most we have in common is I’ve red hair and hazel eyes, but Lauren has those features because Lauren has those features … my own eye and hair colour are rather different shades from hers and while I’m fond of them, clearly I’m not so vain as to force them onto someone else.  My stories are just for you to enjoy.  If they have any social purpose, any moral reason then it’s is only to remind people that we are all of us people.  To quote Stranger in a Strange Land, “thou art god, thou art goddess”.  I write what I write and the characters I do because they had the story I loved enough I wanted to take the time to write it down and share it with you, and if that story happens to illustrate a point you can take away and maybe see the world differently then that’s a bonus.  I read for pleasure and entertainment, I’m not about to write something with a purpose other than that; but I will admit there is a moral message that evolved as I wrote, but it was a pretty easy one … but it comes back to the Golden Rule which Bronson Alcott proved ages ago is so simple and obvious that 5 year old children are able to reverse engineer it with a little help from the Socratic method.

I do not feel that I am really all that interesting a person.  There’s not a lot about myself to talk about.  I enjoy cooking, though not much lately due to having an exceedingly tiny kitchen that makes cooking more a chore than a pleasure.  I enjoy foods, especially sushi and pasta.  I play video games, and board games, I love nature and hate cities.  I’m quiet.  I don’t get out a lot, but I also live somewhere that there’s nowhere to go if I wanted to get out.  I’m average height, if a bit petite in build.  I’m black, Cherokee, Irish, Dutch and German that I know of.  I’m a distant cousin of George Straight and that’s about as exciting as my universe gets.

I’ve said before, it’s not because of what I am as far as sexuality and gender that are why I’m inclined to care about rights and equality.  That’s just who I am.  When I thought I was a straight white male I still felt this way.  People don’t have to be LGBTQ or black or whatever to empathise and care and understand that equality matters.  It also doesn’t require someone to be non-white, not-straight, and/or non-cis* to be discriminated against.  White people experience racism in Hawaii, the natives are a little angry about the whole annexing the place at gun point (I’m simplifying the history, but really … Hawaii didn’t want to be a state, dirty pool was used to make it #50), in some forums of the internet there’re LGBTQ who can get just as mean or meaner to straight and cis who venture in there as they might assume that the hetero-cis would be … and maybe turn away a potential ally.  Men can be feminist, and we do have unrealistic and harmful stereotypes about men just as we do for women; in short, they face their own brand of sexism and objectification … I think fewer of them seem to care, but it doesn’t change the fact it’s true.  In short, you can be the king of flippin’ England and still care about ending sexism, ending anti-lgbt* nonsense, ending racism, etc. just because you take the few seconds to care and to remember:

What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.

And … I know my audience is mostly teens and parents of them.
  • Parents, please remember that the most important thing any parent can do is to love and support who their child is.  Please do not be Mrs Alcorn saying “we loved our son” when speaking of your trans* daughter who has died because of too many of that very statement; and please extrapolate down for the less extreme (and not-trans*) analogues to that statement.
  • Kids … maybe you’re somewhere, right now, where you’re misunderstood and alone.  Maybe you’ve parents who … maybe they’re confused but do love you, or maybe you’re right and they don’t … but if that’s the case they’re no parents; do what you must to be safe, but within that context be you.  Do your best to get by, channel your sorrow and pain into determination to have the best schools all banging down your door for you to attend, or if you’re crafty/creative/musical/whatever … use your pain to fuel your exodus into somewhere accepting, tolerant, somewhere that you are at peace and happy.  For the trans* kids, yes it is easiest to transition as a child, easier as a teen, but possible as an adult and hey … depending what aspect of it you’re talking about, it’s possibly been within your lifetime that transition was even possible for someone who wasn’t an adult.  It can be okay, but you have to hang on long enough to let it do so, and you can’t just cross your fingers and wish for it to get better.  The wishes that come true best are the ones you make true.  Not every dream can come true.  I won’t paint a fairy tale where every mom & dad eventually sees how foolish they were and accepts you for who you are, it happens so don’t give up hope, but if your dream is that … steel yourself that it might not happen, but the fun of the word ‘might not happen’ is it contains the caveat of ‘could happen’.  Family has a number of meanings.  My wife has little to do with her blood family for a laundry list of reasons, not all of it, but a fair chunk.  Her family is, mostly now, mine.  You can control your destiny, somewhat, if you give yourself the chance to do it.

And … depression is real.  It’s serious.  Life can be roses, unicorns, sunshine, and bunnies cuddling and you still hate the world and want to die.  I know this, first hand I know this.  If you can work through it yourself, fine.  But I know that nothing I say will make that pain and those thoughts go away, that’ll take the right help and what that is varies from person to person.  Need someone to talk to?  Suicide hotlines exist in droves, contact me if you like, friend, pastor, cousin, dog, cat, tree, or rock.  Maybe you need someone to care about … of all things, one of the biggest reasons I’m still alive is that I’ve always had cats and I’ve always loved them too much to leave them.  Maybe you straight up need meds; fun part is, a competent doctor might recognise (for the trans* I mean, obviously this won’t help for anyone else) your issue and help you get your parents to help you transition … you really are a boy/girl trapped in a girl/boy body and your brain craves the correct hormones and your body isn’t making enough.  Everyone else AND some of the trans* folks … sometimes you need anti-depressants, St John’s Wort, Prozac, or whatever.  Do what you must and can to make that better, it’ll make the rest of life a lot easier.

There.  Now you know me, sort of.  If this helps one person, it’s worth it for the loss of privacy and for the loss of that barrier between people judging my work through the lends of who and what I am instead of by simply looking at the page.  Because life is far more precious than any of that nonsense.

I’m going to sticky this until I can get ’round to working out what to say in my bio.  So please don’t forget to scroll down to see if there’re any new posts made after this.

A discussion, I hope.

English: Ellen DeGeneres in 2009.

English: Ellen DeGeneres in 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was an article I found on Facebook, shared it too as I recall.  The Best Way to Change Minds:  Come Out, Stay Out, and Speak Out.

Of particular note, for me, is the first paragraph:

Last week my friend, Professor Jenny Boylan of Barnard College, penned an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times entitled “Trans Community Can Change Minds by Changing Discourse.” I think it’s very important that our scholars are finally being provided with a platform to reach a far wider audience, and Jenny is one of our most articulate spokeswomen. It’s also important to note that — gasp!trans women are Ivy League college professors. I will even go so far as to say that what she said is less important than the fact that she is published in The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. That will have a great impact on accomplishing what she stressed as the goal of her piece: changing the nature of the public discourse around trans persons and the experience of being trans.

Now, of course, it’s about the transgender community.  Applicability, a word I learnt from the late Professor J R R Tolkien‘s lovely writings on the subject of storytelling, though means it says so very much more.  Amazing how much storytelling and life can have in common if you take a moment to look around and see it.

I’m rather torn on the subject myself.  This is why I hope this will be a discussion in the comments.  It’d be interesting to see the varied opinions and discourse on the matter.  I’m a private person.  I don’t like, as I’ve said before, giving details about myself.  I’ve no problem standing up for people.  Race, sexuality, gender expression, gender identity … we’re all people.  I stand up for people because first off, it just seems the right thing to do.  None of my business if someone is a woman, man, or other.  Doesn’t matter the slightest to me if they’re Buddhist, Pagan, Jew, Christian, Islamic, or pray before an old Pepsi can from 1973.  I certainly can’t imagine being too upset about anything that two or more consenting people might like to do with/to one another.  Above all else, I’m not going to say that someone doesn’t deserve the same rights as anyone else just because of who it is that they love and find attractive.

My point is; do people in the public eye – authors, actors, politicians, etc. – do we have some obligation to be out?  And out about any of it.  Out about being heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual, pepsisexual, transgender, transvestite, transatlantic, or transmitted; anything.  Does it matter?

I do feel that we should certainly speak our minds if we’re willing and able.  I’m somewhat able and somewhat willing, so I do.  But that’s not because of our being public.  I think that’s just a very good and human thing to do.  If you want to be objectivist about it and find some self-serving reason for it then how about Martin Niemöller‘s words:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Should it matter if you are gay or trans*?  Should it matter if I am?  Your cousin?  Should it be enough that you don’t feel that anyone should ever be treated as less than human?

So I do, I ask:  am I right or wrong?  Is it enough to speak out, even if I will not come out cis/trans/queer, gay/straight/bi/other? I am out on one point:  I’m an out redhead and an out woman.  I’m also an out writer (exceedingly vague reference to The Notebooks of Lazarus Long).  Does it add some weight to what I say if I am Cis or if I’m trans?  If I’m gay or straight?

The article seems to think so.  At least taken in an extrapolated form.  To be fair, the article itself isn’t talking so much about the Laverne Coxes, the Ellen Pages, the George Takeis of the world.  It’s talking about the guy who bags your groceries, the woman who delivers your mail, etc.  It’s about advocating by simple example.  By not isolating yourself, as a trans person, estranged from anyone who ever knew you as your assigned gender to begin fresh and reborn as your true gender in another town all alone … It points out that, if no one can really identify with an issue, put a real face and person to it they’re not really going to feel much point in supporting the cause.  Little girls like Jazz, women like Laverne Cox; they may seem unreal to people, or isolated curiosities.  George Takei and Ellen DeGeneres; same thing.  They plant the seed, the curiosity, the vocabulary.  They shout the issues from the rooftops, but the ones who prove them right are the gay parents at the PTA conference for their’s daughters’ school; it’s the little boy struggling to be allowed to play for the boys’ team instead of the girls’; it’s your trans brother and your lesbian sister-in-law, your bi cousin.  That point I don’t argue with.  Those who know me I’m out about my sexuality with, my marital status, etc.  What I can’t seem to make up my mind about is this:  does it matter in either direction to the public?

Funny I should say this, given my post about representation, but I guess it comes down to this:  representation in my work exists.  I’d assume that my characters present far more valid role models than myself.  You get to know them, you see their thoughts, dreams, hopes, fears, all of that – you share a bond with them.  Me?  What am I?  A dyslexic typist who happens to occasionally take it into her head to string several English words together in something like a logical and coherent order.  Does this make me the kind of public figure whose personal details matters for representing anything or anyone?  I can paint landscapes populated by cis/trans/queer alike, homo/hetero/bi/pan/a whatever, but I can do that regardless my gender, race, height, weight, bust size, inseam, zodiac sign, sexuality, etc.

Still, perhaps I’m wrong.  I’d love to hear what others think:  does my sexuality, gender-status, marital status, etc. matter?  Never mind me specifically, I mean anyone.  Does J K Rowlings’?  Does Stephen King’s?  George R R Martin’s?  Neil Gaiman‘s?

Is it me or is that a long list of Caucasian, cisgender, heterosexual people?  Look, writing as a profession or even hobby doesn’t actually need representation, does it?!  I mean, the anonymity of the pen/keyboard?  How many authors use pseudonyms!  I mean … people know this right?  I mean were I gay or bi or whatever, that wouldn’t make a difference to whether or not some little girl who falls in love with my books decides to take up the quill and tell her own tales … would it?

Damn, now I can actually see arguments both ways.  Stupid blogpost … bad blogpost, no cookies!

Life would be so much easier if humanity weren’t so caught up on the idea of finding reasons to look down on one another.  I mean, aside from obvious ones like rape, murder, theft … people are starving, and there’re religious groups spending money and energy on fighting the legality of Portia and Ellen’s marriage.  Really?!

Still, these comments are no less moderated than any others.  Your comment won’t show up unless you have a previously approved comment or unless I hit the magical, mystical approval button.  But, you know, discuss away.  Between the comments and my own soul searching, maybe I’ll get around to writing up some kind of bio about myself.  Maybe I won’t.  I’m still leaning to “it doesn’t matter”, besides … could turn out I’m just as status quo as Ms Rowling; at least with the silence there’s a mystique.

“The New Civil Rights Frontier”

I’ve been thinking very hard about something recently.

Time magazine has been receiving a lot of flak for calling trans the next civil rights frontier of America.  Even I criticised this on my Facebook page.  But while there were numerous other reasons to criticise the article, I believe this is one thing it was dead right on; albeit I think it’s the new worldwide issue, not just America.  There may be legal recognition of 3-5 genders in parts of former Persia and in India and Thailand might have no problem with its ladyboys (hey, literal translation and one that those ladies who speak English from there prefer or don’t mind), but by and large it’s a struggle abroad, too.

Thing is, the criticism is that it makes it seem like the fight is over for women, for races, for homosexuals.  It’s not, no, but the battle there has evolved and has momentum; it ain’t won, but it’s a matter of time, winning is becoming inevitable.  Trans is sort of the new kid, our battles began … when would you like to say?  With the fops and dandies of a bygone era?  With the 20th century?  Somewhere in the 19th?  History is fun that way, depending how you want to interpret a question the answer could actually be since before we came down from the trees.

I was thinking about this because I wondered why so many of the things lately I’ve been seeing, sharing, talking about, etc. have been trans-rights.  I realised because it is the new war for equality.  Trans has had it’s battles, its skirmishes, but that was the underground, viva la resistance!  Now it’s armies at war, now it’s faces like the young Jazz or the beautiful and talented Laverne Cox, now it’s something that is in the news every freaking day in some fashion or another.  Now it’s on the cover of Time Magazine!  Racial equality, women’s rights, gay rights?  These have fought those battles.  Kirk & Uhura kissed on national TV.  Babylon 5 had a woman pope and president to say nothing of the force of nature which was Ivanova!  Will & Grace?

Legally these wars are won.  Note, though, I said legally.  The need for an equal pay act isn’t a question of legal victory, it’s the get legal protection from a social ill.  It’d be a legal victory if there was a law specifying women earn less than men; it’s a form of the Affirmative Action laws which made it law that society give blacks a chance so that they could take advantage of the elimination of the laws that kept them in second class status.  Gay marriage is a legal win, and one that 20 of 50 states have been won in!  Numerous countries have bowed out of that war and homosexuals have their rights — other fronts are still a bloody and brutal battle; some parts of the Middle-East, for example.

To say that transgender isn’t the new fight, isn’t the new war, isn’t the new frontier isn’t to invalidate the fighting for it that has already happened, nor does it say word one to deny that other civil rights battles haven’t and aren’t still in process of being fought.  It just says that the battles are big, public, and people are actually aware of them now.  More importantly the fights are being won!  Before the fights were more to do with small measures of acceptance from this employer, from that family member, from this friend … now bottom surgery is slowly disappearing from the laws governing changing the gender on ID; now little by little gender-identity is being specified as a protected status – and if you think that isn’t important, talk to a homeless transgender person who can’t get even a job at McDonald’s and who has been denied housing, has been turned away from shelters … except maybe you can’t because odds are now the poor woman or man is dead, murdered for being who he or she is and in a few too many cases it was discovered because as ever when a group is marginalised so thoroughly — they turned to prostitution, and unless whoring is legal with nice safe and clean brothels to work in … well … not a happy scene.

I believe wholly that all people regardless race, religion, gender, sex, orientation, etc. are people.  Some people are good, some are bad, some contribute better to society than others — but that’s because of who they are, not what they are.  Catholics can be amazing people or utter twats; I’ve known Asians that were the most fantastic people you’ll ever meet and others who were the most hateful and horrible people; same with gay, trans, men/women/other … truly it matters not because labels don’t make someone bad or good, they just help us communicate things like “she prefers the ladies”, “he has a kind of reddish tint to his skin” and so on; our actions and our words make us good or bad people that’s what makes us “oh, he is such a saint!” or “God, she was Satan in her past life”.

So I suppose the answer to why I’ve shared so much related to trans is simply that besides the latest news on the latest fight won, the war for gay equality and the fight for women’s equality and the fight for racial equality … no, they’re not over, but they’re not news!  We all know that battle is still being fought and what the issues are.  The odd reminder now and then keeps the fight alive, the celebrating of the next milestone victory let’s us know yet another checkbox on the to-do list has been filled.  Thing is I’m an author of teen fiction.  I’m not an Advocate, this blog isn’t for promoting anything but myself and my work — and to fill in the time in-between that purpose I ramble and subject you all to the inner-workings of my psyche — it’s on Human Rights Campaign‘s website, or on George Takei‘s Facebook page, or Lizzie the Lezzie’s blog/Facebook that one can find a constant barrage of “this fight is being fought” “there’s a pride parade over here!” “oh bloody hell!  can you believe someone actually said this to me today?!”.  If you want live, up-to-the minute coverage of women’s rights, gay rights, racial rights, and even trans rights this is not the place to find that, those other places are.  I’ll just share the news that catches my attention and right now the important part of that word, ‘new’, is the inroads that trans rights have suddenly found itself making.  I am, for the time being, celebrating that.  I think it’s beautiful and wonderful.

So much for agents?

George Takei on the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Pr...

George Takei on the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Pride 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is thursday of the final week of waiting for agent responses. Sadly, as I recall, all the remaining agents are the sort not to guarantee a response one way or the other — only promise a reply if they’ll take the novel. Tomorrow I suppose I begin sorting everything out to self-publish Now & Forever.

My earlier post was a none-too-sublte attempt to garner some feedback to decide if I should keep searching for agents — I did recently find about an hundred more. So I’m asking outright for advice and opinions.

For those of you reading who aren’t authors and, therefore, (potentially) unaware of the grand dilemma here, please allow me a moment to elaborate. Those who already know exactly why this is a rough decision, feel free to skip down to the comments and throw in your voice on the matter.

For the uninitiated here are the pros and cons of publishing presented in juxtaposition between self and traditional publishing.

  • Self published I can have the book out tomorrow (though it won’t actually be until June, because I’m a perfectionist and want to tidy up a few things first, and will spend a lot of time agonising over the position of the pages in the print version). Traditionally published, it’s liable to be, at least, another year before the first book comes out — and regardless when I finish the other 3, assume at least a year between them
  • Self published I get 60-70% royalties, as opposed in the traditional model of approximately 2-5%, minus the agent’s 15% from that 2-5%. BUT There’re these lovely things called an advance where the publisher (with a little prodding from an agent) decides that the royalties for the first printing of the book ought to equal X and so cuts a cheque (though, these days more like 3, one on contract signing, one later on, and another even later than that) for that amount. Agent gets 15% of it, and I walk to the bank with something that’ll buy some groceries.
  • Self published has no true advertisement but word of mouth. I would, very literally, be relying on those who read or stumble on this blog, those who stumble upon and (praying to God) read the book to tell their friends and family about it. Yes, yes, Project Wonderful, Google AdSense, etc. Tell me, honestly, how often do you click those? Hmm? Not often, do you? Or you do, but how often do you buy? You’re not unique you know. Traditionally published books, don’t exactly get TV spots in the halftime show for the Super Bowl, but they are advertised and marketed to book buyers. Unless you get your paycheque from Barnes & Noble, or own a mom & pop bookshop you are not a book buyer — book buyers are the folks who decide what’s going to be on the physical store shelves, and then buys them. Tell me — how many books have you bought from an author you’ve never heard of from the bookstore versus an online retailer? Getting a picture?
  • Cover art. This one gets fun. As a self-pub author I control the art. I can say “this is amazing, this sucks, etc.” For those who don’t know, an author with a publisher has no say in the cover art (normally, some publishers might ask the author’s opinion, notice I didn’t say value or listen to it). Now, in all honesty this is both a thrilling and horrifying thing. The publisher would find a professional artist (not of my choosing, but hopefully someone with a modicum of talent) to make up a pretty cover for me that’s formulated and market researched to make people buy the book. Sadly, sometimes this means a cover that has no basis in the story whatsoever. Sometimes this doesn’t detract, and helps (Twilight is apparently a fine example of this — though, personally, I always walked right past those covers without a glance). The upshot, however, is that with a traditional publisher I get a, theoretically, unique cover design from a professional. By myself, I get whatever I can put together with a mix of photoshop bungling, some creative commons searching/begging for donated art from artistic friends/scrounging up hundreds or thousands of dollars to purchase some art.
  • Distribution. In this day of the internet, who needs think of distribution?! Just put it up as an eBook and it’s worldwide in 24hrs. Again, I ask, when was the last time you bought a book from an unknown author when you weren’t browsing the shelves of a bookstore? Distribution is important. And face it, it’s the biggest weapon in the arsenal of a traditional publisher, and one that most self-published authors have no means to enjoy. CreateSpace‘s book sizes will often be a mark against many stores carrying them — 6×9 is a trade paperback, yes, but many stores won’t carry the hardback and trades of an unknown. Good ol’ pocket paperback 4×6 or 3×5 is more likely to carry and isn’t offered. Lightning Source, Inc does, but that’s out of budget for many authors — and LSi, offers far better distribution options than CreateSpace ever comes close to.
  • Other promotion: as a self-published author I’m unlikely to be able to have ads for my books show up in any media. Some magazines do carry ads for books — notice how none are from self-published writers? Ever wondered how much that little ad cost? Books might be mentioned on some TV shows and radio programs. For example, in a hypothetical universe, I am picked up by McMillan publishing, their PR guy takes one look at my book, looks up at the TV and thinks, I got it! And calls up the folks in charge of Ellen’s show and gets the book mentioned there, interview with the author (way too shy to talk to a camera, but this is a hypothetical universe where maybe I wouldn’t be) and … you get the picture. Self published? I might be able to get George Takei to mention it on his Facebook page — curiously enough, in both of these cases it’s all back to word of mouth. In this case the mouths of a pair of celebrities whose opinions on such matters folks are wont to listen to. And, y’know, the Takei thing might not be such a bad idea now I’ve said it. Other promotion might also include reviews. Many professional reviewers won’t touch self-published, that’s right, they refuse it outright. So I’d be down to relying on GoodReads and Amazon Reviews. Hmm … there we go again with word of mouth.

And therein lies the problem. If you didn’t notice, the pros and cons are, actually, fairly balanced. I can reach my readership faster and with greater control of cover art, timing, pricing, etc. But I can reach more readers with a traditional publisher. The promotion and advertising — well, the biggest Truth in marketing is that word of mouth is the only guaranteed to work, everything else is guess work; educated guess work but still guess work.

If I knew that the release of my book on Amazon’s Kindle wouldn’t be swallowed by, and I wish I were exaggerating, 13 (I counted) pages of pre-orders going out nearly 15months! For those not in the know, self-published writers and many small press/indie press publishing houses don’t get this option with any online retailer except Apple’s iBooks — not even Smashwords is so respectful to its users. So I would be buried under the Jo Rowlings, the latest adventures of Drizzt, or Junie B Jones.

Round and round, it’s like watching my dog chase the flea that just bit his tail, poor thing, but I watched him just now and realise that it’s a perfect analogy to my problem. Shrug off the rejections by the agents and do it myself, or keep trying? Which has the greatest gain? True, I write for the love of writing, but I also live in a world that relies on money — I’m not going to spend a year or more carefully grooming 140000 words into an enjoyable tale and hand it out with a cheery wave. I’d like to, and if employers in this country felt obligated to pay enough to live on, I actually would — it’s save the headache — but they don’t so I don’t. In a sense, yes, this is about money, but it’s in a “I’d really rather be writing than answering phones all day” kind of way.

So, please, do comment — feedback helps. I have authors following, I know. If you’ve any anecdotes to share, please do. Readers? What’s your answers? Do you prefer to browse the samples of iBooks, Kindle, and Nook to decide who and what to buy? Do you browse past a dozen pages of pre-orders to see what you can get right now? How many of you talk to your friends and family about what you read — how many of you are excited enough by the prospect of reading Love or Lust to recommend it to them or even gift it to them?