I’m in one of those moods as a start to my week, but note that being in such a mood doesn’t remove my ability to try to bring a constructive offering to an ongoing dialogue about what I observe and how it pertains to things I’m passionate about.
I usually don’t write follow-ups to my Soapbox Saturday entries so soon, but waking up on a Monday morning to see this was probably the last thing I had on my mind. I’ve just come off of a bad reading bout this past weekend, so you can say I went to bed last night upset, but ready to see a new day and approach it with a fresh mind to think from.
I heard that Kendall Grey, the author of the UF series “Just Breathe” and the subject of the first part of my post on Saturday, offered an “apology” on her blog this morning. So, I decided to read it. I was hoping, you know, maybe Grey would own up to her actions and I would say “Okay, cool, let’s put this behind us and I’ll read the books you have to offer without thinking I wasted $3 on someone who doesn’t seem to care about what her readers think and feel about her work.” I consider myself a patient person, I’ve forgiven people for things far worse than Grey’s ever said and done. Granted, even in the words I considered with her original post, I got where they were coming from, but I think they were wrong and the half-apology she issued to the commenter on her post added insult to injury. But the follow-up to this…really hit beyond the stratosphere.
I’m not going to link to it because I’m going to be copying many parts of it to address directly in this post.
Guys, I’m going to be blunt, what I read was not an apology – this is full on deflection, full of inaccuracies, straight up misconstructions, and even further offending sensibilities than the last two posts Kendall Grey has made.
I’m…beyond the measure of shocked here. I honestly don’t know if Grey will read anything I (or anyone else) have to say on this (though it’s obvious now that she’s reading quite a bit on her own controversy from some of the things she’s said), but I think the first step is for her to step away from the keyboard, mellow out, and then come back ready to listen to what people are saying. What they are *really* saying.
You guys know how I feel about bullying and how I loathe people misappropriating the term. And you guys probably know, that as a woman of color, I definitely don’t like people misappropriating terms such as lynching to describe themselves as being victimized. Grey pretty much invokes both descriptors in her collective post, and then some, but I guess I think I should start from the beginning and go through where all of this fall on the shades of wrong.
And as a preface – I’m saying this as both an aspiring writer, as someone who was a person who bought and perused Grey’s work, and who has well intentions of trying to get through to the nitty gritty of how this is all kinds of wrong. Ultimately, it’s up to Grey to own up to her own actions and reputation, but none of us can do that for her. I can’t do that for her. She has to do it for herself. And maybe when she does, people can actually forgive her and *maybe* examine her work again. But as long as she keeps digging the hole, there’s no getting out of it. It’s beyond that point now on some levels though, at least for me.
Warning, there’s some strong language to be had in the quotations of this post.
There’s been a whole lotta hoopla this week from every corner of the Interwebs targeting Yours Truly with some vile and venomous accusations. For several days, I chose not to feed the trolls because, let’s face it, they’d only find a way to twist my words further and make me look like even more of a bad guy. But since the pitchforks are still raised and the lynch mob is still demanding my blood, my head, or both, I reckon it’s time to address my past, present, and future readers. Be prepared to be hit upside the head with the Mighty Womancock of Truth…
I already know from this that it’s not going to be an “owning up” post. I suppose the facetious “To My Readers…” should’ve clued me in, but I had no notion of what the tone of that would be until I started reading this. And she’s calling all of her critics and offended readers “trolls.” *sighs* Lovely…
And woman, you don’t know the first thing about a lynch mob, so don’t you dare try to invoke racial oppression connotations with that kind of dialogue, and appropriate it for what you’re going through. I’m not tolerating it, I’m offended by the fact that you would go there, and I’m sure others aren’t happy with it either.
For the next loooong bunch of words, I’m setting aside the persona and addressing you as an author talking to her readers. Notice I used the term readers and not fans. Many of you know I have a strong aversion to that dirty F word, and I’ve actually chastised readers for calling themselves my fans. Fan suggests being in a lesser position of power relative to someone else. Fuck that bullshit. I’m not that way. You and me, we’re equals. Plain and simple.
Huh? What the heck is wrong with being called a “fan”? Just because someone is a “fan” of someone doesn’t make them less or more than the person or thing they’re idolizing. And there are far too many “f” words that I can think of that are dirtier than fan. Being a fan of something is nothing to be ashamed of. And while I wouldn’t consider myself to be a “fangirl” personality (though I sometimes have momentary tendencies), I think in time I’ve realized there are many things I’ve become a fan of in life and that’s perfectly fine to be. I’m a fan of anime/manga, I’m a fan of classic movies and BBC dramas (of which I was just talking to someone about last night in my status updates on Goodreads – I’m really loving “Call the Midwife” and “Lark Rise to Candleford.”) I’m a fan of Dr. Who, Star Trek, Star Wars (though my preference lends towards the original trilogy), Supernatural, among other fandoms.
I’m a fan of jazz and classical music equally. I’m a fan of a Finnish rock group called Poets of the Fall, I like prog metal groups like Rush and Dream Theater and rock out to them while at the same time having a fan love for Bruno Mars, Janelle Monae, and Gnarls Barkley. And I’ll admit I geek out over hearing Carolina Chocolate Drops because I love the instrumentation and lead female vocal. I’m a fan of J-pop/rock and K-pop/rock, and while I’m still learning the languages respectively, the emotional resonance and tone of some of the groups I’ve listened to still come through the translation – and I’m appreciative of that. I have a love for Spanish and Latin and I speak/write them. I’m a fan of coming of age, contemporary YA books just as much as space operas in Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I’m a fan of learning new things. I’m a fan of fitness/wellness personalities (like Jillian Michaels for example, whose “balls to the wall” approach I have a lot more respect for than Grey’s because at least Michaels OWNS UP to where she’s flawed) and I practice yoga and meditation on a daily basis.
What we are fans of or love is a part of shaping the core of who we are as people. And if Grey thinks I have to be ashamed of that, then well, let’s just say I’m not a “fan” of hers, because I don’t consider it beneath me to appreciate what I appreciate.
Let me start with some background. I was asked a few weeks ago by an owner of Authors For Life to prepare a post about my “success story” with STRINGS. I tried to frame my publishing experiences with words of wisdom that I wish someone had shared with me earlier in my career.
The post, entitled “Selling Out 101,” went live on May 15 and caused a big ruckus. Authors for Life chose to take it down, but if you’d like to read my original words, I’ve included them below this post.
My writing career started nearly five years ago. I had the framework for a crazy novel in my head and spent a long-ass time getting it onto the page. It started as contemporary fiction, then morphed into paranormal romance, and ended up as urban fantasy. It grew from a single book into a trilogy.
Like many other writers, I pitched to agents, publishers, and anyone who would listen. The net result, as best as I can tell, is that the industry professionals liked the story, but it didn’t fit into a single genre, and it wasn’t commercially appealing enough for anyone to take a risk and publish it. It had too much of a love story to be fantasy and too much fantasy to be romance. Simply put, no one could figure out which shelf to put it on. But this was my story, told in the way I wanted to tell it, and I was too stubborn to let it die. So, I took a chance on myself and released it independently.
By all accounts, for an indie-published book, the JUST BREATHE Trilogy did well. It found readers. Most liked it. A few loved it. Some were really confused by it. I felt like I hit a chord, but the success I’d hoped for eluded me.
Frustrated about what to do next, I went back to square one. Over the years, I’ve squirreled away notes for many stories that never got written. I had plenty more ideas for my JUST BREATHE universe, but I needed to expand my audience instead of narrowing it. I wasn’t sure if continuing on that course would bring me the new readers I wanted. I toyed with writing a few contemporary romance stories, but after deep reflection, I decided to take a stab at erotica. I had some experience with writing steamy sex scenes in my JUST BREATHE books, and most readers seemed to enjoy them.
Okay, this might be the most honest thing Kendall Grey has posted in this reflection so far. I appreciate it, I accept it. I can understand/sympathize with it, especially considering she goes through the motions and tries to get her work out there and attain her own measure of success via “Just Breathe”. It’s not something I lack sympathy/empathy for at all, because many writers have the same story of struggles, and as an aspiring writer myself I know that’s among the many challenges I’m going to have to face in this industry, I just haven’t gotten to that level yet. In a way, I admire Grey for getting to that level and being able to “do her thing.”
Erotica had emerged as a hot new genre. There were some exciting trends there, so I figured I had nothing to lose by giving it a whirl, even though I wasn’t completely comfortable with it. Remember, I’m a fantasy writer by choice. Writing contemporary erotica required major paradigm shifting for me.
Erotica’s not new. It has years of history and undulating waves of popularity. Even from the pages of “Fanny Hill”, “The Story of O”, “Delta of Venus”, and I could go on from before, between, and after those writings. If Grey wanted to know more about erotica and get out of her shell with respect to the genre, reading its history and other peer works would’ve been a valuable education. And maybe it would’ve enlightened her enough to appreciate what it has to offer and have more confidence in writing it.
People write in cross genres all the time – there’s no “paradigm shift” to be had here. If you’re an avid reader passionate about the genres you write in, it comes naturally. You learn, you adapt. It’s like Mrs. Frizzle from the “Magic School Bus” says : “Take chances, get messy, make mistakes! Get out there and explore!” That’s key to going into any endeavor you embark upon and ultimately taking the path to success. You’re going to fall at times, but just as well you learn from the experience and move forward.
After some trial and error, I found Letty’s voice, and STRINGS (and ideas for the entire Hard Rock Harlots series) emerged. Unlike my JUST BREATHE novels, writing STRINGS was easy. It was completely over the top. The scenes and language were outrageous. I knew it would be polarizing. But it was fun. I enjoyed the hell out of writing that book.
I wove themes underneath the explicit XXX sex scenes. The story of Letty and her connections to her bandmates, her lover, and The Rock were all there, and the overarching, multidimensional theme of “strings” came to life. Letty’s desire to find her audience, her insecurities with her art, and her frustrations with the music business stemmed from some of my own experiences as a writer, which brought me even closer to the book.
Despite my resistance, I fell in love with STRINGS.
Well, that’s awesome, actually. Writing what you love is a good thing, but on another note, if I were addressing Grey directly here – I would say that you don’t have to explain/justify the depth of what you were trying to do with the novel here. Your writing should do that for you. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for that. If you had doubts about it, okay, that’s normal. Sometimes when we discuss and approach touchy topics, it doesn’t always go over well in perception, but that’s part of the risk you take when you put something you write out there, and you learn from the experience on what to do better as you move forward. But in the very least of things – you have some people who appreciate it, and it prompts discussion all the same.
I pushed “publish” on a Saturday night, not knowing what to expect. STRINGS took off like a bullet. I was both shocked and thrilled that the book found its audience so quickly. Sales poured in, and word of mouth spread. I was surprised the book resonated with such a wide variety of readers. Some loved the sex scenes, some loved the humor, and more than a few loved the story.
I don’t understand, from this, why in her original post she was so ungrateful for that respective success? Her post sounded bitter that she had that success with something that she dashed off versus something that, with the “Just Breathe” series, she spent longer and more expensive efforts for. This has yet to be answered, I think.
What I loved, was the connection the readers made to it. While many readers connected with JUST BREATHE, it was nothing like this. I got hundreds of comments like, “I laughed until I cried!” and “You made my husband a very happy man last night.” What a huge rush for an author! My little old book made a ton of people happy.
I received Tweets, direct messages, emails, and Facebook messages from around the world. I made time to respond to EACH and EVERY reader who made the effort to connect with me, even at the expense of my own family.
It should be pretty obvious from all of this that I would never do anything to purposefully harm the readers who gave me my success. There is no other group of people in the world that I respect and value more. Readers and the whales are the two reasons why I write.
Nothing is obvious here – the only thing that I see is that Grey’s deflecting from owning up to some of the things which caused offense to her readership, fans, and even people writing in her respective genre (which she proceded to throw under the bus and has still yet to address directly.) Granted many of us say things out of the quick of emotion and to defer pain and panic, but at some point – there has to be a coming to terms and acceptance for what you say, mean, and do.
Sometimes my sarcastic persona gets in the way of my intention. Sometimes people take my snark seriously. In “Selling Out 101,” I called my story “trash” and “smut” in a self-deprecating way–to make fun of myself, but absolutely not to demean my readers.
Perhaps my reference to “art” was misinterpreted in my tongue-in-cheek post. Every artist must write what’s in her heart, but those who wish to pursue their passion full-time are often forced to compromise their comfort zones in favor of putting food on the table for their families (or in my case, to save the whales). Sometimes we stumble upon an unplanned path to reach our goals. This is a fact of life. I meant no offense by stating this truth.
I still don’t think anything about that post was tongue in cheek, but…I am willing to lend some measures that some people do what they can to make a living. Still, even with that consideration – the whole “fake it until you make it” tone in the first post really got under my skin because it’s a wrong way to address an aspiring writing audience. “Fake it until you make it” works more in the scheme of attitudes versus actions. If you’re constantly faking and subjecting yourself to a falsehood, then you’re not being true to yourself and who you wish to become. Grey shouldn’t have approached the topic in addressing her audience with an expectation to fail and expection to sacrifice what they love and want to do by “catering to the market.” Trends don’t last, they’re undulating. They come and go. By the time you write to a particular trend, it’s likely to disappear. What you should write is what proves true to you.
I felt it was appropriate to share with developing writers (for whom the post was intended–NOT bloggers or readers) who must make career decisions based on their individual and personal needs. Can I continue writing in genre X and not make money? Or must I find a different way to make money at my art in order to pay my bills? These are tough choices every artist faces. I only meant to bring them to the surface as something for writers to ponder.
There is no right or wrong answer here, but the cold truth of the matter is…professional writing is a business. If you don’t provide your customers with a product they demand, you go out of business. Right now, the market demands contemporary romance, new adult, and erotica. Tomorrow it might be Hot Gay Sailors Riding Seahorses in Space Whilst Toting Bows and Love Arrows. If that’s the case, the writers who work to get paid had better jump on that shit right now.
I disagree, that’s all I’m going to say here.
Over the last few days, my friends have been telling me about what’s happening on Goodreads and several blogs. I’m balls-out shocked by some of the vitriol over my post. Several recent Amazon reviews clearly state the readers’ enjoyment of STRINGS, yet the reviewers downgraded their ratings to 1-stars based solely on this fucking post. How is that a remotely FAIR review? People have boasted to me that they were glad they pirated my stories or abused Amazon’s return policy to avoid paying for my work despite reading and enjoying the book. This is a new level of low, in my opinion. Have people really sunk to this level? Over a fucking snarky-ass BLOG post I wrote to mark off an item on my To Do list? I’m sad to say, the answer is yes.
I don’t write for liars, thieves, and bullies. I write for honest readers who value a good story and a fun voice–those who are willing to look beyond a post that was misinterpreted and taken out of its original context.
Here’s where my respect gets thrown out the window for Ms. Grey. Honest readers? Really? Who made her the designating person to judge that or judge who reads her book? Granted, I know there are people upset, and maybe in my own practices of things I would never amend my ratings over a book based on my own personal feelings about an author, but people have the right to do that and I would never try to dictate how people should feel, do, or say in reaction to something that upsets them (barring exceptions). Freedom of speech and all that jazz. Those reviews aren’t intended for Grey’s benefit. Other readers can peruse what reviews they find helpful and take or leave what value they have to them, but Grey does not have the jurisdiction to control who gets her book or who and how they react to it. The world does not exist in a vacuum or a limited segment. If you can’t accept the fact that the world is a much bigger place and that there are going to be variant reactions over your book and measures around it, variant audiences that peruse it, and variant opinions, then you’re going to be in for a world of hurt back and forth, because there’s no way for you to control that. At all.
I can’t even with the incorrect and casual throwing out of the term “bullying” here. *sighs*
I did not intend for my comments to offend readers or anyone else. I hold you all dear in my heart. Could I have employed less “shock value” wording in my post and opted for nice, sweet, politically correct terminology? Absolutely. But that’s not me. If you’ve read my books or follow me on Twitter, you understand that. I chose those words for their shock value. To make readers of the post feel something. Apparently, it worked too well and on the wrong audience. The post was exploited to the masses outside of its intended audience. It’s pretty obvious who came out on the losing end of this debacle. The person with the most to lose and the best intentions. Kendall Fucking Grey.
I value each and every one of my readers. You’re worth a million times more to me than the $2.99 you paid for my book. Aside from the misinterpreted post, I don’t think I’ve ever given a single person a reason to believe I’m only in this for the money or that I hate my readers or readers of erotica. Those who’ve interacted with me personally know that couldn’t be farther from the truth. My actions speak for themselves.
I don’t think the shock value was the problem – it was the attitude and directive. I understood where that post was coming from, but not only did I not agree with it, I didn’t like the denouncement. And there’s still a serious lack of owning up to the words said in that post here, which on some levels it was addressed, on others it was left by the wayside. And saying in so many words that you’re “sorry if you were offended by my misinterpreted post” is not an apology.
There are two sides to every story. I feel strongly that many of the facts surrounding this particular story have been blurred, obscured, and in some cases, twisted into flat-out lies. I encourage you always to seek out both sides before you decide which “truth” you believe. The world has enough bullies. Even if you still think I’m wrong, please don’t be one of them. Share your opinion, but be better than that. Bullies demean the entire human race.
Ms. Grey, I do not approve of your portrayal of bullies and bullying in this entire post. Ye Gods, woman, you make a mockery of everyone who has ever been bullied in their lives here, as well as people who have been bullies before, but changed their lives and attitudes for the better and learn the meaning of respecting others. And don’t turn the responsibility on the things that you’ve said and done onto some “bullies” or “haters” – you’re STILL refusing to own up to the things you’ve said and the offenses you caused. The only so called “hater” I see here is you, especially considering a certain Facebook post that’s been floating around where you directly address people who support you to rise up against the so called “bullies” that you’re fighting. Fighting fire with fire only perpetuates more fire, not resolution. Discussion would be more appropriate to the latter aim.
To the countless readers who’ve privately contacted me to show their continued support, belief, and love during these last few days, THANK YOU. A million times, thank you. This week would have been the perfect time for me to throw up my hands, toss in the towel, and disappear into oblivion. You’re the reason I didn’t give up when I thought I was alone in this mess. You’re the reason I will keep writing, despite the haters. You’re the reason I have chosen to face this bullying head on. Readers, you are my WORLD!
With that out of the way, Kendall Grey is moving forward. I hope you will too. Fuck the haters, the baiters, the bullies, and the trolls. I got an electronic cigarette hanging out of my mouth, a vodka martini poised at my lips, and my Mighty Womancock in hand. Let’s blaze a fiery path into the future and make history together, my friends. Thank you for being the amazing human beings you are!
Yeah, I think at this point, I’m moving along as well. And suffice to say, it’ll either be a while or not at all if I read the books I bought from Grey. I lament the waste of $3 going to someone who only values those who support her in her limited, segmented network and not for people who have the audacity to be outside of that and think differently. Being offended doesn’t make anyone a bully, a hater, or any crass term for it. Calling someone out on their crap doesn’t make anyone a bully or hater either. I’m more on the side of lamenting that the term “bullying” is being perpetuated in a case where someone fails to own up to their own mentalities, actions, and words, and won’t discuss it with any kind of maturity or acceptance for the blowout and blowback. I’m tired of it, and my guess is that many others are too, so I’m moving on and hope that at some point down the road, maybe even in a quiet corner outside all the chatter, that Grey will have her own coming to terms and realize – “I messed up, people are going to react to it the way they do, I own up to it, and I won’t make excuses or project my failings on anyone else.”
Until next entry,