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.

RIP Robin Williams

American comedian Robin Williams at "Stan...

American comedian Robin Williams at “Stand Up for Heroes,” a comedy and music benefit organized by the Bob Woodruff Family Fund to raise money for injured U.S. servicemen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, by now I’m sure everyone’s heard the news:  The great Robin Williams is dead, having committed suicide yesterday.

The world is a far lesser place without the laughter and joy he has brought to so very many souls in his life.

Depression is no joke.  It can blind one to just how much you mean to others and leaves you feeling worthless even when you might be one of the most precious people of an age.  True, a lot of us never knew Robin well, but what if he knew how his death would affect the world … would he still have?  Maybe, it’s hard to say.  We don’t know what in his life was such a tragedy to him – the sad thing about depression is, there doesn’t even have to be.

Still, perhaps he’ll be making the world a better place even now as he brings laughter and joy to the gods and heavens instead.

If you’re feeling a bit down yourself, find someone to talk to.  You may just find there’s something to live for.  Never underestimate the restorative powers of a pet, either.

For those in the US try this:  http://www.suicide.org/suicide-hotlines.html

For those in other countries, I’m sorry, but Google was being rather Amero-centric and its typical unhelpful self.  Please, put the revolver or sleeping pills down and take a few seconds to find your equivocal, or go find a priest, any priest, or just hold a purring cat … something.

A decision, of sorts, and not reached lightly

After much thought, and thanks to some very thought provoking conversation — both in the commentary, as well as among friends — I’ve reached a decision, kind of.

I am going to look carefully at the agents I’ve discovered through http://querytracker.com.  I owe myself the investigation of those agencies, at least, as well as owing any of you excited about seeing these books out — simply put, I’d rather you had more ways to get them, unless I get an overwhelming response that you’d rather have them now from one e-store than a year from now in 1000 stores physical and online alike.

I’m being highly selective.  I’m carefully considering the agent‘s “what I accept” list juxtaposed to her list of titles and clients to be sure that what they think they mean is what I think they mean.  Also, there’s the inescapable fact that all too many agents seem to say “oh, it’s most important that it’s a great story!” but their client list indicates they’re looking long and hard for “the next best way to cash in on the latest hit trends”.  I don’t believe any of the agents I queried before are as bad as that, or bad at all, but such agents exist and I intend to skip them over.  I’m also being selective on another front:  I’m going to try to see how well known, how well selling their client list is.  I’m not looking for an all-star cast, who’s who of the NY Times Best Sellers list, but if she’s got 50 titles under her belt and they’re every one of them the picture of obscurity … I can do obscurity tomorrow and keep the 15% commission for myself!

If I find a promising agent, I shall query further.

I reached this decision after much agonising and arguing with myself and others.  I was finally won over on this ground:  I want this book to be accessible.  If I can reach more hand, more eyes, and more minds with an agent and a publisher, then I should like to have an agent and publisher.  If I could convince myself, or if I could hear a compelling argument from another, regarding that visibility from self-published I’m certainly open to it and would self publish the story June first.  I will say I don’t believe it matters if I’m on a Barnes & Noble shelf or exclusively with Amazon, iBooks only or in every ebook seller offered as part of Smashwords‘ premium catalogue.  I mean, the whole word of mouth matter.  Suffice to say, with an agent and a publisher I’ve got more mouths saying more words on my behalf and any words I can pass on my own.

I do and don’t want to do this.  Frankly I hate writing query letters.  It’s tedious, it’s also terribly difficult — I’ve no self-esteem where they’re concerned.  I also hate waiting; I’ve got a story, and I’m anxious to share it.  I still may self-publish.  For one, I may decide against querying any more agents, if that’s the case … I’m giving myself until 31 May to have queried even 1 agent.  If I have, then the publish date will move to either 1 September, or the “hear back by” date of the last agent submitted a query — whichever is longest.  I’m going to give them time to make up their minds before I make up mine.

I’m sorry.  I know if I said:  if it’s not picked up by 20 May it’ll be published 1 June.  Still, there also hasn’t been any voices crying out in disappointment and sorry “No!  Jaye, please, stop this horrible internal contention and give us the rest of your story!”  I suppose that means I’m not really disappointing anyone but myself by changing my mind.

In the mean time, I want to try something different for Ready or Not.  I’d like to select some … in fanfiction they’re often called “Beta-readers” but I seem to recall there’s a niftier and classier term for it that most fiction writers use, but it escapes me right now.  I’d like to select 3 people to be my guinea pigs for book 2.  Given that the series is written such that one book flows to the next to some degree a selected reader will get a free ebook copy of Love or Lust to give them some reference and establishment.

How to be selected?  Nominate yourself.  The means to do this?

  1. Comment on this post
  2. Go here and send me
    1. Your name
    2. Your email
    3. Your file preference — ePUB, MOBI, PDF
    4. Your three favourite scenes/lines/parts of the sample chapters and what it is you liked about it (if it just tickled you or some other thing that boils to — I don’t know, I just do — fine, you just do.  Say so).
    5. Why?  Just answer whatever you think I mean by asking it.
  3. Wait until 11am EDT the 2nd of June for me to announce the ones selected.

If you want something done right …

Two posts in one night. My, but I’m in a mood tonight, neh?

If you missed any earlier mentions I’m self publishing my work. Some will applaud this, some will bemoan and decry it. C’est la vie.

I will not presume to tell any their business. If you prefer the traditional publishing route and have the patience for it, and the luck to succeed at it, by all means go for it.

For me, it’s simply not a desirable option.

Simply put I don’t want to put up with the crap for less than 5% royalties. It’s insulting.

The trick is to know what to do yourself and when to ask for help.

Plenty of books put through a major publisher see no real promotion, and no serious editing. Simple fact. Think to any major published work you’ve read lately that came out recently. Typos, grammar goofs, etc. And how did you know about it? NY Times best seller lists don’t count. I mean The Other Stuff.

So. Some things I’m learning.

Editor, have two, kind of. Sweet talk, or marry, a grammar nazi. Or pay, but we’re going to operate on the assumption that authors don’t have money. It’s statistically more likely. Have them proofread your work, but first do it yourself. Have some friend read it too. Someone to give feedback. The friend is kind of like a line editor and a sense checker. Their purpose is not to say, “in the second paragraph here you used the inverse third person conjunctivitis on your pluperfect nominative glass widget in duck sauce” (grammatician I most assuredly am NOT, most of my grasp of English grammar comes from my Latin II class); instead his job is to say “Jaye, great story so far, but just why is it, exactly, that when they went to the mall in Chapter 2 they summoned a daemon to ransack the Starbucks during that zombie uprising?” so that you can scratch your head and go “they were SUPPOSED to just buy shoes and grab some pizza. I’ll take a look at it.”

The important thing, though, is that it’s your story. Generally, take the grammar advice, but if it interferes with the narrative voice and is a subtle thing that doesn’t detract from the clarity, only the technical accuracy, ask yourself if you really want to change it. You can say no. Same goes for the mall scene. Maybe your friend is an idiot, or maybe it CAN be interpreted as a daemonic zombie invasion if you read if certain ways, but you’re fair sure the average reader will see shoes and pizza, then leave it.

Even if you speak perfect lit geek, and grammar is not an esoteric occult thing to you, still have an editor. She doesn’t know what’s supposed to be there. She’ll see what you did not.

Cover art: have it, but don’t go mad. Trends don’t mean much. Pay for a pro to make your cover if you can, by all means. But if you know a friend handy with a pencil, then ask him. Maybe you and a friend are handy with Photoshop. Search Creative Commons’ engine for an image that is befitting and doctor it up. A cover needs to catch the eye. As long as it does that and conveys something meaningful about the story, like genre, then you’re probably okay.

Look at a pro book and try to decide what you do or don’t need, and make sure to have that. Copyright notice pages, dedications, other works by this author list, etc.

Finally, get it out there. I don’t put much stock in single stop services like Smashwords. I just don’t think they provide a sufficient service to warrant the percentage they keep; not considering the nuisance their conversion software is. Others are hardly better. Use them, or not, is always your choice. Personally, though, make your own ePub in Pages or InDesign or similar, and upload them to places like Kobo and Barnes & Noble yourself. Make your own mobi for Amazon. Then a PDF and some patience with a good print on demand service. Lightning Source, if you have some money, or CreateSpace if you’re broke.

You may not get an advance, and you may have to learn to arrange your own book signings, but you get more per sale, so fewer sales to make the same money. No one arranging for you to sign books if you don’t like interacting with people or arranging them somewhere you don’t want to be. Pros and cons, it’s all the same in the end; even the praise vs the loathing. Some will like you better for being self pub others will deride you, the opposite is certainly true.

In the end don’t let anyone tell you what to do. It is and always will be your story. If you don’t agree with the advice an editor or agent is giving you, find another one or put the book out yourself. If you are in no hurry and want the peace of mind of a contract and an agent to do all the heavy lifting for you, then go for it. Just always approach with caution, and always remember they’re asking you for the rights to your work. No matter what they may try to make it sound like they’re not the ones doing you a favour, you’re doing them one – if they don’t have books to sell they don’t make a dime. I’m sure you can extrapolate from there.

Good night all.