Saturday, January 24, 2015

An open letter to Mark Zuckerberg

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,

Recently, a few individuals who wanted to cause problems have targeted members of the gay community, and supporters of equality. They have gone on a rampage, reporting photos and threatening people. Michael Stokes, a photographer out of Los Angeles, California, was targeted by an individual and told that she would “ruin him” because he posts artistic photos of male models. If you go to any museum, or even walk past most museums of fine art, and you would see more of the human body than you do on the photos Mr. Stokes posts. Yes, we all know Facebook has community standards, however Facebook’s standards are double standards, allowing abusive photographs of women, pornography of women, images depicting women in demeaning situations, and other abuses to stay on the site and yet photos of two men fully dressed but kissing are deleted. Do you really want to be known as the company that supports abuse towards women and gay men? Thirty years from now, when your granddaughter (if you have one) is looking back at the company her grandfather created, do you want to be known as the man who allowed abuse to foster and grow? Maybe you don’t care about women, and you think it’s funny that groups on Facebook support the exploitation of women, I don’t know, but based on which posts are deleted and which posts are allowed to stay I’d have to say that maybe you are that type of man and history will show the truth, depicting you not as a great man who united the world, but a person who encouraged the abuse of women and gay men.

I implore you to stop allowing the abuses to continue. Mr. Stokes was threatened then kicked off Facebook because an individual who is homophobic chose to “ruin” him. Abusers of the system are rewarded and the people they are attacking are harmed. I see it on a weekly basis on Facebook, where some crazy homophobic person finds and reports authors of gay literature, photographers who make a study of the male form, gay performers, and others who support equality. Stop allowing the abuse to continue. The double standard is unfair, and it supports abuse towards women and gay men. Please stop the abuse. Stop allowing people who habitually report clean gay images and images of the male form from trying to “ruin” good people who are working to foster equality.

Sara York

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Advice To New Authors: Parts 1 2 & 3

Advice to new authors, part one- If you are going to submit to a publisher at all, get a gmail account or an alias for your email that is somewhat similar to your author name or real name. makes it hard for the publisher to connect book ABC with you. You might miss a letter for a contract because the publisher can't email you. Remember, publishers get thousands of emails. Make it easy for them to send you a note back.

Advice to new authors, part two - When sending in a manuscript to a publisher, make it professional. That means you need to treat it like a business letter. What does that mean?

It might be confusing to some. Writing is a business even if it comes across as fun at times. I'm an introvert. At conferences I have to work hard to actually talk to people. Many others in the writing industry are the same and might overcompensate on the fun at cons. Also, conferences are a place to cut loose. And if we're not at conferences but meeting our friends for dinner, we tend to be very excited so it looks like all authors do is party and have fun.

Behind the scenes, writing is work. It's boring from the outside. Even if the publisher has erotic books in their list, they are still a business. Many editors work from home and they have kids, and partners, or they do their work at Starbucks or other public places. Basically, the last thing they want to find is a topless photo of you, a dick picture of your privates, glitter, or hand drawn art.

Submissions should only include what the publisher is asking for on white paper unless they ask for a different color paper, which is very unlikely, but read the submission guidelines and follow them. Email only if that's what the publisher wants. Making your manuscript stand out with tricks or flashy shit doesn't get you a contract.

Advice to new authors, part three-- Don't be in such a hurry. I know, I've been there, and it seems like if you just hurry up and get your book out there then you'll capture some of the glory/fame/love and money that other authors are cashing in on. It seems like NEW authors pop up out of the blue and are over night successes. There might be a few authors who do that, however, many of the success stories are backed up by years of working hard in the trenches. Authors change their writing names and reinvent their career. They go from writing Steampunk to MM BDSM, or Christian inspirational to erotic romance, but the basis of their craft, storytelling, transcends genre.

If you are serious about writing, and let me tell you this, it’s going to take WORK, then take a few weeks/months and figure some shit out. GMC by Debra Dixon is a good place to start. This will help you write a decent book. Notice I said help, there's more to it than just GMC.

The Snowflake Method, which I used for many years, by Randy Ingermanson is a great method. Now, after adopting the method into how I think about a book, this process flows naturally from the moment I come up with an idea.

She Sat He Stood to help you figure out what to do with your characters.

For MM authors check out Josh Lanyon's Man, Oh Man.

These books are just places to start. There is so much more than reading one or two books to make a story happen. You have to put forth effort and it takes hard work to do that.

I'm going to leave you with a little story that I hope emphasizes how much work it takes to write a salable book.

Many years ago there was a girl who had a dream of becoming an author, lets call her Suzie. She didn't know if she could do it, but she loved to read. Her sister, Mary, loved to read too. They shared their love of reading, but Suzie never told Mary she wanted to write. Mary quit her big paying corporate job and went to live on a boat, Suzie wished she could quit her job, but she had responsibilities. Before Mary left for her life of fun and adventure she told everyone that she was going to write a novel. Suzie was shocked, that was her dream, not her sister’s. Mary confided in Suzie that she could easily read a long book in a couple of evening sessions, much less than a week, and she knew she could write a book. She thought it would take her just a few days, maybe a week to work out a story and write it. With confidence, Mary took off into the unknown, proud of her discovery that writing was easy. Meanwhile, Suzie decided that she wasn't going to let her sister steal her dream. She investigated and found an organization called Romance Writers of America and joined, learning that writing is hard work. (you may not agree with RWA policies and practices but they have their shit together in terms of teaching people to write. Just remember if you join RWA and take the classes that once you learn the rules, those rules were made to be broken, but you have to know the rules before you can actually break them) Suzie attended conferences, Suzie took classes, and Suzie wrote. Her first book sucked, but she had written a 90,000 word book that was DONE! Mary returned home from her adventure without a book written because writing is hard work and takes more than a week.

You can be Mary or you can be Suzie. If you want to be an author, work at it. Read books on writing. I still read books on writing, take classes, study storytelling, investigate new possibilities, and ask for help. I want to be like Suzie and push myself to do more. The people like Mary may put a book out, they may have some small amount of success, but when push comes to shove and they have to apply themselves and actually work, they aren't willing to do what it takes.

There is nothing shameful about throwing in the towel and saying It Was Too Hard, but if you are going to submit to a publisher, spend a couple of weeks or months learning the craft.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas Wishes and Love with Brody and James from Colorado Flames With a Texas Twist

Hello Everyone, I want to thank RJ Scott for hosting the Christmas Story extravaganza. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Chinese New Year, Winter Solstice, or another holiday, I hope you enjoy this little Christmas scene with Brody and James from Colorado Flames With a Texas Twist. Make sure to enter the RaffleCopter a Rafflecopter giveaway

Brody watched the snow swirl outside as the wind howled, pushing the icy white stuff into piles beside the trees, leaving huge drifts. It looked just like a Colorado snowstorm, but this wasn’t Colorado, or the United States for that matter. The door opened and James stepped in, flakes following him, dropping to the floor and melting in seconds. The door swung closed, but not before the temperature in the room dropped. Brody didn’t mind the cold, all that mattered was having James back inside where he could kiss him again. He moved to his lover, bringing two towels, one to wipe up the damp spots on the floor, the other to dry James’s hair.

“Hey, babe, how does the wood look?”

“Good. We’ve got enough for this band of storms. Our food supply is good too. You hunting this fall really helped.” James took off his coat and extra sweater, revealing his trim waist and muscular shoulders.

It was weird to Brody, loving a man. He reached out to steady James as he toed off is boots. Their gazes locked, awareness spreading through Brody like warm honey.

“I like it here.” Brody said.

“It’s nice.”

“You still okay leaving the ranch?”

James shrugged. “I think we’ve found a good place. It’s been difficult, and a part of me will always be looking over my shoulder, but I’m happy to be with you. I miss the guys, but I think you miss the station, too. Am I right?”

“Yeah, I do miss the guys at the station.” Brody hadn’t said anything about missing anyone or the work. It was his fault that they were here, in Canada, living in the mountains in a cabin far away from others. He felt guilty.

“Hey, no long face. I may miss the guys, but I’d be broken if you’d left me. I can find happiness here—without you, I’d be a shell of a man.”


“Shh, no buts. We’re a couple, that means we belong together.”

Brody dipped his chin and James stepped close, his hands cold on Brody’s body as James drew him nearer. James’s icy nose skimmed his neck and he moaned. They fit so well in bed together that he wondered how he’d ever felt that sex with a woman was right. Now, months later, Brody had no doubts that he was made to be with a man.

“Merry Christmas, by the way,” James whispered.

Brody tilted his head to the side, allowing James better access. “Merry Christmas, love.”

“I got you something.”

“What?” Brody straightened, excitement zipping through him.

James chuckled and pulled Brody close, trapping his mouth in a scorching kiss. He was disappointed when James pulled back. Brody started complaining but James’s fingers on his lips stopped his bitching. They both chuckled.

“Come, sit down,” James said.

Brody allowed James to lead him to the chairs by the fireplace. They both sat, the warmth seeping through Brody. He glanced around, realizing that he really was happy. The adjustment had been tough in the beginning, but they’d figured out a way to live together, just the two of them, out here in this wilderness. They’d argued, some of the fights had been terrible, but they always resolved their differences, sometimes naked, other times with clothes on.

“I want you to understand that I really meant forever when I said I wanted to be with you.” James’s voice was serious, his gaze searching Brody’s.

He didn’t want James to have any doubts, so Brody cupped James’s jaw and smiled. “I meant forever too.”

“Then it shouldn’t be any surprise what my Christmas gift is for both of us.”

Brody’s eyes went wide as James pulled out a black box from the drawer in the table beside the couch. “Are those...?”

“Yes. I know we can’t really make it official like in government official since we don’t exist anymore, but I want you to be my husband.”

Brody smiled and held out his left hand. “I think it’s real—we’re real. No one has to tell us we’re married. I’ve been yours for a long time.”

James slid the ring onto Brody’s finger, his gaze still serious. “Will you put my ring on my finger?”

“Your ring?” Brody asked.

“Yes, in the table beside you. I put it there this morning.”

Brody opened the drawer and found a box that matched the one James still held. He opened the case and smiled down at the simple silver ring.

“I freaking love you, James Davenport. You’re the best thing that has ever happened to me.”

“Really?” James asked. “So us living up here all alone, you don’t mind?”

“No, you saved more than my life, you saved my heart. I never would have been happy living how I’d been living in Colorado. This is what I was meant to do.”

James cocked his head to the side. “Live in the middle of nowhere without a job?”

“No silly, love you. You’re my reason, my heart, my life.”

James’s lips turned up at the corners as Brody slid the ring onto his finger. Though they’d just crawled from their bed no more than an hour ago, James led Brody to the bedroom. They undressed, interrupted only by sweet kisses that turned to fierce claiming by James once they were both naked.

Holding each other, they fell to the bed and found a little piece of heaven. Together, they loved on each other in their house, nestled in a snow-covered valley that hid them from the dangerous world that wanted both of them dead.

Did you enjoy that? I hope you did. Yes, there will be more Colorado Heart stories to come. 

Make sure to enter the contest at the top of the page!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Salem Witch Trials, the Burn Book, and Reviews

From February 1692 until May 1693 twenty people were executed out of jealousy which bread divisiveness where families turned against family and parents shunned their daughters, all because they assumed that the rumors were true. We aren’t in Salem, and the Salem Witch Trials are known for being a ridiculous time in our history, a time when the lowest of the low decided they didn’t like someone and therefore that someone had to pay.

Our genre receives attacks from the outside all the time. People go on to Amazon and Goodreads to rate our books low because it’s between two men or two women. They get angry when we show that gay couples can and do make happy families. These people then go onto Facebook and report author’s content. They try to get blogs banned and refuse service because of the content of our books. It’s from the outside and we expect it. We expect the hatred because of ignorance. At times readers pick up our books by mistake and they are blown away in a good way, finding out that love is love. They become lovers of the genre and supporters of marriage equality. It’s so lovely when that happens and we all celebrate, or we should all celebrate.

But sometimes the attack comes from inside the genre, and it is beyond disturbing. Yes, there are a broad range of authors who write in this genre, from the sweet people who would never hurt anyone to the disgusting who think it’s funny to bully men who may show their feminine side as well as their masculine side. That is the obvious bully and I’m totally disgusted by them. But another bully exists in the genre, one that sets up rules that authors must follow or risk being confronted and shamed in public. Some who are openly against bullying have decided to set themselves against certain authors and bring them down because they aren’t card carrying members of the “we are special because we say so” club. I’m not a card-carrying member either. I love seeing other authors get ahead. I love seeing them make it big. I don’t want anyone to fail, except for the bully who thinks it’s cute to make others feel less and physically shame them because they don’t think they are “man” enough.

This genre is small. We have a very tiny piece of the reading public’s pie. Many readers don’t buy our books because they have no clue we even exist. Our publishers can go to conference after conference, but the problem with that is that many readers only dream of going to conferences and will never make it because they spend their hard earned cash buying books. I love those readers and I wish I could meet them, I also love introducing them to my writer friends and encouraging them to buy books that other authors write. Why would I do that? It’s not to kiss up, or to “play the game” but because I truly want the reader to enjoy their reading time.

Some authors sell more than I do, and others sell less. I don’t know why one books is popular and another isn’t, but in reading The Naked Truth About Self Publishing I’ve seen that the pool of readers is huge, almost infinite from my point of view, and there is no reason to conduct a Salem Witch Trial against one of our own. Just because someone sells bigger and has found a way to reach a larger audience doesn’t mean it’s okay to attack them. It wasn’t okay in 1692 and it’s not okay today. Readers find out about the backstabbing and are devastated. They are crushed when one of their Heroes spouts hate towards one of their other Heroes.

I don’t play the game because I don’t understand it. Part of it might be just because I really don’t recognize people when I see them or it might be because I’m just too dumb to play. I love my author friends. I want to see them hit it big on rankings. I would love to see more readers find our genre. I would love to have our books accepted in big bookstores and proudly displayed in front racks of libraries and not just in the token LGBT month. I would love to see gay books in Wal-Mart and in airports. We have a long way to go before we are acceptance and are no longer ostracized because of content. Just this week I heard a reviewer talk about how they can’t tell their family and friends what they review because they’d be hurt if the knowledge was spread. It’s time to support each other and not tear other people down. The made up rules that shove people into the Burn Book and make it okay to chastise them because they don’t wear pink on Wednesday’s harms the genre. So maybe it’s not pink on Wednesday’s, but maybe it’s interacting with their audience to the point that the audience gives back by 1% to 2% of the readers giving them reviews. Forcing authors to play by “The Rules” only keeps the genre small. Maybe going back to the time when there were only 1000 to 2000 readers of our books would make some feel better. It would make it easier to control what authors do.

When I first jointed this genre I was subjected to bullying by certain authors telling their readers not to read my books, and that type of behavior is disgusting. I’ll never fit in a box that some want to shove me in. It’s bullying plain and simple. I wish the authors who have an issue with others authors who get big reviews would have come directly to the author and spoken to them, asking questions instead of allowing READERS, yes readers, to hear what they had planned. Those readers were devastated. And that is a huge shame and a disservice to the readers. Because the love of readers is what we do this for and hurting the readers makes me sad.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Facebook Name Policy Change

I want to apologize to the affected community of drag queens, drag kings, transgender, and extensive community of our friends, neighbors, and members of the LGBT community for the hardship that we've put you through in dealing with your Facebook accounts over the past few weeks.
In the two weeks since the real-name policy issues surfaced, we've had the chance to hear from many of you in these communities and understand the policy more clearly as you experience it. We've also come to understand how painful this has been. We owe you a better service and a better experience using Facebook, and we're going to fix the way this policy gets handled so everyone affected here can go back to using Facebook as you were.
The way this happened took us off guard. An individual on Facebook decided to report several hundred of these accounts as fake. These reports were among the several hundred thousand fake name reports we process every single week, 99 percent of which are bad actors doing bad things: impersonation, bullying, trolling, domestic violence, scams, hate speech, and more — so we didn't notice the pattern. The process we follow has been to ask the flagged accounts to verify they are using real names by submitting some form of ID — gym membership, library card, or piece of mail. We've had this policy for over 10 years, and until recently it's done a good job of creating a safe community without inadvertently harming groups like what happened here.
Our policy has never been to require everyone on Facebook to use their legal name. The spirit of our policy is that everyone on Facebook uses the authentic name they use in real life. For Sister Roma, that's Sister Roma. For Lil Miss Hot Mess, that's Lil Miss Hot Mess. Part of what's been so difficult about this conversation is that we support both of these individuals, and so many others affected by this, completely and utterly in how they use Facebook.
We believe this is the right policy for Facebook for two reasons. First, it's part of what made Facebook special in the first place, by differentiating the service from the rest of the internet where pseudonymity, anonymity, or often random names were the social norm. Second, it's the primary mechanism we have to protect millions of people every day, all around the world, from real harm. The stories of mass impersonation, trolling, domestic abuse, and higher rates of bullying and intolerance are oftentimes the result of people hiding behind fake names, and it's both terrifying and sad. Our ability to successfully protect against them with this policy has borne out the reality that this policy, on balance, and when applied carefully, is a very powerful force for good.
All that said, we see through this event that there's lots of room for improvement in the reporting and enforcement mechanisms, tools for understanding who's real and who's not, and the customer service for anyone who's affected. These have not worked flawlessly and we need to fix that. With this input, we're already underway building better tools for authenticating the Sister Romas of the world while not opening up Facebook to bad actors. And we're taking measures to provide much more deliberate customer service to those accounts that get flagged so that we can manage these in a less abrupt and more thoughtful way. To everyone affected by this, thank you for working through this with us and helping us to improve the safety and authenticity of the Facebook experience for everyone.

So is FB actually going to change its ways or will it stay the same?