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JAN 23 : free sandboxes for all...?

Welcome to dontkickmycane (I've always loved that ID!), also known as published author Jaime Samms.

I hesitate to describe too restrictedly what and where she publishes - you'll see why, from her discussion below! - but seriously, whatever the genre, IMO she's a fine, intelligent, evocative, perceptive writer. And hey, I'm not alone in that opinion ^__^.
To see her work in print now is a fabulous thrill and opportunity for all us readers.

She currently has two m/m titles out at Freya's Bower, Poor Boy and The Runaway, these are BUY links so you can surrender immediately to your temptations! LOL
Plus Moving Day is contracted and cover-provided (VERY striking!), release date to be confirmed.

Blurb for Moving day:

Mike Paloso has lost count of the number of times he's helped childhood friend Jay Charles move. Jay's never had much of a home to call his own, content to follow his boyfriends around, but each breakup means a new pad, until the next guy comes along. This time, it's different. There's been no breakup, and no new pad. Instead, there's one hell of a fixer-upper, and not just the house Jay's inherited from his latest, late, beau. This time, Mike has to find a way to repair Jay's broken dreams and mangled heart.
With every reno, there comes some demo, but Mike's not sure he's ready to dismantle his life to rebuild Jay's.

Jaime's website, The Fictional World of Jaime Samms is HERE.

And today...? She's posted about the fascinating topic of labels, in both life and writing.
Hate them or find them useful? Empowering or restrictive? Important, or just plain unnecessary?
Read on, and see what Jaime thinks...

Defining Our Sandboxes

There were so many things I was going to talk about.

My beginnings in fandom...been done eloquently by erastes here (Though I started out in a very different arena, namely, House M.D.)

Then, I thought about talking about what a small community this genre is, and how important it is to be nice, even when we're not feeling particularly nice...And jgraeme2007 beat me to it here.

I also considered working through my dual life as a writer and a reviewer, and once again, emily83176 did a wonderful job of it here, and really, I couldn't think of anything to add, so....

I thought I'd take on a (maybe) contentious topic: Labels.

I have, in the past, professed my dislike of labels. They tend to be restrictive and limiting, in much of my experience. By their nature, they are liable to exclude, compartmentalize, and draw lines in the sand, and I'm a fan of free sandboxes for all, you know?

The funny thing about human nature is that we live on a continuum – whether we're talking about hair colour, height, or sexuality, these are all things beyond our control, and no two people are the same, there is no definitive 'red-head', 'tall person', or anything else. It's all relative. Certainly I'm happily married and my husband is straight, as I define the term. (I think the idea of being with a man might actually cause him physical discomfort, despite how much I might want to watch that...) I wouldn't, in a million years, put myself in the same place on that continuum as him, and yet the whole world is very much more comfortable calling us a heterosexual couple, true or not. How is that funny, you ask? Well, as diverse as we are, we still demand boxes to fit everyone into. I have always said I resist boxes. But...

I still call myself a wife, because I am, a mother, I am that too, a home schooler, though I defy you to come into my home and find anything that even remotely resembles the classroom. I even call myself an environmentalist, both when I'm stirring the compost heap and when I'm packing that clumping cat litter into a plastic bag for the curb. See? Continuum. (And yes, that was just for effect. I do not stir the compost, hubs does.)

So what does any of this have to do with writing? Just this: In order to promote, market, sell, anything, it needs to get a label. No one knows what to call what we write, because there are so many different forms, it comes from so many diverse authors who come from so many different backgrounds. Is it M/M romance, GLBT romance (My personal preference, because as labels go, it seems more inclusive of both my female, fence-sitting self, and my gay male characters – there I go with the labels again...) gay romance, slash, manlove, yaoi, there are just so many choices, and none of them really cover it all. I know this is an old, old debate, and not one I'm really going to get into, though you all should feel free to discuss it amongst yourselves, if you want. Where I'm going with it is down my own path to self discovery about how I have come to terms (sort of) with this whole labelling business.

The other day, I was in a chat room with a few people I am only just beginning to get to know, and we were chatting about what everyone does when they aren't writing. There was a chorus of I'm a [fill in the blank with a profession]. I thought about it for a while, trying to figure out what to call myself. A house wife? No, because that would mean I clean and cook and all manner of domestic things that in fact I generally fail at, and who wants to define themselves by all the things that annoy them, that they don't do well or care very much about? A home schooler? Well, yes, but that certainly doesn't fill my day, and really, it's just a natural extension of my basic need to buck authority and the system. It's kind of a by-product of my personality, rather than something that makes me who I am. I do work for the government five months of the year, but that's just an income. That doesn't have much to do with who and what I actually am. (In fact, it's kind of ironic, all things considered). What defines my existence as me, rather than as someone's wife/mother/daughter/sister/you-get-the-idea?

I write. It was a bit of a shock to look at my life, at my love, my bliss, and realize, when asked, that I have already labelled myself. I'm a writer. O.O Who knew. Even hubs, when asked, will tell people I'm a writer, and he cringes if asked to actually read what I write. Lovely of him to announce to people that I'm a writer, then beat a hasty retreat to the bar and leave me to explain exactly what I write and why. *Insert eye-roll here*

So I have come to the tentative realization that all my railing against labels might have been more a disassociation with my inner self. Perhaps it isn't the labels that are inherently bad after all, just the way in which they are used. I don't know. I'm not convinced of this, by any means, but I do wonder. Can we actually interact without them? Or do we need them to function as a society?

I know without the GLBT romance label in front of my work, and the work of so many other authors out there, I would likely not have come into contact with as many wonderful, generous people as I have over the past few years. I likely would have met other wonderful, generous people, I'm sure, but I'd be playing in a different sandbox, and I might not be as happy as I am.

So. Your turn. What do you think about this whole labelling business? Necessary? A plague? A way to find like souls in a very diverse world? Do you like the label you live under? Or do you find yourself wishing just being you could be enough?

And come and chat with us both on Feb 12 at
Coffee Time Romance Latte Lounge.


Follow this month with Clare (yes, it's all about the MEEEE...):

Week 4:

Jan 16 : jenre discusses what she loves best about m/m fiction...
Jan 17 : clare posts YouTube frippery and her brief skirmish with a recording career...
Jan 18 : report from the prestigious *cough* OTP Con UK 2009...
Jan 19 : emily chats about the principles of good reviewing...
Jan 20 : josh lanyon talks about the proper place for your green-eyed feelings...
Jan 21 : sharon offers great advice and support for all of us trying to live a healthy life...
Jan 22 : merith writes about the slow but steady epiphany of love...

Jan 09 : ravensilver describes the creativity of independent manga publishing - and the challenges...
Jan 10 : kitzheng talks about Kink...
Jan 11 : chrissy munder shares the struggles of writing, NC17 penguins and mantyhose...
Jan 12 : 1more_sickpuppy bares her soul about confessing her love for m/m fiction...
Jan 13 : erastes talks about taking that leap from fanfiction to the 'original' world...
Jan 14 : meet my Muse, the 'man' who has way too much power in my writing house...
Jan 15 : Sloane Taylor heats up those chill new year nights...

Jan 01 : the Cheeky Cherubs welcome us to 2009 with a pithy verse or two and the threat of piercings...
Jan 02 : sweet, sexy fiction from lilzazu, all about the perennially tricky problem of a sticky shift...
Jan 03 : excellent editing tips for all authors who ever wondered whether to be cruel to be kind to their prose, hosted by jolilightner...
Jan 04 : Clare pimps the fabulous I DO anthology, now available in ebook and all proceeds to Lambda...
Jan 05 : abstractrx ponders the changing role of Romance and its reflection of - or on?! - the society around it...
Jan 06 : FREE FICTION from me and my friends!
Jan 07 : Jordan Castillo Price discusses what tempts us to try out a new author...
Jan 08 : Clare rambles on about perceived plagiarism and posts excerpts of her Torquere titles...

Want to grab a day to pimp, pose or pontificate? (just a couple left now...!)
Comment HERE!!


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 23rd, 2009 01:00 pm (UTC)
As a reader, I like labels, especially genre labels. It's nice to have some idea of what I'm buying. I prefer the lables m/m and f/f as they are more specific than GBLT. Now I appreciate that some books can cross several genres, but at least if I know roughly what I'm getting myself into then I'm happy. I once bought a book labelled a m/m erotic paranormal and it turned out to have some rather nasty horror elements to it that I wasn't prepared for. That made me a bit cross that I'd been misled into spending money on something I would not have bought if I'd known.

Away from literature, I'm not so keen on labels. Especially when they are used to judge you. I spent 5 years at home raising the kids and had to encounter a number of various reactions to being a 'stay at home mum'. Most people labelled me as a housewife, but, like you, I'm not so enamored of the housework side of that. You can joke and call yourself a 'domestic goddess' but, again that suggests that you spend a lot of time on boring housework. In the end, I was quite relieved to get a job, where I can at least now tell people I am an administrator - even if it's only part time!
Jan. 23rd, 2009 03:13 pm (UTC)
In the end, I was quite relieved to get a job, where I can at least now tell people I am an administrator - even if it's only part time!

This is the area where labels take me into dark territory. I am the second youngest of nine siblings, and most definitely the most free-spirited. I struggled under a lot of assumptions of people who decided they knew all about me and who did all sorts of mis-labelling. For a very long time, I lived my life either trying to live up to labels that just weren't anything to do with me, or live down labels that just weren't anything to do with me, and feeling as though I went completely unrecognized among my own family. Until I stopped trying to live by how others defined me, I was miserable. It was a lot easier to stop looking for approval and demand acceptance than I thought it would be, and at the same time, a lot harder, because now, I make my own definitions as to who I am, and not everyone in my life is happy about that. Oh well. I'm happier, and that's what matters.
Jan. 23rd, 2009 01:00 pm (UTC)
...and who wants to define themselves by all the things that annoy them, that they don't do well or care very much about?

Oh, I like that. I like that a lot.

As far as labelling itself? To me it would seem to be a necessary evil in our world if I consider the main purpose of a label as being a way to form an instant connection or bridge between you and another, hopefully knocking out the several layers of tentative interaction needed to see what's what.

The flaw with that concept is usually the labels are incorrect on anything deeper than a surface level which puts us right back to feeling our way through several layers of interaction.

So, both necessary and useless? As complex as humans themselves?

Here I go - off and wandering without my morning coffee. LOL.

Edited at 2009-01-23 01:00 pm (UTC)
Jan. 23rd, 2009 03:22 pm (UTC)
I go - off and wandering without my morning coffee. LOL.

Eeep! No morning coffee!?! Crazy woman! lol

You know, you're right in what you say. The danger comes, I think, when we believe the label and find out it isn't right. How much we can miss out on if we don't take the time to get to know people because of the label, rather than because of the person.

Even in describing our work, we might be losing an audience without realizing it. I have a friend who never read GLBT books, thinking she was just too conservative to ever enjoy them. She's part of my crit group, and so had no choice but to read my stuff, and while she wouldn't say she's a fan of the genre as a whole, she won't just dismiss it any more as something she could never enjoy. And she might have missed out all because of the label. I'm the same way about anything labeled as historical. History makes me twitch. Doesn't mean I won't enjoy reading it if I look past the label.
Jan. 24th, 2009 03:35 pm (UTC)
In theory, I dislike labels. In practice, I rely on them. When I first discovered "gay mysteries" (back in the days of long ago when Amazon was a fledgling enterprise), I hunted for every single gay mystery I could find. If these books had not been labeled, I would not have found them. There are simply too many mysteries for anyone to check each and every one of them.

At one point in my life I had read every single gay mystery ever published. There was not a series or a writer I was not familiar with. Now, especially with M/M that's changed, and our definitions of what is a "gay mystery" have changed with it.

The idealist in me regrets the need for labels, the pragmatist is exasperated with those who fail to label properly. I try and reserve my labeling to the inanimate objects in my life. People are far too complex and diverse -- labeling people is a dangerous and foolish practice. You never know what might pop out of a mislabeled person.
Jan. 24th, 2009 06:11 pm (UTC)
lol @ (back in the days of long ago

Surely you exaggerate!

I should have just had you write the post. You've hit what I was trying to say squarely on the head.

A book is a book is a book. Once it's written and published, it is what it is. A person is an organic, growing, changing creature. Even if a label might loosely fit now, who's to say in a year, it will be remotely accurate? Then there is always the possibility that slapping a label on someone before you really know that person might just turn into a disaster. You can miss so much about a person, looking only at the label society has placed on them, and that would be a shame.
Jan. 24th, 2009 06:39 pm (UTC)
*hear hear*

I've really enjoyed this post and the responses to it. Thanks Jaime!
Jan. 25th, 2009 04:08 am (UTC)
Thank you very much for having me over, Clare, and for this entire month of very interesting posts. It's been a blast seeing what other writers have had to say.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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