Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Silent Roar

Fair warning: If you are looking for a measured think piece, do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Click that X box in the corner. This is a curse-laden rant. It is not nice or understanding.
The roar, this time at least, started a few months ago. I wholeheartedly volunteered to be a part of an event that would shine the spotlight on romance authors who write about or who are WOC, LGBTQ.

Sounds uplifting, right?

The whole movement of #weneeddiverseromance is about putting the money where your mouth is. Don't just say you want to read more books that features these characters. Buy, read, review and in general be inclusive. The authors and corresponding article would be featured on Kirkus.

FuckYesAwesome, right?

But about two weeks ago, I was informed the corresponding article would likely make my eye twitch, if not make me lose my shit on the Internet. I was braced and then I read the article. Let me highlight one part that I think best explains the trouble we're facing in romance:

Many of the diverse authors I’ve mentioned in my column, whose books I’d like to read, don’t have audio versions, so even when a friend gifts me with credits, I don’t have many diverse options.”

Now let me try and break it down for you in case you read that and go what's the problem? I don't see the problem. When it comes to diversity people are always making a mountain out of a molehill. She's not saying I can't read books with people of color because POC is so OTHER. She's not even saying diverse books aren't on my radar and I never read one. She comes across nice, right?

One: A person decided to put together an event that would showcase diversity in romance.

Two: This event was planned months in advance.

Three: Everyone is living a busy life, and their time is limited. So...understandable. BUT...

Four: And in all those months you couldn't manage to read ONE or listen to ONE, half a of ONE, a paragraph, a sentence...

Five: And in all the months ahead, you still might not read ONE or listen to ONE, half of ONE, a paragraph, a sentence....

Why should a person reading this article go out of their way to read a diverse romance when the writer of said article couldn't be bothered to do it? For an event she put together? Instead of a showcase, what the article becomes is Reasons Why I Don't Have Time To Read Diversely But Meybe You Should????

What was the purpose of writing anything about diversity in romance? Other than to get a pat on the back because it looks good.

This article and the responding one is why there's a roar within the romance industry. The roar is silent as fuck, because it seems the only people bothered by things like this live it every day. Let me explain. If it was some misogynistic blowhard saying romance is just ladygarden porn, my feed would be exploding. If it was about rape culture, I wouldn't be able to turn around without seeing this referenced. These are issues that are inclusive as horrible as that is. It doesn't matter what color you are or your sexual preference or if you are physically disabled.

But if it involves diversity it's practically so silent it's deafening. Or half-hearted hand waving.

Let me belabor my point with another list:

It's hard to find books that features diverse characters.
The ones I read were...not to my taste.
I like what I like. Why do I have to go out of my way to read books that aren't to my taste?
I'm afraid to write a person of color because I don't want to do it wrong.
I have written A person of color or someone from the LGBTQ community or here's my one story about that vet who lost his leg/arm/eye.
Aren't Interracial Romances about race? I just want a romance.
I don't think I could identify with the heroine or hero.
I have plenty of secondary characters that are not white or straight.
We are currently looking for more diverse authors and books. (Goes to their website and there's only one person of color on staff.)
I love Kimani Romance or THIS ONE BLACK/ASIAN/LATINO author!
I did read a book by an author of color and it didn't read authentic.
Being diverse is so politically correct right now.
I'm a nice person and I can't be racist.

Here's the thing, no one wants to think they are racist. No one wants to have that Come To Jesus moment where they see their actions or speech are actively participating in the systematic oppression of another.

Ask yourself the hard question, that some (I'm not naming names) won't: What are my reasons for not buying, reading or even sometimes reviewing books of people who don't look like me, sound like me, live lives that I don't lead?

If you start to make excuses for why you don't, you are actively participating in the systematic oppression of another. You can do that and be the nicest person. Nice isn't a shield. It is not a preventive measure for unconscious bias. It's unconscious, you don't even know you're doing it...Hence the Come To Jesus moment.

And just FYI: If you do not actively participate in oppressive behavior OR you've recently had your Come To Jesus moment about the serious lack of diversity in your reading choices, buying habits, hell your blog header or writing, please do not break off your arm to pat yourself on the back. This is equally as bad in my eyes. Being a decent human being is not about brownie points or career trajectory. But I get it. For some people not being an asshole deserves an award or a golf clap.

So...this post isn't for the clueless. This post is for you. The average every day you. IF YOU ARE A NICE PERSON, YOU. Even if you have talked to me personally, and I've let you know I adore you. 'Cause really if you love shenanigans and dick jokes like me, we can be online BFFs.

You are not shielded.

You still might be saying or doing something that is oppressive as fuck.

EVEN ME AS A PERSON OF COLOR, I CAN BE ACTIVELY PARTICIPATING IN SOMEONE ELSE'S OPPRESSION. May not feel like it some days, but I have privilege. I'm heterosexual. The only people who have come close to calling me an abomination are folks who dare to knock on my door Saturday morning (before coffee) with a pamphlet. I can have unconscious bias about Koreans, Latinos, homosexuals. I'm not sure if anyone would call me nice, but do you see my point? How can you demand a seat at the table when on your way there, you are tripping other people to get to your seat?

So...reviewers, bloggers: Take a look at the books you've read and reviewed. No. Seriously. More times than I can count, I have looked at a review site, and page after page I don't see one chocolate drop. Or any drop of anything other than mainstream.

Peeps: Take a look at the books you've bought AND shared on your social media. No, really. Stop and think. When someone is looking for contemporary romances that feature diverse characters do you have a long list? Awesome.

When someone asks for contemporary romance recommendations, are you including those same books? Or leaving them out because “diverse” wasn't stated?

Take a longer minute if you need to.


And in case you're getting defensive, about to type a fuck you Melissa Blue, and you can suck it hard. Take another minute, and really think do I want to be a part of the problem? Even in ways that doesn't make me evil but thoughtless? Why would you want to be thoughtless? Why would you want your peer to feel like they are working in a hostile environment? Where they have no voice? Outside of readers, in this industry, you are the greatest ally.

Lastly, agents, editors, publishers: If you do a call for diverse romance novels, you should know people like me might take a look at your staff. If you believe in diversity in romance, why doesn't your staff roster show it? Otherwise, I think you're full of shit. And if you can pass that sniff test, (not likely) and you point me to your dedicated line to African Americans. Awesome. But when I look at your marketing campaign, year after year, the only thing you really do say to sell books...Hey, Black Peoples! Not Secret Baby Romance. Friends to Lovers Romance. Alphas Who Kidnap Their Heroines.

Just black peoples in romances....


So TL;DR: Romance industry get your shit together. Stop looking to the people you are oppressing to help you stop oppressing them. Like Glenda would say, the power was within you the whole fucking time. (Paraphrased Glenda.) Show some goddamn initiative if you really want to be inclusive. And if you can, be a great ally in both your words and actions.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Dirty Scot Starter Kit

Either some of you have never heard of me or you've just finished reading TO ONE HUNDRED. (Or, bless you, you know my dirty Scots all too well.) The purpose of this missive is to prepare you for Feb. 11th. SCOT APPEAL will be released and there will be a sudden surge on your social media about Scotsmen, kilts, dick jokes, random trivia about Scotland and none of it will likely have anything to do with Outlander. I can only apologize about the last part, because Jaime...UNF.

So, let's do a mini-recap. (And by mini I mean the write-ups will be shorter than the books.) These books are much lighter in tone, a shade less angsty and emo, but overall fun, sexy reads.

* TLDR: UNDER HIS KILT is free if you need to catch up. SCOT APPEAL will be out Feb. 11th. (Buy links for the entire series here. http://www.themelissablue.com/under-the-kilt-series.html)

UNDER HIS KILT: Ian Baird is the hero. Born and raised in Scotland but now resides in America (California at the opening of the book) as a curating consultant. (Say that five times fast.) He knows his way around dry wit, and better yet, women. Because of that he has rules about the kind of women he'll sleep with. No one inexperienced and definitely no one he's working with. Of course that means his heroine is Jocelyn, a curator he has to work with. Her thirtieth birthday is right there on the horizon. She has lived a life that is all about work, rarely any play. She convinces Ian to teach her how to play, even if it involves anal. Yes, I typed that with a straight face. (JUST GO WITH IT. I PROMISE IT PAYS OFF.) There's a dog, angst, a big miscommunication and some backstory involving mums. Not mothers because hey Scot.

Buy Links:

HER INSATIABLE SCOT: Tristan Baird is the hero, Ian's older brother. Scotland is his home until his brother calls in a favor. See, Tristan used to be a con man. He's turned legit and now works as a carpenter—repenting for past sins and doing his best to be honest. His brother wants him to get him a house and that involves a little white lie. I'm-an-married-man lie. I-can-pass-off-as-my-brother lie. Since he can't do this small con alone, Keri will be his partner in crime. Keri...a little science geeky, a lottle (Yes. I'm a writer. I can make up words) sexually insecure and honest because she can't lie to save her life. (JUST GO WITH THIS PLOT. I PROMISE IT PAYS OFF.) There's almost a step-by-step guide on how to con someone, sexual facts like how many nerve-endings reside in a c...never mind. Just read the book.

KILTED FOR PLEASURE: Callan Baird is a grouchy jackass aka the wounded hero of the series. His wife died, and unlike the other Bairds he's not afraid to love. He just doesn't wanna. This book takes the reader from California to Scotland, but don't worry. The plot is totally American i.e. the hero has medical debt despite the existence of NHS. (JUST GO WITH IT. I PROMISE IT PAYS OFF.) Victoria is a kick ass heroine who gives the hero a blank stare for all his emo. Even though he is grouchy, he can be a charming bastard. And a dirty one. There's a castle, an older Baird who likes to play matchmaker for his laddies, and this time I switch things up with a shitty da. Not father because hey Scot.

KILT TEASE: Here we have the special edition of UNDER THE KILT series. It's not as dirty or angsty, but it has Kate, never to be called Kitten. By the end of the first chapter you will completely understand why I say this book has Kate and that's all you need to know to buy it. And there's Quinton, Callan's younger brother, a former rugby player who is cocky and knows it. He likes his privacy, his money and he's wary of relationships. BUT he needs a temporary girlfriend for reasons. (JUST GO WITH IT. I PROMISE IT PAYS OFF.) Lastly, I finally have a Scotsmen in this series wear a kilt. SPOILER.

That's the recap. Consider yourself prepared for Marcus Baird aka the charming bastard. I'm letting a Baird near a virgin. Mwahahahaha. I had so much fun writing this book.

Again, TLDR: UNDER HIS KILT is free if you need to catch up. SCOT APPEAL will be out Feb. 11th. (Buy links for the entire series here. http://www.themelissablue.com/under-the-kilt-series.html)

Info about SCOT APPEAL below:
Marcus Baird has been called a lot of things: Scottish bastard, heartless, ruthless, but thanks to his new neighbor, he could add ginger buff guy. The ruthless part is true, at least. His current occupation as a handyman is a front to fuel a bidding war between his former employer and the next private equity firm in his sights—an undertaking that should have all his attention, but Ivy makes him an offer he cannot refuse.

When Ivy Stewart imagined losing her virginity, she was at least a decade younger, a yes away from marriage, and her perfect man would make sweet, slow love to her. Waiting for that dream to unfold has kept her watching life from the sidelines. She's done biding her time. It's foolhardy to choose Marcus. He's a man with secrets and an ugly past, but he's honest about what their relationship will be, charming and...he's very good with his hands.

Since Marcus took Ivy into his bed, he's lived a lie. He could be the man she needs. He isn't a workaholic and he doesn't really have a heart of stone. But it's only a matter of time before Ivy finds out the truth, and once again he's nothing but a Scottish bastard.

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