Friday, September 25, 2015

Up to My Knees In Mud

By the time you read this I will be in Bonnie Scotland and, judging by weather reports, up to my knees in rain and mud. I will be cold and wet and happy--and very likely a little hung-over from the night before.  :-)

A lot of the other kind of mud was slung my way this past week. Although I did not make the decision to reveal my identity lightly, was braced for disapproval, disappointment, even distaste...I have to admit I was taken aback by the hysteria and vitriol that boiled and bubbled for nearly a week. Slopping over not just me, but the entire M/M community. A community that prides itself on "understanding," "acceptance," "tolerance," and "compassion."

It turns out that--for a few--a prism is just a one dimensional photo on a blog page.

Many cruel and cutting comments from people who know the power of words. Aimed not just at me, but at any one who dared to speak up on my behalf.

A lot of talk about "authenticity" from people who believe it's a body part. In fact, a couple of gentlemen of the genre came perilously close to stating a straight man would have more authenticity writing gay romance than any woman ever. Because it's all about the bass, 'bout that bass, 'bout that bass. 

A lot of assumptions. Because I am a happily married woman today...I must have always been so. I must have always been this person. Never kissed the wrong boy. Never kissed a girl at all. Never wondered, never worried, never feared, explored, tested, loved and lost...

I was in junior high the first time I was called "lesbo." I was so naïve, so sheltered I didn't even know what it meant--except that it was clearly the worst thing a girl could be.

How is this anyone's business but my own? How is it some people feel they have the right to interrogate me about things my own husband has never felt the need to question?

It has been horrifying and yet fascinating to watch people who know absolutely nothing about my work history or my personal life pronouncing judgment. Feeling comfortable and self-satisfied in their self-righteousness. "Weighing in" and never asking I actually have the facts? Am I distorting the facts to fit my own agenda?

I'm a private person, but I tried to share some of the facts in this interview, because I know some people are still genuinely confused and unsure and hurt.

But there really isn't a lot more that I can say--although, like Columbo, here I am with "Just one more thing..." Though they sang louder and did a better job of clapping along with the chorus, the people who believe this kind of "deception" should be punishable by banishment and bankruptcy are a minority. I remain overwhelmed and moved by how much support and kindness I've received during the past week.

Even people who were disappointed and bewildered and hurt reached out to say I won't stop reading you. Don't stop writing. Support from my peers--which means so much--but even more support from readers, so many readers--readers being the people who maybe know me best because they've read my work and they understand what I've been saying all these years. Probably have formed a reasonable idea of who I am--without ever knowing who I kissed.

As painful as this was, I don't regret being honest about who I am. I haven't asked anyone for anything, you really think it was easy to do what I just did?

Okay, fine that was then, but why didn't she drop the veil sooner?

Think about this: for a long time dropping the veil would have meant nothing. I wasn't earning enough here to matter. I chose to drop the veil when I actually have something--a great deal--to lose. I am willing to risk it all. And despite the shrieks of outrage, I don't have any second thoughts on revealing my identity. I don't regret it. It had to be done.

I have a New Adult book coming out in a couple of months. It's a funny story, a nutty story, a silly story. But at heart it's a story about a boy coming to terms with who he is. It's a coming out story. And it occurred to me while writing Jefferson Blythe, Esquire that I could not let that book be published, could not respond to the inevitable reaching out from younger readers--readers the age of my own nieces and nephews--while concealing my truth. That I am a woman. And that my own journey has not always been easy, but I have found my own way. Sometimes by doing as society bade me. Sometimes by following the road less traveled.

Does authenticity come from destination or from journey?

I guess it depends on who you ask. My journey continues.


Friday, September 18, 2015

Coming OUT with a New Book!

Alternative blog title: OOPS, MY SLIP IS SHOWING.

This is the blog post I kind of hoped I wouldn't have to write because I really did believe in my heart that the M/M genre had surely moved past this kind of nonsense.

But I have been wrong before. And will no doubt be wrong again.

So here's how this will work. First off, I haven't read all the dramatic, finger-pointing posts about OH MY GAWD!!!! JOSH LANYON IS A CHICK!!!! And I'm not going to. I can guess what they say--pretty much what these same people have been saying for years (yes, nearly a decade now). I'm not interested. Honestly.

And as much as I would like to respond individually to the outpouring of loyalty and God. I'm overwhelmed. Genuinely overwhelmed. And deeply touched. And in the middle of packing. So I'll write my piece for those who are genuinely confused or hurt but I will not open it up to comments because it would get crazy and I won't be here to monitor it.

I'll leave the post up during the weeks while I'm away and then we'll get back to business as usual upon my return.

Like I said, I'm not reading the AH HA!!! DIDN'T I TELL YOU!!! posts but I can guess at the venom and vitriol. I honestly think some of these folks are more pissed off than ever because I lowered the veil.

Why did I lower the veil? Why now? Because it's time. Because I'm comfortable with the idea now. And, while I don't mean to be unkind or rude, my reasons for wishing to conceal my offline real life identity remain my own business.

A bit of historical perspective for those of you relatively new to the genre. Several years ago Jane at Dear Author speculated in a blog about whether I was female or not. The wise and funny Teddy Pig took issue--and that triggered a huge, wearying debate about women using male pen names, blah blah, blah and I said repeatedly in the huge thread of comments (which I don't have time or energy to track down, but I'm sure it's all still there) that I refused to state my gender, that it was irrelevant.

Which I believed and continue to believe.

Had I wished to make life easy for myself, I could have simply answered, Hell yes, I'm a man. How dare you question me? Etc. No one could have proved otherwise and that would have been the end of it. The years of gossip and rumors and speculation were fueled by my steadfast refusal to state whether I was male or not. Which...for God's sake. THAT WAS THE ANSWER RIGHT THERE. Right? Certainly for most people that was the answer right there.

Anyway, old timers have known The Secret for years--one of my former publishers has made a point of "outing" me at every single GRL--but there are so many new faces in M/M that I guess this week's revelation does come as news for some.

Anticipating the complaints/objections/criticisms to my use of a male pen name:

1 - It wasn't just a pen name, you pretended to be a gay man

 See above

2 - It's about assuming a queer identity in order to give yourself  "authenticity" so you can sell more books.

This one has always fascinated me. I am a woman therefore you automatically assume you know my sexual history. Really? You assume too much. Here's the relevant point. I am currently happily
married to a wonderful guy. Everything else is moot. And none of your business.

As for the 2.1 part of this question, the ever popular bit about cashing in on the booming market for gay fiction. LOL. There was no "booming market" when I started writing gay fiction. I wrote and published for years and made no money at it. Is someone seriously suggesting I should have stopped using my Josh Lanyon pen name the minute the market became lucrative because...huh?

In what faraway, distant realm of publishing do these people live? I worked hard to build my brand--and that brand consists of writing mainstream-quality mysteries and being attentive and responsive to my readers.

I make money writing mainstream fiction too. I could have focused on that brand just as easily and been even more successful. I was on that path. But I prefer to write M/M fiction. At least for now.

3 - It is not misogynistic to speculate about someone's gender if they are really female and trying to sell books under a male identity. (Or something equally convoluted.)

Well, yes. Actually, it IS. The saddest part of this is that a great deal of the misogyny comes from other women within the genre. Male writers frustrated because they believe female writers have created a false expectation in the M/M audience...I get that. But these guys still don't understand that this genre evolved from a different literary tradition and the expectations and tropes were already in place when M/M became an actual marketable genre. You take away the HEA aspect and you lose your market as well.

But I also understand that not everyone is going to agree with me on this. So let's agree to disagree.

Are there other points of criticism and contention? Probably.

Look, nobody outed me. Or at least, no more than usual. I chose to drop the veil. I've been planning this for a long time. Which means I was prepared for the hue and cry. I won't deny that I hoped for a little more civility and sanity in certain quarters, but overall I've met with humbling support and kindness.

These are the facts. Make of them what you will.

Frankly, the people who have disliked me for various reasons for a long time now feel justified in that dislike, but I doubt they are saying anything aloud that they have not whispered behind my back.

 I'll leave the rest of you to decide for yourselves.


Here I'm going to reverse myself and add one final thing. A number of people have mentioned feeling hurt because I didn't share the truth--or foolish because they didn't guess it. My intention was certainly never to hurt anyone. The fact that I wasn't in a hurry to unleash the flood we saw today pretty much explains itself.  But as for not trusting wasn't that I didn't trust my online friends. It's that I don't trust circumstances. It's very hard to keep a secret and the more people who know, the harder it is.

I expected the bullshit. What I did not expect, what overwhelms me now is the kindness and support I've received over the last few hours. Thank you--each and every one of you--sincerely for that.

As a good friend of mine is wont to say...YOU GUYS ROCK.


No, but seriously, I want to hear the "normal" reader reaction to this idea.

I was talking to a reader the other day about turning Fatal Shadows into a graphic novel, and I mentioned Kickstarter and he mentioned  Patreon. That was the second time in three days I'd heard of Patreon. I'd previously read a post by an author relatively well known in our genre, and X made an interesting argument, although I was still doubtful about how it would all work.


It's nothing new in the arts. in fact, as time-honored ideas go, patronage of the arts is right up there with chopping thieves' hands off and hanging pirates. Oh, and burning witches (which I used to get a lot, by the way). :-D And group patronage would be the best option given how few dukes are left with money for the arts burning a hole in their pockets.

Group funding.

Is it the new reality? Is it the future? For some artists--musicians certainly--it is the fiscal present.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. And I'm sincere about that--an album, unlike a book, costs a horrendous amount of money to produce (as in, if there are authors out there spending a minimum of 20K to put a book out, we need to chat.)

Confronted with such publishing realities as B&Ns dwindling ebook sales, Audible's reduction in royalties, Kindle Unlimited, Scribd's decision to cut romance titles (too many romance readers are not cost effective!!) etcetera and etcetera.

Where are we headed?

I honestly don't know. I'm taking this one step at a time, one year at a time. And I wish I was saving more.

At this juncture, it would be very difficult for me to go back into the regular workforce. But should the fiction market go away (HUH?!) I could switch gears and do ghost writing, non-fiction...I got mad typing skilz, let's put it that way.

Do I want to stop writing fiction? Hell no. The idea makes me literally ill. Of course it wouldn't be a matter of not writing, it would be a matter of not publishing. But even that feels pretty unthinkable at this stage.

The gathering funding for a specific project makes more sense to me. I'm not sure whether readers would really get behind the idea of recurring funding.

You tell me.

Oh, and for your edification, here's an article discussing the difference between Kickstarter and Patreon.

What is your feeling in general on this idea? I'm interested in hearing from both authors and readers on this one.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Blog Post Number Zillion and One

Ha! I had lunch with a writer friend last week and we started talking about tropes in romantic fiction. The things we are willing to suspend disbelief for in a book that we don't necessarily believe in real life. Or that we believe, but with qualifications.

I thought rather than me pontificating on what I think all that means, it would be nice to just have a discussion with you, and you tell me what you think it means. If anything. :-)

So here are the topics we discussed.

1 - Love at First Sight

I actually believe in love at first sight. As a matter of fact, I have personal experience with love at first sight. So this is something I believe in both in fiction and in reality.

What about you?

2 - Gay for You (or the alternative version: Straight for You)

I don't believe in this in reality. But I also have no problem admitting I haven't experienced or witnessed everything in the world--and that I understand that people are complicated and wildly diverse critters.

I do understand the romantic appeal of these GFY or SFY stories.

What about you?

3 - Love Conquers All

Yeah. Not so much. I wish it was true, but no. However, I do completely love the idea in romance fiction--especially when the characters are shown as working hard to fix the problems that exist between them. Because that I do believe: love takes work and commitment. And hard work and commitment can solve an awful lot of problems.

What do you think?

4 - Opposites Attract

This is true. I have seen this and I have experienced this. Attraction does not always lead to Happily Ever After, however, but I have seen Opposites living HEA. Or as close as we get to HEA in real life.


5 - Reunited and it Feels So Good

Again, yes. I have seen couples break-up and even years later get back together and live HEA (or, again, as close as we get to HEA in real life). I have not experienced this personally, however. I really don't have regrets about past relationships. I mean, yes, I have regrets, but not about the relationship being over and having moved on.

What do you think? Feel free to expound. I love it when we have these in-depth discussions!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Happy Labor Day!

It was so cool and breezy last night I actually shut the windows--for the first time in four months?

There's still plenty of warm weather ahead, but the summer is drawing to a close. I'm sad about that. I'm always sad when the summer ends, as much as I love the autumn. But I'm looking forward to each new season in this house. Our first fall, our first winter...

In the meantime, have a nice long weekend--if you're in the States. And if you're not in the States, have a nice too-short weekend!

Monday, August 31, 2015

This is Not Your Mother's Publishing Career (part 3)

If you just happened to pop over to the blog today, I’m chatting with L.B. Gregg about how publishing has changed from the good old days. (Although the Good Old Days had their problems too.)

The conversation began over at LoveBytes, continued at LB’sblog and we’re finishing up here—and hoping to get some other insights and perspectives.


Platform and persona


Once upon a time a writer’s “persona” amounted to a decade-old staged photograph on the back of a book jacket. Raymond Chandler with his cat. Mary Stewart with her pen. Pearls or elbow patches optional. Now it’s a whole different world.

The problem with the new emphasis on persona is it creates this huge pressure to be out there being social and personable and “on” twenty-four seven -- which is not necessarily the writer temperament. Not everybody is good at making small talk.

L.B. - And ai yi yi, not all of us are good at blogging. I’m very good at small talk and cocktail conversation. I wish there were more opportunities to chat with readers, but I don’t like doing so online. I am uncomfortable with the nature of online commenting and social media. It’s a shit storm on the best of days. I’d rather chat with someone at a conference or signing.

But see, you go to conferences and talk with readers in real life. And, I want to make the point that you were/are a brilliant blogger. You just made the decision not to continue reviewing/blogging once you became an author. And while I miss your blogging, I think that choice to quit reviewing was shrewd.

Once you create this expectation of accessibility and interaction, there really isn’t any way of going back without appearing to withdraw or subtract previously added value.

L.B. - You can go back, but I think if you withdraw once (and I have) the real question becomes whether interaction and accessibility add value to your writing. Because if it distracts or depresses or overwhelms or angers you, then find another avenue.
Puppy Makes Everything More Interesting


Maybe it’s crucial to set up realistic parameters to start with. Because I started out being Everywhere All the Time, and that was a contributing factor to burnout.

L.B. - You were all over the map. I think finding that one right place, whether it’s Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or what, is better than spreading yourself too thin.

Which I learned, to my cost.

Then there’s the notion of platform in genre fiction. This is an idea that evolved with mainstream publishers hoping to give certain books a marketing edge in a crowded market. So a former police officer writing a police procedural is theoretically going to be more interesting to readers than, say, an ordinary run-of-the-mill author writing a police procedural.

L.B. - Or a housewife writing a romance novel.

Ha! So if you’re a gay man writing something like male/male romance there’s supposed to be this added cachet to your work. But that’s nonsensical. You’ve got to bring more to the table than genitalia.

Um. In a manner of speaking.

L.B. - Not touching that table. No.

I don’t care who you are or what you’re writing, platform is about how the work is marketed. It’s an advertising gimmick. It’s not a substitute for the work. And I think sometimes people are disappointed because they’re leaning very heavily on their credentials, and credentials don’t turn pages, don’t leave readers misty, don’t lead to someone heading straight to your website at midnight and clicking a buy link. 

L.B. – Well, true, the notion of platform can and does work against some authors in this flooded market. Does that make sense? There are a lot of people asking for justification. Or offering it. Why do your write x,y, or z when you’re not an authority? Here’s why I write x,y, or z.

 I don’t have time or patience for that.

No, it’s boring. It’s pointless. To even ask the question is to miss the point of FICTION.

This concept of “authority” in fiction is a new one, and I believe an ephemeral one. It’s part of that Every Child Gets a Cookie mentality wherein passion and sincerity are supposed to be just as good as talent and craft. We all give lip service to the notion—nobody wants to be the Genre Grinch—but the fact is when it comes to buying books, craft and talent trump enthusiasm and sincerity (or even authority) because what readers want is a great book. Every. Single. Time.


Readers buy books they want to read. Building a readership means you consistently supply the books your readers want to read. If there is such a thing as branding, that’s what it amounts to.

And as for platform, well, readers will support enthusiasm and sincerity and authority, but they’ll do it in different ways. 600 likes on your FB post, for example. I LOVE YOU SO MUCH, AUTHOR X!! but your books are boring, so I usually don’t buy them.

I had an interesting chat with Nicole Kimberling at Blind Eye Books the other day, and she was theorizing that it’s not so much that more books are being published as the slush pile is now largely filtered through DIY publishing. Readers and citizen reviewers have replaced editorial and agent assistants as the new gatekeepers. I think there is a lot of truth to that.

But now I digress. What platform does do—and this is very valuable—it gives you something to talk about besides BUY MY BOOK FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. Original and continual content in the Age of White Noise is an issue. You can’t just keep posting about new reviews or new releases. You have to have something else to talk about. In order to engage with readers, you have to talk to them. And a sales pitch is not conversation.

So the pressure is on to be charming and personable and witty and pleasant and…and…say something interesting.

L.B. – Or I can tell a joke. Or post a photo of a puppy.
More completely gratuitous puppy 

LOL. You have adorable puppies.

Then there is branding, which is a big part of—

L.B. - I am not a brand. I’m an author. I say this smugly, with the kind of mustached self importance of a hipster, but I’m not selling as much as I’d like so maybe I need to focus on branding myself.

It just sounds so painful. And distasteful. And…dishonest. Is it me? I don’t want to walk around with a giant sign that reads LB GREGG BOOKS and, IDK, hand out business cards to strangers like I’m witnessing for Jehovah. (can I say Jehovah?)

The thing is…the thing is publishers will try to create a brand for you and sometimes, if you’re not sure who you are yet, you allow that to happen. If if it’s not a good fit? You have to start all over again. The LB Gregg I was when I wrote the first Smithfield books, she’s not the same LB six publishers later. She’s a little less starry eyed and a lot more cautious.

So isn’t it better to define your brand yourself?

L.B. -- I still don’t know what my brand is. But I know what it’s not.

But then I also think too often people are worrying about their tagline and brand before they’ve actually worked out what kind of writer they are. Honestly, I see more authors worrying about promotion than about whether their writing is good enough for prime time.

Is this cynical on their part or are they right? I go back and forth on the question.

L.B.— Well. Look there’s bubble gum music and quality pop, and people buy and enjoy both.

A lot of people buy books based on the ‘cool kid’ word-of-mouth factor (not mentioning any names here—oh fuck that. EL JAMES). The issue is that as a romance author, we’re already viewed as bubble gum writers by the rest of the publishing (and reading) world, and it’s in our best interest to do good work. To focus on craft. Not that I’m the bees knees of romance. Holy no. In truth, I’d love to be a cool kid who sells books based on my incredible promotion machine because there are bills to pay.

Well, I guess it comes back to what you want out of your publishing career. I think people aren’t always honest when they answer this question. Me, I want to continue to do the work I love for a living. I don’t need six hundred “likes” on my posts and I have zero wish to be a celebrity.

Genre authors as celebrity

What? Who? Define celebrity in this genre.

I guess we could both name a few of the “celebrity” authors in any given genre. Basically these are the people with name brand recognition (I know!) which translates into earning power.

I mean, being known within your genre doesn’t always translate into earnings. The nutjobs are well known but they usually don’t earn well. And there are those who are highly respected by their peers and reviewers, but they don’t always earn well either. Which of course creates great confusion and frustration.

Success in publishing is not always fair. 

Nor is publishing a democracy.

At the same time, celebrity does not always equal success (unless ego-stroking was the primary goal). But maybe again here is where people need to be honest because, not to be the Debbie Downer, most authors will not earn a living at writing fiction. Period. And maybe that doesn’t matter. Maybe you love your day job and being considered one of the cool cats in your publishing circle is all you’re really looking for.

L.B. –I like to believe one can keep on the radar without being an online personality. In this new publishing world, where producing four books a year is considered the bare minimum, keeping readers interested is vital, particularly if you’re not producing four books a year. Free reads, self-publishing the back list, producing audio books, foreign rights—blogging—there are small ways to keep your name on the radar, but you have to be realistic if you’re a) not able to churn out books and b) you suck at promo.

So. I’m not going to buy a Tesla with my earnings any time soon, but I’m okay with that.

I will have my friend J. Lanyon buy me a Tesla.

I wish. And not just about the Tesla. I want to believe you’re right about the promotion side of it, and maybe you are. I do know that I can be out there tap-dancing twenty-four-seven, but three months without a new release, and my sales slump. You have to feed the engine. Or maybe "monster" is a better word.

You also have to be honest with yourself. And I think you have to get informed about the industry. Frustration and anger and depression are a reality, but I think information helps diffuse some of that anxiety.

Or maybe not. But the bottom line is, this is the new publishing reality. This is not your mother’s publishing career. That was then, this is now.  

 For the moment. 




L.B. Gregg –When not working from her home in the rolling hills of Northwestern Connecticut, author L.B. Gregg can be spotted in coffee shops from Berlin to Singapore to Panama -- sipping lattes and writing sweet, hot, often funny, stories about men who love men. Buy her books here:


Josh Lanyon – A distinct voice in gay fiction, JOSH LANYON is the multi-award-winning author of nearly seventy stories of male/male mystery, adventure and romance. Josh is the author of the critically acclaimed Adrien English series, including The Hell You Say, winner of the 2006 USABookNews award for GLBT Fiction. Josh is an Eppie Award winner, a four-time Lambda Literary Award finalist, and the first recipient of the Goodreads M/M Romance group's Hall of Fame award. Learn more at


Friday, August 28, 2015

If it's August it Must be...

No significance whatsoever to thumbtack in New York

I'm still struggling with the fact that it's August.

I was going to write about the weirdness of the month, but who am I kidding? It's the weirdness of the year--and more weirdness ahead. This has been a year of many changes. And it's not so much that I planned for them as they just seemed to come upon me. Me and the Lady of Shalott.

I seriously underestimated how distracting and time-consuming--all consuming--this move would be. Because it's not just about where I hang my hat. Buying a new house at this point in my life is kind of commitment to...well maybe not forever, but a foreseeable future. It has to do with long term financial decisions, which by default have to do with long term creative decisions.

Many, many changes. And while I am eager for them, embracing them, change is a tiring thing. Change is movement, and movement requires energy, and energy is not inexhaustible. That's not a revelation, or it shouldn't be, but yet it always comes as a shock to me that I can't do as much as I think I can.

I'm a slow learner on that point.

Anyway, Jefferson Blythe, Esquire is now in lines. So that's exciting because as usual, when I'm in the rough draft phase I always believe I can never possibly finish the book. Maybe some day it will be true. It is weird how much I LOATHE writing during the phase of rough draft. I mean hate it with a passion.

Which is funny given that in the dreaming, planning stage, I am totally in love with writing and the book and the characters. Then it begins. Then I hate the book, the characters, writing, my life, whoever the hell got me into this, etc. It is effing torture. I am not exaggerating. I hate writing a rough draft. Some more than others, but always without fail, I hate writing a rough draft.

Nearly as much as I love the initial planning and dreaming about the book. And nearly as much as I love the editing process.

During the rough draft phase, I feel like English is a second language. I feel like I'm brain damaged. And then comes editing. And suddenly I speak English again. Suddenly I've made a miraculous recovery and I remember how the world -- and words -- work.

It's pretty weird. And I don't know that it works for most writers like this. I do know that it has not been a spectacularly productive year for me. But life is settling down again. Sort of. Still plenty to come. Scotland, for one thing. Cannot. Wait. As much as I dread traveling.

Next year will be a very different year for a lot of reasons, but I feel good about it. I feel calm. Fatalistic? I don't know.

Anyway, on Monday I'm doing a joint multi-part blog with my writing chum L.B. Gregg called THIS IS NOT YOUR MOTHER'S PUBLISHING CAREER, wherein we discuss how much things have changed in today's vibrant and competitive (AKA enormously stressful) publishing environment). It's not so much that we have great advice for anyone because what advice can anyone give in a tornado beyond HOLD ON!!! This is the new normal.

We'll start out over at Love Bytes, continue the conversation at L.B.'s and finish up over here. Your comments and insights are encouraged!