I’ve spent the last week trying to figure out how to write this entry. I figured that it would be seven days of consideration, weighing pros and cons, making sure I made no rash decisions, all that, but honestly, my mind kept returning to one point again and again that I couldn’t respond to.
Writing hasn’t made me happy in over a year.
It’s so odd to see that sentence, know that I typed it in, felt that feeling and couldn’t deny it. It feels so much like a betrayal of my identity, of my past, of the me that would write in one-subject notebooks for hours at a time, or the me who would set pen to paper to find words to describe fear and trauma in the aftermath of an abusive relationship. Writing gave me peace then, it was almost therapy, a way to take the uglier parts of my life and insert them into a story that would give them some measure of sense or meaning.
And it would give me peace, make me happy to read back over it, no matter how cringe-inducing the quality or errors might have been, because it was a part of me, my life, my story, and it helped me learned to love myself again, feel I wasn’t worthless like my ex insisted I was. It made me feel valued, creative…
And it doesn’t make me feel that way anymore.
I’ve said that I want to write heroes that are like me, where a gay man could save the world without worrying about whether he was going to get laid afterward. I even got to do it a couple of times, you might’ve read the attempts. I followed the tropes and formulas, guiding it with my own experiences and wants, wove the story of James Black and Spencer Crain, and it was fun. I would wake up eager to continue their story.
And then I wrote Community Service, and wrote a relationship between James and Ozzie, with Spencer standing on the outside looking in, realizing he missed his opportunity to be with the man he loved. It was a knife-twist, surely, but that’s how it goes sometimes. Love doesn’t mean it will be requited. James and Ozzie felt good to write, even if James was taking his time in letting Ozzie know about the uglier parts of his past. A friend of mine did the beta read and said he never thought that someone who looked like him would end up getting the guy.
A lot of the readers agreed with him. I’d received hate mail, sure, but it the general insulting my skill or parentage or implying I lived in my parents’ basement, as well as the laundry list of terms for a homosexual man. Suddenly I was getting hate mail about Ozzie, saying they loved the book but hated the character, that I had destroyed the series by not putting James with Spencer. It cast a shadow over the writing of Breaking Ties.
And then a bunch of fans rallied to raise the money to send me to Coastal Magic, the first and last con I’d ever go to, so I felt I owed my fans something, which conflated nicely with those nasty e-mails and the self-loathing all writers possess while I finished out the last chapters of Breaking Ties.
So I broke up the relationship I actually cared about, the one that had basis in my own, so I could put the pretty 23 year old white boy with the pretty and roguish 21 year old Swedish-Navajo boy (who pretty much looked white) together. Because that’s what M/M romance taught me is necessary. Characters like Ozzie can never be anything more than the “nice guy”, the roadblock standing between the OTP.
And I realized I betrayed myself. I followed M/M romance rules when I cling so tightly to the belief that I am an urban fantasy writer despite the numerous tagging and shelvings of my work as M/M romance, even Lightning Rod.
Seriously, the story opens with a man realizing for the first time just how badly his boyfriend is beating the shit out of him, he runs away, and is subsequently involved in a bus accident killing all aboard save him. A Romance probably would not start with a healthy dose of domestic abuse, PTSD, and survivor guilt.
And now my publisher is closing and I’ll never get to fix that, because publishers don’t pick up series-in-progress. I try to work on standalones, other projects, and I only get so far until I realize I have nothing invested in the character, that I’ve been blindly following some unspoken, unwritten rule about having a gay hero, and what is expected if you want that character to get picked up, reader, and liked. I even try to work on Broken Mirrors #5, maybe self-publish or just put it up for free on the site here, but I’m always dragged back, down into the hate mail, the self-loathing, and then the file sits stale on my hard drive.
So I did some soul-searching, thought about my life, and realized that writing doesn’t make me happy, and it hadn’t for over a year, even when I was dropping smileys on tweets about my progress on Nick or Abby or any other project I was working on. The upside is I have a day job teaching, and I love it. I used to love writing because I always felt I knew exactly what I was doing with every character, every scene. I haven’t felt that way in a long time, but I know exactly what I’m doing when I get in front of my class and teach my students to find, hone, and celebrate their voices.
Some people on Twitter mentioned if I was asking for permission to quit, they would give it if I felt I really needed it. I don’t. I don’t know if this is “I quit”, but it’s definitely hanging up the pen for a while until writing starts to make sense to me again.
And as a final word to those who shelved Coyote’s Creed as “gay shifter romance”? I have news for the “gay shifter romance” fan community. The furry community (of which I’ve been part of since 1997) has been doing gay shifter romances since at least 1973. The fandom would certainly appreciate your business, and their commission prices for stories and art and pretty much rock bottom. Feel free to drop by AnthroCon ’16 and stock up. 😉