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!
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Love of the Game will have you crying, laughing and horny, maybe all in one chapter, most certainly before you’re done reading!
The fair Lady Phetra warned me, repeatedly, before sending me the ARC of Love of the Game:
“This is not a book for you Hans. It’s about hockey and BDSM. You don’t have to read it!”
She’s like a mom, you know? Never knows when to quit the hovering and protecting. Y’all know how much I like a challenge, right? So of course I insisted on reading it, even though Phetra used her best tricks to delay the inevitable, including sending the ARC form a server where she must’ve known that the .mobi file would be removed as a potential threat to public health and safety… I had almost given up before I finally had it in my hands! Alas, now I’ve also read it. And yeah, as you’d expect, this review is entirely based on my own views. Trust me, you’ll see why when you read it… Phetra’s going to kill me!
The cover of the book. Created by Ian Brown, IB Art Studio
So, yeah. Another venture into BDSM (whiny ‘yay!’), but like Caraway Carter’s masterpiece 7 with 1 Blow which I reviewed last fall, this is not your run of the mill BDSM novel. I’ve read a few of them by now, and the more I read, the more I learn. In Love of the Game Ms Novak explores the differences between “domination” and “abuse”, and I think it’s fair to say that I agree with her distinction. Caraway made the same one as the premise for his book. He just took off in a very different direction. I don’t claim to fully understand BDSM, nor to know how it feels to have that urge, that need to dominate someone or to feel that need to submit, sexually or otherwise. I guess that unless you feel it, you can’t really understand it, and no matter how much I read about this, I will always be at a loss, at least to a degree.
I understand that Charlie, one of the protagonists of the book has gone through hell. That’s abuse. I also understand that part of the allure of submission is the release of control to your master or dom. Marc and his husband Luc are the poster boys for a happy dom/sub couple in the book. I have always understood that, I just didn’t get the perks, the benefits of it. And make no mistake, this isn’t Ms Novak’s fault, quite the contrary. Seems it took for me to read her book to connect some of the dots in my own life (which doesn’t mean I crave BDSM, quite the contrary). Some of the key aspects of domination are “control” and “trust”. And I look into myself, I look at my own marriage, and I wonder, how is this different from being “vanilla”, which is how I’d define myself?
Falling in love, for real, with someone is (imho) all about relinquishing control. I know so many young people who are afraid of “letting go”, of trusting their hearts. Their relationships keep failing, because they just can’t let go, afraid to be hurt.
But to really love is to trust someone else implicitly with your heart and soul (and all that comes with it).
I trust my husband implicitly, and I know he feels the same. Yet we are not in a BDSM relationship, because we don’t do the whole submission thing (mentally or sexually), nor the pain thingy: the spanking, the toys and the bondage and whatever else people into that lifestyle toy with. Pardon me if I need to stay personal for a moment longer, but there is one (sexual) aspect where I personally experienced the aspect of “letting go”. As I grew up as a “little gay boy”, I would always top, never bottom. And this wasn’t about being a better man, some misguided machismo or that sort of bullshit. It was the fear of what could happen if the roles were reversed, and abused. People who bottom and the het ladies out there will understand what I mean, what it implies to “let go”, to trust someone enough to have that someone else physically enter your body: it can mean utter devastation or an orgasm the like of which you’ll rarely experience (to put it bluntly).
I wish I could get her to turn around, but she’s camera shy, our Phetra. You should check out the video from which this shot is taken though, when Phetra and I were talking about her books and writing.
Once I had learned to trust a guy with that, and was able to relinquish that control, trust him not to hurt me, that’s when I began to enjoy sex both ways. TMI, I know. My apologies. I’m learning from my reading.
In a nutshell, that is what Love of the Game is about. For Hannes and Charlie to find that place of implicit trust. It’s easy for Hannes, but given Charlie’s abuse, that’s a different beast. Yes, there are additional aspects being explored, including the sexual “pain” aspects, mostly philosophically, although there is one scene, where Hannes and a friend get up close and personal, and while I normally skim sex scenes in books (I prefer to watch), squirming about the weird language used to describe one of the most basic human endeavors, that scene left me squirming in a different way. I was so horny that I thought my pants would burst! Great writing Ms Novak, and I’ll send you the dry cleaning bill… But yeah, I still don’t get it. Pain and pleasure are two centers in my brain that just don’t want to be connected…
On the surface, Love of the Game is constructed like a traditional romance novel, an ice hockey story, playing out around a tight-knit Canadian NHL team. The protagonists meet, there’s a spark (first turning point), there’s separation, a chance (fated?) reconnection, and plenty of stuff happening before finally, after the second dramatic turning point, the two get to skate off into the sunset, together (for now). Within the premise of that, Ms Novak tells a riveting, sometimes very funny, sometimes tear-jerking story of young Swedish NHL rookie Johannes Alm, his first season in Montreal, and journalist Charlie Morin, who is battling the demons of a really bad and abusive relationship.
Ms Novak is not one to hide her convictions under a rock, and she’s found a great spokesperson in Hannes, the young hockey pro. The scene at his first press conference is one for the history books. If only the real NHL coaches had as much cojones as Hannes’s coach. But alas, in real life, being out and proud in the NHL is still “fiction”. Hopefully it’ll be a reality sooner rather than later.
Author Hans M Hirschi reads quite a few books and has published ten novels. He also reviews books on this site, regularly from a personal point of view.
If you like BDSM stories, you should definitely read this. No dungeons, no prolonged sex scenes with nipple or cock torture await you though. If that’s your fancy, look elsewhere. And if you cringe at the mention of those four letters, like I do, you should still give this story a go. Maybe you’ll finally be able to “get it”, the way I have after reading it. While it’s helped me understand some aspects of what attracts people to BDSM, I still don’t understand the whole submission or the pain aspect, probably never will, even though Caraway did a great job at explaining it in his novel. Phetra’s story doesn’t quite go that far.
Love of the Game is an unusual book, and boy do we need more of those. Great job Phetra!
Love of the Game is published by Beaten Track Publishing and is available for purchase on Amazon et al.
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When reviewers have conflicting views it gets really interesting…
You may have heard… I released a new book yesterday, Last Winter’s Snow. Congratulations to me! And for a couple of weeks or so, reviews have been coming in, and they have mostly made me very happy, because a lot of the things I’ve read were very encouraging, and positive. However, and this is the really interesting part, and this post will look at reviews from both a reader perspective and an author perspective, I’ve had two reviews that took opposing sides on a single issue. I’m not going to take sides, but let’s hear from the reviewers themselves:
The cover of Last Winter’s Snow.
One reviewer writes: “I would have cut out some of the “travelogue” passages about Swedish cities, flora and fauna, etc., in favor of some scenes to establish the couple’s unique personalities and why they were a good match.”
Another says: “One of my favorite parts of the novel is how Sweden is almost itself a character. I was utterly captivated reading about the different places, their history and culture. It was a little like a whirlwind tour, and it left me wanting to know more and to see the sights for myself.”
Did they really read the same book? 😳
Now, I had my reasons to include the “travelogue” aspects, and if you don’t believe me, you can ask my editor. We did discuss this at length. I won’t justify my decision here, not the point of this post. However, isn’t it interesting that one person’s “lowlight” was another person’s “highlight”?
Reviews from a reader’s perspective
Reviews can be a great tool if you are a reader on the hunt for your next great read. But unless you read a thousand books a year (it’s a thing apparently) and/or have an unlimited budget for DNFs*, you may want to do your research, before you “one-click”.
If a review speaks to you somehow, look at other reviews from that same source. Have your read the same books already? What was their take then? Don’t just trust a single review. I do this when I look at hotel or restaurant reviews. I spend a lot of time trying to find out who the reviewer is. If they only review ONE place and trash it, likelihood is they just had a bad experience which cannot really be applied as a thumb rule for an entire establishment. I would argue the same is true for book reviews. (*DNF – Did Not Finish the book)
Just the other day, my publisher noticed a two-star review on one of the books they publish, a book that isn’t even out yet! I’ve had the same happen to me before. Quite honestly, we don’t know why that particular reader did that, but trust me when I say that there are a lot of trolls on Goodreads. So don’t trust just any review. Learn what they say about other people’s stuff. It’ll help you determine if you really are on the same wavelength like the writer of the review you’ve read.
Once you know the reviewer is reliable and not a “troll”, this is really going to help you to find books you can trust. Just remember, reviews are kind of like the news: you have to be mindful of the source(s)! Personally, when it comes to books, I’ve never been a big fan of reviews to find the reads I like. Most of what I read isn’t “pleasure” reading, but part of my professional development, and I often read books outside my personal comfort zone. I read mostly ARCs** and review those here on my blog. But every now and then I’ll read a book for pleasure and I go either by personal recommendation (which I’ve lived to regret more than once) or I simply read the blurb and look at the cover, like so many others, and yes, I’ve lived to regret those, too. (**ARC – Advance Review Copy, usually an edited, but not finally proofed version of the book which is sent to professional reviewers before publication)
Reviews from an author’s perspective
I’ve written about this before. Here, for instance. When you get positive, constructive reviews, it’s easy to feel happy. I grinned like an idiot the other night after reading a beautifully crafted and very generous review. We’re all entitled to that, particularly if you don’t get that monthly check from Amazon to makes you smile… My check makes my bank weep, that’s for sure. However, and I think that is important, when you get two conflicting, professional reviews like the ones I quoted above, you, the author have to chill for a moment.
Why did they say what they said? Could it be that they don’t much care for descriptions of locales? I once reviewed a book by the insanely talented Posy Roberts. In her novel Silver Scars, Posy describes an amputation and the process of healing at great length. I had just published my own book Jonathan’s Promise, where I had described something “similar”, yet completely different. And just like Posy and I put our emphasis on different aspects of our characters, focus on different things, so will reviewers. One will miss the emphasis on character interaction, another will be happy that the focus wasn’t there etc. Don’t take that criticism personal. It’s not their book. It’s yours, and you’re entitled to write the story any way you damn well please.
This is even more the case when you receive bad reviews. I have long ago stopped reading my reviews on Goodreads. I have my trolls, I get my one-star reviews and that is fine. I actually quite enjoy them, or at least knowing they’re there. I means someone is really upset with whatever success I have, which means I’m getting noticed. Just getting such troll attention lends my authorship credibility. And as long as my composite score on Goodreads is higher than Shakespeare’s, who am I to complain? Really? It’s all a matter of perspective. Then again, I’d readily accept a lower score than the great poet if it meant larger sales. Again, a matter of perspective.
But if you insist on reading bad reviews, ask yourself this: why are you doing it? What do you gain from them? Apart from a potentially masochistic pleasure? I’ve had more than one writer tell me that they gain insights on what works and what doesn’t work in a novel. I guess that is also why so many authors use beta readers, to finely tune their product to a specific market. Nothing wrong with that. But you didn’t see Michelangelo do beta studies of his Davide. If your writing is a craft, and you write to a specific audience, cater to a carefully developed niche or genre, I understand the need for beta readership to make sure a product will work. But as you can pick up from my choice of words, such books aren’t works of art, they are a craft, a product, aimed at entertaining, pleasing a very specific audience. No one else will care. Ain’t nothing wrong with that approach! It’s usually the approach that sells, right?
However, artsy books are different. They tell THE story they’re supposed to tell, whether people care to read it or not. They’re what we sometimes call “literary”, aka “books no one reads”. Do they have a readership? Yes, but they usually don’t climb the charts, neither at Amazon nor at the New York Times. And they piss off an equal amount of people they please. It’s what art does: it provokes. It asks the important questions in life. Can crafty books do that? Yes, but they do so within the well specified parameters. Allow me to explain:
For instance, you could write a romance novel about “death”, but there are certain things within the genre you have to stick to, e.g. the relationship is paramount. Not death. And there may be other details to consider, how much sex you need to include, how explicit it may be. Heck I’ve even read somewhere that “monogamy” is a core ingredient in hardcore romance novel recipes. In an artsy book, you can still have a relationship, but it doesn’t have to be THE theme, death can be. And you can include sex, on the page, off the page, or leave it by the wayside, and the characters can fuck whenever with whomever, as long as it makes sense to the story you’re telling. There are no rules to follow, as long as your editor is happy, and they look primarily at things like:
- consistency: leave home in a Volvo, you better come home in a Volvo (or explain what happened)
- believability: why is there an Alien spaceship in the back yard?
- credibility: she died and came back from the dead? How is that possible?
Reviewers may take “offense” at anything in everything you write, and if you break genre rules, I’m sure you probably already knew you were going to be trashed for it. The same is true for artsy books, the only difference is that you can readily dismiss such comments. Why? Because some people are just really stupid. Sorry if I’m being harsh, but if a reviewer complains about a non-romance book “not being romance” or a “thriller” being too exciting, then it’s not the author or the publisher who is to blame, but the reviewer for simply being too damn stupid. Yes, it’s still upsetting to read, and you may still need to have that review on your book’s Goodreads page, but honestly, give readers some credit, too.
If your book is listed as a “mystery” or “thriller” (or whatever), and a review complains that it wasn’t a “romance”, don’t you think people will disregard said review as exactly as imbecile as it is? Quite the contrary, it will even make sure that other romance readers won’t pick up your book and be disappointed by said lack of loooove, sending more bad reviews your way… Incidentally, you might actually get other readers to pick up your story because it was dissed as a non-romance. Imagine, there is such a thing as a readership for non-romance novels. Two sides to every medal.
Author Hans M Hirschi reads quite a few books and has published ten novels. He also reviews books on this site, regularly.
Reviews aren’t easy, for readers, for authors nor reviewers. But they are an essential part of our strive to reach our readers (old and new), and I am very grateful for the reviews I get, particularly the ones that I ask for, where we, as part of the marketing effort send out ARCs to professional reviewers. They don’t know what heads their way, which is why some will like it, and others won’t. That is part of the business. Nevertheless I’m grateful for the professional courtesy they show to our work. Naturally I’m also happy for others who review one of my books they’ve loved (or hated), I just may never see it. So thanks! 🙂
What is your take? How do you see reviews? As reader? Author? Let’s hear it…
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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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Two recent examples of completely failed customer service. Mistakes that just shouldn’t happen
I’m a consumer. I also own a business, and as a consultant and in my work in big corporations, I’ve always felt that good customer service is the trademark of a great company. Here are two recent examples of just how horribly wrong things can go when companies get the basics wrong. Customer service isn’t just about being polite to customers, particularly not when you basically tell them to “go fuck yourself”. Customer service is about making doing business with you as easy as possible. Whatever internal procedures you have shouldn’t matter to the customer, ever.
Recently, we had an optic fiber drawn to our house. Six months late, due to the difficult topographic reality on our island, but we finally got the small fiber cable drawn into our house and a couple hours later, we were online. Faster than ever before.
Total failure from Telia. Customer service reps dressed so badly they don’t dare facing customers and blaming customers for internal firewalls. #facepalm
But it wasn’t an easy process. Several years ago, before fiber was on the menu, I was looking for a faster connection for us. The only thing available and that would guarantee us a certain speed was a corporate deal. Telia, Sweden’s state controlled telecommunication giant would not sell guaranteed speeds to households, and at slow speeds, you wouldn’t be able to watch TV online or stream movies.
We were forced into an expensive corporate agreement. Six months ago, when the fiber installation (to us as as consumers and owners of the house) was imminent, I was contacted Telia to sell me their solutions. Naturally, I asked when I’d have to cancel my DSL to avoid having to pay for TWO services from the same company when I only really needed one. I’ve always been up front and open, and to make sure things would go smoothly, I chose their solution right there and then in September for our fiber cable, even though many other suppliers are significantly cheaper, and 250 Mbits/s really is the same, no matter who invoices you for it.
Last week, when things were finally ready, I hit a wall. Suddenly, consumer and business were separated by firewalls and one would not assume responsibility for the other, and I was asked to talk to this and that department, constantly forwarded, ending up in long queues on the phone. It took me a good two hours of explaining, complaining and nagging to get out of my contract next month, something I had been promised last fall would be “easy” and “of course”. But I guess that girl just wanted to make her sales quota. As a customer, I don’t care how Telia is organized. I don’t care what department I deal with. All I care about is that the name of the company is the same. They better solve their internal issues where they belong: internally. Don’t blame the consumer, the customer (no matter whether they are corporate or a consumer). Yesterday, my neighbor, who got his fiber the same day, visited Telia’s store downtown to make his selection. The sales person in the store had no clue what fiber was or how to select services, so instead, he mentioned that he’d talk to a colleague from customer service who was in a small back office behind the store. He emerged a few minutes later explaining that she couldn’t come out to talk to my neighbor because – hear this – she wasn’t dressed for it! Instead, they asked my neighbor to e-mail or call her, even though she sat feet away from him! I rest my case. #facepalm
The second example is even more “crazy”. When we renovated our house fifteen years ago, we bought a side-by-side fridge/freezer from LG Electronics. It was a new thing back then, it didn’t fit the standard size kitchen appliances commonly used in Sweden. But it was great: built in ice machine, water dispenser and a great small door in the fridge to access juices. We love our fridge. Sadly, this weekend we realized that the freezer is on its last leg and we discussed to replace it. Since we love our LG appliances, we went to their Swedish website and quickly found our new appliance.
Great products, but they really, really suck at customer relations. How can a consumer website NOT include purchase links in 2017. How? #facepalm
On the LG website you can’t find any information, whatsoever, about where to buy their stuff… The company from which we’d bought our fridge in 2002 doesn’t exist anymore. So I called LG yesterday, only to learn that they couldn’t help me. They were only a support team, not a sales team. The girl told me (I’m not joking) to “google” for sales outlets, and that maybe, the big chains like Elgiganten and MediaMarkt might be selling their products.
Let me say this again: LG Electronics has NO information, NONE whatsoever, about their resellers. No lists, no maps, no way to locate where to buy their, mind you, great products. #facepalm
Later, after contacts with their Facebook page (a tad more responsive, but still very slow compared to other companies, including Telia) I was also told that Elon and Elgiganten would be able to order our fridge directly from LG and deliver it to me. But they also said that these chains purchase through distribution and that it was up to them to decide what they sell. And if you don’t sell a product on a certain market, why advertise in on your website? It just makes no sense. It’s like Apple advertising the iPhone 9… #facepalm
Needless to say, we were not able to buy our fridge from LG. Neither Elon nor Elgiganten were able to purchase it. We’re not talking “willing”, no, they were unable! Elon even told me that hadn’t done business with LG for seven years, yet LG still tells customers to turn to them! Loss from one customer: almost three thousand dollars. I can only imagine how many such deals LG Electronics loses every day…
How do companies survive like that? How can a company ask the consumer (and appliances are – after all – primarily consumer products) to go look for where to buy their products? I’m still stunned. We did end up purchasing a competitor’s product, not nearly what we wanted, but at least they know how to sell their stuff.
My question to Telia and LG Electronics: are you so fat, so complacent and satisfied that you no longer care about your customers? Is customer service irrelevant to you? It would be nice to hear from those companies, but I guess that’s too much to ask for. I’ve heard a lot of excuses and explanations that don’t explain anything.
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When I wrote about my frustrations last week, nothing was further from my mind than reviews, yet it’s all people talk about
When the first comments began rolling in last week, I thought people were joking. I was talking about my frustration last week, the fact that I spend months as author to craft the words of a book, only to see it reduced to a couple of hours of entertainment for my readers. My need to talk about the book, or to at least gain an understanding of how readers receive it was almost unanimously (you can read the comments that were left here, on the blog) interpreted as requests for reviews. My words failed me.
I was surprised, because when I wrote the post, I didn’t think about reviews, honestly. I think my position on reviews is pretty clear: I don’t like them much. I’m frustrated by reviews who give away the book in what many reviewers feel is a great summary, I am hurt by reviews that try to find “me” in the book, attack me personally or completely miss the point of a story. Yes, like any author, I understand the need for, the value of reviews. No argument, and when we send out ARCs, we are very much aware that there will be reviews, good ones, bad ones. It’s a fact of life, that not every book is for everyone. That is reflected in the reviews. Duh! I still don’t read them, unless someone sends it to me specifically, and those are never bad ones (unless said reviewer is particularly vicious. LOL) My words failed me.
Sometimes a reader will contact me (okay, it’s happened quite a few times) to talk about their experience reading the book, how the story affected them. That is how I feel, too. Just because I put down the pen doesn’t mean I’m done. I feel the need to talk about how painful certain aspects of a book can me, how a character’s suffering or growth has affected me. It’s no different than reading a book myself, how the characters affect me. I remember reading Erin Finnegan’s Luchador several months ago. I still have that book lurking in the back of my mind, how she takes the concepts of “manliness”, “gay” and throws them into a dryer and tumbles them until they come out all warped and twisted. Her discussion of masculinity and the concepts of gay vs straight is some of the best writing ever, and I still think about that, almost daily, our preconceptions as gay men, as much as the preconceptions in the straight world.
I had a short takeover of a Facebook group last night, by invitation of SA Collins. And he and I discussed LGBT (he prefers the term ‘queer’) fiction and how our stories often deal with things from our own existence. Mind you, this doesn’t mean you have to understand who we are as human beings to understand the book (quite the contrary), but just as some people deal with their demons by running around the forest, or punch a bag in a gym, authors deal with their demons through writing. And just because I write “the end” doesn’t mean that I’m done. I may need more time to reflect upon it, understand what happened, because just because the book is over doesn’t mean I’m done. There is, after all, a difference between the author and the human. Yet last Friday, my words failed me.
This isn’t easy to put in writing, as my failure to express my emotion last week clearly shows. And the frustration comes from that fact, in part. But it’s also funny when you talk to someone about a story for months and months, and when they’ve read it, knowing just how important it is to you, all you get back is a “it’s great. Loved it.” Inside me, I’m screaming “what else? what did you take away from it? What do you think was his/her driving force? Why did they act the way they did? etc.” But no, no review… Although, I’ll grant you that a good review might answer at least some of those questions. But still, it wasn’t reviews I long for, but human conversations, debate. But I guess my words failed me.
So, here’s another post that probably makes no sense to anyone but me… Have a wonderful week!
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