You’re Next.

I’m a writer and I’m scared.

As most of you must know by now (and if you don’t you’d better get up to speed) PayPal, “The world’s most loved way to pay and get paid”, has put down their moral foot and forced Smashwords, second only to Amazon in e-book distribution, to eliminate certain books from the roster.

Say what?

Erotica books with themes such as r@pe, ince$t,and be$tiality are hearby banned from Smashwords (and other book stores) lest PayPal withdraw the privilege of doing business with them.

Here is an excerpt from a communication from Mark Coker, head honcho at Smashwords, sent to authors:

Today we are modifying our Terms of Service to clarify our policies regarding erotic fiction that contains be$tiality, r@pe and ince$t. If you write in any of these categories, please carefully read the instructions below and remove such content from Smashwords. If you don’t write in these categories, you can disregard this message.

PayPal is requiring Smashwords to immediately begin removing the above-mentioned categories of books. Please review your title(s) and proactively remove and archive such works if you are affected.

I am not an erotica writer, but this move on PayPal’s part is scaring me to my bones. Why? Because this is censorship, plain and simple. This is some third party entity sticking its nose in my business and telling me not only what I can and cannot read, but what I can and cannot write.

The issue is complicated because PP has a lot of clout. There is no other financial institution at the moment (although it seems to me there exists a prime opportunity for Google Wallet to make some moves) to whom Smashwords can turn to to handle the financial transactions required in running the business, and so have (reluctantly) decided to acquiesce to PP’s demands. I feel bad for Coker, because it is evident in his complete letter he is not at all comfortable between the rock and the hard place he now finds himself. He has chosen to live to fight another day, and I can’t blame him for that decision.

However, what scares me the most about this is PP is targeting erotica material NOW, but what will be the target tomorrow? Why is erotica being singled out? Why is it okay to have books on the shelves depicting violent acts such as murder or torture (which is illegal) but not okay to allow sexual acts? Why do we need PP to police what we, as adults, choose to purchase and read? Which is better? Two adults participating in a consensual sexual act or some crazed psychopath opening the skull of a dinner guest and eating his brain while he’s still alive? (I’m looking at you, Hannibal Lector.)

I think part of the problem (and there are so many parts to this my own brain is swimming) is PP has mistaken erotica for p0rnography. There’s a big difference, and I just find it outrageous PP would target a legitimate genre of fiction in its attack on freedom of expression of the literary world. They are a FINANCIAL INSTITUTION, not the moral police!

Right now, their target is erotica. What’s next? Religious-themed work? What happens if someone in the PP ranks decides Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” is offensive to their beliefs? Because if you think, should PP get away with this, that other genres are not at risk, THINK AGAIN.

“Game of Thrones” – George R.R. Martin
“Deerskin” – Robin McKinley
“Romeo and Juliet” – Shakespeare
“A Child Called ‘It”” – Dave Pelzer
Anything from Greek mythology
THE BIBLE

And what parameters is PP using to judge what is allowable and what isn’t? Currently, they say “erotica” with these themes, but what happens to the classics with similar themes? Are they going to be banned as well? Is paranormal romance, with werewolves and shapeshifters included in the ban on “be$tiality”? PP has determined that subjects such as BDSM is the same as r@pe, which tells me who ever is making these distinctions has no idea of what they speak. Who is drawing the lines and where is it going to stop?

If you don’t like this type of material, the fix is simple. DON’T BUY IT AND DON’T READ IT. Because that is YOUR decision, not PayPal’s! I don’t want to live in a sanitized literary world — that’s why I read and write in the first place. To provoke thought, to explore other realms of expression, to entertain. And although none of those themes appeal to me as a reader or a writer, I will defend to the death the rights of those who do read/write erotica to do so without financial discrimination.

Thank you, PayPal, for trying to steer me toward what you deem is the higher moral ground, but the truth is, I am an adult and I can decide that for myself. You ain’t my momma, and what you’re doing here is bordering on criminal. What you’re doing is sucking major hairy donkey dick.

Now, spank me for my be$tiality.

Consider signing this petition to inform PayPal you do not support their action.

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Once Upon A Time…

No, I’m not about to tell you a story. Sorry. What I am about to do is dissect one of my favorite television shows and bitch about what’s going on.

If you haven’t caught it yet, it’s called Once Upon A Time and it airs on ABC. If you are otherwise involved in things like a real life, Hulu offers the episodes after they air.

Why is Rumple in the back? That's just not right.

As the title suggests, the show is about a town called Storybrooke which has been under the evil spell of an evil queen for a long time. All the fairy tales you know and love have been twisted around to great effect, geared more toward the Grimm side of things rather than the pablum Disney has turned such fairy tales into.

BARF.

Of course, this is right up my alley, since I have taken great significant literary license with Greek mythology in Athena’s Promise, plus I play with the mythos of a lot of different tales. How fun!

The star of OUAT, to me, is Robert Carlyle, who plays Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold, a totally complex character for which I feel empathy, disgust, anger, and sympathy, sometimes all in one episode. And, I admit, a certain amount of attraction. Be that as it may, and as much as I’m a fan of the show as a whole, there is one part of the story line which really irritates me.

I know he's a bad boy. Why do you think I have such a crush?!

The series starts out by telling the story of Snow White and Prince Charming. Snow is depicted as an outlaw on the lam from the Evil Queen (and holy SHIT, is this chick evil!) and how she meets Prince Charming. Snow is independent, strong-willed, and really good at kicking ass. You know me — I am all for that. However, as the series has progressed Snow White’s alter-ego (Mary Margaret, can you stand it?) in the present-day setting is a mealy-mouthed, weak-willed, love-struck wuss, and it’s getting to the point I want to punch her deep in the throat. Not to mention Prince Charming (named David in the present-day setting) who is a sneaky, conniving, COWARD.

What makes this so complicated is Prince Charming and Snow White are actually married in Storybrooke, but in present-day it appears Prince Charming/David is married to someone else. Therefore, when he and Snow/MM creep because they’re so in love they can’t stay away from each other, they are both under the impression PC/David is cheating on his wife. This is part of the dark curse of Storybrooke initiated by the Evil Queen (omg, what a bitch, or have I said that already?).

She's gorgeous. But this woman is nothing but a hot mess.

I’m going to give the writers the benefit of the doubt and trust they have an overall story arc and a damned good reason they turned Snow into a Disney bitch. Because to be honest, despite their cursed romantical clusterfuck in which she and her cowardly and morally disturbing Prince find themselves, today’s Mary Margaret is a far cry from yesterday’s Snow White.

I want THIS Snow back. NOW.

You can blame the curse. Fine. I get that. But where is the Snow who originally told the Prince to stick it up his ass? Because I really liked that part. Heh.

The show is in terrible danger of jumping the shark. Some would say TOO LATE, the shark has jumped and danced its way off the stage. Because I am secretly in love with Rumple, I will give it a chance to get back on track, but it’s a struggle.

As you might have surmised, I am not a fan of Disney movies and how females are depicted. I feel although the movies are fun and all that crap, they really set up unrealistic expectations for young people. The girls think the major goal is to be rescued by a rich prince, and boys are led to believe they have to be rich and rescue beautiful girls.

I’d much rather girls are raised knowing they don’t need a prince; if they need to be rescued they are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves. Or the boys, if they need it. I want boys to know their princesses are more than able to stand on their own two feet and stand beside them, instead of needing so much maintenance and upkeep. And makeup.

ABC better get with the program. Sure, it’s just a silly show about silly fairy tales, but are they so silly when the message coming across is “love turns you into a mindless, morally dubious idiot”? Gah.

I’ll hang in there and hope for the best. At least I have Rumple.

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And The Universe Has Something To Say

Just a head’s up — this website will be down from 6AM to 6PM on Saturday, February 25 due to server maintenance, so don’t panic! I have not been assassinated by my cat, or eaten by zombies. Carry on.

I actually have so many things to blog  about and time, once again, has gotten away from me. Actually, I’ve stopped chasing it. It’s too fast for me in spite of the fact I’ve been working out and trying to build up my stamina.

Yes, you read that correctly. FAT LADY IN THE GYM!!

Oh yeah. Endorphin heaven. Who knew??

I’ve never been a big exercise fan. In fact, I was firmly convinced endorphins were an urban legend, since all my former attempts at exercise never produced a single endorphin that I could tell. I thought it was all a bunch of horseshit.

I’m happy to say I believe I have actually met an endorphin, and we are getting along pretty well. Ever since I read an article about how a sedentary lifestyle and sitting on your ass at a desk for more than six hours at a time (at which I laughed hysterically, since I can’t remember a day that short for me) will kill you quicker than a zombie attack, I knew I had to make a change so I don’t die before finishing my trilogy.

Hell no! Totally not ready for this yet. Besides, it looks like Wendigo territory. *SHUDDER*

Okay, that picture just freaked me out. I may need a moment. (Bonus points if you get the reference.)

Now, I’m not totally morbid, but sometimes the Universe likes to poke me, and poke me hard when trying to get a message across. (Not that I’m stubborn or anything. Shut up, you in the back!) There have been several recent events which have inspired me to try to take better care of myself.

One is this moving post from Maxwell Cynn. I didn’t really know Max — he was a friend of a mutual friend — but in the way of the writer’s world, I knew OF him. I read this post and just bawled my eyes out. You see, even though I have been through some bad times myself (oh, let me count the ways, hallelujah!) I have never had to face this and I’m not sure I could with the strength, grace, and courage of this man and his son.

In conversation with Eden, our mutual friend, we were discussing how much the story had touched us and what we could do to help. I mentioned a Kickstarter campaign, and Eden grabbed that ball with all the energy and gusto of a Titan, organizing indie authors to contribute books and services…and the response of the indie community was phenomenal.

I don’t know many people who have not been impacted by cancer in one way or another. I lost my momma to inflammatory breast cancer, had a scare of my own once upon a time, and have many friends who have battled this awful scourge. I know economic times are tight, but even if you can’t donate, if you could spread the word on your own social media sites, that’s a big help. I know Joshua and Max appreciate every good wish you can send their way. It counts, believe me. It really, really counts.

Another event which encouraged me to take a look at my own mortality was the passing of Samuel V. Kennedy III. I grew up in Auburn, and my mother was very active in the community theater group Sam had founded. Some of my most cherished childhood memories are because of this group. My mother also worked with Sam at the Citizen, the local newspaper. It was quite a shock to hear of his passing; I remember him as a warm and very generous man. I like to think he and my mother are Out There somewhere arguing over a casting call :*)

I guess the point of this post is a reminder to enjoy every minute you have, appreciate those whom you love and who love you in return, and don’t let them bury you in Wendigo land.

Works for me.

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The First Rant of the New Year – The Word NO, Rape, and Responsibility

I’d like to start by saying someone or something stole my January and half my February and I think that’s rather rude. But it pales in comparison next to the REAL burr up my ass right now.

I realize this is most likely not going to be a popular opinion, and it’s also likely to cause some hard feelings. I’m okay with that. But it’s something that’s been building for a while — a long time, actually, and since this is my blog, I can say what I want. And yes, I also realize this is a topic which has been around the block more than once.

I receive a lot of unsolicited manuscripts from many different writers. I have read just about every genre known to mankind — I’ve had phases where all I read are biographies, sci-fi, epic fantasy and all the sub-genres, bizzaro, literary, historical stuff, poetry, Shakespeare, romance (oh yes, it’s true, I know Harlequin and Silhouette, although those years are long gone) and every sub-genre you can think of (and I can’t right now because I’m too pissed off). There’s also a crapload of free material out there, so I guess you could say in a literary sense, I get around. And some of the shit I’m reading is really, really pissing me off.

Not because the grammar or sentence structure makes me want to swallow a maggot milkshake rather than read one more word; not because the story line is about as ethereal as a lace curtain; not because the main character has the personality of a tongue depressor. Because many of these writers are hella talented and tell a really good story. No, what’s lighting my fire right now is IRRESPONSIBILITY.

Hey, it’s a free world. For the most part. You can write any damned thing you please. I can’t stop you, and I wouldn’t even if I could. But what I will do is drag your ass out into the light and ask you WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?

I’m talking to you, Romance Writer. You might write straight up historical romance, you could be an author of LGBT stories, contemporary stuff…it doesn’t really matter. I am seeing a lot of “her mouth said no but her eyes said yes” bullshit and I’m just SO OVER THIS CRAP. And a lot of it, pardon me, seems to be coming from the paranormal ether, but certainly not all of it.

Why does this bug me? For several reasons. I am sick to death of reading scenes where the woman says no, the man hears yes and proceeds even when she says no more than once, and they have hot monkey sex. (Insert preferred paranormal species here. They seem to get a pass on all kinds of abhorrent behavior.) Afterward, she’s all ga-ga over the guy and sometimes he expresses remorse because after all, he’s not a BAD guy, he’s just a HORNY guy and driven crazy over her incredible HAWTNESS, all is forgiven, and they ride off into the sunset and have thousands of fat babies.

Really?

For one, NO MEANS NO. “No” does not mean, “Oh, I’m just being coy because I want to preserve the fallacy I am a good girl just overwhelmed by the sensations of my lady bits” and NO does not mean, “Oh, if I say yes he’ll think I’m a bad girl and I’ll have to give up my Virgin Decoder Ring,” and NO doesn’t mean “Oh, go ahead and take it and by the way I love you for it and thank you so much for introducing me to the marvels of an orgasm.”

And NO, motherheifer, you do NOT get a free pass just because you have to drink blood to live, turn into a werewolf at the full moon and it’s the way of the pack, or your body parts are rotting off. Actually, if body parts are rotting off you probably shouldn’t be having any kind of rough sex in the first place. Gawd only knows what’s gonna fall off. Just a suggestion.

ANYWAY. Before you start jumping all over my shit and calling me Mrs. Brady (although she was a freak in her own right, GO FLO!) or saying, “Geez, Netta, you act like you don’t have a freak flag when we all know what a heinous untruth THAT is,” you’re right. I do have a freak flag. This is not about flying a freak flag. It’s not about “forced seduction” or erotic fantasies. I understand those, I have a few myself (that I shall keep to myself, pay no attention to the purple monkey, move along) and it’s not about titillation. It’s about glamorizing RAPE. There. I said it. Happy now?

Because when a woman says NO, and a man forces sex upon her anyway, that is called RAPE. There is nothing glamorous about it, there is nothing right about it, there is certainly nothing romantic about it. STOP. IT.

I mean it. Stop it. In fiction, why can’t the woman get on board and enjoy herself if that’s what she wants? Why can’t a man stop if the woman tells him NO? She can have her internal conflicts (oh lordy, don’t we all) but I’m afraid all these stories about the female saying NO with her mouth and YES with her eyes are desensitizing readers to the fact this situation is RAPE. And what about the mixed messages to the males out there? “Oh, you told me no, but you have bookshelves full of those romantical type books where the guy takes what he wants and they ride off into the sunset and have thousands of fat babies.”

Do you see where I’m going with this?

As a writer, you have to understand your words have power. You have never, ever in your life, held a weapon as powerful as the words you share with other people. Of course you’re an artist, of course you write for yourself, of course. But when you expose your work to other people, it’s a whole other ball game.

I’m not singling out romance writers, because it happens in every genre, but of course it’s more prevalent in romance. I’m not talking about realistic depictions of rape, or the horrendous and sad fallout after the fact. I’m not talking about a situation inimical to the plot of your story. I’m talking about this frivolous-type attitude toward a very serious issue. Think about what you are writing!

“Her mouth said “no” but her eyes said “yes”.”

Are you fucking kidding me?

IF HER MOUTH SAYS “NO” THEN THAT MEANS “NO”. (Besides the fact I have never met a talking eyeball.)

In this day and age (the heyday of rape in romance seems to have been the ’70s to the 90s although I feel like I’m seeing a resurgence) if you are a talented writer, certainly you can come up with something else to create tension and stop making it seem like this kind of situation is part of the mating ritual. Please.

Rape is all about power. It is not foreplay. It is not a way to bind a woman to you heart and soul. It is a crime. It is violent. It is wrong.

There are ways and ways and ways to explore the power dynamic between a man and a woman without using rape as the catalyst and if you can’t find them, you’re a shitty writer. That is my opinion. Therefore, if I read something of yours which trivializes this act, I will never read anything of yours again. I just won’t. I won’t promote it, I won’t edit it, I won’t read it.

Here is where I draw my line in the sand.

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