state of the Hall – march edition

So, taking a brief break from blogging about games in various media to deploy some updates.

I guess the major piece of news is that Pansies has been nominated for a RITA this year in the contemporary romance (long) category. Obviously I’m super honoured and overjoyed about this, and I’m extending my congratulations to everybody else who has been nominated.  I’m also really delighted that Lorelie Brown’s Far From Home has been nominated in contemporary romance (short). Last time I kinda fucked this up but I’m pretty sure it’s the first time an f/f book has made the short list. I feel this is a really big deal because it challenges the conventional wisdom that romance readers aren’t interested in f/f and suggests that the broad spectrum LGBTQ+ stories are being taken more seriously. So yay!

While I’m very pleased about the increase in LGBTQ+ representation, it would be remiss of me to ignore the fact that other marginalised groups are doing less well. This really isn’t something it’s my place to talk about for a million and five reasons but this post on Romance Novels for Feminists has a good summary of the situation. I do believe that the RWA has made a sincere commitment to address diversity issues but change takes time and it only happens at all if people keeping pushing for it.

As always, it’s genuinely not clear how best to address this kind of thing, especially since I suspect (and I’m working on the basis on no real evidence here) that the poor representation of POC characters and authors is more likely to be a consequence of unconscious bias, rather than overt racism. A predominantly white community of judges are less likely to identify with and therefore respond positively to stories that aren’t about white people, but wouldn’t think of themselves as “marking down” books with POC protagonists.  And that’s a borderline insoluble problem because it involves getting a large number of essentially anonymous people to admit the existence of a problem that many of them will be unable to see and then to do something about it in a way that quite a lot of those people will instinctively feel constitutes “special treatment”.

And I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about this and I’ve now talked about this for a couple paragraphs but I think it’s important to ask the question: what can I, as an individual, do? And, obviously, this will be very different depending on who you are but I think basically what you can do is this:

  • Recognise that no matter who you are, you have unconscious biases. This doesn’t make you a bad person, but it can affect your behaviour if you’re not aware of it.
  • If you happen to be a RITA judge, be aware that these biases might be affecting your scores and seriously consider whether you should be giving higher marks to books that you may have responded less strongly to simply because they happen not to be about a person in whom you recognise yourself.

In other news, the first book in my new bildom trilogy, How To Bang A Billionaire will be out in April. Like most of my things, it’s quite different from most of the rest of my things. It was basically my attempt to do the kinky billionaire thing. I had a lot of fun with it and I hope you do too.

Finally, an update on Spires. People have been asking me what’s coming next for the series for a while now, especially since the RITA nomination. After some careful consideration and a long discussion with my fabulous agent, I’ve decided to go down the self-publication route for Spires (and probably, also, for Kate Kane when the rights revert to me). I’ll be continuing to publish by more conventional means as well, but this seems like the best way forward for Spires specifically.

Sarah Lyons has agreed to stay on as editor so from a reader’s perspective there should be literally no change. From my perspective, it’s about having slightly more control over the project and slightly more freedom to write across a diverse spectrum. I have a number of other publishing deadlines coming up so I’m looking at timescale in the region of sometime 2018 (maybe late 2017 if I really get my act together) for this. My apologies to people who are keenly awaiting the next book, but I’m intending to produce Spires books more consistently from then on. The book I’m writing currently is the story of Dom the Dom (from For Real) – provisionally titled Rough Ride. After that I’ve got plans for some, all, or in the event of extremely unexpected circumstances none of the following:

  • Angel’s book – provisionally titled The Shenanigans Project
  • Niall’s book – provisionally  titled Fool’s Gold (ahh, d’you see)
  • A book about a character you haven’t met yet – provisionally titled As Yet Untitled(ahhh, d’you see again)

I also have outlines for books about Jasper, Marius, Grace and at least two other characters not yet introduced. So Spires should be going strong for a good while yet, as will many, many other projects, including the next two bildom books, and my Regency trilogy.

If you would like a sneak peak at some of an early draft of Rough Ride do sign up for my newsletter. Which is a thing I have. That you might not know about. Because I never talk about it.

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55 Responses to state of the Hall – march edition

  1. cmc says:

    Your agent DOES sound fabulous. I bet she also has much better taste in shoes than some people give her credit for.

  2. Ellie says:

    Congratulations again on the RITA nomination! Pansies was such a delight to read.
    And yay for so many more Spires stories!

  3. EmmaT says:

    Dom the Dom gets a book! Yeah! He seemed like a stand-up guy. I’m glad he is getting his HFN or HEA. And Niall! Woohoo!

  4. Lennan Adams says:

    All great news! Off to read the Romance Novels for Feminists post.
    P.S. That is one cool bildom. (ahh d’you see…)

  5. Pam/Peejakers says:

    Yaaay!! I’m so excited, this is the best news! ❤❤❤ *hugs*

  6. Gillian says:


  7. Shelby R. says:

    HUGE congratulations on being a Rita finalist for the second time (EEEEEE!)–and for a novel that had a huge impact on my heart. Love hearing all your excellent news! As for the upcoming stuff–I could use a little AJH storytelling, so PLEASE WRITE FAST.

  8. Darla Sharp says:

    Congratulations on the RITA nomination! And, how lovely to read such a newsy update. Thank you! <3

  9. Alex says:

    There is no other writer in the English language that I enjoy reading more than you, right now, and I just wanted to say it somewhere. Even your blog posts.

    I don’t really know what to do about it, other then relentlessly read and re-read your stories. Sometimes re-reading individual sentences, over and over, wondering how the FUCK you’re of the same planet as me. Maybe you aren’t. You’re just that good.

    So, uh, thank you, and I worship you(r writing), and in no way should that make you feel bashful. 🙂

    • I’m afraid I’m culturally and psychologically mandated to be bashful but thank you so much for … gosh. This is an exceptionally kind thing to say and I’m slightly overwhelmed. I’m so happy to hear you enjoy my books.

  10. SandyCo says:

    Congratulations on the RITA nomination! It would be amazing if you won again. 🙂

    Dom the Dom! Yay! I’m looking forward to reading it – and everything else you write and publish as well.:) If I counted correctly, there will be nine more Spires books?! Wow!

    I pre-ordered “How to Bang A Billionaire” before it even had a title. A bunch of us did that, and it began trending on Amazon. I’m happy we’ll finally all get to read it very soon!

    Thanks so much for this update. It sounds like everything is going very well for you this year so far.

    • I’m not sure my heart could take it, honestly. Also the nominees are always super strong so winning always feels completely impossible. I’m still waiting to be told last year was an administrative error.

      I hope you enjoy HTBAB 🙂

  11. MillyMollyMandi says:

    Today’s post has so many things to squee about. I’m so glad Sarah is staying with you as editor for your Spires series, those books have such a beautiful feel to them so it’s great she is the one working on them. I’m really looking forward to Dom and Jasper’s stories, being inside Jasper’s head in particular is going to be a fascinating journey.

    • I’m so happy Sarah is able to stay on as well. She’s been really instrumental in shaping the series.

      I’m slightly nervous of writing Jasper, tbh. In Vino was kind of rough going. I think my reaction to the inside of Jasper’s head was something like “oh my god, it’s awful in here.”

      • Ellie says:

        You know Niall is my favourite and I’m most excited about his book but now Jasper comes close second 🙂 Saying his mind is an awful place, does it mean he is worse than Milord? His would be some special kind of magic story 🙂

  12. Susan says:

    Congratulations! And…. what is bildom?

  13. “Sometimes re-reading individual sentences, over and over, wondering how the FUCK you’re of the same planet as me.”

    I agree with Alex. Except, you have to ignore all this because it can make you self-conscious when you write. Don’t be, it’s just what your brain does when you aren’t looking.

    As for POC – we need lots more POC writers and readers. I can write F/F and M/F and M/M and all kinds of refrigerator magnet variations. But I can’t make myself have lived and become part of another culture. I can’t delve intimately into the psyche of people shaped by a life I can’t imagine because that’s just not possible. Besides, it seems, presumptuous to me.

    But then, I couldn’t describe a woman’s skirt as made of silk challis until I went to a fabric store and handled some. Unfortunately, I can write about sex with a POC – but it doesn’t automatically translate into intimate knowledge.

    I say we search Zon for the titles, find a few good writers and positively review the fuck out of ’em. Tweet their shit. It’s an underserved niche, they say, and very profitable.

    There’s still room at the top. Unless our host starts writing really fast and wins all the awards and takes up all the seats.

    Which is actually okay with me.

    • I think writing people who are marginalised in ways you are not personally marginalised is really difficult, and different people have different tolerances here, and are comfortable doing different things (and, equally, different members of those marginalised groups to which you do not belong will feel differently about you, a person who is not marginalised in the way that they are marginalised, writing about them).

      Speaking wholly personally, I draw a fairly clearly distinction in my mind between a book about an [x] person and a book about being [x]. I have written books with lesbian protagonists, black protagonists, and genderqueer protagonists despite being none of those things myself but what I’ve consciously tried to avoid doing is saying anything about the experience being black, or a lesbian, or genderqueer (insofar as any of those can be described as ‘experiences’ – a notion which itself problematically reductionist). And, obviously, I’m not trying to declare I did any of those things well. And, in fact, I am fully aware that some members of the groups I have written about don’t like the way I wrote about them. But all I can do is my best.

      Basically my take on it is that if you write a novel about women in Islam and you’re not a Muslim woman that feels a lot to me like cultural appropriation. Whereas if you write a book about a Muslim woman who fights vampires or falls in love with a billionaire then that’s just acknowledging that Muslim women can be in the same sort of books as other people. Which, as long as you don’t make a complete, offensive hash of it, I feel is a positive. Individual Muslim women may feel differently.

      • Jody-Anne says:

        I was writing a comment in my head after reading your blog, and came to the Comments to try to find help in expressing them. I am so happy to hear Pansies has been nominated for a RITA, and yah for more Spires and how on earth are you going to redeem Nialls! But I really wanted to speak about the portion On lack of diversity. And there it is this, the reply you made. Articulated some of my thinking around writers and why they write what they do. Did not read it, but NR Walker was slayed in reviews for Milk, about a Masai or Zulu man, I cannot remember, as she is not. But she writes great m/m, and she is not a man… where is the line? What is needed is more people of colour writing in this genre, making a mainstream story at first, perhaps? or just cutting loose on issues faced by their colour/ culture? Adira mentioned Zon, I don’t know what it is, I think the idea of finding some good writers and then reviewing the everloving shit out of them is a good one.
        Love your blog, love your books, thank you for your writing.

      • Exactly. Precisely. Thank you. -About an X person, not about being an X person.-

        I was very nervous writing On His Knees because I’m pretty sure in the dictionary under “heterosexual” there’s a picture of me. But the character did what he did with the guy he did it with, so wtf? I’m just the writer.

        Then I got a review. One. From someone who said: this reflects my experience. And I cried. Because it doesn’t get better than that.

        You wrote the most perfect depiction of being a mentally ill person I ever read. And I know whereof I speak. But I cannot assume that about the writer.

        Sometimes I feel like I’m channeling somebody from the Other Side who wants to have their say.

  14. Bee Reader says:

    I’m so glad you’re continuing the spires series. I love your universe. And Dom the dom… <3
    Also congratulations on the RITA nomination.

  15. Annie Maus says:

    Much deserved. Your writing is a cut above. Thank you for turning out the insides of my brain as you reveal characters!

  16. Bungalow Barbara says:

    Congratulations on the RITA nomination! And on being a Lambda Literary award finalist, too!

    So glad to hear there will be more Spires stories. Dom the Dom seemed like a nice guy – I would have been Team Dom if Toby hadn’t been so much who Laurie needed.

    I once knew a cat named AYUN for As Yet UnNamed (ahh, d’you see). It ended up being her permanent name. Wouldn’t recommend that for a book, though.

    • Oops, I forgot the Lambda but there’s only so much self-congratulation I’m comfortable putting in one blog post. Obviously, it’s really nice to get nominated for stuff but I’m fighting an ancient cultural bias against blowing one’s own trumpet.

      I’m glad people responded so positively to Dom 🙂 I’d say I’d try to avoid ending up with a book called AYUN but considering I’m stuck with a character called Dom-the-Dom I wouldn’t hold out much hope.

  17. Lotta Knutar says:

    So much good news! Awards nominations! More Spires! With so many ideas and characters! *all the whales* Also, is it April yet?

    Re: diversity in books, I admit I am not good at this, at least not yet. But as you say, knowing your biases helps. I have started by reducing middle-aged, straight, cis, white guy authors, and up the number of female and minority authors, but I still have a ways to go.

    • Yay! Thank you 🙂

      I think with diversity stuff it’s really difficult because, on the one hand, you don’t want to feel like you’re being tokenistic. But, on the other hand, it does often take a conscious effort to avoid reaching for the easiest option. And I know that’s something I often do myself.

  18. Araminta says:

    I’m so excited about all The Spires books. And I know the wait will be worth it! Talking of waiting – I have been trying to be patient about How To Bang A Billionaire but it’s still not available to pre-order the kindle version at Amazon UK. Are you just going to go straight for the release date as the time is approaching fast?

    • I’m so sorry it’s not available on Kindle UK yet – this is kind of an Amazon/publisher thing that I don’t entirely understand, but I’m sure it’ll be up soon.

  19. AKH/Em Anthony says:

    Congrats on the RITA nom! It’s pretty cool that Santino Hassell + Megan Erickson got one for their m/m novel too. Loving the LGBTQ+ rep!

    • Thank you for the kind words 🙂

      There’s also HelenKay Dimon for Mr & Mr Smith in rom sus – so that I think that makes 4 LGBTQ+ books in total. Which is, y’know, a start and (if I’m remembering right but I could be mistaken here) one better than last year.

  20. I think the fact that Beverly Jenkins is receiving an RWA Lifetime Achievement award is a step in the right direction.

    And cream always rises to the top. Hence the back-to-back RITA nominations. Just sayin’. 🙂

    But you are right. We should all be more aware of our own biases. Perhaps introducing underrepresented characters in a more mainstream book is one way to circumvent unintentional biases. I had never encountered a transgender character until Byron Kae in Prosperity. And all I can say is I Want More. So much so that I will now seek out these titles. Just a thought.

    And more Spires. Best news all day. 🙂

    • This is all quite difficult stuff. I mean, obviously Beverly Jenkins deserves the shit out of her Lifetime Achievement award but there is part of me that is very conscious that large, artistic institutions have a habit of using lifetime achievement awards to paper over the fact that certain people should really have won more awards than they have. I mean, from what I can tell, and I have gone and checked the archives quite carefully … um … she’s never actually won a RITA. And that’s sort of absurd. Fundamentally, I should not have won more RITAs than Beverly Jenkins. That just fucks with my head. And should fuck with anyone’s head, really.

      To put it another way, yes, it’s a step in the right direction but actually I sort of feel it’s got to the point that the discussion shouldn’t be “what direction are we going?” so much as “what mode of transport are we using?” because there’s a long way to go and one step a year is not going to get us there. We need a freakin’ motorbike.

  21. WMDreader says:

    Thanks for the nest I would like to put my plug in for stories re Grace…I almost think stories of Grace might be nice cumulative way to look at her life.

    Meanwhile, whatever you write I will read and love…And Congratulations on the well deserved recognitions…And For Real was awesome, a favorite re-read. I was engaged b many characters in it, so I am glad to see it still inspires you.

  22. Annie Crow says:

    Well. First of all, huge congratulations on Pansies. I think this is my favorite of all of yours I’ve read so far and I had been wondering if it would win. And of course I’m thrilled to know there will be more Spires books.

    Then, thanks for the discussion and the references. I look for a range of authors in all the genres I read, especially in regards to race and also country of origin. I’ve had the most difficulty doing so in romance and this has been frustrating. So I’m grateful for the reference to RNFF (and from her to SBTB) and I now have a couple more authors for my monthly book-buying splurge.

    And the Lorelei Brown was a sweet story so I was glad to see that win too.

    I don’t know if you know this but you were referenced in an article with Sonali Dev (Bollywood Bride) last year – it was an interview in The Chicago Reader that also looked at questions of diversity in romance writing. There was a sidebar with her top 5 recommendations and Glitterland was one of them, which is how I came across your work in the first place.

  23. Gwen says:

    I was just thoroughly enjoying re reading Pansies. I am so thrilled for you!
    While we wait for banging millionaires, can I offer this lovely earworm gift? Beep beep.

  24. Congratulations, Alexis for being nominated two times in a row – in different categories though which makes it in my opinion all the more ‘special’. As a seriously huge fan of your writing and your stories, I had pre-ordered PANSIES and read the book (digitally and in print) but somehow I couldn’t really get into it, which bugged me tremendously. So with this nomination, I started PANSIES again and… what can I say? I am so smitten with Fen and love the writing so, so much that I am re-reading whole paragraphs again and again and wonder what was going on back in October that I couldn’t get into it. Your metaphors and comparisons, the living by the sea, the small town life… all comes just so beautifully together. Thank you, Alexis.
    Looking forward to all your other new stories – make yourself a good cup of Lapsang Souchong, breathe… in and out and keep on writing, please. Much love <3

  25. corey jo says:

    I’m totally excited about your (possible) RITA! Yay! Good job writing!

    When you say “when the rights revert to me” about the Kate Kane books, what do you mean? Have I missed something important in my fave hot lesbian paranormal PI’s life? What I’ll really asking is: how much longer must I suffer without her and all her hot, hot friends? I’m sort of dying over here.

    Also, clearly I am super late to the party here. Apologies.

    • I’m so happy you’re enjoying the Kate Kane series.

      Basically this is all ‘behind the curtain’ publishing stuff which is, honestly, pretty boring. I’m very keen for the whole series to be in one place with a consistent look … I mean that’s kind of branding 101 and literally the only thing I know about that topic. So I don’t want to put out book 3 in a way that doesn’t fit the rest of the series. Currently the publisher owns the rights to the first few books, including stuff like the cover and the layout. Which means I have to wait the books are no longer contracted to that publisher before I can, for want of a less grandiose term, relaunch.

      I understand this is really frustrating for readers but having a stylistic disconnect between the presentation of the first two books and third would be harmful for the series. I’m hoping to get them out by 2018.

      • It’s okay, “relaunch” is not grandiose.

        It’s like pulling your canoe out of the water and scraping all the green gunk off and putting sealer on the inside. Then you relaunch it. Which is basically tossing it back into the water and hoping you didn’t accidentally puncture something and it still floats.


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