Twitter, Mastodon, TikTok and all that other nonsense #twitterexodus #mastodon #tiktok

I confess, I’m a bit fed up with social media right now.

I don’t spend much time on Facebook unless I am participating in a specific group event or checking in with a particular community. I mostly cross-post to it, and have had some moderate success with Facebook ads.

But this past week, several of my ads have been rejected (won on appeal, but still) for no discernable reason, and in 7 days I’ve spent almost $50 without a single sale. I keep getting notices that my ads might not deliver because they haven’t been optimized, and yet the description of how to do this makes no sense whatsoever. As much as I was loathe to give FB any money, my ads there seemed to have a greater ROI than my ads elsewhere. Not any longer. I don’t know what’s changed, and I am exhausted by the notion that I either have to figure it out or pay someone else to teach me how to appease the new algorithms.

There’s a big #TwitterExodus afoot now in the advent of Elon Musk purchasing the site. Rumors of this event occurred back in April, but then he backed out, but was forced to honor his agreement. EM’s reason for purchasing the platform was to make it a private company and easier for people to speak more freely… which means that much of the ugliness and rampant misinformation found on such right-wing sites as Parler has gained ground almost immediately on the bird platform. For a list of all the massive proposed changes in just the last week, check out this list here.

Additional concerns about the chaos of misinformation flooding Twitter before the mid-term elections is here. Many big companies have paused advertising to see what direction Twitter will ultimately take, but EM himself cited a widely discredited website in a Tweet that implied the brutal attack on Paul Pelosi was not carried out by a far-right wing blogger but was related instead to an anti-LGBTQ “theory” about a skirmish at a local bar. The Tweet was eventually deleted, but there you are.

This kind of behavior, both by EM and on Twitter, has resulted in large numbers of the people I follow and interact with choosing to leave Twitter. Most are migrating to a site called Mastodon, which claims to be a decentralized platform that can’t be bought or sold at the whim of a single entity. Jack Dorsey, the original founder of Twitter, is planning a similar decentralized platform called BlueSky. Decentralized platforms mean you don’t just jump in and have content/people pushed toward you. You have to decide what toe you want to dip in where.

Most older people say this is much how the internet used to be–and they are embracing the chaos. To me, it feels like making the jump from cable to streaming: if I want to watch a particular show, I have to figure out what channel it’s on and whether I want access to it. The problem with Mastodon, is the search engine is VERY different. You have to know what server to join, and what “instances” to join (which are kind of like clubs on Discord, it’s all very confusing). The phone app sucks, and I’m not keen on given my information to a third party app such as Tusky (which is being recommended) to use Mastodon on my phone.

Then there’s the problem that while Twitter is an established platform like Facebook or Pinterest, and sharing buttons on media have evolved to include them, there is no such thing for Mastodon as it stands. Where I (or anyone else) used to be able to easily share information from this blog or other sites, it will take extra steps to share things to Mastodon. But if you want a primer on making the move, read this post here.

The important thing to remember is it is NOT Twitter. It’s been likened to entering a high school cafeteria with your tray and looking for a place to sit down with like-minded people, and I suppose that’s why my knee-jerk reaction to Mastodon hasn’t been good. I LOATHED high school and the clique-y mentality. I’m also at a point in my life where I don’t have a lot of time and I hate wasting it on learning things I may or may not use.

Many people are touting Discord instead, but instead of a high school cafeteria, Discord feels to me like a gated community, and you can only gain entrance if you know the password. Long, threaded conversations like you have on WhatsApp and in chat rooms have never appealed to me because I’m invariably late to the party and the thing I wanted to comment on was 50 entries back and everyone has moved off of it onto something else. Don’t get me started on Tumbler, which feels like a place where someone scribbles graffiti on a wall and others come by and add their own scribblings. The end result can be interesting, but it’s hard to have a conversation there.

At the moment, I’m spending most of my time on TikTok, which I never, ever said I’d do. I admit to having spent the last eleven months having a ridiculous amount of fun there but… and you knew there was going to be a “but” right?

I’ve scarcely written a word since joining TT. I’m spending most of my writing time drafting videos. I’ve learned how to do transitions, use filters, lip sync, and have bought a crazy amount of wigs and costumes. Somehow the learning curve it took to master TT has not brought me to teeth-grinding rage the way learning other social media–it was a lot more like discovering fandom and then teaching myself all the tools I needed to know in order to play in it.

At first, TT was a BLAST. I’m still having fun with it, but ever since publishing deemed TT was THE place to be (and truthfully, that was the only reason I made the leap), there has been a lot of pressure to be young, thin, attractive, and the kind of TT presence publishers deem valuable. There have been rumors that one of the big trad pubs told an author they couldn’t offer her a contract because she wasn’t young enough (she was in her forties…). There is also talk of publishers signing up hot young women and then pairing them with older women who ghostwrite their books for similar reasons–the youth and hotness are prime selling points on this platform.

Honestly, that doesn’t bother me that much. That kind of thing has been going on as long as youth and sex have been selling factors. But what does bother me is the rumors that TT is going to move to a paid subscription model. What bothers me is that I used to routinely get 300-400 views and now they’ve dropped to less than 100. TT is HUGE for making constant changes to the algorithm, and now the word is they want to be more like YouTube by offering longer formats (up to ten minutes) and you have to make your content searchable now with captions. It’s all about SEO to increase visibility and I get so darned tired of having to change something every time I think I have a handle on it. TT has been good to me in terms of sales. But it’s a time sink, I blame it for the bulk of the drop off in my writing production, and I’m not there in order to manipulate the ins and outs of algorithm changes. I’m there to have fun.

If it turns into another pay-to-play site, I’m gone.

I had a bit of a meltdown this morning, and my husband said something to me that made me do a double-take. I mentioned that I was so angry all the time, and he said that if I were an old white man, he’d say it was because I’d been watching FOX News. It took me aback because I’m about as far from that demographic as you can get… and yet I AM stoking my rage machine all the time over things I have very little control over.

Democracy is going to live or die one way or another. Same with our civil rights, climate change, the hope of a future for our children in a world running out of resources and becoming increasingly polarized and violent, and so on. My ANGER ALONE will not prevent these things from happening. I tell myself staying informed is the best I can do because I’m working so hard on every other front to keep my head above water I can’t spare any more energy for anything else. I’ve donated where I thought it would help the most, and I only get more begging letters and emails. I can’t stop what’s coming.

But I can stop adding fuel to a furnace already about to meltdown.

They say we can’t survive as authors or creators of any kind without social media. But I think I need to consider surviving as a person for a little while with less of it.

Rosanna Leo’s Darke Passion (Dark Paranormal Investigations Book 1)

I am THRILLED to be part of Rosanna Leo’s cover reveal for Darke Passion! I adore her contemporary romance Handymen series. If you’re not familiar with Rosanna, she writes both contemporary and paranormal romance. Her novel A Reluctant Attraction, Handymen 3, is one of Oprah Daily’s 50 of 2021’s Most Anticipated Romance Novels.

I love her Handymen series to pieces. Not only are her characters compelling and their attraction off the charts but she also deals with such weighty subjects as PTSD and trauma in a realistic and healing manner. So you can imagine my excitement over the Darke Investigations series!! I can’t wait to read Darke Passion!

Check out the link on Goodreads to find out more about this exciting new series! A trio of ghost-hunting sisters? Check. A grumpy non-believer who owns a haunted B&B? Check. A sinister presence that threatens everything they hold dear? Check and double check! *grabby hands* Make note of it because you’re going to want to pre-order when it’s available!

Release Date: March 21, 2023

Pre-order starting Feb 7, 2023

Follow her on Bookbub here: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/rosan…

From Toronto, Canada, Rosanna occupies a house in the suburbs with her husband and their two sons, and spends most of her time being tolerated by their cat Sweetie. When not writing, Rosanna works for her local library, where she is busy laying the groundwork to become a library ghost one day.

Connect with her at www.rosannaleoauthor.wordpress.com.

So with no further ado, feast on this gorgeous cover by Kelly Martin of KAM Design. 

I love it! How about you??

 

Mystery Loves Democracy Auction…and You’re the Winner!

I’m so excited to be a part of this terrific auction to raise money for the Mystery Loves Democracy Auction Sept 18th through Sept 24th (starting at 12 noon today PST, 3 pm EST)!

Here’s a direct link to one of my packages: Ginny Reese Mysteries Gift Package 

I’ve participated in similar auctions for voting rights and women’s rights run by romance organizations, so I’m thrilled to find a cause to support as a mystery writer! From the Mystery Love Democracy website

Weโ€™re crime fiction writers, fans, and friends who believe all eligible voters deserve to have their voices heard. The funds we raise will support Fair Fight Action in their nationwide efforts to combat voter suppression.

I’m donating two Ginny Reese Mysteries gift packages (limited to Continental US residents only). Here’s a description of the gift package:

It’s Diagnosis Murder meets All Creatures Great and Small when house-call veterinarian Ginny Reese and her dog Remy discover that life in a small town isn’t always cozy. Sometimes it’s downright deadly.

These gift packages will include signed, print copies of the first two books in the Ginny Reese series, along with individualized bookmarks, pens, and assorted swag, as well as a sneak peek at the first chapter of book 3 in the series.

M.K. Dean is the new pen name of award-winning author McKenna Dean, as she dives into the world of cozy mysteries. She likes putting her characters in hot water to see how strong they are. Like teabags, only sexier.

I do hope you’ll check out the auction! You have to see this list to believe it! There’s something for everyone’s budget, whether you’re a reader or a writer of mysteries and crime thrillers! You can bid on having a character named after you, books and gift packages, gift cards, Zoom meetings and consults with some of the biggest names in the business, brainstorming with authors on your WIP, manuscript critiques, beta reads, sessions with a psychologist (for plotting that complex character), an animal communication session, embroidered quotes from literary figures and more! Really something for every mystery lover and proceeds going to support voter’s rights. It’s a win-win for everyone!

 

Hello Books Promotion: An Embarrassment of Itches is FREE!

Hey!

How would you like to receive a weekly email notifying you of great book deals in the genre of your choice? Not just reduced in price but FREE? Welcome to Hello Books, a new subscription service like BookBub but where all the books are free!

Right now until August 15, you can get a FREE copy of An Embarrassment of Itches (Ginny Reese Mysteries Book 1). By signing up, you’ll be notified of future specials each week in the genre of your choice!

It’s Diagnosis Murder meets All Creatures Great and Small when house-call veterinarian Ginny Reese discovers the body of a wealthy client floating facedown in her swimming pool. And Ginny gets the second shock of her life when the new sheriff turns out to be her old-ex!

An Embarrassment of Itches is the winner of the Best Mystery in the PRG Reader’s Choice Awards, and is a finalist in the upcoming Silver Falchion and RONE Awards. This deal won’t last long, so grab your copy now!

Killer Nashville, Awards, and a Giveaway!

Love mystery and suspense? I know I do! I also love participating in N.N. Light’s Book Heaven events–I get to discover so many new-to-me authors when their stories get showcased!

This time the event is a weeklong event spotlighting mystery and suspense stories from all your soon-to-be-favorite authors. Here’s the scoop!

Enter to win a $45 Amazon US or Amazon Canada gift card–just enter the Rafflecopter!

Open Internationally. You must have an active Amazon US or CA account to win.
Runs August 9 โ€“ August 18, 2022.
Winner will be drawn on August 19, 2022.

Be sure to check out the event directly and see what books are being showcased! All spotlights will be grouped together at this link.

The best part? Right now, for a limited time, you can grab An Embarrassment of Itches (Ginny Reese Mysteries Book 1) for free! That’s right, FREE. An Embarrassment of Itches is a finalist in the upcoming Silver Falchion awards, so I’m doing a big promotion to celebrate!

All the Silver Falchion finalists are automatically entered in the SF Reader’s Choice Awards, which is voter-based. As a debut cozy mystery novel with a new pen name, I could really use your support. Would you consider voting for An Embarrassment of Itches in the Reader’s Choice Awards? It would mean a lot to me!

I will be attending Killer Nashville (August 18-21) this year–at least, I’ll be there for Friday, Saturday, and part of Sunday. I’ll be doing at least one panel, and book signings (which are open to the public) as well. And of course, I’m attending the Awards Dinner Saturday evening. Will you be there too? I’d love to meet you!

I’ll be posting my schedule a little later once it is finalized. In the meantime, check out the Bookish Event, and tell your friends about it too! And if you haven’t grabbed a copy of An Embarrassment of Itches yet, get it while it’s free!

 

It’s An Embarrassment of Itches… I mean Riches!

 

I never thought I’d be typing this sentence but here goes:

An Embarrassment of Itches is a RONE finalist, a Silver Falchion finalist, and a Royal Palm Literary award semi-finalist.

In fact, I didn’t realize how many awards it had been nominated for until I went to make the graphic for this post.

You know, I’m starting to think maybe this book is halfway decent. ๐Ÿ™‚

The winners of the Silver Falchion awards will be announced at Killer Nashville August 20, 2022 at a live awards banquet. I’ll be attending KN this year, and will be a guest on several panels, doing book signings, and in general, having a fabulous time! I hope to see some of you there!

In the meantime, Mystery Week is about to begin in the Summer Fling Reader Challenge. It’s not too late to join in the fun–you may not have time to catch up on the grand prize (for the person who reads the most books during the month-long challenge) but there are giveaways, parties, and author takeovers every day of the Fling. I’m offering The Dogs Days of Murder (Ginny Reese Mysteries Book 2) as a free read for participating readers, and there are over fifty authors sharing their works!

Also, keep your eyes peeled for a notice about the second week of August… I have a surprise for you then!

Killer Nashville runs August 18-21, so if you’re planning to attend, I might see you there! All the Silver Falchion Finalists are also in the running for the Silver Falchion Readers Choice Awards. This is a fan-based award that has no bearing on the outcome of the primary Silver Falchion awards, but it does require votes to rank placement. As a debut cozy mystery author with a new pen name, I don’t have the following to rank very high in these types of events, but I would very much appreciate your vote here! Your support is what got Itches to first place in the PRG Reader’s Choice Awards, and made it a RONE finalist.

There are a LOT of finalists because it covers all the different categories of the SF awards, so scan the list carefully. You’re allowed to pick up to ten titles, but you can only vote once. Every single vote means the world to me–thank you!

So stay tuned because August is going to be hot month in more ways than one! 

 

 

A Month Long Reader Event with Free Books? Sign me up! Summer Fling 2022

Great Scott!

This year’s Summer Fling event kicks off later today and it’s not too late to join the party! This is a massive reader event where you get your choice of books across different genres: Romance, Mystery, Supernatural, and Dark and Light. As a reader, you’ll be able to request featured books for free from over 50 select authors–all you have to do is read and review! It’s a month-long party of events, takeovers, challenges, and giveaways, too!

This is my 4th year participating, and I can’t think of a more fun Facebook event! Come join the party!

This year, I’m featuring The Dog Days of Murder, the second in the Ginny Reese Mysteries. The first in the series, An Embarrassment of Itches, was a featured read last summer, and currently is a finalist in the Silver Falchion Awards and the RONE Awards! So be sure to sign up and have a BLAST interacting with authors, playing games, and of course, getting free books to read and review!

 

 

The Remington Steele Syndrome: The Bias Against Women

I was a huge Remington Steele fan back in the day. It was the one show I had to watch each week.

I loved the premise: a woman trying to make it as a private detective figures out that she’ll be more successful if she creates an imaginary boss–a decidedly masculine boss. She cobbles the name together out of things in her office and Remington Steele is born. In many ways, it’s a sheer stroke of genius. Young, pretty, and female, Laura Holt probably didn’t inspire confidence in the sort of people who needed an private investigator. By creating an imaginary boss, she could present herself as his representative, could defer unpleasant decisions until she could speak with the boss; she could even make the boss the bad guy if the situation warranted it. It was a great plan, right until the time a con artist walks into her life and takes Steele’s identity. Laura is in the uncomfortable situation of not being able to out him without outing herself as well–and the con man needs a place to cool his heels. As premises for romantic dramedies go, this one was more clever than most.

I wanted to be Laura Holt. I admired her gumption, her classic sense of style. I wanted her shoes. I had a crush on Remington Steele. I loved Brosnan’s accent, I loved the banter between the characters. In fact, I think it was this show that made me fall in love with banter. It was like watching Nick and Nora from The Thin Man movies, which was appropriate, given Steele’s ability to find similarities in each case to old movies that he loved to watch.

I enjoyed the show so much that I was delighted to run across it on DVD. But watching it again proved to be a big mistake. With hindsight, I remembered that Brosnan wanted out of his contract to play Bond (though really, he was far too young at the time–his is the kind of attractiveness that gets better with age) and was upset when they wouldn’t let him go. Despite being good actors, this situation strained the working relationship between Stephanie Zimbalist and Pierce Brosnan, and it clearly shows in their romantic scenes together, at least to my more mature eyes. The banter feels more like bickering, and the plots, meant to reflect some of the screwball comedies of the 30’s and 40’s, seem dated and cheesy now.

And then there’s the premise itself. Laura Holt can’t be taken seriously in a man’s profession without pretending to have a male boss. Despite having trained and apprenticed for her career (as she said in the opening narrative each week), it was usually Steele who solved the case, by recalling an old movie with a similar set up. So not only does Steele move in lock, stock and barrel into the identity she created, he’s better at solving crimes than she is, too.

handwriting_flickrI’ve been thinking a lot about this kind of thing lately. A while back I came across a NYT post by Fay Weldon, titled “Writer of a Certain Age.” She spoke of her long experience in television and the theater, as well as that of a writer. It was an extremely well-written and eye-opening essay.

It was also bloody depressing. In it, Weldon spoke of truisms in the various entertainment industries in which she’s worked–and in nearly all cases, the only time a women was considered important and worth listening to–be it in television, theater, or novels–is when she is young, pretty, and the love interest for a male lead.

Worse, Weldon seems to imply in her post that if you are so unfortunate as to be ‘a writer of a certain age’ and female, that you should really take advantage of the internet to lie to your fans and create a false persona like Remington Steele. Take a gender neutral pen name. Or if you acknowledge that you are, in fact, a woman, take this opportunity to pretend to be younger, thinner, prettier than you really are. Ouch.

ink pen_wikipedia_orgDiscussion at the time of this post among my friends led to whether or not we thought bias still existed against women writers in this day and age. I laugh now when I think about the fact we even questioned this. In light of recent events here in the U.S. to strip people of their bodily autonomy, to grant guns more rights than I have now, it seems particularly ironic.

There’s a blog post titled Why James Chartrand Wears Women’s Underpants, which seemed to parallel Laura Holt’s dilemma: she couldn’t be taken seriously as a woman. It wasn’t until she took the pen name James Chartrand that her freelance writing business took off–and she was able to pay off her mortgage. The discussion among my friends turned inevitably to gender neutral pen names. In the thriller/mystery genre, a gender neutral pen name is almost mandatory–just look at J.D. Robb versus Nora Roberts. I argued that this was more about branding, about allowing your audience to know by your pen name what kind of story to expect. However, it is definitely the convention to take a gender-neutral pen name in the mystery genre, even in the cozy division, which is written and consumed largely by women.

It’s one of the reasons, when I decided to branch into cozy mysteries, I also took a gender-neutral name. In part to distinguish the mysteries from the paranormal romances in a manner the average reader could spot at a glance, but also because that was simply the norm.

You will hear people say as long as the story is written well, they don’t give a hoot about the gender of the author, and since I feel that way myself, I believe people when they say this. But I have to wonder, especially in light of Weldon’s post. Of her recommendation to be anything other than what I actually am. Believe me, that post made me wonder if I’d made a serious mistake by going with a feminine pen name, and whether I should delete all my previous posts on aging and sexuality. Whether I should be someone other than who I really am. Because writing isn’t just a little hobby for me. I need it to help pay the bills.

I’d always assumed that the romance genre got the least respect in the publishing world because by and large, it is considered a woman-centric genre. Lord knows, romance writers in general are considered the lowest of the low when it comes to ‘real’ writing. Turns out sci-fi and mystery writers also come pretty low on the ‘respect’ list, compared to the literary giants of the fiction world, which is sad because on any given day I’ll take a good mystery or sci-fi story over any self-indulgent, introspective Grand Literature novel. But I digress.

One of my friends pointed out this 2013 article to me on Literary Sexism: Still Pervasive and Real. It bears reading. While the beginning is about a critical review and the author’s response to it (which may not make a ton of sense if you aren’t familiar with Mary Gaitskill‘s essays and fiction), read it all the way through. There are some links to some searing examples of ongoing bias toward women. It’s enlightening as well as disheartening. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the pie chart graphs of the number of books reviewed by male versus female authors.

It seems to me that we should have come farther than Remington Steele by now. I’d like to point to one of my favorite television heroines, Kate Beckett from Castle, and say we have come a long way, baby. But then I recall how much Stana Katic’s appearance changed over the seasons of Castle and how little she resembled a NYPD homicide detective by the end of the series. The character was remade into a fashion model instead. And Castle usually solves the crime, too.

It is tempting here to say that Remington Steele was a bad, wrong message to send to impressionable young women. But that would be only partly true. I recall not all that long ago getting very angry over someone lambasting Star Trek: The Original Series on Twitter–commenting on how sexist, nationalist, racist, etc. the show was. I tried to point out that for its time, it was groundbreaking stuff. That yes, the women wore mini-skirts and go-go boots, but it was the first show that depicted a black woman in a role other than that of a maid or a cook. That it tackled big issues. That it envisioned a future in which we’d solved so many of our problems by working together instead of trying to kill each other. The Twitter Hater wouldn’t listen and I had to drop her from my feed. She couldn’t understand that it took those very baby steps taken in Star Trek fifty-six years ago to bring us forward to the kinds of diversity and equality we see in roles for characters today. Especially in the Star Trek universe itself. I’m loving Strange New Worlds. It has the classic Star Trek vibe and the writing and acting are outstanding. But the thing that struck me from the beginning was how many female characters there were. They aren’t just there for window dressing or to bring the Captain coffee, either. They have positions of power and play important roles on the ship and in the stories being told. I’m seeing a greater representation across the board as well. Not every actor has a chiseled jawline or perfect waist. Characters are differently abled and across the gender spectrum. Number One wears freaking nail polish (you know that’s my thing!!). The irony is now many of the Star Trek bros were livid when Discovery featured a Black, female lead and that now the franchise is somehow too woke for them now. Um, did they ever really watch the shows they claim to love?

I can’t find the article but I remember reading once that if there were more than a certain (very low) percentage of women on a television show, male viewers falsely exaggerated the numbers in their head, assuming there were more female characters than there actually were. Let’s not forget, either, the outrage that occurred when Ghostbusters was remade with a female-led cast (people howled about having their childhood ruined, utterly ruined, I say) or the hate the most recent Star Wars trilogy received for daring to make a female character the main focus of the story, and casting both Black and Asian actors to play significant roles. (My issues with the latest Star Wars trilogy have nothing to do with Rey being the lead and more to do offering last minute redemption through an act of love for an–in my eyes–irredeemable character. But that’s a discussion for another day…)

I have to give that same kind of credit to Remington Steele. It was groundbreaking in its way as well, giving us a strong unmarried female heroine who had an interesting career and did exciting things. Laura Holt was smart and independent and I wanted to be her. She was one of the first characters I can recall to influence me that way. That’s exactly the sort of baby step that was needed back then. It gave us Kate Beckett, Brenda Leigh Johnson (The Closer), Rizzoli and Isles, Captain Sharon Raydor (Major Crimes), and Peggy Carter (Captain America). I could go on. It’s getting better. We’re seeing better roles for women, more older women in good roles. But the numbers are still pretty small compared to the good parts for men. The fact that men got all the best parts and best lines was one of the reasons I’ve been drawn to male characters my entire life. Men still outnumber women 2:1 in movie roles.

Growing up in a world of Laura Holts, I expected to not be taken seriously at first. To have to work twice as hard to earn less money. To have to cleverly work around the system to get what I want. To be passed over for promotions, not the least of which is because it was assumed I wouldn’t be dedicated to my career because of the mythical children I never intended to have. But that’s not really the worst of it, is it? The roots of misogyny run deep, thriving on racism, ableism, homophobia, and Christian Nationalism–I’ve yet to see one stand without the others–and while we were busily pruning off the heads visible in the light, the patriarchal plant was sending runners out in all directions. We are being stripped of our rights as human beings with each passing day.

It’s tempting to give up. To bow my head meekly and put on the robe. But I refuse to do that. And I have Laura Holt to thank for it.

 

 

It’s Not My Problem YOU’RE on a Diet

I enjoy romances. I think every story is better with a romantic subplot, be it a thriller or hardcore military sci-fi space opera. I’ve written everything from slash fanfic, to steamy paranormal romance (Redclaw Security), to passionate, but closed-door historical romances (Redclaw Origins), and now cozy mysteries, which aren’t romances at all, but have a romantic arc (Ginny Reese Mysteries).

These days, as both a writer and a reader, I find myself leaning more toward off-page/closed door stories. That’s just where I am on my storytelling path in life right now. It doesn’t mean I find stories with more spice icky, or obscene, or whatever. Between the overwhelming stresses in my life and world events, such as the pandemic, I find myself craving a certain kind of story to get me through the day–and for me, personally, that happens not to be very spicy at the moment.

And might I say while I’m fine with describing stories with on-page sex scenes as “spicy” or “steamy” or filling up my texts with hot peppers or eggplant emojis, I LOATHE almost every term we use to describe books with no on-screen sex. “Sweet” is barely tolerable to me–it makes my teeth ache to think about it. “Clean” and/or “wholesome” make me want to throw things–as if stories with open door sex scenes are some how dirty, immoral, and obscene.

Romancelandia: we need a better term for closed door romances!! But I digress.

I happen to wander across this dividing line at will, choosing what level of heat I want to experience on a given day, in a given story, with a particular set of characters… and I know many other readers who do as well. There are also strong vocal defenders of their preferences. You’ll see discussions of “do they bang?” and there are websites devoted to providing readers with the information they desire about the kind of stories they seek. And yes, sometimes there is an element of condescension in some of these discussions conducted by the “we want banging!” side.

But you know what’s NOT there? Condemnation of readers and writers who prefer something else. 

Today I saw on Twitter a romance author share part of a communication she’d received from a reader that chastised her for taking what seemed to be a fun premise and sinking into “lewd” content that caused the reader not only to throw the book away, but contact the author to advise she should write more “wholesome” books.

I’m sorry, but this is wrong. You didn’t like the book? It didn’t meet your expectations? Fine. That happens. If that’s not the kind of story you want to read, you chalk it up to a mistake and you don’t purchase from that author again because now you know that this is the kind of story she enjoys writing. Have very specific reading needs where the romance heat levels don’t exceed your precise definitions? Create or join a Facebook or Discord group where you can gather with like-minded readers and share your recommendations.

I can’t imagine someone going to a closed-door romance writer and saying, “Based on the cover, title, and blurb, I thought this was going to be a fun, sexy romp. Instead, there was a level of chastity from the very beginning that made my skin crawl. How dare you take the characters into the bedroom and shut the door in my face! I was going to share this story with my friends, but instead I threw your book in the trash where it belongs. If you would consider taking that puritanical stick out of your characters’ butts and write a real, steamy romance story, I would consider reading it.”

Do you see how ludicrous that sounds?

What is different about the stance of some of the “wholesome” books-only reader is the level of righteousness that infuses their sense of entitlement. The implication that anyone who enjoys any other kind of content is somehow immoral, crude, and needs to be shamed. That their content should be modified–or banned.

Book banning is on the rise here in the US, with the rallying cry of “We must protect the children!” (despite the fact there has never been a mass killing of schoolchildren from reading a book, whereas guns are now the leading cause of death of children and adolescents in the US). Now a Virginia delegate, not content with having books reflecting diversity removed from schools, has filed a lawsuit against Barnes and Noble to prevent certain books from being sold to minors. Yes, in some cases, there are adult themes that can be controversial. However, the Virginia Beach school board member who has been spearheading many of the book banning campaigns reportedly hasn’t read many of the books she wants banned. I think it is very telling that the ten most frequently banned books in the US at this time most often deal with themes regarding self-discovery and embracing the differences of others. In Wyoming, some librarians may even face criminal charges for stocking certain books, usually pertaining to sex education and LBGTQ issues.

First they want to police the school library. Then it’s the public library. Now it’s an attempt to force a private company to do the same.

But tell me again how we shouldn’t perform background checks and waiting periods on people wishing to purchase automatic weapons, increase the age limit on buying guns, place restrictions on how much ammo can be purchased, and so on. It’s not the same, you say? You’re right. Because no one has ever walked into a school and killed a classroom of kids with a book. No one has ever walked into a church, a grocery store, or a movie theater carrying a book they got from the library and murdered the people within. No one has ever stood at window of a Vegas hotel and killed or injured nearly 500 people by lobbing books at them.

In another attempt to prevent school age children access to banned books, some school districts are removing the digital library service Overdrive from school access. Why? Because Overdrive lists books prohibited in those school districts.

Amazon has long dampened the ability for erotica to be found on a site search–now recent changes to their policies have stripped some books of their best-selling ranks and moved them out of their former categories into the erotica section, which greatly limits visibility and the ability to advertise these stories on the platform. Amazon makes up 80% of the average indie author’s sales. Amazon has the right as a private company to do this. Just as you have the right as a consumer not to read material you don’t want to read.

I find it ironic that the people who are the loudest about the “slippery slope” arguments when it comes to the 2nd Amendment have no problem icing down the sidewalks for the 1st Amendment, however.

Now you may think, well, this won’t affect me or my reading. And if you are part of the clean/wholesome only crowd, you may be right. For now.

Because there is always going to be someone out there who decides that their version of wholesome is the only correct, morally pure version–and that all other kinds of “wholesome” stories must follow suit or be banned.

And that’s my problem with this aspect of the creeping Purity Culture. It’s not enough to say, “I’ve decided to eliminate all gluten from my diet.” It’s saying “Gluten is an evil, horrible ingredient that should be banned from all food, and since no one in my family is eating gluten, we don’t think you should either.”

We don’t want pizza in our schools. Bakeries should stop selling cookies, croissants, doughnuts, and bagels. I refuse to have these things in my home and I DON’T WANT YOU TO HAVE THE PLEASURE OF CONSUMING THESE FOODS EITHER. The very fact that you take pleasure in a slice of warm crusty bread, fresh from the oven and slathered in butter means you are an immoral, filthy person. And if you are an immoral, dirty bread-eater, then your crude habits are putting my children and family at risk of doing the same. And THAT I will not tolerate.

See how that sounds?

You want to give up eating gluten? Want to go keto? Be my guest. But don’t cry foul when you have to walk past the bakery early on a Sunday morning and the smell of doughnuts reminds you of how good they can be.

First they came for the pregnant people…

I started to post this on Facebook, and then realized I needed more room to say what I have to say.

TW for SA, forced birth, loss of civil rights.

I may lose followers over this but I think it’s important that we understand ending Roe v Wade is not just about “stopping abortion”. If it was about that alone, then sex education and free birth control would be available to all. 

Roe v Wade was established on a fundamental right to privacy. Eliminate that, and you eliminate the right to privacy on everything. Everything.

They are already trying to ban ALL contraception in some states. Enacting laws that would require women to have a negative pregnancy test before leaving the state. Some people recommend you stop using any app that allows you to track your monthly cycles NOW. Can you imagine yourself as a business person, being required to show proof of a negative pregnancy test before you can fly out of state for your company? Before going on a trip to visit your family? Having your search history on your reproductive options–such as the one I used to put together this post–being used against you in a court of law?

They are currently creating laws that require a mother who has had a miscarriage prove that it wasn’t intentional while dealing with one of the worst emotional and physicals traumas of her life. Laws that make using an IUD a felony. Laws that prevent a woman from leaving an abusive relationship if she’s pregnant. Laws that force victims of rape to carry to term, even if that person is a minor. Laws that prevent the ending of a non-viable, life-threatening ectopic pregnancy and demand the embryo be transferred and implanted: something that is NOT MEDICALLY POSSIBLE. Failure to terminate an ectopic pregnancy can kill the mother–but hey, what does that matter, right?

It’s about criminalizing anyone who seeks reproductive health care in this manner (or provides it) so they cannot vote again in the future.

It’s about ending your right to privacy: who you can love, marry, and build a family with.

It’s about creating a very specific theocracy that has no tolerance for other belief systems.

It’s about locking people into a cycle of poverty. It’s about preventing women from moving further up a corporate ladder, or being financially independent. It’s about eliminating each individual’s right to vote and creating a state where only the “head of house” is allowed to vote. It’s about giving that HOH absolute power over every family member, including the right to rape and perform incest.

At this point in time, 5% of all rape victims become pregnant as a result of their attack. Lawmakers are currently enacting legislation that would force victims to have continued contact with their rapists should the attack result in a pregnancy, giving the rapists more rights than the victims themselves. International law defends the right of a rape victim to get an abortion as a basic human right. How can we call ourselves the greatest nation on earth when we intend to strip half our citizens of a basic human right?

1% of all women using birth control still get pregnant. There are 72.7 million women of child-bearing age in the US right now. That comes to 727,000 unwanted pregnancies each year by people who took every precaution–short of not having sex with their partners–to prevent such a thing.

And that’s another factor in this creeping erosion of women’s rights: they want to be able to decide when we have sex and with whom. They want enjoying sex to be the prerogative of the impregnator, and the incubators just need to shut up and submit.

People tend to forget that it wasn’t all that long ago that women were not allowed to do certain things in the US that we take for granted today. Spousal rape wasn’t criminalized in all 50 states until 1993. Women were routinely charged more for health insurance until 2010. The birth control pill, which had been available since the 1950s, was not available to all unmarried women until 1972, and up until 1978 someone could get fired merely for being pregnant. A woman could not get a credit card in her own name until 1974, and many banks required they bring a male relative with them to co-sign. Women were deemed too “fragile” to serve on most juries until 1975, fight on the front lines until 2015, and were shut out of most Ivy League colleges until the 1970s as well. They could not take action against workplace sexual harassment until 1977. It was 1980 before workplace sexual harassment was considered a form of sexual discrimination.

My point being this: these hard-fought rights were not achieved all that long ago. And we are facing our biggest threat to those rights today. People like to believe that once civil rights have been granted, we can stop worrying about them. The truth is, they must be defended every single day, or else someone will try to take them from you.

I would like to say to those people who staunchly maintain that any baby’s life is more important than that of the mother, who do you intend to raise that baby? Feed it, clothe it, nurture and love it? Because as soon as that baby is born, the forced-birth extremists cease to care about it. No formula in the stores, no social programs, no safety net.

How about the fact that for a developed nation, the US has one of the worst records on maternal care? At least 2 people die in childbirth in the US each day, despite our spending more on healthcare than other developed nation. Most die from preventable causes. Black women are three times more likely to die in childbirth than white women, but that’s another stat these people don’t care about, because part of this drive to forced-birth extremism is about making more white babies. Tennis player Serena Williams, who had a history of blood clots in 2010 before her 2017 pregnancy, had to fight to get her medical team to screen her for blood clots when she lost the feeling in her legs after delivery of her daughter. If she had not been educated about her health issues, if she had not been a famous person, would she have survived?

Odds are, if she lived the Southern US, no.

To those who say that it’s God’s will a rape victim gets pregnant, or any person practicing birth control gets pregnant, I ask this: does this mean you don’t want to be treated for cancer? That you should be allowed to bleed out at the scene of a traffic accident? And whoa, who needs Viagra anymore, because isn’t that also GOD’S WILL?

If you think this is going to end with abortion rights, you are wrong. If you think this doesn’t apply to you personally, you are wrong. It may start with Roe v Wade, but it will spread to same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, what can be taught in schools, and book-banning. It will force a rape victim to give parental rights to her attacker. It will force people to remain in abusive relationships. It will strip large numbers of citizens of their right to vote, in part because the powerful want to remain in power. We can’t just move out of state, either. We must stand our ground and vote where we live while we still can vote.

And if you or anyone you know is capable of having babies, I would think long and hard about that vacation trip to New Orleans or sending my daughter to university in a red state right now.