Restraint (Power Exchange Book 4) or How This Disastrous Election Won’t Stop Me

I think I’m done reeling from the election results. I might have my balance back. Now, I’m rolling up my sleeves and ready to fight. I’m ready to take on those who want to see immigrants and Muslims and People of Color and LGBTQ people shuffled out of their country, into dark corners, or into some other kind of oblivion. President Trump is the dying gasp of a white patriarchy who can’t handle otherness, and while it may feel like a hurricane force wind right now, I’ve got lungs, too, and I plan to scream back. I will be like Lieutenant Dan, on the mast of a small ship riding stormy waves, screaming into the wind and the rain, “Is that all you got! Come on! Bring it!”

I will not go quietly into the closet/dark corners/oblivion like apparently half the voters in this country would like me and other marginalized groups to do. Nope. This is MY country, too and I absolutely refuse to be a doormat because these people have deemed my differences are not differences they can tolerate.

So much for America the melting pot.

I’ve been kicking around an idea for a 4th Power Exchange (this series has taught me to never say never. It keeps coming back so much I might as well make that the tagline). Ben of all people has been whispering to me, saying, “Hey, I have a story, too. Maybe I’m ready to let you tell it.” It has some legs, so I’ve tinkered out a plot and in the last couple weeks have gotten the first scene down amid a wedding, some serious personal strife that knocked me over like Hulk punching Thor, and this ugly, UGLY election. I cannot promise when Restraint will be released other than to say 2017. But it’s my foremost project, and is the one getting my attention. It may not go as fast as Consent did (4 months to write) or it may. The point is that I’m writing it and in the wake of heartbreaking, devastating news, I wanted to share with my people that maybe we still have things to look forward to. I know I still have a voice, and I plan to use it. I’m going to be getting louder. This is my way of saying I will not sit down, I will not shut up, and in fact, I will write about the love of people like me until I take my literal dying gasp. I will never quit.

So, as a promise to you all, I give you the first scene from Restraint, Power Exchange Book 4. I hope you like it and are excited Ben and Gavin have more to say. Click through to read on.

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Kim Davis and Why Throwing Her in Jail is Not the Answer

Okay, there’s a lot of information flying around about Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk denying to issue marriage licenses since SCOTUS made same-sex marriage legal in every state. I’m going to try to summarize the information to date. I also have an opinion on why throwing her in jail for contempt of court is not a good idea.

Short summary: SCOTUS ruled in June same-sex marriage was legal in every state. Kim Davis, the circuit clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, stopped issuing marriage licenses to all couples in response, citing her sincerely held religious beliefs that same-sex marriage is against God’s will. Four couples, two straight and two gay, sued her after several attempts to get marriage licenses. A federal judge, David Bunning, found that Davis’s religious freedom was not being violated because she’s still able to attend church, pray openly, minister to people she’s ministered to for years, and otherwise continue practicing her Christianity. She appealed the decision to the 6th Circuit Court that oversees the federal court where the ruling came down. Bunning granted her a stay while that appeal was being considered. The 6th Circuit Court upheld Bunning’s ruling and ordered her to begin complying with the law by August 31, when Bunning’s stay expired. Davis filed an appeal with the Supreme Court, and was denied. Today, September 1st, the plaintiff couples returned to the circuit clerk’s office for their marriage licenses, only to be denied again.

The most common question I see is a variation on this theme: Why hasn’t she been fired? She’s not doing her job!

She can’t be fired. She’s an elected official. Just as a President of the U.S. has to be impeached, so does she. She also could be ousted by a recall election (think Gray Davis, the governor of California in office before Arnold Schwarzenegger took the spot). An impeachment wouldn’t begin until Kentucky lawmakers are back in session in January 2016, unless a costly special session is convened. These things take time, so in the meantime, Davis sits in the circuit clerk of Rowan County office as head honcho.

Now that she’s continued to defy court orders despite SCOTUS denying her appeal for a stay on Judge Bunning’s ruling that Davis’s religious freedoms are not being violated, what happens next?

The lawyers for the plaintiff’s in this case have filed a motion for Davis to be held in contempt of court for defying a federal ruling (Bunning’s, though she’s also in violation of SCOTUS’s Obergefell decision in June). They’ve requested financial penalties stiff enough to make Davis comply as opposed to holding Davis in the county jail.

I believe there are two reasons for this:
One, as satisfying as it would be to have a Kim Davis mugshot, her incarceration would make the religious right howl in indignation, giving Davis the martyrdom she’s being set up to shoulder. She is the face of all the anti-gay opposition to same-sex marriage in this country. They need their poster girl and she’s IT for the moment. I bet a little digging, and we would see she’s being financially backed by right-wing lobbyists who want to have leverage to pressure their lawmakers for legislation regarding more religious freedom protections. It wouldn’t surprise me to find she’s also getting help from organizations like the Family Research Council, (or especially the FRC, who could be trying to save face after the Josh Duggar debacle, if they weren’t already broke).
Two, as my wife-to-be said so succinctly, making Davis pay stiff penalties would cut into the salary she receives for doing a job she’s no longer performing, and if she bleats about it, it’s harder to sympathize with someone who will appear greedy to keep money paid by taxpayers she’s actively suppressing. Not to mention, a significant fine would feel like a balancing of the scales to those taxpayers paying toward her salary who disagree with her stance.

Another common thread I’ve seen is how can she propose to uphold the sanctity of marriage when she’s been divorced three times, and is on her 4th marriage?

Yes, there’s a lot of hypocrisy in that particular detail, given that one of the couples she’s denied repeatedly have been together for 17 years and she hasn’t seemed to hold onto a husband that long (I don’t honestly know the duration of her marriages, so while that’s what people might be thinking, it’s not fact that she’s been in shorter relationships than the two men in question). However, her personal life is not the issue here. Her personal beliefs may be the root cause of this shitshow, but protesters supporting the discriminated against couples would not be furthering the cause by slinging mud about Davis’s past marriages. Why? Because we’re demanding she refrain from judging the marriages she’s supposed to be giving licenses for, so judging her marriages would make us just as hypocritical.

What’s all this mean?

All I know is if it takes too much time to boot Davis from her elected position, other circuit clerks in defiance of the SCOTUS ruling (thinking Casey Davis, who is no relation to Kim Davis, but also resides in Kentucky) could begin doing the same, and then we’d have a Kim Davis situation in multiple states. We’ll probably see a rise in legislation anyway to protect religious freedoms much like what Indiana and Arkansas have passed this past spring, and it’ll be more two steps forward, one step back for LGBT protections. In the meantime, the more time it takes for Kim Davis to be impeached/recalled from her position, the longer the denied couples have to sit in limbo.

They could just go to another county, some of you might be thinking.

They could. But they shouldn’t have to. They live and pay taxes in Rowan County. They contribute to Rowan County’s economy by shopping and conducting business there. They have just as much right to a marriage license as heterosexual couples (who are also being caught up in this mess), so while going to another county would end with them legally married, that’s not the point. As strong as Kim Davis’s convictions are, so are the couples’ waiting for a license. They have the right, as ordered by the Supreme Court of the United States, to get married in every county, every state of the union.

Interview (the Last Step)

Kate​ is in Scotland with her family on holiday but has received word that her interview with the US consulate in London is scheduled for September 3rd.

This is the last hurdle in our application for a fiancée visa for her to come to the US so we can marry. This is where they talk with her to verify our intentions and that we’re honest, really a couple, and won’t be a burden on anyone. The forums she’s been reading up on say they pretty much know if they’re granting approval or not by the time the interview rolls around, and that approval comes swiftly, if not the day of the interview, then within the week. For us specifically, they’ve requested no further documentation, and they’ve not had further questions on existing documentation. We have no reason to think there’ll be a negative decision.

This is it, folks. Now, I’m pretty sure Kate’s going to knock this out of the park, even if she’s nervous (she handles this stuff like a champ). I’m the one that’s a fucking basket case (mainly because all of this is out of my hands and I can only sit here and watch). There’s so much riding on this, not the least of which is our future together, and lemme tell you, this is where I would usually curse my jump-in-with-both-feet attitude.

When I first told Kate I had bigger feelings for her almost three years ago, she thought I was a guy (long story for the new peeps, and those who’ve been around awhile, you know already), there was a damned ocean separating us, same-sex marriage was not federally recognized with DOMA still in place, and most states did not recognize ssm. I think 8 states had equal marriage laws. In the last three years, it seems the obstacles in our path have simply gotten out of our way, with DOMA falling in June 2013, then the state I live in passing marriage equality in late 2013, and finally, SCOTUS declaring it this year in all states. I know at the heart of it all are couples who fought for all of us to be able to love equally, and I am forever grateful to them. My point is that so much was against us from the beginning, and now, we’re 24 days away from the last step. One more thing, and then that ocean can stop being between us.

I can’t find it in myself to curse my leap-without-looking mentality about this. After having toed the line for the first basically 30 years of my life, I refuse to do anything but live out loud, love as hard as I can, and go after the life I want to have. I’m fucking beside myself with the shakes, because I need her like air, and this is it. We have no reason to doubt the visa will be approved, but this is that moment. The one where the music crescendoes and the characters, who’ve been moving around the game board to get into position, do their thing to get their moment of victory. Yeah, that sounds hyperbolic, but in this case it’s not.

A yes means she comes back with me when I fly home from the UK Meet next month. A yes means we get married in October, before the paperwork has time to expire. A yes means I never have to say goodbye to her in an airport again with the stretch of months and an ocean to conquer before we are together again.

Yes means our Happily Ever After.

In 24 days.

Rant: Marginalization for Profit

Some of you, but not all, know I’m engaged to Kate Aaron, and because she’s English and I’m American, we have to go through the immigration process. I haven’t posted on it much because frankly, it’s a lot of handwringing, asking why the hell the government needs to know that, and a hell of a lot of loneliness. I don’t want to be a drag, so I don’t talk about it much. However, we’re nearing the end of all the requirements, and only one step remains: Kate’s interview at the US Consulate in London sometime in the coming weeks. Just thinking about it makes my heart pound in anticipation.

One of the discussions we’ve had centers around the question of the best place for her to fly in to the country once her visa is approved (because I cannot allow myself to think of what would happen if we get denied). Despite the possibility that Atlanta may have more flight options, that Delta, whose largest hub and HQ is located at Hartsfield-Jackson International in ATL,  is a better airline than American for those long hauls over the ocean in terms of comfort, and that the cost of the ticket might be cheaper, we’ve decided it would be best for Kate to fly in through Chicago, which likely means American Airlines. Why?

Because marriage equality wasn’t legal in Georgia until SCOTUS ruled it’s legal in all 50 states last month. And because even with a federally recognized marriage visa approval in her hands, she might not have made it through Atlanta’s customs checkpoint with such paperwork. Georgians didn’t have to recognize same sex marriages or any related paperwork.

Now? It doesn’t matter what airport she comes through with her approved marriage visa to make an honest woman out of me.

For obvious reasons, this elates me. But are our equality struggles over? Far from it. There’ve been a slew of articles discussing how we can’t let our momentum slow on helping keep LGBT students from getting bullied, how while the EEOC recently ruled sexual orientation is already a protected class in their handbook, it’s not federally mandated that LGBT people cannot be fired in all states for our orientation. There’s still a MASSIVE homeless problem for LGBT youth. We are nowhere near done with the equality fight.

So when I saw a couple discussions in the last few days from m/m authors asking if sales were likely to suffer (or already have been) because marriage equality renders the coming out rejection angst less of a struggle for gay people, and therefore less of interest to readers who might think such a plot line is now passé, I saw red.

(Warning: stop here if you aren’t ready for a rant of epic proportions, because I’m not going to censor myself this time.)

M/M has exploded in the last few years, going from 50 or so authors to hundreds, going from hundreds or thousands of readers to tens of thousands. (I can’t speak for F/F because I know nothing about that market, but if the acceptance of same sex relationships has a foothold in the growth of readership, it’s not a stretch to assume F/F is comparable.) We’re helping people see the struggles, and yes, one of the biggest in m/m fiction is coming out. To family, friends, coworkers, etc….

I’ve seen so many memes stating how people can’t wait until it’s not gay marriage, it’s just marriage. That there’ll be no need to come out anymore because a guy can casually mention his boyfriend or husband without people falling all over themselves to scream that he’s no longer human, the fucking sodomite! That the girl growing up thinking her fellow teammate on her softball team is hot and that maybe she’ll ask her to the homecoming dance won’t be so worried about getting beat up for doing so.

Will these idealistic ideas ever fully happen? Probably not in total. There will always be people who think two men together is upsetting. Or parents who don’t want their daughter doing more with a girl than being friends. Fine, as long as they’re not allowed to tell those individuals they can’t be with who they love in every way they want to be, including marriage, adoption or other ways to achieve parenthood, when both are in the end stages of life and in need of medical care that accepts their relationship, and finally, death benefits.

The whole point has been to end the marginalization.

So for someone to theorize the lack of marginalization makes LGBT characters no longer interesting, and worse, hits the writer personally in the pocketbook, strips us of our humanity once again. As if our only purpose is to come out in a fiery argument of bible verses and tears (and maybe some physical blows) so the readership can pop their popcorn and watch the trainwreck unfold.

 

So suppressing my rights as a human being if it jeopardizes your plot line wherein you make money off telling a facet of my story is okay? I don’t fucking think so. We need allies who are happy for us right now. Be glad future generations will be more likely to think same sex couples are no big deal when they see us on the street holding hands. Or when Kate gets here and I rush her at the airport to lay a kiss on her lips when I’ve spent the last six months without her, we won’t get scoffed at or called dykes. Be proud that the stories we all tell about LGBT struggles have possibly done good to make those struggles a little less necessary.

Don’t be sad your bank account is emptier because we are now more free.

As long as human beings have strong feelings both for and against each other, there are plenty of plot lines to explore. I’m an angst hoor, so I am a huge fan of plot lines involving inner turmoil, sexual tension, and pining for an unrequited/broken love. I know plot lines exist besides coming out, that LGBT people can be characters in books without the main premise being that they’re gay, and those books are still interesting. LGBT people aren’t one dimensional, and our only struggle isn’t our orientation. We have hidden depths, like bills to pay, and favorite foods and TV shows, and things everyone worries about, like the safety of our loved ones and the direction our careers take. Yes, we’re LGBT, but we’re human first.

Explore plots without relying on coming out rejection angst rather than lament the coming out plots are dying. But don’t you dare say it’s bad that we’re becoming more equal if it makes your bottom line suffer, because all I hear when you say that is my oppression is okay to you as long as you’re making money off my struggles. If you’re not creative enough to come up with something more to write about and move with the times, then shut down your computer and go find a different job. Society is evolving for the better, so either get on the train or get left behind. But don’t you dare say such evolution should slow down or stop so you don’t get stuck on the train platform with your head stuck up your ass.

The Risk in a Read

As a young writer, say ten or eleven, I had dreams. Big dreams, that I’d write a book or fifty, would dominate the shelves at the biggest chain bookstores, would attend signings that were more like rock concerts (what can I say, I had just left behind my hair band days and was a little deluded about fame and that writers shared that kind of fame), and would pen the next ten blockbuster flicks people would rave over. I wanted to be somebody. I wanted to move people with my words.

The reality isn’t glamorous. It’s late nights where I’ve run my fingers through my hair so many times it could do a waltz on its own. Mornings where I literally stumble to the basement in my pajamas with a mug of coffee and don’t look up from my computer until late afternoon. Lunch, you say? Why no, it must have passed me by. Again.

I don’t have Hollywood knocking on my doors, and I don’t have shelves at Barnes & Noble prominently displaying my books. I haven’t heard from any book retailers interested in having me do a reading, and even if they did ask, I’d have to take some serious courage pills to be able to stand in front of strangers and do the reading/signing bit. I am not about to attend the movie premiere of any of my stories-turned-cinema, nor am I scouting for an agent to represent me in talks with a major backer out in L.A. Sad but true, I am living the dream, but now the dream is, “YAY! I can pay my bills with royalties! Hope there’s some left over for wine.”

So I’ve had to readjust some expectations. Justalittlebit.

One of them is the give and take between readers and authors. Every author wants five star reviews with a few one stars thrown in saying the book was well written but with this beloved character being killed off, the reader just couldn’t go on without them, they loved them that much. No author wants to read, “DNF chapter 1 because are you fucking kidding me?” (DNF = did not finish, for those who are new here.)

Let’s shift the expectations again.

Now, I will fully acknowledge I’ve been one lucky fucker since releasing Power Exchange three years ago. I know it’s flawed, and yet people seem to love Ben and Gavin enough to be forgiving of that other stupid thing Gavin does at the end that he really ends up regretting. I get email to this day about that book, telling me they didn’t understand BDSM until they read PE, that they appreciated the love story, and my favorite: that my writing moved them.

My writing moved them.

My writing moved them.

—record scratches and stutters with that itchy white noise—

I have moved people with my words.

Isn’t that one of the big ones I dreamt? Why yes, I believe it is.

People remember my stories weeks after they finish them. They’ve told me that themselves.

So, slowly but surely, I’m getting somewhere. OMG, I’m getting somewhere!

One of the things, however, I didn’t bank on, were the demands.

It is no secret the romance genre requires certain elements to qualify, and if you’d have asked me twenty years ago, when I was still dreaming of this life, if I’d be writing romance, I’d have laughed at you. No, thrillers are where my heart lies.

Except nope. As I grew up, my heart got squeezed by writing stories about people like me, in same-sex relationships, with problems other people have or if the problems are bigger, it’s not the gay characters who end up maimed or dead because that’s the only acceptable HEA.

So if I write what speaks to me, I’m told I fit in romance.

I call bullshit on that, but it’s a work in progress. While I always intended to write dramas or thrillers or mysteries or paranormal stories or horror, I read plenty of those where there was a love interest, too, and that didn’t automatically move them to romance. However, writing LGBT fiction with any kind of love story, it’s pretty much romance with a ton of identifying keywords so the right audience can find it in a search or bust.

Ugh, I hate being told I don’t fit somewhere I want to be.

It smacks of, “Kill the gay character or face the wrath of the readership who don’t sympathize with them.”

It reeks of, “The public isn’t ready for LGBT characters to have romantic interests that work out in a HEA. So don’t give them one.”

It’s heaving with, “People don’t want to read about two guys kissing or falling in love. Two women, sure, because that’s hot (and heh heh, can we watch/join in? Heh heh).”

So the last several years, m/m and the wider LGBT genre has SMASHED the thinking on that bullshit, and what do you know, acceptance for LGBT people as a whole is gaining ground. Are we writers of LGBT romance responsible for that? I’d like to think we have our slice of responsibility in that pie chart, sure.

But it takes open minds of readers, who are willing to challenge themselves in reading a book they’ve never tried before. Or if they’ve tried m/m before, maybe they give a shifter book, or a BDSM book, or a paranormal book a shot when that’s been outside their comfort zone before. The point is, the open minds behind it are required for the growth and furthering of the genre, and indeed, the growth and furthering of ourselves as humans with compassion and honor.

After all, opening minds through books is sort of a writer’s job, right?

So when I see discussions about labels, what are “required warnings” on storylines, is cheating in a plot deserving of a trigger warning, that a book contains a non-HEA, or that there’s multiple pairings within the book, I get upset.

It smacks of, “Kill the gay character or face the wrath of the readership who don’t sympathize with them.”

It reeks of, “The public isn’t ready for LGBT characters to have romantic interests that work out in a HEA. So don’t give them one.”

It’s heaving with, “People don’t want to read about two guys kissing or falling in love. Two women, sure, because that’s hot (and heh heh, can we watch/join in? Heh heh).”

Readers have expectations for romance books, and I get that. We all stick to our favorite genre because we love the comfort it brings, the thrill it induces, that we can reasonably expect entertainment.

But no one changed history by being safe. I wrote a story years ago, about a high school English teacher trying to pass his love on to his students. In that story, he said, “Words have moved nations, romanticized generations, caused and ended wars, corrupted the pious, converted the damned. There’s nothing more powerful than words, except maybe the pen used to immortalize them.”

Nothing more powerful than words, except the pen used to immortalize them.

As proud of that statement as I am, I know it’s not entirely true. It should read, “There’s nothing more powerful than words, except the writer who created and had courage to publish them.”

I am not patting myself on the back, here. That statement stands true even if I’d never written a single word.

But we’re not going to move people to rethink anything by neatly peppering every book’s metadata with safe little warning labels. No one will ever be struck dumb by an idea, then. No one will ever step outside their box, then. No one will ever take a fucking risk then.

What’s my point?

It smacks of, “Kill them, stifle them, make them behave.”

It reeks of, “Stick to romance, because the mainstream readership isn’t ready for two men in love.”

It heaves with, “Write what you’re fucking told and sit down and shut up. Behave yourself, writer.”

Well, I don’t fucking behave without a good goddamned reason. And if I have a story to tell, I’m going to tell it, without the warnings*, because if you’re not ready to face what’s in the pages of a book, which holds power but dude, you’re reading it on your couch, well.

You’re not ready to be moved by the words I’m risking sharing with you.

*I warn about the following things only: abuse themes, rape themes, sensitive mental illness topics such as PTSD. That’s it. If you expect more from me on that, I’m not the writer for you.

Push Back Extended

Due to the configuration of some people’s paydays, we are extending the end date of the Push Back to May 5th. The #Pizza4Equality GoFundMe campaign ended yesterday, but there are plenty of LGBT charities who can benefit just as much. So please go here to read a freebie story I wrote and get yourself entered, whether by donation or sharing across social media to help spread the word!

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Calling All Readers

The push back begins today!

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We’ve gathered the biggest incentive we can, with 224 generous authors, bloggers, publishers, and allies offering incentives to entice you for two weeks, from April 18th to May 1st. All you have to do is click here and read, donate, and/or share across social media and leave us a comment to tell us how you’ve helped, and you’re entered to win.

But the real winners are the people helped by your generosity, the ones who need it most: LGBT homeless youth.

As an added bonus, I’ve written you a little story. But to read it, you have to click the link. What are you still doing here? Go! Donate! Win!

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Overwhelmed

The response to my call to action post for LGBT authors has been incredible, humbling, and overwhelming, to say the least. Kate and Meredith report feeling much the same astonishment from their posts on the fundraiser.

There are more than 200 very generous authors who’ve jumped in with both feet.

Due to the massive outpouring of support, we are at capacity and are moving the RSVP date for donors to today, April 9.

Authors, if you want to make a donation, this is your last chance. Please contact me at (ajrosefiction [at] gmail [dot] com), Kate Aaron (author [at] kateaaron [dot] com), or Meredith King (diversereader [at] yahoo [dot] com) by the end of the day to get involved.

Readers: get excited! We’ve got hundreds of authors, review blogs, and publishing houses all offering rewards to anyone prepared to donate a little bit of time or money to charity, so be sure to keep an eye on DiverseReader on the 18th April for your chance to take part.