Thursday, June 26, 2014

What's Gay Got To Do With It?

Since June is Gay Pride Month, this seems to be a perfect time for me to talk about some of my frustrations regarding the reading and writing of LGBT inclusive fiction. What really bugs me is that gay fiction seems to now be synonymous with gay romance. The funny thing is, I know a hell of a lot of gay men. About 99% of those men never read gay romance. It isn't just the fact that much of it is written in a style (m/m romance, which is quite different than gay) which caters to women (i.e. one alpha male, one "chick with a dick" and a strict following of all the tropes that go along with the romance genre). It's also because, at least by what they tell me, these guys just don't enjoy romance novels. Not surprising. M/M isn't very true to what most gay relationships are like. It is how most WOMEN hope romantic relationships could be like. Most straight men don't read romance for that same reason. That's not a knock against romances. They are a valid, wonderful genre. They just aren't all encompassing, and it's sad to see "gay fiction" be seen as one and the same.

So, then we get to the problem of how to market gay fiction that either:
a. deals with gay struggle/issues and gay history or
b. has gay main/side characters throughout the book, but the focus is on the story, not their sex life. There may be sex, and even romance, in the story. It could be graphic. It just wouldn't be the sole storyline.

As an author, I can select "gay fiction" or "lesbian fiction" or "LGBT" depending on the book vendor. But, truly, what does that tell a reader? Absolutely nothing when it comes to the type of story it is. Why should a book be categorized by gender preferences? I've noticed there isn't a "straight fiction" category. Of course not! So, shouldn't stories with gay characters by put in the mystery, thriller, fantasy, etc categories instead? That way EVERYONE has a chance to read that story instead of focusing on who the main character might be interested in for a personal relationship.

The description can be used to let people know the main character is gay, and so can keywords. People searching for gay fiction will type in that keyword and the book will still come up. There is nothing lost by putting books in the genre categories they belong in and not wasting one on gender preference. After all, the category doesn't show up until you get to the book page. Once someone has typed in "gay fiction" and your book comes up, now they can look at the categories or read the description and see it is a mystery. Or a fantasy. Or historical.  Cool!

I do have a couple of the Gastien books listed as gay drama. That makes sense, as the storyline is about the history of gays in the mid-twentieth century, and about the struggle. I also think it makes sense to have a "gay romance" category, but last time I looked Amazon had done away with it. Maybe it will come back. I hope so.

Right now, "gay fiction" being seen as "romance" is doing a disservice to readers. Because it is so widely believed that gay fiction is always a romance, many fabulous works of gay fiction get overlooked. Ever read Brandon Shire's "Listening to Dust" or "The Value of Rain"? If not, you've missed out on two to the most gripping, gut-wrenching novels ever written.How about Andrew Ashling's "Randamor the Recluse" series (divided up between the "Invisible Chains" 3 books and the "Invisible Hands" 3 books, 4th coming), his evilly funny "Just Don't Mess With Us" or his disturbingly possible "A Dish Served Cold"? No? You're missing out on one of the best story tellers out there. "The Cool Part of His Pillow" by Rodney Ross has biting humor and is the story of one man coping with his long time partner's death at mid-life. I don't know why he has it listed as a romance. There isn't a romance in there (the romance took place in the past), and the story is wonderful.It's a great book I bet you'd enjoy. I also recently read "The Statue" by Zathyn Priest. This novelette was well-written and engrossing. He's a new author to me. I'm going to try another after I finish the novel I'm currently reading. I strongly suspect I've found yet another talented gay fiction writer.

There are many more, I'm sure. And I'm going to find them. Why? Because I love drama and angst. I like a book to make me think and feel. To stay with me for months after I put it down. For some reason, gay fiction writers who write non-romance gay fiction provide those things better than most other writers out there today. Many authors cater to what's "in" and that isn't what I like to read. I understand doing that, and may do that in my next series. We all need to pay the mortgage. But it's unfortunate that too much gay fiction is overlooked because people tend to think it's all sex and romance so they don't read it-especially gay men!

My current continuing saga, There Was a House (House of Pleasure, House of Pain and House of Trickery are out. House of Shame, the final book will come out in later summer) are the same way. A gay teen-age boy shares MC status with a straight teenage girl. It's a psychological thriller about sex trafficking. His gender preference for a romantic partner has absolutely NOTHING to do with a story  like that. The fact that he is gay has a lot to do with why he ended up dumped at a whorehouse by his father, and why people tend to see him as a stereo-type, allowing him to form a plan of devastating revenge. What's gay got to do with it? In his case, one hell of a lot. Still, I elected not to waste a category on "LGBT". It's keyworded, though. But I felt the two categories it's in were more importnat in portraying what type of story it is.

A great thriller is a great thriller. A fabulous historical is, well, a fabulous historical. Authors', let's not diminish these facts by categorizing books simply as "gay" and making people guess what they're about. We only get two categories on Amazon. People will find you by keywords if "gay" is important to them. Use those keywords to both your and your readers advantage.
Readers, you can help, too. If you want gay fiction that isn't romance, type in "gay fiction"  or "gay thriller", etc and then read the description, look at the categories on the book page, read the sample, read the reviews. Some great novels are waiting for you...and you don't have to want romance and happy ever after in order to find it in  gay fiction.

Do you have favorite gay fiction novels that aren't only romance? I'd love to hear from you with the author name and title!

Caddy Rowland is a novelist and painter. Her social media links follow.
To find out about her novels visit
Sign up for New Release Newsletter by Email:
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Twitter: @caddyorpims

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Brandon Shire Shares His Thoughts About Challenges for the Future of LGBT Rights

It's Gay Pride month and I wanted to write something that made a difference. Then I read Brandon Shires post on his blog yesterday and realized I couldn't say it even close to as good as he did. I asked him for permission to re-post his thoughts here, and he was kind enough to say yes.

If you haven't read any of Brandon Shire's books yet, you're missing out on someone I feel is one of the most talented out there. Here is his Author Central page: Author Brandon Shire . I've read them all and loved them. Listening to Dust and The Value of Rain remain two of my favorite all time novels.

Challenges for the future of LGBT Rights

What challenges do you see for the future for LGBT Rights?
A lot has been written in response to this question. There are still so many challenges for the future of LGBT rights that it is hard to narrow them down to just a few key points.  But I do think there is one key element which succinctly addresses all the larger concerns.
Single-fix focal points
We tend to focus on one issue at a time, as if the issues we face as LGBT were non-inclusive of all the other issues. And we do so to our own detriment.
Where we leave gaps, our opponents gain a foothold. Marriage is the current focal point. It’s snappy, it has immediate gratification, it has great sound bites, and look at all those smiling faces…everyone is all dressed up for the party.
What you don’t see behind those photos are the 200,000+ homeless LGBT kids still on our streets, the level of poverty that most LGBT’s live in every day, the barbarity of verbal and physical attacks on trans people, and the continuing racial divide that separates much of the LGBT community.  Job discrimination? It’s bursting at the seams, but you hardly hear a word about it.
All these issues are connected, but our opponents have successfully lobbied the public (which includes LGBT) into believing that we should segregate our thoughts. This is a health issue, this over here is a black/white issue, that one is a jobs issue. Look, this is a trans issue, that a religious issue, and this is a gay issue.  And those lesbian feminists, that’s something else completely.
We need to start understanding the mindset behind the attacks on the LGBT community. They come down to one very effective mechanism for ineffectiveness: divide and conquer.  As we allow our opponents to create dissention among the LGBT community, they gain and we lose. Yes, single focus has helped us make great gains (look at how far we have come with marriage), but at what cost? Who do we leave behind? Who decides who we sacrifice? How many do we sacrifice?
The single greatest challenge for the LGBT community is to finally come to the understanding that we have allowed our enemies to divide us.  All LGBT issues affect all of us.   Tweet this!If just one LGBT person is bound by the definitions set by our adversaries, then we are all bound. Not a single one of us truly gets the rights we are fighting for. Not one. The commonality between us is not that we are LGBT, but that we are human and that our opponents have taken our self-anointed labels and attempted to turn them against us.  But we’re changing that, slowly. (See below.)
What are gay activists/allies getting right? Getting wrong?
Got it Right
Redefining LGBT. For a long, long time our definition of what means to be LGBT was determined by others, haters usually. Every major movement, every major victory comes down to one basic fact: We have taken back and and begun to redefine what it means to be LGBT. Our voices are now heard, not because we have shouted down our foes, but because we have proven them wrong both morally and factually.  These facts –the essence of who we are, what we do, and how we live – are what have given us every major victory. Remember, it only takes 10% of population holding an unshakable belief to convince the rest of the population to adopt the same belief.[1] So yes, every voice counts, including yours.
Got it Wrong
Claiming we won. We haven’t won, not by far. Victory in a few skirmishes and battles is not winning the war. Ask any African American if they won the battle against racism, ask any immigrant, any non-white. Ask a woman how the battles still rage over misogyny and sexism. Ask an LGBT kid in a small town how safe they feel, or how included, or how reviled.
Exporting ‘My Gay Life’.  There’s a lot we can do to support the movements in other countries for LGBT rights, but simply exporting our own ideas and ideals in the same way we market the ideal gay image (which is male, white, svelte and rich) is not going to work. Real change is cultural change and most Americans (gay and straight) have little understanding of other cultures, including those which are relatively close to our own.
You cannot take the supposed playbook from the US LGBT rights movement and simply plop it down in another country which has thousands of years of history and culture. Boots on the ground is what we need focus our efforts on – that is supporting those native men and women who are striving to make a change within their own countries. Anything else is viewed as another attempt at a subversive ‘western imperialism.’ See China, Russia, Uganda, Croatia, etc. (The list is endless.) The religious right and extremist groups are making strides at proclaiming that LGBT rights are an ‘imported phenomena.’ (Next they’ll be a CIA plot.) We know this is not true, but we still continue to market being LGBT as a ‘freedom’ and not as an inalienable right of being human. And we still, unfortunately, have the imperialist idea that we, as Americans, know what’s best for others.  It’s hurting our international brothers and sisters, and it is something we need to halt, now.

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Visit Brandon's website and blog here:

Thanks, Brandon, for letting me feature your post. Your writing moves me as a reader and inspires me as a writer. My world is a better place having read your work and for knowing you. Hugs.

Caddy Rowland is a novelist and painter. Her social media links follow.
To find out about her novels visit
Sign up for New Release Newsletter by Email:
Author Email:

Twitter: @caddyorpims

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


I am sharing this as I am one of the authors participating and because this is a great cause. PLEASE HELP!

Heartbeats: Voices Against Oppression – OUT NOW!

Posted: 3 June, 2014 by Jax Goss in Heartbeats

Heartbeats: Voices Against Oppression is now available on Amazon, in both paperback and Kindle editions.
This is the blurb from Amazon:
Heartbeats: Voices of Oppression was created as a collaboration between M. Kate Allen, Jax Goss of Solarwyrm Press, and Kristen Duval of Fey Publishing. We wanted to create something that would speak powerfully for the many thousands of men, women and children worldwide who live enslaved and oppressed, while simultaneously raising funds for those who fight trafficking and slavery. In this book are stories of oppression and liberation, of empowerment and the stripping away of power, of enslavement and escape. Many are hard to read, many will break your hearts or make them soar, all are united in the idea that the use and abuse by some humans of other humans must stop. Every person who worked on this project did it for free, so that absolutely all the profits made from the book can go, and the excellent work they do. By buying it, you are helping that work continue. May we someday live in a world where such work is not needed.
I’m incredibly proud to be part of this initiative, and the important work it supports at Not For Sale. It’s not news to anyone that I am powerfully opposed to all forms of oppression and othering, and I think that this sort of slavery and trafficking is something we as a species need to stamp out. Every person who worked on this book, from the writers, to the editor, to the publisher, to the cover designer, did it for free, so that every single cent we make from the sale of the book can go to this very important cause. The stories are difficult to read in many cases, touching, and haunting and profoundly moving. Some are heart-breaking, some are empowering, all are worth the read.
So buy it. Because it’s good. Because the stories are incredible and should be read. And buy it to support the Not For Sale Campaign.
Let’s prove the power of story, of narrative, of our voices, can make a difference in the world.

Caddy Rowland is a novelist and painter. Her social media links follow.
To find out about her novels visit
Sign up for New Release Newsletter by Email:
Author Email:
Twitter: @caddyorpims