Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome. We all have it, don’t we? That feeling of “who the hell am I, to be calling myself a writer? Who the hell am I, to think I can write [whatever genre you write]?”

I have this in a bad way.

First, it was “who the hell am I to write gay romance? I’m not a gay man.”

Then I discovered that 90% of readers and writers of gay romance are women.

So it turned into “who the hell am I, a straight white chick writing about queer characters?”

Then I realized I’m queer AF.

So it turned into “who the hell am I to think I’m a writer? I don’t have anything published.”

Then I got something published.

So my brain says, “Yeah but that’s not good enough. Look at that guy. He’s got all kinds of books published. Look at her, she’s self-publishing like crazy. You’re over here with one little story, claiming you’ve been writing for years.”

You all know exactly how this feels. I guarantee it. There’s only one writer I know of who claims he never feels this way, and that’s Stephen King (and I still don’t really buy it). We all feel like we’re just stumbling along, clueless, faking it, hiding our inadequacies and hoping no one will ever find out that we have no idea what we’re doing.

How do we cope with imposter syndrome?

Just keep doing the thing you feel you can’t do. Keep writing. If you’re a straight white woman and you want to write about two guys fucking, do it. If you’re a 30-something man and you want to write a YA book with a 15-year-old girl MC, do it. If you’re a cis person and you want to write a trans character, do it. Be respectful and realistic, do your due diligence as an author, do research, and go for it.

Because here’s the thing, in my opinion: The fact that you are questioning your abilities and questioning your self-worth means that you are able and worthy. There’s this cool thing in psychology called the Dunning-Kruger effect and I think it comes into play here. Basically, people who are of “lower cognitive ability” suffer from an “illusory superiority”–in other words, people who can’t do things/aren’t good at things, think they can/are. They have no idea of their inadequacy.

If you are conscious of the fact that you need to improve, the fact that you may not “fit the bill,” then you are already on the right track. I want to write a transgender character. Though I am non-binary and therefore transgender, I am terrified of writing harmful rep or just writing something dumb because I don’t understand 100% what it’s like to feel wrong in your own body. Who am I to try to write that?

The trick is to kick imposter syndrome in the face and put in the work so that the imposter syndrome is invalid. Who am I to try to write a trans character? Well, I’m a writer, and I want to write a trans character. Boom. That’s all you need to get started. That, and the knowledge that you must do it well. I have trans friends, thanks to Twitter. I have the internet. I have other books. Imposter syndrome can nay-say me all it wants, but I can bury myself in research. I can make myself the type of person who is able to write what I want to write.

Try to look at imposter syndrome as a challenge to overcome. When you hear yourself asking “who am I, to do this thing?” remind yourself exactly who you are. You are a writer. You want to do this thing. The fact that you think you can’t or shouldn’t, is actually a sign that you’re already a step ahead of the pack. You can. You should. It will take work, but nothing worth doing is easy.

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My Asexual WIPs

It is Asexual (Ace) Awareness Week!

To celebrate, I’m going to talk a bit about my ace guys and why I’m writing them.

I currently have two novels in progress with asexual characters. The first one, tentatively named Trustfall, is a contemporary romance and features an asexual submissive gay man entering his first serious Dom/sub relationship. He is willing to have sex with his Dom to please him and to gain relief from sexual arousal (which, even without sexual attraction, CAN happen). This novel will portray a kinky relationship without sex. It is important to acknowledge that kink isn’t inherently sexual, and aceness doesn’t preclude kink.

The second, No Wrong Man (again, title may change), features an asexual man who does not have sex. Ever. This one is urban fantasy. Magic is real and commonplace, and the relationship between the ace guy and his boyfriend entails toys, masturbation, and (consensual) magical mind games, but never physical sex. This one ends up with polyamory, which will be fun and difficult to write.

To me, it is vital to have asexual characters appear in fiction. Since realizing my own asexuality, I’ve been incredibly motivated to write ace characters. It turns out I’ve been writing ace characters all along but never knew it. Those guys who just “don’t care about sex” or “haven’t had sex in years”… Turns out they’re ace. There are characters in other fiction who “don’t have sex” or whatever, but they’re rarely/never labeled asexual–whether because the writers don’t know the term exists/don’t understand it, or because the writers just don’t want to assign that term to a character, I don’t know. Maybe the author knows the character is ace but can’t figure out how to work that into the plot/dialogue. Maybe the author doesn’t know asexuality exists. Whatever the reason for the scarcity of ace characters, I don’t like it and I want it to change.

Romance–the genre I assign myself to–is often very sex-focused, as if a healthy sex life is the absolute most important part of every single relationship. That is not true. Everyone’s needs and desires vary, and I want to portray functional relationships that don’t hinge on sexual attraction. I want other people to portray them, too. I think realizing I’m asexual saved me from a potential huge mistake in my life, and I hope by writing ace characters I can help others reach the realization that being sexually attracted to a person isn’t the ultimate goal to aspire to in life.

Jigs and Reels – Giveaway!

Hi everyone! Who here loves free stuff?

Jigs and Reels has been out for a whole week already! Woohoo! To celebrate, I’m giving away two ebook copies of my story through Rafflecopter. Participate in any of the three entry options for a chance to win!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1c4c99ba1/?

Renewal Anthology – released today!

QSF Renewal-Print

QSF has a new book out, the latest in our series of flash fiction anthologies:

Re.new.al (noun)

1) Resuming an activity after an interruption, or
2) Extending a contract, subscription or license, or
3) Replacing or repairing something that is worn out, run-down, or broken, or
4) Rebirth after death.

Four definitions to spark inspiration, a limitless number of stories to be conceived. Only 110 made the cut.

Thrilling to hopeful, Renewal features 300-word speculative fiction ficlets about sexual and gender minorities to entice readers.

Welcome to Renewal.

Mischief Corner Books (info only) | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Goodreads


Renewal Banner

Excerpt

Because these stories are only 300 words each, we’re not supplying long excerpts, but here are the first lines of several of the stories. Enjoy!

“Griselda pulled the weeds from between the rows of Valerianella locusta plants in the garden, careful not to disturb the buds that would grow into the babies that were her only real income-producing crop.” —The Witches’ Garden, by Rie Sheridan Rose

“I didn’t know how truly the world was in trouble until I went journeying to look for Anisette’s bluebonnets.” —Bluebonnets, by Emily Horner

“The ship’s drive malfunctioned at the worst possible time.” —The Return, by Andrea Speed

“Before we continue, there’s a rather macabre fact about me I should share.” —Rejuvenation, by Christine Wright

“When I died they buried me at the bottom of the garden and returned to the fields.” —Below the Hill, by Matthew Bright

“The world is ending and I can’t look away from your eyes.” —Sunrise, by Brigitte Winter

““Losing one’s superpowers to your arch nemesis sucks donkey nuts, I tell ya. And trust me when I say I suck a lot of them.” —Rainbow Powers, by Dustin Karpovich

“The day I was born again was damp, rainy—a good day for rebirth, all things considered.” —The Birthing Pod, by Michelle Browne

“Intwir’s twelve eyes roved over the container, taking in the cracked outer lock and the elasticated fabric stretched tightly over its exterior.” —In a Bind, by S R Jones

“‘You’ve reached Androgyne HelpLine. Press one to start service. Press two to interrupt or cancel service. Press three—’” —Auto-Renew, by Ginger Streusel

“The doctor tells me that my wife is dying, but I already know.” —I Will Be Your Shelter, by Carey Ford Compton

“‘San Francisco was the first to go dark, followed by Los Angeles.’” —When Light Left, by Lex Chase

“My fingers lingered on the synthetic skin, trailing soft patterns across my work.” —Miss You, by Stephanie Shaffer


Included Authors

‘Nathan Burgoine
A.M. Leibowitz
A.M. Soto
Abby Bartle
Aidee Ladnier
Alexis Woods
Andi Deacon
Andrea Felber Seligman
Andrea Speed
Andrea Stanet
Anne McPherson
Bey Deckard
Brigitte Winter
Carey Ford Compton
Carol Holland March
Carrie Pack
Catherine Lundoff
CB Lee
Christine Wright
Colton Aalto
Daniel Mitton
Dustin Blottenberger
Dustin Karpovich
E R Zhang
E.J. Russell
E.W. Murks
Ell Schulman
Ellery Jude
Eloreen Moon
Elsa M León
Emily Horner
Eric Alan Westfall
F.T. Lukens
Fenrir Cerebellion
Foster Bridget Cassidy
Ginger Streusel
Hannah Henry
Irene Preston
J. Alan Veerkamp
J. P. Egry
J. Summerset
J.S. Fields
Jaap Boekestein
Jackie Keswick
Jana Denardo
Jeff Baker
Jenn Burke
Joe Baumann
John Moralee
Jon Keys
Jude Dunn
K.C. Faelan
Kelly Haworth
Kiterie Aine
Kristen Lee
L M Somerton
L. Brian Carroll
L.M. Brown
L.V. Lloyd
Laurie Treacy
Leigh M. Lorien
Lex Chase
Lia Harding
Lin Kelly
Lloyd A. Meeker
Lyda Morehouse
M.D. Grimm
Martha J. Allard
Mary E. Lowd
Matt Doyle
Matthew Bright
Mia Koutras
Michelle Browne
Milo Owen
Mindy Leana Shuman
Naomi Tajedler
Natsuya Uesugi
Nephy Hart
Nicole Dennis
Ofelia Gränd
Patricia Scott
Paul Stevens
PW Covington
R R Angell
R.L. Merrill
Rebecca Cohen
Redfern Jon Barrett
Reni Kieffer
Richard Amos
RL Mosswood
Robyn Walker
Rory Ni Coileain
Rose Blackthorn
Ross Common
S R Jones
Sacchi Green
Sarah Einstein
Shilo Quetchenbach
Siri Paulson
Soren Summers
Stephanie Shaffer
Steve Fuson
Tam Ames
Terry Poole
Tray Ellis
Vivien Dean
Wendy Rathbone
Xenia Melzer
Zen DiPietro
Zev de Valera

Jigs and Reels pre-order available!

Hi everyone!

I know I’ve been kind of quiet on the blog front lately. I’m working on getting back in the swing of things. I just wanted to pop in and give another publication update!!! Jigs and Reels is up for pre-order! The release date is September 16. I am absolutely in love with this cover. Check out the blurb below and click the link under the image to pre-order!!

 

Jigs and Reels final

BLURB:

Elijah works in a cubicle, lives with his parents, and never goes on dates. It isn’t an exciting life, but it’s safe and easy and that’s good enough.

Then he meets Peter, a whirlwind of a man who leads a traveling renaissance band. Peter represents everything Eli usually avoids, but his boisterous enthusiasm is infectious… and his band needs a fiddle player.

When Eli agrees to fill in for a weekend, he awakens a part of himself he thought long gone. With Peter’s help, he shakes off the dust that has settled on his soul and remembers how to have fun.

But when the band asks him to join them permanently, is Eli’s newborn sense of adventure — and insane crush on a man he barely knows — enough to make him leave the safety of a life he’s clung to for years?

Click here to pre-order!!

I’m going to be arranging some sort of release party on September 16, so stay tuned!

Publication Update – Jigs and Reels

Holy crap, guys, this is insanity!

A couple weeks ago, I submitted a short story to JMS Books, and within three days (THREE DAYS), they got back to me and offered me a contract for it. I’ve heard good things about JMS Books, so I accepted! My short story, Jigs and Reels, will be released in September! It features an anxious fiddle player, a rambunctious singer/flutist, and is set at/around a Renaissance fair.

awesome

You may remember a few months ago, I found out my flash fiction entry for the Queer Sci-fi contest, “Renewal,” was selected for inclusion in the anthology. Since then, I’ve been notified that it has received an Honorable Mention, meaning it scored in the top 25 of all entries! This is also awesome!

Jigs and Reels will be my first standalone piece, and I believe it’s going to be published before the QSF anthology, so it’s technically my first publication. My debut!

This is SO EXCITING, GUYS.

I’ve also been paying attention to submission calls for various publishers and I think I might submit something for one of NineStar press’s calls. Short stories seem to be doing well for me.

I may eventually self-publish a short story collection. I’ve written several recently which are less than 10k, which means virtually no publisher wants them except for anthologies, which generally have a theme, which my stories probably don’t fit into. We’ll see about that.

For now, I am QUITE content with what I’ve accomplished this year. I will announce a publication date for Jigs and Reels as soon as I know it. For now, it’s “September.” Stay tuned for more updates in the future!

Basic Tips for Beta Readers

A while back, I wrote a thread on Twitter with some quick tips on beta reading. I’m going to expand on this a little bit here.

First off, let’s get some terminology straightened out.

Beta reader – Your job as a beta reader is to tell the writer overall thoughts, point out areas where you didn’t follow the story or understand the characters’ motivations, and express opinions on style (for example, alternating POVs making it difficult to keep track of characters, certain chunks of the story being written as text messages made plot hard to follow, dialects and slang being confusing). As a beta reader, you don’t have to be a writer yourself, you just have to enjoy reading (and be familiar with the genre the writer is asking you to beta).

CP/Critique partner – Usually another writer of similar or higher skill. As a critique partner, you may want to trade your writing for theirs and ask for a critique in return. A CP should be able to give more in-depth feedback than just general impressions, and should be able to give advice on how to fix issues. Being a CP implies a more lengthy relationship than just a simple “read this when I’m done with it.” As a CP, you may engage in back-and-forth discussion and brainstorming about each others’ works.

Editor – Editors are the ones who polish up your manuscript after you’re pretty much done with it. They’ll check grammar, punctuation, and style. Where a beta reader and a CP will do what they do for free (or in exchange for critiques on their own work), an editor should be a professional who gets paid.

How does one become a beta reader? You can either advertise yourself, or keep an eye on authors’ social media to see when they ask for betas. Before you agree to beta, you should be aware of the manuscript’s genre, length, and the writer’s hoped-for turnaround time. If you’re going to advertise yourself, list what genres you’re willing to beta read (they should be genres you’ve read a lot of already, so you’re familiar with styles and tropes) and an estimate on how long it would take you to complete a book of average length for that genre (i.e., “I’m willing to beta romance novels. My turnaround for an average length romance is 2-3 weeks”). Keep in mind, beta readers are volunteers. Don’t overwhelm yourself.

So now that we have that cleared up, a general tip: use the comments feature in MS Word or Google Docs to insert thoughts and opinions as you go, if anything jumps out at you. Then, also write a summarizing few sentences or paragraph at the end with your overall impressions after finishing the manuscript.

Now, without further ado, here’s a list of do’s and do not’s for beginning beta readers.:

  1. DO pay attention to what the writer specifically asks you to pay attention to. If the writer says “Let me know if you think John’s breakdown in chapter 4 is over the top,” pay particular attention to John and his breakdown in chapter 4. Write your thoughts on it as soon as you get to it, so you don’t forget to tell the writer what you thought.
  2. DO NOT make changes to anything, especially to stylistic things, especially if the novel is in first person. I had a beta reader who put my document in track changes and deleted every ellipses in the story with no explanation. That was neither helpful nor what I asked them to do, and all it did was annoy me. Those ellipses were a decision, not a mistake. If you notice that the writer uses a distracting amount of ellipses or frequently uses the wrong “too” or some other grammatical/stylistic thing bugs you or pulls you out of the story, definitely comment on that, but actually changing things like that is an editor’s job.
  3. DO give feedback on what you like and what does work just as much as you give feedback on anything you don’t like or doesn’t work. “No news is good news” is not how a writer’s brain works. They aren’t going to zero in on the 5 pages with negative comments and assume that the other 195 pages are good. If all they see are negatives, they’re going to assume it’s all bad. A general rule of thumb for feedback is to try to offer a positive for every negative. If you found my ellipses abuse distracting, balance that out by saying that my main character’s pop culture references were spot-on and made you laugh. As you read, use that comments function—even if it’s something as simple as “aww!” or “oh no!” it lets the writer know that their writing is evoking emotion, which is ultimately the goal of writing.
  4. DO NOT say “I don’t like this” or “I don’t think this works” and leave it at that. Why don’t you like it? Is the sentence confusing? Does the action seem to go against the character’s moral code? Similarly, if you read the whole manuscript and all you can say at the end is “I like it, good job,” you just wasted everyone’s time. I’m glad you liked it, but… what was the best part about it? What did you like most, so I can do more of that? And I know it’s not perfect. It can’t be. You mean there wasn’t a single point you didn’t like that I could improve upon?
  5. DO look for consistency issues and disappearing characters. If Aunt Sue seemed like she was going to be an important character back in chapter 2, but then we never see her again, that’s worth mentioning. If it’s the middle of winter and then two days pass and it’s suddenly summer, that’s worth mentioning. Writers tend to have brilliant ideas when they start writing, and then change time frames, delete characters, and forget about pets halfway through their writing process, but threads of those ideas might remain by accident. If you notice it, it’s worth mentioning.
  6. DO NOT be sarcastic or make jokes in your comments. This manuscript is a piece of the writer’s soul. Handle with care. There is no sarcasm font, and even the most well-meaning, lighthearted joke can damage the writer’s self-esteem and motivation. Reading feedback on a manuscript is one of the most difficult parts of the writing process. The writer is likely hyped up, nervous, cringing at every critique you provided. Don’t make a joke at the story’s expense. It’s not helpful.
  7. DO be nice, but don’t be too nice. No manuscript is perfect, and a writer can’t improve themselves if they’re only provided with positive feedback. You’re not doing anyone any favors by trying to spare the writer’s feelings. However, in the same vein…
  8. DO NOT be a dick. Don’t nit-pick, don’t decide you hate the manuscript and tear it down at every opportunity. If you start reading and realize that you don’t even want to finish the book, you may be better off reaching out to the writer, providing feedback on what you’ve read so far, and politely telling them why it’s not your cup of tea. Even that kind of feedback can be valuable.

Ultimately, your overall thoughts and feedback should include whether the characters felt real, whether the plot made sense, if there were any gaps or places you felt rushed, and anything else major you noticed. It’s also important to note that different writers may expect different things from their beta readers, and you should always ask if the writer has anything in particular they want you to do.

Another thing worth note is that you are working for free, just for the love of reading books. It is possible for the writer to expect more from you than you’re willing to provide. A beta reader is not a CP or an editor. A CP is usually a tit-for-tat kind of relationship, and an editor is usually paid. If the writer wants to call you a beta reader but expects you to edit their manuscript and you’re not okay with doing that for free, you’re allowed to step back. Beta readers are wonderful and amazing people and writers should appreciate them. As a writer, I’d like to say all writers are wonderful people who will treat you like gold, but unfortunately that’s not always the case. Beta reading for a person once doesn’t obligate you to read for them ever again.

I think that about covers it! I hope this helps some new beta readers, and maybe even some writers, to know what should go down during the beta reading process! Comment below if you have anything to add!