Yesterday, I announced on Twitter that I no longer wanted to be tagged in, talked to, or asked about anything relating to #CockyGate, book stuffing, or any issue affecting the romance “community”, barring something like discrimination or prejudice. It may have seemed like a flounce out of nowhere. In reality, it was a mixture of a few things that have been going on for a while and which finally came to a head.
Mainly, the catalyst was the question: “Where were you?”
Without naming names, here’s the situation: Author X, with whom I have acquaintances in common, was called out for a video she made last January. In the video, which she now claims was “satire”, this author mocked Author Y, who called out Kindle Unlimited page stuffing scams. Author X went on at length for thirty minutes, proclaiming that book stuffers are smart, that she doesn’t care about book stuffers because she’s not a KU author and it doesn’t affect her, and making fun of Author Y for using YouTube and her low follower count. This allegedly satirical video resulted in some of the Author X’s readers and some other authors––who were probably page stuffing, themselves––to attack and threaten Author Y, who then removed her videos.
In other words, someone tried to call out a very real issue affecting authors and readers and another author went to ridiculous lengths to silence her, all while admitting that the issue didn’t have any impact on her career, anyway.
So, it was your standard Indie Romance Monday.
Now that the page stuffing scandal has gotten even more traction, Author Y stepped up and said, hey, I was talking about this a while ago but Author X made a video and it got people to attack me so I shut up about it. Obviously, some people were angry about that. My take (on another person’s Facebook status about the situation; I did not post the original call out or any statuses of my own about the issue) was that the “satire” video failed and Author X should apologize and retract. Others believed the same. But Author X chose instead to shout about how no one was silenced (they were), that she doesn’t hurt people’s feelings (she did), and perhaps my favorite (and the only direct quote I’ll use here): “Don’t you find it strange that I ‘silenced’ her, yet she suddenly has the courage to come forward and share this video for everyone who didn’t see it before?”
I wanted to scream, “NO, YOU STUPID BITCH, IT’S NOT STRANGE! IT’S THAT SHE KNOWS SHE HAS SUPPORT NOW!”
But all of that shoulder-tightening nonsense aside, what really got me was that several people on a very contentious Facebook thread about it demanded to know “Where were you?” when this was going on in January if I cared so much about it.
Where was I?
I wasn’t carefully monitoring the social media feeds of every single romance author to see if someone was being mean to them.
Where was I?
I was probably over-extending myself trying to stick up for someone else on some other issue affecting our alleged “community”.
Where was I?
Not making sure to follow two authors I’d never heard of until very recently to make sure they were able to get along with each other because I am not the fucking Indie Romance Preschool Monitor.
That “Where were you?”, repeated twice in that thread, four times in private messages, was the perfect “gotcha!” for people who, until their friend was called out for her actions, were happy to use the #GetLoud hashtag to stick up for silenced or under-siege authors. But the second it was someone they liked, all the old standbys came out. She was joking! It was sarcasm! Doesn’t anyone understand satire? Gosh! And when people still said, “yeah, she might not have intended to hurt this author, but she did,” they immediately jumped to that “Where were you?” Because if you imply that a person didn’t care enough six months ago…
Six months ago, I didn’t know this was happening to Author Y. No one did, because she was afraid to speak up because she had been, what? SILENCED. Nobody knew what had happened to her because she didn’t have a large following at the time, so she had no support. Obviously, people didn’t hear about it then. That doesn’t mean they can’t care about it, now, or that people just not knowing something was going on means that it wasn’t a big deal and they should get a pass for their shitty behavior.
But no. “Where were you?”
Since I made a name for this blog by calling out the abuse and plagiarism in Fifty Shades Of Grey, I’ve been able to use it and my social media presence as a tool to support authors and readers who’ve run into situations where they’ve felt powerless. I’ve been able to call out bad author behavior and scams. I’ve been really lucky to have the voice that I have and the platform that I have. But I’ve also gotten a lot of shit for it. The owner of a now-defunct publishing house threatened me with physical violence. A publisher declined to release an anthology if I was included in it. I’ve been told gossip at bars at conferences about authors who’ve threatened to pull their books from publishers if they ever bought a manuscript from me. A guy threatened to make a necklace from my teeth. Rumors were started that I spent time in prison for gang violence and therefore shouldn’t be allowed at some events. Through trying to defend authors and readers, often after someone requested help from me, I have made myself persona non grata in my own industry. I don’t go to many conferences anymore because of my experiences at the few that I have gone to recently. Many times I spent evenings alone in my room while people who have been lovely and friendly to me for years in private wouldn’t chance being seen with me in public in front of other authors, agents, and publishers. At Romantic Times in Dallas, I spent several nights crying over the humiliation of receiving “the cut direct” from people who later tried to pull, “Oh, that was you? I didn’t even recognize you!” as though I didn’t have my name right there on my badge.
Interestingly enough, it was Anna Todd, an author I’d called out here on this blog and later apologized for, who was the kindest to me at that event. I’ll always be grateful to her for that.
And yesterday, at the height of all of this nonsense, I was asked, “Where were you?”
Because I haven’t done enough.
Because I don’t care enough.
Because I could be giving more.
One of the people who asked, “Where were you?” had even been sending me screenshots from private groups to keep me updated about Faleena Hopkins. She’d sent me things she’d asked me to post or spread the word about. She’d been fine with using me as a tool, but the moment I mildly disagreed with her friend, Author X, she’d demanded to know: “Where were you when this was happening back in January?”
Well, where the fuck were you, romance “community”, when I needed you? That’s right. You were nowhere. You were telling me not to worry about it. You were telling me that I was making too big a deal of it. You were telling me to make it into a joke, to laugh it off, while I suffered and struggled with suicidal ideation because I knew, just from the response of people in the industry that I’d once trusted, that I was alone and nobody had my back. But now I’m supposed to jump at every screenshot over every trivial matter that might arise. You want to come to me with your grievances and gossip, you want me to listen, but practically no one listened to me in my time of need and if they did, only one author expressed public support.
But I’m supposed to do more. I’m supposed to care about what’s happening in your snotty little private groups where you talk shit freely about other authors in comfortable anonymity. I’m supposed to give a shit if author A’s feelings got hurt by Author B over something incredibly small and stupid, while larger problems are going on. These demands are constantly streaming into my emails, DMs, Facebook messages, Tumblr inbox, anywhere someone thinks they can grab my attention and be granted my time, my anger, my energy.
Yesterday, when I announced on Twitter that I was resigning my unintentional post as attack dog, people sent very nice messages suggesting self-care and stepping away for my own mental health. These messages are appreciated and I don’t want to appear ungrateful by saying this, because I am so grateful for the support of readers and authors who are still out there, doing what they can. This post is not addressed to you. But I want to make it clear: this is not me stepping away for my mental health. My mental health is fine. This is me acting out the scene from Half Baked when Scarface quits his job. Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, you’re cool, and fuck you, I’m out. This is me quitting and walking out of the office backward with both middle fingers extended.
Where were you?
I was right here. I was doing what you asked me to do. I was wrecking industry connections and stifling my own career. I was taking time out from writing books and blogging the fun stuff that makes me happy. I was spending my days constantly despairing over the state of an industry I loved, losing ground while cheaters and disingenuously “nice” people prospered. That’s where I was.
I’ll tell you where I’m going to be from now on: writing my books, focusing on my career and working as hard as possible for my readers. Blogging the stuff that’s fun, not the stuff that’s going to make me dread getting online. Not answering emails trying to alert me to the latest crisis, problem, or pointless drama I don’t even want to be involved in.
Where were you?
Where the fuck were you?