Tag Archives: Ranting

With Friends Like These… The #AllRomance Debacle

So the news is now out that All Romance Ebooks, a beloved specialist retailer adored by many an m/m reader and author alike, is closing its doors for good. The new hit yesterday afternoon, to shock and disappointment across our genre. Sentiments that quickly turned to anger when we read the email we received (or, in my case, the email others posted on social media; mine seems to have got lost in the post). Continue reading →

You Don’t Owe Me A Review

Save-an-author-225x300 You Don't Owe Me A ReviewIt’s been a fact since before I was published that authors these days love reviews. It’s another fact that readers love to leave reviews — sites like Goodreads have created an entire reviewer industry out of ordinary, everyday readers. No longer do you need a doctorate in literature in order to bestow your lofty opinion from the hallowed pages of the Times Literary Supplement. These days, anyone with an internet connection can review whatever they read, however they like. Continue reading →

The GOP Wants Us Dead

Supreme_Court The GOP Wants Us Dead

The Supreme Court of the United States

No, I’m not being dramatic. The Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriage in June 2015, but as early as April 2015, assuming that result, over 100 different pieces of anti-LGBT legislation had been introduced in 29 state legislatures [x]. Since SSM became law, that slew of bills became a flood, and many of them are being passed into law. Continue reading →

The Cost of Immigration

An open letter to the man who said I should stay home because America has “enough foreigners” already.

immigrant-246x300 The Cost of Immigration

Dear Southern Man,

So you saw this blog post by my fiancee, excited I’ve finally (*finally* — we started this process last October) got the date for my visa interview, and you decided to piss on our parade with a fatuous remark about foreigners, like every immigrant to America is as ignorant as you are. I assume from your snide remark — with comments disabled, of course, so I couldn’t respond — that you think England is some sort of third world nation and I’m rocking up to suckle on Uncle Sam’s generous teats. Oh, how I laughed.

Just for giggles, here’s what moving to America has cost me so far:

  • Processing fee for relative immigration visa I-130, $420.00
  • UK police certificate (valid for 12 months), $70.00
  • Visa-standard photographs for police certificate, $15.00
  • Mandatory immunization shots, free (*smooches the NHS*)
  • Medical in Knightsbridge, London, $400.00
  • Visa-standard photographs for medical documents, $15.00
  • Train fare to London for medical, $120.00
  • Processing fee for visa interview, $265.00
  • Train fare to London for interview, $240.00
  • Visa-standard photographs for interview, $15.00
  • Courier fee to have visa shipped to me, $30.00

That’s almost $1600 just in processing fees, required documentation, and transport because there’s only one doctor in the whole of the UK the Embassy will accept a medical from, and it’s on the other side of the country to me. I haven’t even started on getting a last-minute flight to America (because from the moment the visa is granted, I’ve got six months in which to pack up my UK affairs, get Stateside, and get married) which is easily going to run me to another $1400 or so, the cost of shipping my belongings (bringing over only my books, clothes, and a PC is going to cost me approximately $1200), or considered the cost of all the flying back and forth I’ve done over the past couple of years, which adds several thousand more to what I’ve spent so far because I happened to fall in love with somebody from a different country.

And you know what? It’s worth it. She’s worth every last penny, and more besides. Once I arrive in America, we’ll have a marriage license to pay for, then application fees for me to get an Adjustment of Status (because all the visa means is I can enter America, not that I can stay) which costs another $1100 in filing fees alone. And until it’s all done and dusted, I am not permitted to get a job. Were it not for the fact I’m a writer earning royalties from around the world, I would be completely dependent on AJ to support me.

As a matter of fact, part of the visa application process was an Affidavit of Support AJ had to provide, giving the government permission to empty her bank accounts and take her house if I ever become a public burden. Not only am I not now or ever going to (be able to) sponge off the state, I’ve made America considerably richer just by applying to move there, all while expressly prohibited from attempting to support myself as the wheels of bureaucracy grind with soul-crushing slowness around us. We’ve joked more than once that I was financially solvent when we started this process, but by the time Uncle Sam expects me to prove it, he’ll have already drained my bank accounts.

I’ll also, of course, contribute to the American economy in other ways once I’m a resident. I’ll pay taxes, I’ll buy products, and the money I earn in royalties (the majority of which comes from America and at the moment get sent straight to the UK) will remain within the American economy, spent in American stores. I’ll have to buy a car and get a phone contract, pay bills, and maybe even feed and “cloth” myself as well.

As appealing as the idea of shuffling hordes in rags turning up with outstretched hands ready to grasp and take might be to your xenophobic little mind, the reality is far different. People don’t up and leave their place of birth and everything they’ve known unless they’re searching for a better life. Immigrants want to work, they want to contribute, and America was founded and became great off the back of them. I guarantee that’s why your ancestors moved there.

native-immigrant-223x300 The Cost of Immigration

Unless you’re full-blood native, you’ve really got no room to talk. Especially not to make vacuous assumptions that the only reason people would emigrate in America is to be supported by people like you. Rather, my taxes will go towards paying for welfare that I as a non-citizen will be prohibited from claiming. We are supporting you, not the reverse. And this in a country where net migration is relatively tiny — 2.45 immigrants per 1,000 in 2014 (compared to 2.56 in the UK, and all the way up to 83.82 in little ole Lebanon). The UAE is almost 84% foreign-born, and even Australia is pushing a third of its population, compared to less than 15% in the US. This in a country with a population density less than most of Europe, Africa, and Asia (85 people per square mile, compared to 660 for the UK, for example).

Whichever way you cut it, America has got the room for thousands more immigrants, and the result would be a benefit for all: a UCLA study estimated that overhauling the immigration system to allow currently undocumented workers to be validated would add $1.5 trillion to the US GDP over the next ten years. The DREAM Act alone would add $329 billion to the economy. Rather than telling us to stay at home, you should be welcoming us with open arms.

In the Closet, Redux

A year ago, I wrote a post about being closeted. Specifically, straight people being “closeted” about reading or writing LGBT fiction. I talked about the importance of being open about that one small thing, not hiding your ally status from the world like it’s something shameful, because we need all the allies we can get.

closet-300x216 In the Closet, Redux

Today, I want to go further. You see, this language of being “in the closet” gets bandied around about all sorts of things, and is used frequently when allies and aficionados of LGBT fiction (romance, particularly) discuss how they represent themselves in their everyday lives. I can understand the appeal of using that vocabulary. It seems fitting, given the context. But here’s the thing: every time someone talks about “coming out of the closet” by telling a friend of relative they like LGBT fiction, they’re likening that experience to what a fifteen year old goes through telling his fundamentalist Christian parents he’s gay. One of those things is not like the other. I would go as far as to say it devalues and demeans our experiences of coming out as LGBT by comparison.

For those of us who are LGBT, the closet is not a safe space where we can hide from the jocular ribbing of friends and relatives. It’s a claustrophobic, stifling corner in which we hide the truest part of ourselves for fear of what would happen if we were ever found out. Some of us — too many of us — lose our friends and families, our homes and livelihoods, and sometimes even our lives, when we finally come out. Yet we come out, and we keep coming out, every day, to all sorts of people, because not to do so feels oppressive. It feels like living a lie.

Moreover, when our allies talk about being “closeted” about something as simple as reading/writing LGBT fiction, it reinforces the impression that anything LGBT-related is inherently shameful. That our allies are ashamed to be reading about queer lives. And how do you think that feels to those of us who are living queer lives?

Why does the word “gay” stick in your throat when you tell a friend or parent or sibling or spouse what kind of romance you read?

I’m not saying go into work and announce to your conservative boss that he should rethink his political position because two men getting it on is hot, but why can’t we use LGBT fiction to start a debate about LGBT equality? Perhaps if we heard the word “gay” a little more often, it wouldn’t stick in so many throats. It wouldn’t be synonymous with shame and guilt. If more people spoke up, perhaps the voices that sounded loudest wouldn’t be right-wing zealots spewing hate and lies.

Perhaps, if more people spoke up, we wouldn’t need closets at all.

Unmasking Piracy

So we all know as long as there have been digital files, there have been people stealing them. Generally I don’t lose sleep over my books surfacing on torrents or forum websites. I know in 90% of cases they’re using my title to hide a virus, and the people downloading them wouldn’t have paid money for my books anyway, etc etc. I know in the grand scheme of things, I’m not losing much in real terms from piracy. That doesn’t mean I have to like it, or condone it, and you can bet your ass when I find it, I report the shit out of it. I can write DMCA notices in my sleep.

Plenty of people argue that if it doesn’t hurt, why fix it? I’ve heard people say that piracy is going to happen whatever I, and authors like me, do to prevent it, so why bother? But you know what, none of the bad things that happen in this world would happen but for the inaction of good people. If I see somebody getting attacked in the street, intervening won’t stop all violence from happening, but I’ll have stopped one instance. That’s all any of us can hope to do.

In order for the little people to make a difference, however, we need the big organisations to support us. We need the criminal justice system to penalise antisocial behaviours. We need proper recourse when we have been wronged. And we need corporations to stand with us and say, “Not in our name.”

So when a fellow author stumbled across an open and public group on Facebook, freely sharing copyrighted book files, you’d assume they’d respond quickly to a report, right?

Wrong.

report-declined Unmasking Piracy

“We reviewed the group you reported for containing theft or vandalism and found it doesn’t violate our Community Standards.”

Community Standards which are in breach of American copyright law, I hasten to add. Sadly, however, DMCA notices (legally binding for American companies) can only be issued by the author or copyright representative of the title being pirated, meaning unless they get involved, we are at the mercy of Facebook’s ridiculously unequal TOS. Show two shirtless guys almost kissing and you’re banned for months. Illegally share copyrighted work and they’ll look the other way.

Noted, Zuckerberg.

And just in case you think I’m being melodramatic about the reach of this group, here’s a screenprint of the files being shared right now.

free-novels-download-group-300x204 Unmasking Piracy

That’s Twilight, 50SOG, George R. R. Martin, Dan Brown, and countless others, for those who can’t be bothered to embiggen.

And here, from the group description:

description Unmasking Piracy

“Only copyrighted material gets uploaded to this group.”

How brazen do you have to be?

Here’s the thing, when we say “pirate” we all think of a happy-go-lucky band of scallywags, likely led by Johnny Depp, who cause trouble for the establishment but make the underdog laugh with their foolish japes. It’s bullshit. These people are thieves, no more or less, and they deserve our contempt.

You are not the hard-done-to underdog if you don’t want to pay for a book you want to read. It’s called budgeting, and we all do it. There are plenty of films I’d like to watch at the cinema, but I wait until they’re out on DVD or Prime because it won’t cost me half as much to view them. If I want a book but don’t want to pay the list for it, I’ll wait until a site like ARe has a rebate and get it half-price. Hell, most Kindle books are loanable and there are plenty of groups which will set strangers up to do loan exchanges so you can read a title for nothing without the author being ripped off. Sites like Scribd offer subscription services to read as many books as you want for a flat fee. There is no excuse for stealing books. None.

I know there will always be pirates thieves, but I’ll be damned if we just turn a blind eye and let them flaunt their thefts in public. The harder we make it to find pirated books, the less people will consider the theft worth the effort or risk. I know I wouldn’t download anything from a torrent in case it wiped my hard drive. Some people will always choose to steal rather than buy, but let’s push them back to the underbelly, where they belong. Groups like this have no place on reputable sites, and shame on Facebook for not removing this one immediately.


Update: after a veritable flood of reports, success!

removed-300x191 Unmasking PiracyWhile we won this battle, this group was far from alone on Facebook. The only way to win is to keep reporting them, keep the pressure up, and make these big corporations accountable for their actions until they decide to remove illegal content when they find it, not when there’s an outcry. It shouldn’t be so difficult to get a large company to do the right thing.

 

 

 

A Little Respect

I’ve not done a publishing post in forever. It’s not really what I talk about anymore. However, given even the NYT is weighing in these days, why not?

Everyone seems to be talking about Kindle Unlimited, an “all you can eat” way of getting ebooks. For $10 a month, Amazon will provide unlimited access to a library of some 700,000 titles. As an author, I can participate in KU by granting Amazon exclusivity and accepting whatever they feel like paying me for that right.

Continue reading →