When readers ask you difficult questions, they’re obviously onto something, aren’t they?
It began with an innocuous question about why so few people comment on my YouTube videos. My answer was simple: because almost no one watches them, and on average only one in twenty ever respond. Then they dropped the bomb, right in front of my feet:
“But some male authors, gay authors, sometimes give the impression they prefer to write for gay people. In a way as if they look down on the mm romance thing and their readers. […] As if they feel about the female readers as people in BDSM feel about the readers of 50 shades of gray.”
Image #1: M/M andF/F are only a fraction of all the available romance books available on Amazon
I understood the second I saw the question that I was in trouble. Maybe I was being “accused”? I am, after all, one of those “male authors, gay authors…” For those of you who are not following the little bubble of LGBT fiction, you may not understand what this is all about, so allow me to explain:
Amazon has many categories where they “stuff” books. If you navigate to the Romance section (image #1) on Amazon, you’ll find all the various sub-genres. There are screen shots taken from Amazon in this post if you want to have a look. (Self-)publishers obviously enter certain search words when they upload their information, but Amazon’s algorithm ultimately decides where books end up, and many of the books that are “romance” also end up under “Gay Fiction” (please note the complete absence of Bi & Trans as categories!)
Amazon’s genres aren’t making it easy
Image #2: there are a great many LGBT books on Amazon, even though it is the second smallest of all Amazon categories. Only test-preparation is slightly smaller…
As you can see, Gay Romance (and Lesbian Romance further down even less so) is just a fraction of the overall Romance genre, where contemporary and the more sizzling Erotica are the largest ones. Move over into the “Gay & Lesbian” section (Image #2), many of those same books will appear here, too. And this is where it becomes tricky.
If you drill down into the “Literature & Fiction” subcategory, you’ll see the third image further down to the right. And it shows that almost half of all the books in Gay & Lesbian Literature are in fact “Erotica” or “porn on pages”, and when I first started to look into publishing, I realized that even Romance novels these days are littered with sex, more or less on page. The difference between “Romance” and “Erotica” is often fluid, and many of the Erotica stories are of the darker and more violent variety (with frequent scenes of rape and physical abuse. I wrote about this
a bit over a year ago.)
Image #3: almost half of all LGBT literature is in fact erotica.
Fiction v Fantasy
It gets more complicated. When I was young and growing up, gay fiction as a genre didn’t exist. When I was a young adult, the only books you’d ever find about being gay were in the psych section of the book store or (“life style”, my favorite hate word, in the U.S.) Fictional books about gays were just to be searched for under literature, by author name, as was customary then. If you didn’t know what to look for, you didn’t find it until you virtually tripped over it. And the stories were not uplifting (watch my video from a couple weeks ago on this subject
), as we were often depicted as villains, sickos, freaks or child molesters, and later as “AIDS fuckers” who deserved to die. Lesbians? Well, their plight was worse, as female sexuality has always been treated as a non-existing thing, so why bother… That is still a problem, just look at the number of lesbian romance novels v gay romance novels. Bisexuals, Trans & Intersex? Yeah, exactly… But at some point in the middle of the last decade, some female authors of romance decided to branch out. I don’t know why, but maybe werewolves, shifters and paranormal story lines weren’t exciting any more, or titillating enough. I honestly don’t know. So they began writing romance novels about two men falling in love. And as is pointed out for everyone to see, every time a shit storm hits the genre, it was a “genre created by women, for women!” Not my words, hence the quotation marks. Romance is a huge genre in fiction, yet, overall it is less than a quarter as large as the total volume of “Literature & Fiction” on Amazon (image #4). In the LGBT space, the romance novels are the dominant force. I don’t know if they’re 80% or 90%. It doesn’t really matter, I haven’t looked at them all, but they are the vast majority. Per se
that isn’t a problem. LGBT people who read are as likely to like romance as their het counterparts. And there are quite a few, some very successful, gay writers of the genre.
So what’s the problem?
Image #4: Romance, in “general” fiction is a lot smaller than “Literature & Fiction”. In the LGBT space it’s the opposite, but a lot more pronounced.
Here’s my theory. Romance novels are primarily about escaping into a fantasy world, traditionally an Elizabethan or Victorian set drama where the damsel in distress is rescued and swept off her feet by a dashing hero (Mr. Darcy anyone?) And let me just say this, so I don’t have this thrown back in my face. That is okay. Escapism is great, heck I wish I’d had these books readily at my fingertips when I was a struggling gay teen (I’ve written about that, too
) Alas, I did not.
When I wrote my first books, I had read a couple of gay romance novels, but I didn’t know there was a thing called “MM” (and it’s Lesbian equivalent of “FF”) or “M/M” Romance, depending on how people prefer to spell it. What I did know was that the publishers in romance often expected sex, on page, at regular intervals throughout the story. I knew that my stories weren’t meant for those publishers, because I’ve always felt that sex, unless it furthers the plot, has no business in my stories. But that’s because I’m not a romance writer. I write gay fiction.
So what’s the difference, you ask?
Now this is a very good question. As I point out in my video, there is a significant overlap in the storytelling in Romance and Fiction. It’s about love (a human condition), relationships, parenting, failure, evil and what not. But there are differences, too. Because you won’t find “Catcher in the Rye”, “Lord of the Flies” or gay “A Single Man” in any romance section. Even though they deal with some of the above. Why? Romance, in my humble opinion is about “escapism”, getting away from reality, not having to think about your loser of a husband, the trouble your kids cause at school, the pain in your body, your drunk neighbor or the fact that you barely make ends meet. You look into the mirror and you see a woman (since 8 out of 10 readers of books are women) that wouldn’t make it on Heidi Klum’s Runway. She might be a little too old, a little too round, and a little too worn after multiple pregnancies. I think you know what I mean: real, live people. But you open that book and suddenly you are eighteen years old again, you’re the daughter of a count, you wear pretty dresses and you get to go on the adventure of a lifetime and you’re rescued (and fucked to the high heavens) by Mr. Darcy himself. Phew! For three or four hours you were someone else, laughing, crying, and ultimately riding off into the sunset of the obligatory Happily Ever After (aka HEA).
I can almost guarantee you that Christopher Isherwood had a somewhat different premise when he wrote A Single Man. His premise (as is mine) was reality, to describe the grim reality of what it was like to be a gay man in California in the 1950s. “But”, I hear you say, “romance novels deal with grim and harsh things, too!” And you would be right, of course, the difference is two-fold: a) the HEA and b) the way the story is told. A romance novel is all about the “romance”, i.e. how the characters get together. It’s the primary aspect of the story. Everything else takes the back seat. In fiction, it’s the opposite. There may be romance, but it’s in the back seat, and something else – whatever that may be – is the main driving force of the storytelling. Semantics? Maybe, and I am not sure that all romance authors would share my definition. And to complicate things further, there are many stories that are sold as either fiction or romance, but could easily fall into both categories.
So where does the question above come from?
Ah, right to the core after all this time, eh? Huh! Okay, say you would like to find a book about a gay or Lesbian couple raising children. I have at some point, when we were pregnant. You want books that are about parenting, the challenges you face as a gay couple in society, all the nitty-gritty details. I’ve found a few, but they weren’t primarily about the “raising” or the “parenting” aspect, the driving force behind those stories was the romance, and the books ended with the dads being a couple. That’s not what I was interested in reading. My questions “will the kid(s) be okay?”, “will the kid(s) be bullied?” and “how do you deal with this shit?” were left unanswered. After three or four such books, I gave up. I wrote my own instead. Remember: one hundred and thirty thousand books. How is anyone supposed to find anything in there? It’s like the proverbial needle in the haystack.
Personally, and in this post I can only ever speak for myself, I don’ have a huge issue with this. I tend to be on the side of “laissez faire”, rather than restricting people. But as far as I understand, some members of the LGBT community (and this post is primarily about gay men, because that’s where the frictions are) feel that the “hets have taken over our space” (which is complicated by the fact that gay men, too, write gay romance…), and that is sometimes expressed in angry and even hateful slurs. And that it is very hurtful to the authors and readers of gay romance books.
Allow me to infer a little parenthesis here. I call it gay romance. I really, and I mean really, dislike the acronyms with the two letters MM, FF etc. It’s degrading to reduce human beings like this, be it men or women. People are objectified beyond measure, they’re basically reduced to their genitals. You might as well say D/D (dick on dick) or C/C or D/C (you get the gist). Worst, in a genre so dominated by women, the het equivalent is still labeled M/F, the male is still mentioned first. If I ever use the acronym, I use F/M.
Back to our reader question. Picture a forest, it’s a huge forest with over a hundred thousand trees. The big trees, beautiful, proud and dark green spruces stretching to the sky, are our romance novels. They enjoy large numbers of readers (for many reasons: more women than men read, and there’s ten het women for every gay man), their success is propagated further by constantly being in the top sales lists on Amazon. Now in this forest there are also small saplings, books that sell maybe a copy a month, some less, some more. They struggle, because they’ll never really have any chance at a top 100 spot, because they are stories about the victims of AIDS, they are stories about being black and gay (Re Moonlight), there are stories about old men and women realizing they’ve lived a lie all their lives, and how this impacts their families. Some of these stories have happy endings, some of these stories do not. Some of these stories are based on things the authors have experienced themselves, fictionalized of course, but real. There is no escapism, there is no Mr. Darcy, no proverbial horse ride into the sunset. The covers of those books aren’t adorned by half-naked beauties with photoshopped eight-packs and unblemished faces, because that’s not what they’re about.
And that is where some gay male authors (the problem is worse for all other siblings in the LGBT community, but it’s different) have an issue, because they can’t find those stories, literally. And those books will never get a shot, because they just cannot, ever, reach a top 100 spot in a genre so humongous. It’s impossible.
Then there’s the quality and the way gays are described…
That’s not all though. I have read a lot of romance novels, because even though I didn’t set out to, that’s what popped up in my searches online. Allow me to make an example: anal sex. In reality, sex attitude research tells us that only about four out of ten gay men ever engage in anal sex. In romance it’s more like ninety-nine out of one hundred. In real life, when a grandfather is called to school, to pick up his grandson, who was bullied and beaten up, he’d be so shaken and worried about the child, that he’d spend the rest of the day in that child’s presence, making sure they were okay. Maybe watch a movie or whatever. And if the kid wanted to be alone, grandpa’d be on stand-by. In Romance (and I have read this in a book), the grandfather is driven to the school by his love interest (so far so good), and as soon as they’re home, the kid’s sent to his room by the author so that grandpa can be fucked senseless by his very manly former marine stud of a hunky-dory man. See the difference? Two extremes maybe, but alas. Then there are some authors (and this is true for ANY form of literature) who just don’t do their research. I know writers of gay erotica who didn’t know what rimming was, feces/santorum is hardly ever mentioned, not to mention the agonizing pain that anal sex can be, particularly for a newbie. Anatomic fuck-ups (a 69 with the ball sack slapping against the chin instead of the nose or maybe forehead if it’s a big sack?), or worse, those really, really bad authors who merely change the name and the genitalia on one of their protagonists and produce a girl with a dick. Gay men see that immediately, in the way they talk, behave, mannerisms etc. And we cringe.
Now before people come back and hit me over the head with this: no, most authors don’t write such crap. Some do, and it is hurtful when you, as a minority, which is already beleaguered and discriminated against, a minority still being exterminated (re Chechnya), still hated, not just within the safety of book pages, but in real life, today, when you are described like that, objectified like that. Does that make sense?
For my LGBT siblings, Lesbian, Bi/Pan, Trans & Intersex, the challenges are different. Their relationships have not been “usurped” by a majority group for their escapism; worse, their relationships, their sexuality don’t even matter (as one reader told me, “I just can’t FF. I can’t. The sex. They just don’t have the right parts”), and for Bi/Pan, how do you accurately describe the way they “tick” in a one-person relationship which the romance novel is about? Bi by definition means two at least, so if you want to accurately depict a bisexual person, you’d need to have two relationships, and my bi friends often complain that their ultimate choice effectively washes them gay or straight. For trans & intersex the challenge is different again. Their struggle is so complex that by the time they’re done with their transition, it’s time to wind up the story. And the trans books I’ve read were in the place where gay novels were thirty or forty years ago, focused on coming out, on being their true selves, transitioning. Parenting, relationships, careers aren’t the first thing on your mind when you can’t even go to the bathroom! Capish?
So what are you saying then?
My first novel ever published. For some odd reason, some romance readers took it to heart, even though the story at heart is a very different one, romantic, maybe, but not a romance at heart, Jonathan’s Hope is one gay man’s dream to start a family, a dynasty. It’s only at the end we see a glimpse of that, and it took me two more novels to flesh it out, befitting the first true “gay dynasty”.
Here’s my two cents. Yes, undoubtedly there are gay authors (although I’ve not personally talked to one who feels this way) who hate the fact that “M/M” hogs the limelight. I’m not one of them. Quite the contrary. I think it’s amazing that young gay teens can read all those stories that they’re legally not supposed to, with all that sex and all the bubbly happy endings. I mean who cares about age limits anyway? How old were you when you saw your first R-rated flick, huh? I was welcome into the community with open arms, I’ve made some amazing friends, too many, far too many to mention, I’ve read books from incredibly talented writers, mostly women, I’ve had the opportunity to partake in extraordinary life stories, women who aren’t as female as they seem to be, horrible back stories which have propelled their writing to great heights, and besides, the gay romance genre evolves. I can’t even recount all the discussions with authors who dream of breaking away from the rigid rules of the one true Harlequin novel.
They want to tell their stories, even if it doesn’t always end well, in that ride into the sunset with Mr. Darcy. I’ve met authors who do their research, authors who contact me to ask about things they don’t know, anxious to get things right. This is one of the reasons why I sponsor gay romance events like GRL, because they allow me to attend, make me feel welcome.
There’s also the amazing readers who’ve discovered my books, because yes, as tiny as my sapling is, I sold 736 books online last year, each and every one of those purchases by a reader represents a ray of the sun that nevertheless made it all the way down to me. Had it not been for my accidental affiliation with gay romance, who knows, I may have sold seventy books instead, because like all writers, nine out of ten of my readers are women, and some of them are now dear and close friends of mine, and they greatly outnumber my male readers and friends.
I can’t speak for others, and while I see their point, and while there is validity to their argument, my conclusion is a different one. Without gay romance, would there even be a “Gay & Lesbian” section on Amazon? Would we have the visibility we have today? I don’t know. Somehow, I doubt it. Had my novel Jonathan’s Hope
not been mistaken for a romance, my fledgling career might have flatlined before its seed had a chance to sprout into the tiny but proud sapling it is today.
If you have further questions, please let me know. If you have comments, if you feel you want/need to clarify or even correct me, the comments are open. My apologies for such a lengthy post. I wanted to make sure to get it right, and now I have to go back and re-read it, to eradicate the worst of my typos and grammatical errors. And I sincerely hope I haven’t pissed anybody off, because in this day and age, that can be accomplished in a single sentence, let alone thirty-four hundred words… <3
If you’ve read all this way, thank you, have a wonderful weekend, and if you like what you read, subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or feel free to interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram.
PS: There are two ways you can make an author’s day: a) is to buy one of their books and b) to leave a short review of it on Amazon. Good or bad, books without (or few) reviews are generally ignored.
My name is Ayla is a much needed story about honor or what honor is not
Two Novaks in one month? The girl is productive. Just a couple of weeks ago I reviewed her novel Love of the Game here and it’s already time for a new release from this productive Gothenburg author. My name is Ayla was originally commissioned as a Holidays short story, with a Christmassy feel to it, but once Phetra got going, it developed into something else entirely. My Name is Ayla is a novella I wish every high school kid would read, particularly if they live in a city like ours, Gothenburg, where people from over 130 cultures live together, mostly peaceful, but yeah, not always.
And a pretty cover it is… Ayla looks stunningly androgynous and the main canal of Gothenburg so peaceful. But don’t let the calm deceive you!
I once wrote a blog post about honor, and how what many cultures consider honor is the very opposite thereof. Young men and women are locked up, locked in, abused, and sometimes even killed in the name of preserving their family’s “honor”. I have to use quotation marks, because there is no way that family “honor” can ever be used without that. I had an incident last year, where I made sure that my family compensated an elderly woman after a minor (!) traffic accident where a relative of ours handled the situation below par. I felt it was the honorable thing to do. But make no mistake. This wasn’t about the Hirschi Family honor, this was more about me being able to look myself in the mirror. I felt very sorry for the old woman and wanted to make it right. Now, point two here: no violence. Not like I sought her out to take her lights out. Quite the contrary. We sent her flowers and chocolates and a nice card apologizing for the emotional trauma the accident had put her through. Afterward she called my uncle (I did this in his name) and she was very happy.
But to keep people from loving the person they choose or fell for? NO, that’s never honor. That’s cowardice. To claim that a woman’s virginity (which biologically doesn’t even exist) is what upholds a family’s honor? Says more about the men in that family… But it’s not about honor. It’s about misogyny and cowardice. Phetra dives right into that. Now I know Phetra, she’s a great friend and I know she really, really cares about these issues, and she would probably singlehandedly save every single boy, girl or person threatened by their family. But alas, how? And who?
My Name is Ayla is a story about educating people about the risks of the so called “family honor”. Ayla is a trans woman who is almost beaten to a pulp at the beginning of the story, and I got to read an early ARC to facilitate my honest (as always) review. I didn’t know what to expect from this book. The cover looks so innocent, the cover model androgynous and beautiful, the view of the city peaceful, but this book is anything but peaceful. The pace is fast, a lot happens in the 40K or so the story comprises. And it’s hard to talk about the story without giving away the plot. But needless to say, you’ll need plenty of tissue before you’re done with it. This story will shred you to pieces emotionally, because the story of Ayla, while fictitious, has far too many parallels to the real world, from Fadime Şahindal to countless others, in Sweden and around the world. Often, such cases never even make the light of day, because victims and perpetrators hide behind the veils of their cultures.
Here’s the odd thing about “family honor”: our western societies, where we’ve mostly left this shit long behind us, do not understand what is going on, how girls suddenly disappear behind veils, or are locked up after school, we often choose to ignore the shiner under their eyes or their bodies. Even deaths are often mislabeled as suicide, because we just don’t expect a mother to push her daughter over the balcony on the fifth floor. Instead, it’s an accident or suicide. Worse, it is really difficult for anyone to talk about this. Given the tensions between the western world and the Middle East, the refugee crisis, the terror by ISIS etc. anyone who criticizes people from the Middle East for their actions or deeds (or culture) is quickly labeled an islamophobe. However, and this is really the crucial thing here. This is about culture, not about religion. And it’s not limited to the Middle East. This occurs within Christian families as much as it occurs in Jewish families or Muslim families (Shia or Sunni), and the Middle East is home to orthodox Christians in several countries, from Turkey, to Syria, Egypt, There are pockets of Jewish populations in Iran, too.
I couldn’t agree more! Phetra is an extremely talented writer with a heart the size of a small town!
Ayla’s family is Persian, and they’ve lived in Sweden for a long time. Ayla’s parents were born here, so you assume they’re well “integrated” (a cultural buzzword here) or even assimilated. They even celebrate Christmas, even though they are Muslim. But when Ayla comes out as a trans woman, all hell breaks loose. My Name is Ayla is a story you do not want to miss. You will be touched by it, and at the end of it, you, too, will want to do something about this.
I can’t recommend this story enough, even though it’s still painful to think about it. My Name is Ayla is published by “Cool Dudes Publishing” and releases today May 1, so head on over to Amazon to get your copy!
Have a wonderful week, and if you like what you read, subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or feel free to interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram.
My annual royalty statement is a disappointment, although not much worse than last year’s
My publisher had a little surprise for me yesterday. My annual royalty statement. Now I get my statements (and payments) from Amazon every month, but since I only have one 99c title left, there’s never more than cents trickling through. All my other books (novels and my short stories) are published by Beaten Track Publishing. I’d been sent the Q1 statement but had long ago forgotten about it (repressed?) When I got my statement, at first I was glad, the numbers looked nice. I’d sold more than I thought.
But then I went back and looked at my Excel file, compared numbers to 2015. I’d done a BookBub (lucky me?) then and managed to get over 15K copies out to people. Sadly, it didn’t help me at all with my sales. So discounting that, I’d sold about three books per day in 2015. In 2016, the numbers shrunk, Q1 was still okay, but the rest of the year? Overall, I didn’t even sell two books daily. Yeah, that won’t pay any invoices for sure. I got an invoice for an ad in a literary magazine this morning. It’s almost the same amount as my royalty payment for last year. It’s the fourth time I pay that amount… Or you could compare it to one of my five installments for my GRL sponsorship, or the fact that it’s less than I pay for my B&B this weekend in New York.
Which makes you wonder: WhyTF am I doing this? Why am I still investing in trying to sell my books since obviously so few people buy them? One thing’s for sure, it’s not the financial aspects, it’s not because I get rich. The genre I write in (LGBT) and the fact that I’m not writing (fluffy) romance, were originally not conscious decisions, but still.
My latest novel, one I’m particularly proud of.
Okay, rant over! 🙂 Luckily, I only get this reminder once a year. LOL If I look at my Amazon author profile, I can still see that there are millions of authors who sell less than I, and they obviously make even less than I. Readership is decreasing, piracy is increasing, and I would just like to add this to the thirty or so who will read this post: please don’t pirate books. It’s not just about the theft of our hard labor. It’s also about cyber security. When you get something for free (like a book or a movie), don’t fool yourself into believing you get it for free. You’ll also get malware, trojan horses and what not, used by really bad people in DDOS attacks or to spy on you or others. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Just remember that!
Will I see you tomorrow?
So, as crazy and as much of a waste of money it is, I’m flying to New York today, to participate in the Rainbow Book Fair (provided I get into the country tonight…) From noon tomorrow Saturday until six p.m. hopefully thousands of visitors will browse books and talk to us authors, maybe even listen to a reading. I’ll be reading from my latest novel Last Winter’s Snow. I just need to finalize the selection. If you are in the tri-state area, please consider a visit to New York. To set up a book fair like that isn’t easy work, and relies on a great many people’s hard (unpaid) work. See you there?
I’ll keep writing. When I read about the horrible situation in Chechnya, where the leadership under Ramzan Kadyrov promises to exterminate (!!!) the entire LGBT population before the end of May (when Ramadan will begin), my blood freezes in my veins. We haven’t seen this sort of persecution since World War II and the recent killings in Uganda. But I also see how priests in the U.S. want to see us killed, how LGBT rights are questioned even where progress has been made. I see the beautiful images on my Dubai screen saver (compliments Apple), yet I know I can never go there with my family, as the very existence of my family is punishable by death! Just imagine that. So no, no Dubai for me. But i will keep fighting for my siblings, whether they’re gay, bi, lesbian, trans or intersex, queer or otherwise, for our right to happiness, our human and civil rights. I fight for myself, and for my son, for his right to grow up into a better world than the one I grew up in.
There is no amount of money you can place on human rights, so I’ll keep fighting, even though I lose ten to fifteen dollars for every buck I make. #ImWorthIt #Resist
Have a wonderful weekend, and if you like what you read, subscribe to my monthly newsletter with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or feel free to interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram.
Alphabet Soup: LGBTQIA+, are you with me?
Once upon a time there was a boy, we can call him Adam. He was an unusual boy, because Adam didn’t fall for Eve, he fell for Steve, not just romantically, but sexually, which was pretty much all they had, since they couldn’t love each other openly. One day, Adam and Steve (persecuted by society “it’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!”) met a girl, we can call her Eve. Now Eve was also unusual, inasmuch as she fell for girls, not boy. Romantically and sexually. Eve was madly in love with Alba, and their plight was great. They had both been married off husbands they didn’t choose and who they didn’t love. But at that point, the gay and lesbian movement was formed, and the four, as little as they had in common, began to fight for their right to be with the one they love.
But it’s always been a strenuous relationship, because the boys were always in the public eye, because they’re men and thus more visible, and because two men kissing or holding hands was so much more against societal norms than two girls doing the same. Plus women’s rights weren’t even on the table, and women’s sexuality was still largely invisible. Our four friends know two more interesting characters, let’s call them Brady and Brandi. Our boy Brady here joined the movement early on. He was as gay as the rest of the. But what Brady didn’t share was the fact that he was – in fact – Brianna. Brady is transgender, MTF (male to female), back then he was called transsexual or worse, a “transvestite” or “cross-dresser”. Brandi joined for similar reasons. Since she was totally into girls, she was outed early on as a dyke, a Lesbian, but alas, Brandi was really Brad, and brad is a totally heterosexual man, a trans man, FTM (female to male). At the time in the middle of the past century, there was little talk about them and many gay men would often dress in women’s clothes on weekends and put up shows, as drag queens. So the Brady fit right in, as unhappy as she really was, in a body that wasn’t really hers. And the same was true for Brandi, or Brad, but tom boys had always been a thing, and while frowned upon, when Brad dressed in jeans and flattened tits behind tightly woven bandages and wore a loose t-shirt, he passed as a boy. But back then, Brad and Brianna didn’t really exist, they lived largely as Brady and Brandi, and they were gay and lesbian.
Let’s talk about Bill, now he is a special character. Bill had crushes on boys early on, and he joined Adam and Steve to fight alongside with them. But our friend Bill here happened to also fall for women sometimes, which confused him immensely. How can a gay man fall in love and be sexually attracted by women as well? This was finally resolved when some kind soul informed Bill that there were some people who were bisexual, with the capacity to love and be sexually attracted to both sexes. Bill stood up at a meeting and demanded that he and other bisexuals be recognized. After much debate, the gay and lesbian movement became the LGB community. The struggle was still the same: recognition for who we really were, and equal rights and to end discrimination. Then came AIDS, and suddenly, our fight for recognition became, for Adam, Steve, Brady, Bill etc a fight for survival. Alba, Eve, Brandi and others were amazing during that time, standing up when we were dying, fighting for us. It brought us closer, and cemented a movement that was strong and powerful.
Our struggle for freedom is far from over. Marriage equality was easy compared to fighting for our right to be ourselves. Assimilation is not necessarily freedom!
Eventually, we received that first recognition in the form of civil unions, and in the wake of that success, Brianna and Brad began to demand that we now focus on their struggle. They wanted to live openly and in their “right” body. We agreed and the LGBT community saw the light of day. Now with the T’s, the odd thing is that once a trans person has transitioned, many become straight, and seems to fall out from under the rainbow, but their struggle doesn’t end, because let’s face it, Brianna couldn’t really transition until she was in her early fifties, and the damage done to her body by decades of testosterone roaming freely is visible across a large and muscular frame, and for Brad, getting rid of the tits was easy, but still, to this day, medicine can’t really create a passable penis. A vagina, yes, but the penises (and medicine has really tried hard) are still far from “perfect”. Maybe one day, they’ll be able to transplant them, but we aren’t there yet. In the end, Brad kept his vagina.
The political success and the long-lasting debates around the LG, LGB and LGBT movement created a more political and philosophical movement, the queer movement, and suddenly gays, bisexuals, lesbians and trans people called themselves queer, in an effort to blow up society’s rigid gender roles, which we realized were constructs rather than a biological necessity. Suddenly, people were no longer transsexual, but trans persons, or gender queer, some identified as gender fluid (i.e. moving between genders as befit their mood or frame of mind), or even agender (not feeling home in any gender really) The queer movement was refreshing, exciting, as it stretched far and wide, looked at literature from a queer perspective, even created its own economic theories. Alas, some in the queer movement also harbored much more revolutionary ideas, ideas about not just ‘explaining’ things, but violently altering the world in a direction they wanted. Those tendencies scared many in the LGBT movement, and while many use LGBTQ, some refuse, because of what the Q sometimes stands for or is used as.
One day, Brad brought a friend, let’s call her Tanya. Tanya was born with a chromosome damage, affecting about one in a thousand children. Tanya is intersexual, and when she was born, she had both a penis and a vagina. Shocked, her parents asked the doctors to remove the “appendix” from their precious daughter. Sadly, the doctors removed the “wrong” appendix, because Tanya always felt like a boy, not a girl. So while born intersex, Tanya, or Tony as he prefers to go by, is a trans man. Another letter was added: LGBTQI. Meanwhile, the struggle for equal rights continues, and while gays, lesbians and bisexuals now enjoy the right to get married, adopt children and are safe from discrimination in some places, the fight hasn’t even begun elsewhere, and we fight it on a great many fronts today. For every win there are countless setbacks, and given the added complexity of our trans- and intersex friends, we now also fight for our right to use the “right” bathroom, to be able to compete in the right sports category etc. Intersex athletes, most of them female, as it is medically a lot easier to surgically remove a penis than sew close a vagina, are particularly exposed. Caster Semenya, a formidable runner from South Africa saw hir most private details splattered across newspapers and TV screens around the world when she wasn’t even an adult yet. To get parents of intersex born children to abstain from surgery, to wait and see how the child develops, is excruciatingly hard for parents, and they often opt for the easy way out… No matter the cost to their child.
Love conquers everything, including hate, but we have to work for it. It doesn’t just happen by itself.
Until now, every added letter to the rainbow alphabet was about discrimination, legal rights. But recently, we’ve added the letter A, when Amelia and Jerome joined the crowd. Amelia doesn’t like to have sex. It’s revolting to her, and she recently divorced her husband because she simply couldn’t put up with it any more. Amelia is a CIS-woman, she’s Korean, but yeah, totally straight. She falls in love with men and is looking for a man to love without having to engage in the exchange of bodily fluids. It’s just not her thing. Amelia is asexual. Jerome on the other hand doesn’t mind the eventual romp, but Jerome is completely uninterested in love, romance. The idea of spending his life with one woman in a relationship is unthinkable for Jerome. Jerome is aromantic. He identifies as a straight, black man, and he does have sex with women every now and then, but he just doesn’t want to take that next step. Both Jerome and Amelia are frowned upon by their peers, their friends and families. We are now looking at the LGBTQIA+ community. The plus is sometimes used to identify both A-gender, A-romantic and A-sexual. Do you think we’re done? No, have I mentioned Peter? He’s pansexual. He’ll sleep with anything with a pulse (just joking..) No, seriously, Peter has the capacity to be attracted, sexually and romantically, to people of any gender, any sex. He’s lucky that way, but no, it’s not easy being in Peter’s shoes, because the demands from society to conform are tremendous. His mother always says, “but son, if you can fall in love with a nice girl, why don’t you?” Peter and Bill often discuss this conundrum they share! In many ways, the LGBTQIA+ community still struggles to obtain the most basic of human rights, as it states in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
We are no way near those rights. In a dozen countries we don’t even enjoy the right to live. Women’s sexuality is still largely a taboo, which helps lesbians to fly under the radar, but it’s a treacherous safety, because sometimes it’s better to be seen and persecuted than to be invisible, ignored.
Author Hans M Hirschi was born a CIS gay man. While perfectly happy in his body bad (as flawed as it may be), he’s also acknowledging the fact that his maleness is largely a social construct. He embraces all the qualities of his personality, no matter whether they be generally labeled “female” or “male”. He is happy to have been able to marry his partner of 16+ years, Alex, and to have had the rare privilege of having a child, their son, Sascha, four. While he usually writes about gay men in his books, he’s also branched out into the rainbow in his short stories, exploring various aspects of the LGBTQIA+ spectrum.
Here in the west? Far too many societies still struggle with basic gay and lesbian rights, while the Internet connects the world in new ways, making people aware of our diversity in a global way. And while we’ve moved past the pure legal battles of old in some countries, e.g. Scandinavia, where LGBT people enjoy almost full protection under the law, it’s easier to focus on the right for the A+ to be who they truly are, and live their lives fully. Elsewhere, gay & bisexual men and pre-op/pre transition trans women fight to survive, e.g. in Chechnya. Please DONATE to this cause, if you can!
Remember Adam? We survived the AIDS crisis of the eighties. Steve did not. Adam is seeing Bill at the moment, and it seems as if they might have a thing, although Bill’s elderly parents aren’t thrilled that he divorced his wife to be with Adam: “are you gay now?” (No, Bill is still very much a bi man!) Eve and her wife Alba are happy. Their oldest son just became a father, making the two gray haired ladies proud grandmas. The struggle continues, but here and there, rainbow families have begun to sprout, happiness spreads, and we continue to fight, and who knows what letter we’ll add to the rainbow next? They would all fit under the rainbow!
In the end, I think most in the community would agree that it would be nice if we could just replace them all with an H, for human. In the meantime, some suggest we stop adding letters and simply use the word SAGA, the story of a Sexuality And Gender Acceptance in society. Is SAGA a saga or a future for humanity? Stay tuned…
Happy Easter and make love, not war!
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There is an important difference between romance and fiction, one is mostly fantasy, the other one is about life itself, but we are all equal
“I identify as a gay man.” I don’t remember a single sentence ever sparking such a row (at least not in the small bubble I belong to.) But no, this post isn’t about the two lovely (I’ve met them!) ladies who co-write under the pseudonym Kindle Alexander. I believe that I’ve gotten enough background information from friends to understand why they did what they did. It may not have been the smartest move in human history, but I think their heart was in the right place. I choose to move on. Yes, they could’ve handled some of the fallout better, reigned in some their fans, some of whom went completely off the rails. Hindsight is always the wiser. Forgive, move on!
This post is about something bigger. And it’s something that has been on my mind (and other’s, it seems) for a long time. It is also something that is extremely difficult to dress in words without offending anyone. So please read this with an open mind, and heart. I just read a long blog post by Jeff Erno, a fellow gay author. His heartfelt post points to the difference between M/M (some call it gay romance) and gay fiction. When I published my first two novels, back in July 2013, I was ignorant, I had no idea about the existence of this genre where (primarily) women wrote books about gay men falling in love for (primarily) other women, having created, in effect, a sub-genre to the huge genre of “chick-lit”, romance or harlequin novels. I set the first word in quotation marks, simply because the very word signals just how bad the reputation of romance novels are. Trust me, I harbor no such feelings. Any book written and read serves a purpose. Just saying. Romance novels are no better or worse than any other books or genre!
Romance Genres on Amazon.
There’s a catch though: many readers of romance genre books believe in the rules that accompany that genre (just as there are rules accompanying any genre): a hero and a hero(ine) meet, chemistry develops, plenty of shit happens, misunderstandings, disasters and what not, before they finally kiss (have sex?!) and ride off into their happily ever after. That’s how a classic romance novel is strung, and there are certain rules you should follow: no adultery for instance, no menage à trois (or four) etc. Such books belong in carefully labeled sub-genres.
Today’s writing world is largely dominated by Amazon. And while Amazon’s 800,000+ thousand romance books have a small sub-genre labeled “Gay Romance”, most of the romance novels are published directly in the Gay and Lesbian section, where you can find over 130,000 books. And this is where it becomes complex. Because that section also houses literature written for an LGBTQIA+ audience which are not romance. A problem? It can be, yes. Let me exemplify.
No romance in LGBT, but all the romance books are in “Literature & Fiction” drowning out the rest.
First of all, the number of romance novels is many fold larger than the number of fiction novels, and since there is no distinction, it’s difficult for a reader to find the “fiction” among the “romance”. After all, we’re not talking about hundreds of books, but over one hundred thousand books! This isn’t about who writes or who reads, it’s about the stories we try to tell. Just this weekend I’ve once again stumbled across a review who criticizes me for a certain aspect of my books, namely the mentioning of death. Not very romantic, I know. However, I don’t write romance.
When I began writing, romance novels were not on my mind. I merely wanted to tell my story, not having readers in mind. My second novel, to this day my most popular one, was a coming out story, something every LGBT person knows intimately. It’s a story that is inherently who we are. And no, a coming out isn’t a one time thing. It’s a life-long process, every time you meet someone new, you have to think about this: do I tell them or not? Do I need to, or not. Straight people can’t even begin to understand what this means, and just how much the coming out is part of our existence, every day, for the rest of our lives. Just an example: you’re at the grocery store buying vegetables when a clerk approaches you. You tell them you’re looking for something for dinner. Do you tell them “for my family?”, “for my husband and son?”, the latter not unimportant, because it’s your husband who’s picky with regards to what he eats. Yes, we can’t even buy salad without being gay… And no, straight people don’t have that, you don’t risk the clerk walking away in disgust at you, or – if you’re in the wrong US state or Russia, turn you away… No salad for gays!
Jonathan’s Hope was no romance novel, but since it’s about “hope”, I wanted to write a novel to give all of us (gay men) hope that one day, we might be able to find love, happiness, even start a family (which most of us dream about from childhood). So yes, it’s a romantic book, not a romance, because it wasn’t intended as such. You’re of course welcome to read it as such, but you risk to miss a lot of subtext. And yes, people complain about the ending. But again. It’s not a romance, therefore the ending, therefore no “HEA”. Instead, the epilogue shows the “hope” becoming reality, and Jonathan walks home, his biggest hope come true, yet still hopeful for more. Hope realized is the biggest gift I can give to a gay reader, “it (actually does) get better!” I never intended to write another novel about Jonathan, and when I did, it was with the expressed purpose of killing Jonathan in the end, after a long and happy life (he was eighty when we leave him at the end of Jonathan’s Hope, hardly a spring chicken any more). But trust me, I find no joy in killing people. None whatsoever, no matter what people say. But my objective was clear: with Jonathan gone, I would never, ever, have to face requests for more. However, and this is where it becomes difficult, setting out to do something, and doing it, are two different things entirely. Hence the trilogy.
“My advice to anyone reading this book….skip the fucking epilogue!! Otherwise a good read, a little awkward in places but not bad.”
The above was my first negative review, ever. Yes, a romance reader. And no, they completely missed the point of the novel.
My books are about life. I’m no “literary serial killer”, yet people think I am. They don’t understand, sorry if I’m being blunt. I write about life, gay life. Death is part of life, even more so of gay life (re e.g. Chechnya). Death is the very consequence of life. Jonathan’s Hope plays out over seven decades (what family does not experience loss over that time?), my most recent novel actually is about death, how to deal with your partner’s death. Again, not a romance novel. It’s a book about how you deal with death of your partner. Not a romance. But there are romantic elements, of course, because romance, love, are part of our lives, too, luckily. But Last Winter’s Snow also shows that it wasn’t always that way, that there was a time when all you could expect as a gay man was to exist, not live. If you criticize me for killing a main character in that book, you don’t understand what the book is about. We’re not talking subtext or nuances. You miss the whole point. So yes, there is a certain risk when reading my books through the “romance” lens, and I’m not the only one who’s suffered that fate. The problem though is: how and where do you market such books, avoiding the purist romance crowds? Who’s to buy them?
There are no conventions for authors of LGBT fiction. There just aren’t enough of us. However, there are conventions for gay romance, not as many as a couple of years ago, when the genre was at its largest so far, but still. I attend them. I, along with other authors of gay fiction, have been welcomed and embraced by the M/M genre, and I am very thankful for that (which is one of the reason I sponsor such events, even though I lose a lot of money, every year). I feel the love and the warmth in that crowd, I’ve made amazing friends, even though I’m something the cat dragged in. Finding gay fiction among gay romance is like finding the proverbial needle in a hay stack. I didn’t know that Jeff Erno wrote gay fiction. Seeing him at GRL, I automatically assumed he was a romance writer (and that is what it says on his website). Yes, I make the same assumptions, the same mistakes. My bad. I’ve learned a valuable lesson.
This isn’t about gender, either. Women write both M/M romance and gay fiction. So do men. Although I’ve yet to meet a straight man writing gay fiction, but I’m sure there will be a kind soul commenting with names below (thanks in advance). Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain is a good example of gay fiction, not romance. And Andrew Gray is a great example of a gay man writing M/M romance. There are lots of others. This isn’t about gender, sex or sexuality. Any human being should be allowed to write about any subject, I’ve said this before. What I have learned though is that some of the women in the genre are not as straight and cis as they appear to be. Just saying. And that is a good thing. And we should be mindful of that, and be kind to one another. Not make assumptions (of which I’ve been guilty of as well, I’m afraid). Despite being gay, I’m also just human.
So how is the first sentence of this post connected to all this? I think a lot of gay authors are frustrated that their books are mislabeled as “romance” when they’re not. Some are angry because people are “appropriating” us for financial gain, irrespective of whether that is true or not. You might ask “does it matter?” It does. A romance novel is meant as fantasy, an escape from reality, it allows you to fantasize about two men falling in love, having sex and being happy. Trust me, when I see the images on Facebook from readers and writers of M/M, I see the countless images of sexy, well-defined, muscular hot men kissing and/or lying in bed. Lots of skin, oozing with sex. It’s far away from the reality of these writers/readers, and naturally far away from my own life. But it’s nice to know that you DO have that escape if you want it to, rather than looking at the mirror image of a middle-aged, fat guy staring back at you.
Yes, I am a gay man, and I write gay fiction. I don’t write romance, but you’re welcome to read my books as such if you like. As long as you buy them. hint Because I have news for you. If I were to a) only market my books to other gay men, I’d sell a whole lot less! And b) I’d miss out on one of my core beliefs: my stories are meant for everyone. Just as I can enjoy straight novels like “Catcher in the Rye”, “Hamlet” or “Don Quixote” as a gay man, why wouldn’t a “non-gay” person be able to enjoy my books? If we only cater to our own little niche, we risk to end up in tiny ghettos, narrow silos, where everyone is the same. How would we learn? Evolve? It’s not uncomplicated, but that’s the goal.
But yes, the dominance of M/M romance on Amazon isn’t without consequences. What if you’re a woman looking for lesbian fiction in all this? Good luck. Imagine you’re gender queer and you look for books for you. Imagine you’re trans and look for books for you. Or asexual, a-romantic, polyamorous or intersex? Suddenly, the needle in the haystack is a grain of sand in the desert. The LGBTQIA+ spectrum gets bigger and bigger, and we all expect to find books that tell us about others like us. If it’s so difficult for gay men (who after all have over a hundred thousand books to choose from), imagine how difficult it is for our bi-, trans-, queer etc. siblings.
Yes, we want to read romance novels (I did), too, because the give us hope, they are often bubbly, fluffy and sexy, but we also want to read books that ready us for reality, and yes, it’s nice if even those novels are hopeful and not just depressing, but they must ask the real questions in life: what if I get sick, what if my partner leaves, what if I can’t have kids, what if I lose my job, what if, what if… Romance novels often ask such questions, too, but they do so within the parameters of the genre, sprinkled with sex, and with the obligatory ride-off into the sunset, lest they be judged harshly by readers who aren’t happy with the rules being broken. I’ve seen those reviews… I’ve spoken to many an author who wants to break the rules, authors who do break the rules, authors who’ve written books who read more like “fiction” than “romance”, but they all tell me that those books sell less, and if you have hungry mouths to feed, bills to pay… Just saying. It’s not easy. I’m sure there are exceptions to the rules, always are.
Author Hans M Hirschi writes gay fiction, tackling social issues and the “big questions” in life. His novels usually end on a positive, hopeful note. It garnered him the honorary title of “Queen of Unconventional Happy Endings“
Finally, a word of caution. The world of M/M is tiny, as huge as it may seem to those few of us who write gay fiction. It’s a small world. There are 130+K LGBT books on Amazon, but over 800K romance novels, not including all the other literature. We are a tight knit community, and yes, to a degree, us gay (and other LGBTQIQ+) authors are guests in the M/M world, because “others” created the conventions, the review sites, the Facebook groups. We didn’t. We joined, we were welcome, and we get to participate, as equals. I understand the frustration; and at times, when my work is misunderstood, I lament it. But it is what it is, and I won’t burn bridges. I refuse to. We cannot afford to alienate our allies, even when they make mistakes, and we shouldn’t jump the guns, not draw conclusions without having the full picture. Because I also understand that as the author of gay fiction, most of my readers are not. I sell – on average – a book a day, if I’m lucky. If I were to anger my straight female readers, I wouldn’t sell books at all anymore. Let’s face it, most men don’t read, regardless of their sexuality. We must realize that we are all, at the core, human beings with different experiences, different expectations, hopes and dreams. Let’s treat each other accordingly, with respect and dignity. And when one of us fucks up, let’s forgive, move on. Let’s all learn and not make that mistake again. Plenty left to explore…
Which is also what I expect from comments here. Always welcome, but I do monitor all comments, and if you are rude or disrespectful, I will not publish it. So let’s hear it, what are your experiences? Do you agree, disagree? There are a million nuances and it’s difficult to address them all in a single blog post, as long as it’s become.
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Have a great week,
When authors take their “pen name” to criminal lengths…
Can I call you Kathryn? I know you prefer to be addressed as Byron Rider these days, but for now I’ll just call you Kathryn, Kathryn Perez. I know you’ve written some het books under the pen name Cait Perez, there’s even a website (for now) with all your personal pictures, including your full name and address. You don’t have to take the site down. We have screen shots of it all. So far so good. You then decided to write M/M books. That is fine. You’re NOT the only one, far from it.
But you couldn’t just take a pen name and run with it, like so many of my friends. You couldn’t just settle for a pen name that was gender ambiguous, no, you went all out, for a male pseudonym. That’s fine, too, some of my female author friends did that, too. But you took it several steps further:
You “stole” images and pretended for them to be you (from the BBC, including in the one video that is still on YouTube), from Kevin Spacey until you finally, a couple of days ago, went all out, painted a beard on your face and recorded a video with a distorted male voice. That video has since been removed. But many of us have screen captures.
This face isn’t yours. It’s what a man from Dundee, Scotland would look like if he was made up from all men there. Source: BBC
Why would anyone photoshop a picture of actor Kevin Spacey and pretend to be that person? Why? Kathryn, only you know why! I doubt Kevin would be pleased, if he knew…
Finally, the real you, with those glasses we know so well from the “real” you, Kathryn:
Rule #1 in deception & impersonation: take off your glasses, Kathryn!
To paint a beard on your face (in case you forgot, the inset picture is from your deleted YouTube video), hide your bangs and your long hair under a baseball cap and wearing your husband Hector’s shirt won’t cut it.
Now, you may wonder why I’m so invested in your case. Allow me to explain. I have no qualms with authors using pen names, quite the contrary. I understand, as a real gay man, what discrimination means. I know the price of being gay, of your books not being sold in mainstream stores, of readers not picking up your books because “but I’m not gay…” (I can only imagine what my teachers would’ve said if I’d refused to read Shakespeare with the words “but I’m not straight!”) Not that I’m as good as Shakespeare, just saying.
I understand that many of the men & women writing in the LGBT space are not out to their families, places of work or their congregations, and they know what would happen if they did. I also understand that there are many other reasons to have a pen name, the simplest one being: because I want to. That is fine, too.
As an author, I am also intimately aware that we want to distance ourselves from our books, our characters. And I understand that readers, reviewers and literary researchers try to look for “us”, our essence, in our work. I understand that, too. Not that I think it’s right, or even necessary, but it is what it is. I’ve written about both pen names, and our right to be anonymous.
No, you’re not a MAN, No, you’re not a GAY MAN, no, it was not a rumor, and by Jove I hope you have more respect for your husband Hector than you showed him by making him look like an imbecile who doesn’t speak English…
But what you do, dear Kathryn, is different. You pretend to be a man, not just by name, you also chose the male pronoun on your (once again deleted Facebook profiles), unlike the honest authors. You posted this (image to the right) on Facebook when people realized you were fake, a fraud:
But no Kathryn, you’re clearly not a man. You’re clearly not gay. You are married to Hector Perez and you have a lovely daughter. Now, I can’t be sure that you’re not a trans person deep inside, but that is an entirely different animal. If you were, you probably wouldn’t go to such lengths to lie about who you are and basically paint what amounts to a trans “blackface” on you. I have trans friends, and I know of their pain, their suffering, and I can tell you that the trans friends who’ve learned about you are as appalled and disturbed by your behavior as your straight (former) fans/readers, and the authors in the LGBT space.
Byron Rider is dead, or not? Like Jesus “he”‘s risen from the grave.
Sadly, your deception goes further. In a hissy fit after my original post a couple of months ago, you faked your death. Yes, you died, online, for everyone to see, and you posted an obituary, complete with fake ID’s and stolen images. Do you understand that this constitutes identity theft? Do you realize this is illegal?
From what I understand, you are a teacher at a small community college in Houston, you live in Pasadena, TX. This information is publicly available on your website and your LinkedIn profile.
Although, do you really hold a PhD like you claim on LinkedIn? Your employer seems to disagree on their official page on you. A master’s degree is no PhD Kathryn. Seems you pathological lying extends into your profession, too? If I had a doctorate in philosophy, I’d want that to be reflected on my school’s website… Just saying.
The image you stole if that of a fellow teaching colleague of yours. Does he know? What does he say about this? What does the college think that you manipulate their staff ID’s? That you abuse their name to further your sick plotting and to fake your death?
To fake your death the way you did is probably not a breach of the law itself, but boy is it stupid. And to die and resurrect? Yes, there are many deaths (another one of your amazing lies), but you are no Jesus my friend. Quite the contrary. Thou shalt not lie!
But that’s not it, is is? In my original post about you, I asked about your books. I have never read a Byron Rider or Cait Perez book. But you published more than ten books in less than a month, more than twenty in eleven months, and I think the question is valid: when and how did you write this much? Aren’t you a teacher?
More than that: most authors can’t wait to publish their books ASAP. Nothing is more painful than having to wait for months and years to see them out. Besides, you lose income, which I understand from a now deleted blog post, is very important to you. I don’t know if you plagiarized those books, but given that everything else about you is fake? The question must be asked. Your covers, not the most artistic ones I’ve seen, are easier to check. I don’t have the time to go through all your books, but someone at Amazon should, because I’ve found this cover of yours:
This is one of your covers, right? And the image is taken straight from a screen shot of a room used in the movie Fifty Shades of Gray.
You do understand that this picture is taken from a movie? All I had to do was do an image search to find the results. Anybody can do that. Do you have the rights to use it? Do you pay royalties to the rights owners of Fifty Shades of Gray?
Having been in the publishing industry for many years, I find it difficult to believe. Given how tacky and amateurish your covers generally are, I doubt you’ll pay potentially thousands of dollars to use such a picture. Provided the makers of a straight BDSM movie would even want to be associated with the author of gay writing… As a gay man, my real-life experience is that they probably wouldn’t. Who wants “a million moms” boycotting their picture?
You do understand that “downloading” images from Google to use in your artwork is illegal? What about your other covers?
Unfortunately, only the people at the studio who hold the copyright can ask Amazon to take action, but someone should look at all your book covers, and double check the actual stories, to see where those images and the texts came from. Maybe someone who reads this knows someone at Amazon?
I’m sure you think this is unfair, you probably feel persecuted. Welcome to the life of being LGBT, a world you don’t seem to understand, at all. Your political views, legitimate of course, as a fervent Trump supporter, puts you at odds with the LGBT community and our allies, a community you try to make money from; therefore you have to accept to be questioned. Just like Milo Yiannopoulos. You remember what happened to him…
On your website you titled yourself “gay lifestyle author”. Dear Kathryn, being gay is not a lifestyle. It’s not a choice, like choosing a criminal lifestyle, but I understand that you don’t understand that. I cannot not be gay, as little as an ostrich can take flight. I’m still human, the ostrich still a bird, but we have no choice. The one person who has a choice, is you.
If you wish to continue to write M/M books, you’re welcome to do so. But here are a couple of tips:
- apologize. You’ve hurt so many people, from readers to authors!
- stay away from stolen imagery, for yourself or your covers
- ask a proper cover designer to help you, get editors and proof readers to polish your work
- don’t fake being a man, heart attacks and deaths. It’s illegal and you hurt the feelings of many in the trans community, not to mention you insult the intelligence of the people you expect to read your books.
- don’t fake IDs (you’re faculty, not a student, and at 55, old enough to buy booze)
- don’t threaten authors and readers. That’s generally a bad idea. We are a small community, and most of us know each other, or we certainly know someone who does knows. You can’t hide.
Are you a joke? Given how amateurish you act (your real name and residential address online for everyone to see, the idiotic parody with the painted beard and slow-play video to “fix” the voice), I’ve asked myself the question if this is all a big hoax, you know like the documentary with a loony Joaquin Phoenix. Yet I wonder, given your many mistakes, are you smart enough? Are you ill?
You know, and as a psychologist you should know this, sometimes people do bad things so badly, because they secretly are crying for help, they want to be found out. Is that you Kathryn? If so, I hope that someone contacts your employer, the San Jacinto College in Houston, where you teach – how ironic – psychology… As a father I am concerned that someone who clearly isn’t well, is teaching our children. They may be adults, but yeah, they’re still vulnerable at that tender age of eighteen, nineteen… Do they know about all the sick things you’ve done? Does your college support your views? Does Dr. Brenda Hellyer know? Maybe she should? I’m sure there is a policy of honesty and integrity as a faculty member there.
Personally, I have nothing to gain from exposing you. Quite the contrary. This is taking up far too much of my time, and the time of countless others. But I have no choice. You are hurting my friends, and my community, and you are a blemish, a shame for LGBT literature, and all those authors who work their asses off to get published, combining day jobs and writing at night. You’re hurting readers who’ve purchased your books in the honest belief you were who you said you were, Byron Rider.
I don’t sell a single extra book because of this, quite the contrary. All of us authors are risking to sell less, because how do people know who’s genuine and who’s fake? You’re not the first catphishing author, Kathryn, and most likely not the last fraud either. I love my industry, and the amazing stories we produce, stories that empower young LGBT youths to see that there is real hope for them, hope of happiness later in life, stories that empower men, women, trans, gender fluid and agender persons around the world to be the best human beings they can be. I am proud of what we do! Finally, a big thank you to all those who’ve contributed to this post, through research etc. No one mentioned, no one forgotten. I know who you are. Thanks!
So please, Kathryn, go get help! If not for my sake, or the sake of the tight-knit LGBT writing/reading community, get help for the sake of your husband Hector, and your daughter Angela. They deserve a healthy, happy spouse and mother, don’t you think?
Have a wonderful week,
Hans M Hirschi, gay man & author of gay fiction
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