• Sophie Russell

Dick Balloons and Other Phalluses

I recently became friends with Ana Byrde, Katie Byrde (I think I spelled their names correctly, but don’t hold me to it), and Anna Wineheart. It’s a new friendship, but I’m enjoying it ever so much (I'm saying this with absolutely ZERO sarcasm, fyi). Ana and Katie teamed up to create Ann-Katrin Byrde, and their books are amazing. And Anna is an excellent author in her own right. (Or would it be write? LOL… Don’t block me.)

They are the newest in my line of author friends including Morgan Mason, Lex Luther, Sam E. Kraemer, Stella Rainbow, Leona Windwalker, Arden O’Keefe, Emily Alter and many, many more. (If you're an author, we're friends, and you're not listed here, I'm sorry, I have limited space and time, but know that I'm including you, too.)

Eitherhoot, they’re all super awesome. One of the benefits of having author friends is that they get it. They understand how hard it is, they understand how frustrating it is, and they understand what the small rewards actually mean.

When I talk to anyone else about my characters not cooperating, they don’t get it. Their thought is, “Well, you made them up, just make them do something different.” To them, I laugh, because that’s the only response I can muster. What makes characters real in stories is that they have a life of their own. They are autonomous inside us and we can no more make them do something different than stop the tides from ebbing and flowing.

Authors understand this.

When I talk to my author friends about characters not cooperating, they’re like, “That’s so frustrating. Is it a block or are they being passive aggressive?” Then we have a conversation where we try to problem solve the issue, and I end up trying something wacky, like holding one nostril closed and standing on one foot in the south side of my apartment in hopes that my characters will come out and play without a fuss. (Seriously, don’t ask if I’ve actually done this. I really don’t want to have to answer you.)

Authors also understand what the low times are like. When a bad review comes in, sales drop off, reads stall, and you’re left wondering, “What can I do to get people to read my books? I feel like I’m screaming into the void.” They reassure you and then tell you to get back to writing, because that’s the best way for people to read your work. You have to have work for them to read. They aren’t afraid to hold your feet to the fire, because they know that it needs to be done. But they do it lovingly.

I’ve also become friends with some readers, too. That’s a completely separate dynamic, but it’s so rewarding to hear how your work impacts them. Reading is a fucking investment. People pay money, time, and attention to books. People allow books to affect them in incredibly deep ways. When you have someone telling you “I heard Séb in my head for days after,” or “I saw this video that Aimee would love!” or “Arlo is such a cutie, I just want to put him in my pocket and protect him,” or “Mr. Santa rejecting Arlo broke my heart!” you understand the investment that they made in your work. Beyond that, you understand that them telling you or leaving a review is an additional investment. And they do it because they believe in you.

Being a writer is freaking tough, man. And it’s not just the getting up every day and writing, or expanding your craft, or selling your books. It’s not all the nuts and bolts (though there certainly is that), but it’s the soul of it. It’s the thought that you might not make it. It’s the “why the FUCK didn’t I see that plot hole before I put it up for people to read?!?!” It’s the “I’ve only written two things, and now my characters aren’t cooperating, and I’m proud of what I’ve done, but what if the next things tank? What if they’re no good? Can I even call myself an author with only two works out? And wait a fucking second… I’m supposed to Instagram?!?! I don’t even know HOW to Instagram! Hashtags? Which ones do I use? What the ever-loving fuck?” That last one is in no way related to what goes on in my brain, just for the record….

It’s HARD, but it’s so worth it. Sometimes, though, it’s tough to see how worth it writing and publishing is. But having a community who understands and appreciates you for who you are and where you are in your journey is the absolute BEST feeling. Other people may not get it. They may not think it’s worthwhile. And they may think that you’re foolish to try. Hell! They’ll fucking TELL you that you’re foolish to try (and a whole bunch of other rude things).

And your community is there to remind you that those fucks don’t matter. And they’re there to remind you that it IS worth it. That it’s not foolish, it’s essential. THEY GET IT!

This post is dedicated to my community, because I don’t have enough books out to dedicate to them all individually, but I will. And I will, because I have them.

And they will, because we’re here for them, too.

Moreover, you learn a lot of things from your peers and readers. Take Anna Wineheart, for instance. She shared a tutorial for how to draw all sorts of dicks, and I even found one on dick balloons. I recently ordered a graphic tablet, and I think I know the perfect way to christen it. But Anna's also teaching me to own my weird. Then there's Ana, she’s teaching me all about the new Spiderman game on the PS5. I don’t know when that will come it handy, but it will. And she’s teaching me about my community. Katie is teaching me how effective quiet fortitude is. Morgan is teaching me about friendship how to activate setting details and fuck is she good at that! Lex is teaching me about cooperation and love. Sam is teaching me about compassion and consistency. Stella is teaching me about perseverance and positivity. Leona (Kimi) is teaching me about business and structure. Arden is teaching me about design and motivation. Emily is teaching me about self-care and standing up for myself. I doubt that they know they are teaching me these things, but they are.

My readers are teaching me about self-love and kindness. They are teaching me that they don’t want perfect, they want true. They are teaching me that we have equal places that aren’t as opposite as I thought. And they’re teaching me about acceptance.

Love is an incredibly strong word, but I love each and every one of them. All of them are teaching me about friendship and community, which I didn’t have much of until recently. I am so thankful for them, for their welcoming natures, and for the paths we share together, because that is truly making a world of difference in my journey.

I’m sorry to give you a misleading title, and there are no dicks to be had (almost), yet. I’ll post some when I get my graphic tablet and christen it with the dickiest dicks to ever dick another dick, because that’s the way we roll here in the MM Romance world.

Okay, friends, enough sappiness. I hope your Thanksgiving (whether or not you celebrate it) is good for you. I hope you expand gratitude beyond that day and try to live in it, and I hope that I can help remind you of that every once in a while.

Peace and Love

Soph the Loaf (that's for you, Gildy)

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