Monday, 29 July 2013

Release Day: Apple Polisher!

Hooray, the day is finally here! Did you know I finished Apple Polisher in, like, October of last year? That's a long wait in ebook years to finally get some readers reading my book! (Which is basically ninety percent of the point of this enterprise.) I'm soooooo excited, especially with all the people who have taken the time to tweet me their reactions. I love it! I really hope you check out the book and that you enjoy it, even if Christian does get on your nerves sometimes.

First off, I got some good reviews!

LeAnn's Book Reviews: 4 stars
"a fun yet touching read about finding yourself and getting your priorities straight with a whole lot of hot, sexy man-love thrown in to make it an awesome read."

Book Reviews and More by Kathy: B
"a funny, sexy and thoughtful journey of self-discovery. Heidi Belleau perfectly balances real life issues with plenty of humor."

My Fiction Nook: 4 stars
"so much fun"

Saucy Wenches Book Club: 4 stars
"would make a great beach book for fans of m/m"

3 Chicks After Dark:
"Her storytelling is engaging, and I really enjoy her laid back, casual writing style."

I'm also on a blog tour! Today, you can stop by Cup-o-Porn to meet the boys of Rear Entrance Video, and be sure to check out Wonkomance tomorrow. For the entire tour schedule (six stops all together!), visit Riptide Publishing's website. I'm also giving away your choice of a CockyBoys membership (link NSFW!) or a fifteen dollar Riptide gift card!

This straight-A student has a dirty little secret.

Christian Blake dreams of being a kindergarten teacher, but making the grade means maintaining a squeaky clean image: no drinking, no drugs, no swearing, no sex. And definitely no falling for his new roommate—tattooed bad-boy Max, who may or may not be a drug dealer.

Most of all, it means no working at a porn store. But Christian’s aunt has cancer, and her beloved Rear Entrance Video will go bankrupt if Christian doesn’t take over managerial duties. Soon enough, Christian finds himself juggling sticky twenty-five cent peep show booths, a blackmailing employee,
and a demanding professor who likes to make an example of him.

And then there’s Max, who doesn’t know anything about the store, but hates Christian’s preppy sweater vests and the closet Christian forces him into when they’re together. Max just wants Christian to be himself—even though Max is keeping secrets of his own. Christian struggles to find the impossible balance between his real life and the ideal one he thinks a teacher needs to live . . . all while trying to keep his aunt’s dream alive without losing his own.

Riptide | Amazon | ARe | Goodreads

Friday, 19 July 2013

Why I Write Queer Romance

Once upon a time, I was a teenager. I know, I know. It's hard to believe, looking at the confident, composed, and mature late twenties woman standing before you now. Yes, once upon a time I was a teenager. I slammed doors and wrote in my diary about my broken heart and talked back to teachers and rolled my eyes at fast food customers.

And, like now, I was a writer and a bisexual.

I wrote constantly as a teenager. Constantly. I'm not saying anything I wrote was very good--because it wasn't, both in terms of technical skill and the fact that I was a huge weeaboo. But hey, we all gotta start somewhere and practice makes . . . better.

So anyway, I have basically always wanted to be an author and spent a good chunk of my teenager-ly free time writing. I had a couple of "universes" I wrote in, mostly shorts and vignettes, just trying out characterization and attempting to get out the various scenes and scenarios and characters that were gnawing at my brain.

One issue I always had writing was how so many of my characters veered . . . gay, or bisexual like me. I can think of at least four characters from my main writing who "wanted" to be queer. And do you know what I did?

I forced them to be straight, even when it sucked, even when the subtext was embarrassingly obvious, even though it went against what I wanted to write.

Because then, as now, I didn't want to write as "just" a hobby. (I put scarequotes around "just" because I don't think writing as a hobby is in any way lesser, in fact, it's fabulous and I regularly read stuff written purely for the satisfaction of writing and reading and sharing.)

Teenage me wanted to be a published author, and by my understanding of all the books I had ever read or seen, all the stories on television, in novels, in comics, everywhere, everything I had available to me, featured straight people. So I assumed that queer relationships, whether gay or lesbian or bisexual or including trans* or genderqueer people, weren't publishable. That nobody but me wanted to read them.

Yeah, of course the logical thing to think would be "If you want it, then somebody else must, too," but it's hard to be logical when you're a confused teenager who feels isolated and weird and like nobody cares about their life or their story. Not seeing yourself represented in media hurts, as anyone in any kind of minority, whether it's racial or ethnic or sexual or related to disability, already knows. It makes you feel like you don't exist, or that if you do, you don't matter. In romance? It means you don't deserve a happy ending.

So I wrote books with queer characters I forced to be straight, or cut queer characters, or sneakily relegated them to side roles thinking that at least that way, maybe people would forgive it because it's just a small part of the story. It made my writing total shit, and it made me absolutely miserable.

Of course, fast forward ten years and things have changed. Since I graduated, marriage equality is the law of the land in Canada, and is slowly gaining ground elsewhere. My old high school (where my best friend and I got called "dykes" because we were opinionated and not super feminine) now has a gay-straight alliance. Two of my ex boyfriends came out as gay and are now leading super fulfilling lives.

And me? I'm a published author, and I get to leave all the gay stuff in! I love writing M/M: it's everything I couldn't allow myself to write when I was a youth and feeling all alone. But more than just my M/M stuff, my ventures into M/F are going to be decidedly queer, too. Because for me, M/F doesn't have to mean heterosexual, and it shouldn't . . . at least not always. My upcoming novel The Dom Project features a bisexual hero (who has on-screen gay interaction!) and a heroine who identifies as straight, but has experimented sexually with women for her own fulfillment--ie: not to titillate men--and isn't ashamed or conflicted about it. My next planned M/F will feature an openly bisexual heroine.

Every book, I write for me, to make up for every compromise I ever made, to thumb my nose at every hurtful, painful assumption I ever had about literature and media. And damn does it feel good to prove myself wrong.

Here's to you, younger me. Livin' the dream.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

What's Up With Heidi?

I realized I haven't really updated on my life/writing in a long time, so I thought I would step down from my Princess Heidi duties and do a general update post. So here's the haps.

I'm sick.

Not like, with the flu. I have some manner of weird auto-immune thing that I've been dealing with since March/April and still hasn't been diagnosed. Most likely candidate at this juncture seems to be neurosarcoidosis. So that's fun. It's been a lot of ups and downs as flareups get bad enough for me to go to the ER, the ER prescribes me with prednisone, the symptoms go away, and then the prednisone runs out, and then the flareups return (with a vengeance). Last time I was sick I had a horrible painful skin condition, and joint pain, and neuro symptoms (audio-visual hallucinations, headaches), and heart problems, and eye problems. I spent twelve hours in the ER with a tachycardic heart (187 bpm at one point) and a fever of 40C. Then they put me on some heavy duty prednisone, my symptoms vanished, and then I got to see a specialist, who wrote in my file "A perfectly healthy presenting young woman with some very worrying symptoms." He was mad they've just been treating me rather than diagnosing the problem or sending me somewhere that somebody could. So now I have a letter stating that the next time I'm sick enough to get to the ER, they're to transfer me to a proper city hospital where I can be treated and diagnosed by specialists. No more bandaid solutions, woohoo! So right now I'm on the downswing in my health, basically waiting to get bad "enough." Right now I'm miserable, but not ER miserable, so that sucks.

Luckily I have family in town who are supportive, so I know if I get shipped out my daughter will be cared for. And that I'm a full-time writer thanks to my husband, because I wouldn't have been able to keep up with a teaching job this sick, nor would I have been able to continue teaching if I ultimately have to go on immunosuppressants. Finally, I'm lucky because if I do get flown out, the $10,000 air-vac flight will only cost me $250. This situation sucks, but I'm very aware of the fact that it could be so, so much worse.

Not that I don't whine. Constantly. I'm currently at the point where I'm very sick for about eight hours a day and functional or sleeping the rest of the time, which I why I'm currently able to write this post. Once I get very sick, I may disappear for a couple of days. Sorry in advance, although I'll try to get word out so nobody worries.  And to all of you who've seen my complaining on twitter, thanks for the well-wishes! It means a lot.

What I'm writing:

Anyway, thanks to my nasty illness, my writing hasn't been going as well (or as productively) as I'd hoped. I'm hopelessly behind my deadline on the third Rear Entrance Video book, but luckily everyone at Riptide has been really understanding about the fact that it's my illness really mucking things up. (It may also help I delivered the previous two early.) Anyway, I'm hoping once I get a diagnosis and a consistent treatment, REV3 will all come together. In the meantime, I'm plugging away with as much a day (or a week), as I can manage. It's a tough book, surprisingly psychologically complex, but I think it's going to be fabulous if I can pull it off. (If I can't pull it off, Sarah will red-ink it until it does, so I'm not too concerned. It'll work. Somehow.)

In other writing news, Rachel and I are making progress on Flesh Cartel season 4, which is called . . . (DUH DUH DUHN)


Ohhh yes, my little Flesh Cartel (um) fans, it's the big one. That title ain't a tease. (She says, having used headfake titles many times before.) This new season introduces new characters, new settings, and most importantly, a new love interest!!! You guys are gonna die. We're three episodes in, looking at likely five episodes total for the season, but maybe four. We also just submitted the cover art request, so you may wind up seeing some cover-age soon, too!

In other current writing news, I've been plotting all sorts of things with Sam Schooler, who is awesome.  We have two novel ideas: one a little bit literary with a twisted rentboy-meets-secret-garden plot, one an m/f trans* BDSM erotic short, and one a dark dark dark sci-fi with a creepy twist. I've also got a nice story plotted to eventually write with Lisa Henry, a schmoopy holiday-themed contemporary, because, y'know, neither of us wants to write dark ALL the time. (Just most of the time.) However, I can't do any of this until REV3 is finished. So, y'know, bug me to finish it. When I'm not sick. ;P

What I've got coming out:

This month: Apple Polisher
August: Flesh Cartel #9, Professor's Rule #2: An Inch at a Time (tentative)
September: Flesh Cartel #10
October: Wallflower (REV #2)
November: (Nothing scheduled as yet, but possibly the start of Flesh Cartel season 4?)
December: The Dom Project (M/F BDSM rom-com, writing as Heloise Belleau with Solace Ames and releasing from Carina Press)
Next year: Straight Shooter (REV#3), The King of Dublin (post-apocalyptic M/M romance written with Lisa Henry! *squeals*), Blasphemer, Sinner, Saint (M/M gothic horror with Sam Schooler)

So yeah, there's the haps. Now I'm going to go collapse in bed for ten hours so I can do the fever and pain thing all over again tomorrow. (Groan.) Wish me luck, and by luck, I mean hospitalization-worthy illness!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Respecting Readers: An Open Letter to Jessewave

Yeah, yeah, Jesse Wave, we know you don't like vaginas. You don't review M/M/F, or M/M with on-screen M/F or M/M/F sex scenes (even if the main pairing and ultimate HEA is M/M), or trans men with vaginas (even if their vaginas are never mentioned in a sexual context). I think your vagina policies are offensive, not to mention embarrassing coming from someone who otherwise has been a positive force for inclusivity in M/M romance (for example being a strong voice promoting POC characters and characters with disabilities in M/M). But it's your site, and it's your policy. You've allowed reviews of some of my books and disallowed others. I don't seek out reviews of my books from your website, nor do I follow your reviews of other books, but I haven't disowned you entirely. Live and let live. You stick to your part of the internet, and I'll stick to mine.

Every couple of months you like to remind people of your policies, driven by this need you have to vocally represent the "majority" of M/M readers who you say don't want to read vaginas either. Usually I subtweet you a bit with my fellow vagina-lovers but don't otherwise engage or acknowledge. But man, today you really got up in my craw with this:
the M/M genre is supposed to be for romances between gay men, unless things have changed while I wasn’t looking.

At this point I can only assume that some of our writers — and/or their publishers — don’t respect or care about M/M readers; if they did they wouldn’t insert into their M/M romances on-page het physical intimacies such as oral sex, full-on vaginal sex, or anal sex, with no warning in the blurbs.


Why are M/M readers treated so disdainfully? Are we not on par with het romance readers? M/M romance has been around for a decade, so why can’t our authors get it right? Clearly we are not respected because if we were this wouldn’t happen, and so often. Would authors insert graphic gay sex scenes in het romances? Not f*****g likely, unless the book is a ménage or a bi romance, and do you know why? Two reasons:

1) They know that het romance readers would not tolerate this and would tell them to put their book where the sun doesn’t shine; and

2) They respect het romance readers so it wouldn’t even occur to them to include gay sex in a het romance. Definitely a double standard.
Okay, let's leave aside her assertion that no author would ever include gay sex scenes in "het" romances. I know that's not true--after all, my first M/F novel coming out with Carina this December has a bisexual hero in an on-screen sexual relationship with a man--as do plenty of other queer or ally readers/reviewers/writers of M/F romance who know what they're talking about and read widely in the genre. Are there het readers and writers who get angry about gay sex? Yes, but they're what we call bigots. I don't write for bigots, full stop. I don't read authors if I learn that they write for bigots. And really, "But bigots do it!" is a terrible defence for your own behaviour. So there goes that. The "double standard" is a false construction Wave is waving around like a red flag to try and keep the conversation from rightfully including her clear internalized misogyny, transphobia, and biphobia.

So now that I've taken care of that piece of nonsense, I'd like to talk about this accusation she's levelled at me, and at authors like me: that we don't respect or care about readers and that we're treating readers disdainfully by including the occasional M/F relationship or sex scene in our otherwise M/M novels.

Well, let me set the record straight. I respect the hell out of you guys. I love you. I care about you. I adore you. I want to make you happy. I have buckets of respect for you. You're my entire livelihood. You're my raison d'être. Jesse Wave is not my reader, and that's bloody fine by me.

Jesse Wave says respect begins and ends at vaginas. To me, respect looks a little differently. . .

1. I work with publishers I know are going to edit the hell out of my work. 

You guys deserve a polished product. You paid for it, and hell, even when it's free, the time you spend reading still counts as far as I'm concerned. Venessa Guinta at Loose Id, Sarah Frantz and Rachel Haimowitz at Riptide, they put my stories through the ringer, and that's why I choose (and have chosen) to work with them. Yes, editing to that standard is hard fucking work, but I respect you enough to put that work in. Period.

2. I keep my nose out of reader spaces.

I don't harass reviewers for not liking my books. I don't encourage other people to harass reviewers for not liking my books. I don't comment publicly on reviews, for the most part. I try my best not to spam or add you to mailing lists you didn't agree to or send you annoying event invitations on GR or FB. If I participate in GR groups or twitter conversations, I try not to spend the entire time shilling.

3. I give back.

I write free stories for you, and I love it. I write stories based on requests, sometimes I consider reader input when I'm writing stories (for example, "Salting the Earth" came from people reading the WIP snippets of The Druid Stone on my blog saying "OMG Finnbheara non-con I want it!"), I write PWP of characters from my series and sell them at a loss, I release deleted scenes or short vignettes that don't go in a novel but might be interesting to fans of my books. Is this self-serving? Of course, it's great marketing! But then, so is everything on this list, ultimately, because respecting your readers sells books on the whole. I truly believe that. Being a jerk benefits no one.

But more than that, I respect this genre enough to try and better it in any way I can. I think it needs to be more diverse, so I write books with diverse characters. I think it needs higher standards of editing, I only submit to houses with editors I know I can trust. I think it needs nice covers, I spend time going over and over again with cover artists until I get something representative and attractive. (Um, mostly. But then, art's subjective!) Ultimately, I try my best to be a part of the genre I want M/M to be. Professional, fun, sexy, smart, inclusive. All of it. I'm doing my best.

4. I love hearing you love my work.

Seriously, it fills me with joy when you @ me on twitter, or I see your thoughtful or gushing (or both!) review of one of my books on Goodreads. You know why that feels so good to me? Because I respect your opinion. Your opinion matters, and seeing you happy makes me happy. If I don't respect you--cough, Jesse Wave--then your opinion doesn't matter. It doesn't affect my mood, it doesn't change how I write or conduct business. It's as simple as that.

5. Above all else, I put the story first.

Because you guys deserve the best books I can write. Writing good books means putting the story--not the opinions of anyone else--first. Do I take your thoughts into consideration? Hell yeah I do. You like romantic comedy from me? I write you romantic comedy! You like that series? I write you some more of it! But only if it serves the story. Only if I can make it work. That means I don't write sex just because it sells, I write it because it fits the story. POC characters? Female characters? No sex? Lots of sex? Sex with ladyparts? Flashbacks? Action scenes?

It's all done with the primacy of the story in mind. Do I sometimes get it wrong? Yeah, of course. Sometimes I cut a sex scene that shouldn't have been cut. Sometimes I drag out an arc that needs to be kept shorter. But I do these things as genuine mistakes and with the best of intentions, not because I'm trying to manipulate, or make more money, or insult you or disrespect/disdain you, or even pander to you, or any of it.

The story comes first, because you deserve that.

And that's what respecting readers looks like to me.