GRNW is Happening!

Hi all! As I’m writing this, Alex Powell is driving down from Prince George to stay the night here, and then tomorrow we are heading down to Seattle for Gay Romance Northwest!

If you haven’t heard of it, GRNW is a convention and book festival open to everyone! On Friday night there will be a reading at the Hugo House, and then on Saturday there will be the conference and panels at the Seattle Public Library, followed by a Bookfest where you can meet authors, pick up swag and buy books. There will also be a bunch of books being given away!

I’m going to be on a panel called Celebrating and Elevating Underrepresented Characters in Queer Romance Fiction. My co-panelist all seem really cool, and I think it’ll be a great discussion! Then I’ll have a table at the bookfest, where I’ll be selling paperbacks. If you want copies of Geek Out, The Fairy Gift, To Summon Nightmares or Ink & Flowers to add to your collection, this is your chance! Also please feel free to come and talk to me, I promise I don’t bite, and I’m reasonably friendly. ^-^ I’ll also probably be furiously tweeting the whole time, so you can follow me @JKPendragon to keep updated on what’s happening.

We’re going to be in Seattle for a few days, so if there’s anything you think I should check out while I’m down there, please let me know in the comments!

Finally, since this post is a little short, I’m going to include and excerpt from Witch, Cat and Cobb, my f/f fantasy novella coming out in October. Please enjoy, and I hope to see you in Seattle this weekend!


I awoke to yelling outside my window. Disconcerted for a moment, I threw the blanket off and tripped over a pile of broken wands, then climbed up onto the tower of books under the windowsill to poke my head out, squinting in the bright sunshine.

It was the witch who was shouting. She was wearing a purple nightgown with the sleeves shoved up and wielding a broomstick at some invisible foe in the garden.

“I said out! You’ve ruined my cabbages with your bloody little swords! Try sticking each other with them sometime!”

“Is everything alright?” I shouted, and the witch looked up at me, her eyes wide and her hair a mess.

“Does it look alright?” she shouted back, and whacked her broom against the ground once more. I could have imagined it, but I thought I heard tiny, high-pitched squealing as she did so. “No!” she yelled at the ground. “I don’t want to hear about property titles!”

I pulled my head back in the window and looked around the room. The cobwebs and clouds of dust that I had kicked up in my scramble to the window would have looked pretty illuminated by the morning light were they not so disgusting. I thought about shouting out the window that the room was filthy, but thought better of it, as the witch obviously had enough on her plate that morning. Instead I hauled myself over to the door and went into the bathroom.

I figured out how to use the facilities by snapping my fingers fairly quickly, and spent a few minutes trying to salvage the mess that was my newly short hair in the mirror before giving up and heading out into the kitchen. The witch was there. She had changed into a very nice black and blue dress and had tamed her hair considerably, and she was currently pouring tea into a small shallow bowl for Fen to drink.

“Good morning,” she said evenly as I entered. “Please, sit. Tea.”

They sounded more like orders than suggestions, so I merely nodded and sat quietly at the table as she poured me a tankard of tea. I looked around at the kitchen, noticing that most of the counters, shelves and even the table we were sitting at had been molded from the same pale-orange clay used to make the walls of the house.

“Did you make this place?” I asked as the witch poured herself a mug of tea and sat across from me.

She nodded. “I’ve never been much of an architect, I’m afraid, but it stays together alright.”

“It’s not very elvish,” I commented.

The witch stared at me over the brim of her cup. Her eyes were a deep purple and her brows sharp and intimidating. “No,” she said. “I suppose it isn’t.”

Fen sneezed into his tea.

“Don’t expect to be the beneficiary of my hospitality for long, cat,” said the witch, giving him a sharp glare before returning her gaze to me. “And I’m not in the business of providing free room and board either. What is it you intend to do with yourself now that you’ve run away from all your responsibilities?”

“I don’t know,” I admitted, taking a sip of the tea. It was a rich black blend with a hint of sweetness to it. “I didn’t assume I’d stay away forever. Just until the Saishen Prince is married to someone else.”

“You’re engaged to the elf prince?”

“Yes.” I rested my chin on my fist. “It’s supposedly a long overdue political move. My father was supposed to marry the Saishen princess twenty years ago, but she disappeared.”

“I know that much,” said the witch. She stood, taking the black teapot from the fireplace and pouring a large dollop of it into her cauldron. “I do go into town occasionally. But I haven’t been in a few months, so your engagement must have been fairly recent. Hmm.” She leaned over the cauldron and sniffed, before making a critical face and turning to the table to sift through the herbs.

I took another sip of tea and crossed my arms. “They eventually gave up on the princess, and my father married my mother, and then he died only a few years later. Maybe an alliance between Priia and Saishen just isn’t to be.”

The witch selected what looked like a bay leaf and dropped it into the cauldron, prompting a display of pink and green sparks and a loud bang, followed by a poof of grey smoke. “So dramatic.” She coughed, waving the smoke away with her long sleeves. “So, you expect me to allow you to stay here, free of charge, for however many months it takes them to decide that you are dead and marry the Saishen prince off to someone else. Then what, you’ll return to the castle and marry whatever prince they pick out for you next? What’s so bad about the elf prince?”

“She doesn’t want to marry a prince at all,” said Fen from under the table where he’d taken cover from the smoke. “She’s dreaming of a princess.”

“Shut up, Fen!” I snapped. “She doesn’t have to be a princess.”

“Right,” said Fen. “You would have married that serving girl if she hadn’t run off with the duke.”

I scowled at him. “I liked you better when you didn’t talk.”

“And as for you,” said the witch. “Fen, is it now? Silly name. Who chose it?”

“I did,” I said quietly.

The witch looked stricken for a moment. “Oh. Well, it’s an alright name for a cat, I suppose.” She turned back to Fen. “You want to be human? What will you do for me?” She took a step towards Fen, who cowered under the table.

“What do you expect me to do for you?” he squawked. “I’m a cat! Very little in the way of things cats can do, actually. You’d be surprised.”

“Pest control,” said the witch.


WitchCatCobb

Witch, Cat and Cobb comes out October 14th from Less Than Three Press! You an pre-order it here and save 15%.

Thanks for reading, and hope to see some of you soon!

Update: Personal Stuff, GRNW and Witch, Cat and Cobb

Hey guys, remember when I was blogging every week? *gun fingers* Yeah… so much for that.

Well, I thought I’d post an update, about what’s going on with me and writing news and such. First off, the reason I’ve stopped blogging. I have a tendency to burn out. I push myself too hard, and suddenly I’m unable to do anything for months. I think that’s what happened here. As most of my readers probably know, I do struggle with depression, and that can sometimes affect my productivity. In this case, it was happening so slowly that I didn’t notice how bad it had gotten until I started disassociating. I would have episodes where I felt completely disconnected and like my brain was malfunctioning. Those episodes scared me enough that I decided to see my doctor about them.

I talked with him for a little bit, and then I asked him if I could try out anti-depressants. He didn’t push me into it or anything, it was my decision. For a long time I was really afraid of taking medication. I was sort of afraid that it would change me as a person. I’d gotten used to living with depression, the idea of existing without it seemed scary. But the real big reason I think I resisted going on medication for so long was our cultural perception of anti-depressants.

On a whole, I think people see anti-depressants as a sort of crutch. Like something people take to make them artificially happy, that’s ultimately bad for them. People without depression find it hard to understand how someone can’t just choose to be happy. How positive thinking and healthy living can’t just solve everyone’s problems. But the truth is, there are some people who just need medication. People with diabetes need medicine for it, people with low iron need supplements. Many transgender people need hormone replacement therapy. They have a medical condition that causes their body to not produce a certain chemical that they need, so they supplement it with medication. Most people can understand this, but when it comes to someone’s brain being low on a chemical and needing a supplement, suddenly they don’t like the idea. (As a side note, there actually are people that don’t even like the idea of sick people taking the medication they need, which many chronically ill people can attest to, but that’s a topic for another blog post.)

And it’s true that depression and anxiety can sometimes be caused by outside sources, and sometimes it’s better to treat it without medication, but honestly, I tried for years to alter my lifestyle, get rid of stressors, get to a point in my life where I was honestly happy. And I was… or I would have been, if it wasn’t for my depression. So that, combined with the fact that depression runs in my family, led me to the conclusion that my depression was not caused by my lifestyle, but by  a lack of chemicals in my brain. So I decided to try anti-depressants, and see if they worked.

Guess what. They did. I’ve been on cipralex for a couple of months now, and I’m definitely feeling better. I still have down days, but they’re interspersed with days where I just feel happy. Not happy about anything, just a sort of satisfied, peaceful relief at the lack of constant sadness and despair. On top of that, my anxiety is loads better. I actually do feel like a different person, but in a good way. Suddenly I’m not scared of things the way I used to be. I can talk about personal things, casually discuss LGBT issues with people without panicking and shaking. And it’s big picture stuff too. I’m thinking about medically transitioning. Something I never before considered, because the idea of talking to medical professionals, and explaining the changes in my body to acquaintances used to fill me with terror. Now it feels like something I can handle.

What else? My energy levels are up. I’m not constantly sore. Instead of needing to spend days in bed to recover from work, I can actually go out and do stuff on my days off. I’ve got ideas about starting an etsy shop. And hey, I’m writing again. Not a lot. I seem to go through phases where I write 6K a week, and then stop entirely for a couple of months and slowly get back into it. I’m hoping that if I continue to improve and get more energy and motivation, I can become more consistent and productive. Until then, I’m happy to produce what I can, and write and publish books on my own time.

So… that’s the first topic covered… this post is gonna be a doozy. I’ll try to keep the rest pretty short. The big news (that’s not really news at this point) is that I’m going to be attending Gay Romance Northwest this year!

I’ll be travelling down with my good friend and fellow LGBT author Alex Powell, along with my supportive boyfriend. Unfortunately the LT3 Press crew aren’t going to be able to make it this year, but I have a bunch of paperbacks en route to me, which I’ll be bringing along to sell. I’ll have copies of The Fairy Gift, Ink & Flowers, To Summon Nightmares and Geek Out for purchase. On top of that, I’m also going to be on a panel (yikes!) although I’m not sure which one quite yet. I’ll announce it on twitter as soon as I find out.

I’m so excited (and significantly less anxious) to meet some of the readers and fellow authors that I’ve known online for years and never gotten the chance to meet in person. If you’re going to be in Seattle in September, please drop by, and if you see me, please feel free to come and talk to me! I’ll do my best to be friendly and non-intimidating.

And finally, with this blog post nearing 1K, I have to remind everyone that my darling f/f fantasy, Witch, Cat and Cobb is available for pre-order, and release day is October 14th!

I’m really, really excited about this story. It’s funny, light-hearted, and I basically just let loose with my love of Harry Potter and Diana Wynne Jones.  I’m really happy with how it turned out, and I’m super excited to share it with readers. The release date is right around Halloween too, so I’ve got all sorts of witchy giveaway ideas brewing. Anyway, have a look at the official blurb and cover, and please consider pre-ordering if runaway princesses, talking cats and grumpy swamp witches seem like your cup of tea. (Also, trans characters, yay!)

WitchCatCobb

Witch, Cat and Cobb

Available: October 14th, 2015
Wordcount: 20,000
Price: $3.39
Genre: Fairy Tale, Lesbian, Trans

Destined for an arranged marriage she wants nothing to do with, Princess Breanwynne decides that the only option for escape is to run away. Upon the announcement of this plan, her trusted pet cat reveals he can talk by asking that she take him along. Listening to his suggestion to venture into the lair of the Swamp Witch proves to be a very bad idea, but Breanwynne would rather face a witch any day than be forced to marry a prince.

Pre-order Here!

Thanks for reading! And thank you to my readers for putting up with my absence and silence while I work on recovering and building up my strength. I hope to have more content (of both the book and blog variety) soon. Thanks guys! Have a picture of my cat!

IMG_4168

Witch, Cat and Cobb Cover Reveal! + Giveaway

I know, I should probably wait until I have a release date and a blurb and all that jazz, but I just couldn’t wait to show this off!

Check it out!

WitchCatCobb

Tada!

Isn’t it amazing?? It’s by Aisha Akeju, who also did the covers for Ink & Flowers, Geek Out and Double Take. I’m so consistently impressed by her skills, especially her uncanny ability to create covers that fit the stories so perfectly. This one is no exception!

With a cover like this, I don’t even feel like I need to explain the story too much. Suffice it to say, there’s magic, elves, a talking cat, and a princess and a witch who fall in love. I’m just so excited for this story, and thrilled with the cover! ^-^

To celebrate, I’m  giving away a $15 gift card for LT3’s book market! Leave a comment with your email address by the end of May to win!

Update: Giveaway has ended. Congrats Lore Graham!

Thanks for reading! Oh, I almost forgot, this month I’m Less Than Three Press’s featured author! You can save 20% off all my ebooks using the code PENDRAGON in LT3’s book market! Check out my books here!

Cheers, and don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered!

The Character Made Me Do It

There’s a habit authors have of talking about and viewing their characters as living, breathing people. And in a way, they are. Most authors know firsthand the experience of having a character show up in their mind one day, fully formed and ready to tell their story, or of writing and wanting a character to do something specific, but watching helplessly as they drag the plot off in a different direction. Often that can be a really cool writing experience, and can help make the story better. But sometimes it can also be a problem.

I’m not going to point out specific examples, but there seems to be a trend lately of authors writing offensive storylines, and then defending themselves by saying that it wasn’t their fault; the characters (or story) “made them do it.” This can apply to, say, a “love story” actually reading more like horrific abuse, POC (or other minority characters) being sidelined or killed off more regularly than their white counterparts, or even something less offensive but still quite disrespectful to readers like marketing a book as a romance but then having the main characters break up or die at the end.

And here’s the thing. When I was younger I really was quite fond of the “characters have their own minds and you can’t control them!” way of thinking. It was cool, and it made me feel special. Plus there really is some truth to the fact that trying to make your characters do something they don’t want to do can lead to a writing block. But the truth is, characters are not real. They’re not living, breathing people who behave independently of their authors. The author creates them, and the author creates the story, and if the character is doing something that they shouldn’t, either because it doesn’t work for the story, or because it’s leading the book in a direction the author doesn’t want to go, the author has the ability to change that character, so that they will make the decision to have the story go in the direction the author wants it to.

We live in a culture that’s steeped in things like misogyny, racism and abuse. Whether we want to admit it or not, those things have crept into our subconscious and effect the way we write stories. As authors, we have to be critical of the ideas that come out of our subconscious, because like it or not, those ideas, characters, storylines, are going to be effected by the problematic media and stories we have been exposed to. To treat every character that walks into our mind unbidden, every storyline that we come up with in a moment of shining intuition as flawless and without bias, is to risk continuing to pump out those flawed, offensive narratives. So I’m extremely critical when an author tries to defend their problematic narrative by saying that “they didn’t have any control over the story” and “it just happened that way,” as if that excuses the story from all flaws and criticism.

Stories are never just stories. They effect us deeply, and shape the way we see the world. And authors are never off the hook for writing offensive content simply because “that’s the way the story wanted to be.” We are there for every step of the story’s development, and it’s our responsibility to watch it with a keen eye, to do our best to create works that contribute to making the world a better place, even if it means we have to give up a little of that “writing magic.” Sometimes writing is hard work, and that’s the way it should be. Just because it’s easy to write a story the way your subconscious wants it to be written, doesn’t mean it’s right. You are in control of your stories. Use them to make the world a better place.


Less Than Three Press is celebrating their sixth anniversary! All their books are currently 20% off, and every purchase in the month of April gets you an entrance into a raffle. Additionally, every day is a new surprise flash sale where one book is 50% off! Stop by on April 12th to pick up To Summon Nightmares for only $2.99!

Thanks for reading!

IMG_3340

Look at all the cat hair on that chair. That’s my life.

LT3’s Flash Sale: The Deets

Vector Graphic Design Button and Labels Template. Color paint sp

Less Than Three Press is having their sixth anniversary! There are three things happening:

  • 20% off all their books! (25% off paperbacks)
  • A raffle! For every book you buy in April, you’ll be entered to win a prize! The grand prize is a Kindle Fire, and then there’s books and gift cards as well.

And finally, the flash sale, which is what I’m here to tell you about today! Each day of April there will be a new book on for 50% off. I’m not allowed to tell you when all the books are going to be available, but Sasha has promised not to smite me if I tell you that:

Touch of Mistletoe

A Touch of Mistletoe will be 50% off April 2nd! It’s a cute collection of Christmas stories about people falling in love with the help of mistletoe. What do you mean you don’t want to read about Christmas in April? Of course you do.

geekout400

Geek Out (the whole collection!) will be 50% off April 8th! This collection is absolutely fantastic and like, groundbreaking and stuff. It features a whole bunch of diverse stories about trans (including genderqueer) characters, and a lot of the authors are trans too, which is awesome. Just a really great collection of stories that I wholeheartedly recommend.

and….

To Summon Nightmares

To Summon Nightmares will be 50% off April 12th! This is a pretty good book, if I do say so myself. ^-^ It’s gotten some pretty awesome reviews, including one by KJ Charles (which I’m still squeeing about, lemme tell you.) It’s creepy and dark, but also full of magic and an adorable trans main character, and basically you should read it. But like, don’t let me tell you what to do.

*

If you follow me on my twitter or tumblr, I’ll be squawking about them closer to the dates too, to remind you. Also follow LT3’s twitter, facebook and tumblr to keep up with all the other flash sales! (Wow that was a lot of links. This blogging thing is hard, guys.)

Aaaand I think that’s it! Thanks for reading. Go forth and buy many books!

But first, look at this picture of my cat:

IMG_3349

Who I Write For: Trans Books for Trans Readers

Yesterday I came home to a lovely surprise: an email from a reader telling me how much they enjoyed Double Take. Getting personal messages from readers is one of the most rewarding and special parts of being an author, but this message was particularly special. It was from a reader who identified themself as agender, and they wanted to let me know how much they appreciated me writing a story with a non-binary protagonist.

The reason this message really floored me is because it made me remember who I wrote Double Take for. The thing is, when I wrote To Summon Nightmares, I wrote it at least partially for cis readers. I tried to explain Cohen’s dysphoria in the narrative, and show him as a sympathetic trans character that cis readers could relate to, in the hopes that it would help them gain some empathy for trans people.

But Double Take wasn’t written for cis readers. It was written for trans readers, particularly non-binary ones. I didn’t linger on describing the details of Teka’s dysphoria or transition, just stated them as facts. Understanding how and why Teka feels the way xe does about xemself is probably going to be a lot easier for non-binary readers who feel that way also. Not that cis readers won’t be able to relate to Teka – they just have to use their imagination a bit more. And since almost every single book out there features a cis main character, this really flips the tables.

Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

This is why it’s so important to write books not just with diverse characters, but with diverse main characters. Because the main character is who the reader identifies with, who they see the story through the eyes of. If a privileged person only ever has to relate to other main characters like themself, that limits their ability to empathise and understand the experiences of people who aren’t like them. And, even more importantly, it’s such a fantastic experience to be a person in a minority reading about a character who is like you for the first time. You don’t have to stretch your imagination to understand what this character’s life is like; it’s your life. It’s relieving and affirming, and really really special, and that’s what I want to do for trans and non-binary readers.

So that email reminded me not to worry so much about whether cis people like Double Take or not, because it wasn’t written for them. I do hope that cis people can read an enjoy as well, but at the end of the day, if other non-binary people are getting a story where they can identify with the main character, and they’re really enjoying it, that’s the most important thing.


Thanks for reading! If you’re interested, you can pick up Double Take here and To Summon Nightmares here.

Have a cat picture!

IMG_3344

Non-Consent, Shame and Female Sexuality

(Trigger warning for discussion of rape and dysphoria in this post.)

I’m completely ridiculous and can’t figure out how to embed a storify on here, so I’m just going to link to it. Go ahead and read: https://storify.com/7sigma/noelle-on-50-shades-of-grey

I wanted to talk about this. The truth is, while we all seem to get a kick out of bashing Fifty Shades of Grey for its abuse and lack of consent, we never seem to want to talk about the fact that it is far from the only romance novel to contain these themes. The romance genre has a long history of “bodice rippers” (I know, I said it.) Stories about women being manipulated or forced into marrying and/or having sex with a man they harbour secret desires for but don’t initially consent to. It’s problematic as fuck. But far more useful than bashing women for what they like, I think, would be to examine why exactly they do like it. In this case, I think Noelle and Christina hit the nail on the head. Fantasies about being forced into sex are common in large part because they allow women to fantasize about sex without having the feel guilty about their sexuality.

And I want to state here that I’m coming at this from a partial outsiders perspective, because I’m not a woman. I’m a genderqueer individual, so I’m not a man or a woman. But I was raised and socialized female, and so I grew up experiencing the shame and demonization of my anatomy and sexuality in ways that almost all women do. Did you know that it’s incredibly common for women to experience intense feelings of shame and guilt after masturbating? It’s embedded in our culture for women to feel bad for everything, for speaking up, for taking up space, for having sex, and yes, for enjoying it. “Sorry” is one of the words I say most often while having sex, and I know I’m not alone in that.

“By fantasizing about non-consent women can relinquish responsibility, and guilt, for their sexual desires.”

Women are taught to feel bad for wanting sex. It’s hard to enjoy yourself when you’re feeling guilty. In reality, being raped is a horrible experience, but in a fantasy where you secretly want it, but don’t have to deal with the guilt of admitting that you do, it can be an escape.

That makes me uncomfortable. I think it makes a lot of people uncomfortable. I’s easier to bash the surface aspects of 50SOG like the bad writing, the cases of the author behaving badly, and the way it’s been lauded as a how-to manual for sex, rather than talk about the fact that it, and a lot of other erotica out there are catering to a demand. A demand that our society has created by telling women that they are not allowed to initiate or want sex without feeling guilty about it.

And this actually crosses directly into the M/M romance genre as well. M/M romance and fan-fiction are much more popular than their F/F counterparts, and a lot of their appeal is, again, an escape for women. Reading about sex without having to associate with the body parts that we’ve been socialized to be terrified of and disgusted with is a huge relief. That’s why I’m also kind of wary when people bash women and call them misogynistic for not wanting to read stories with female sexuality in them.

Yes, it’s a problem when women are so disgusted by their own anatomy that they can’t even get off reading about it. It’s a problem when women can only get off to stories about them being forced into sex. It’s misogyny plain and simple. But it’s not women’s fault that they’ve been socialized like this. And I don’t want to stand around and bash women for wanting to use fiction to escape their oppression for a short while. That’s one of the reasons we have fiction. To escape reality.

But fiction also helps us view our reality more critically when we look back at it. It’s a long road, unlearning that disgust for female sexuality that we’ve grown up with. I’m not there yet. And it certainly doesn’t help that I feel guilty for preferring to read and write stories about men. But I do want to change it. I don’t like that I’m a bisexual person who can’t properly appreciate female sexuality. I want to push myself to appreciate women. I want to learn to stop saying sorry.

I’m also angry that society has done this to me. I’m angry that I can’t even tell how bad my dysphoria is, because I don’t know how much of the disconnect I feel to my body is intrinsic to me, and how much of it I’ve been taught. I’m angry that I feel guilty. And that I feel guilty for being guilty. It’s a never ending cycle.

So what do we do? I’m making an effort to read and write more F/F, even if it makes me feel uncomfortable. I’m forcing myself to give female characters a chance, to give them the same attention and love that I do male characters. But I’m also going to keep letting myself escape into male sexuality, and I’m not going to judge women who escape into non-consent fantasies. I just think it’s important to be critical, and understand why we’re feeling this way. Because that’s the first step to changing it.

In closing, here’s a fantastic, older post by E.E. Ottoman that delves into the topic of female sexuality and lesbian romance in more depth. Required reading IMO, as it put me on the path to being critical of the internalized shame I feel about female sexuality.

As always, thanks for reading! I’d love to hear opinions in the comments.

Editing As You Write

So lately I’ve been seeing a lot of writing advice that seems to be suggesting that if your first draft isn’t a steaming pile of absolute crap that you wouldn’t show to your dog, you’re not doing it right. “Write with abandon!” they say. “Don’t worry about the writing quality, or whether everything makes sense, or whether your grammar is any good! Just get the words down, and you can go back and fix everything later.”

Which is great if that’s what works for you. I know a lot of people have problems with staying motivated and getting through their first draft without stopping and nitpicking forever. But the problem, for me, is that I absolutely hate having to go back and fix everything later. When I’m done a first draft, I want it to be something resembling a book. Now, I’m not saying that I don’t do developmental and line edits, because I absolutely do. But by editing as I go, I mange to reduce my line edits humongously, and bring my developmental edits down from what would be catastrophically awful need-to-rewrite-three-quarters-of-the-book edits, to oh, okay, I can change this and add this and the book will be much better kind of edits.

What I’m saying is, it is absolutely possible to edit a book as you write it, and come out with something fairly clean that you’re not incredibly ashamed of. The actual process of writing the book will be harder. It will take longer, and it will be very frustrating at times. But in return, your editing after the fact will be much diminished, and you can focus on making the book even better, instead of just focusing on making it good.

So, without further ado, here are my tips of editing as you go.

1. Set measurable goals for yourself.

Obviously the number one issue with this method is the temptation to just keep editing and picking at the first chapter forever, and never move forward with the story. I’m usually incredibly impatient to get the story down anyway (“I don’t like writing, I like having written”) so I don’t have too much of a problem with this, but I do have a wordcount that I try my hardest to achieve whenever I sit down to write. Sometimes I’ll write 800 words that don’t work for the story, and in that case, I’ll scrap them, but I’ll still count those 800 words towards my daily wordcount. And then I’ll write another 1200 words. Even if it’s two steps forward, one step back, you’re still moving.

2. Edit every session.

This one is simple. Every time you sit down to write, read through what you wrote last time. Fix any grammar mistakes, awkward phrasing, etc that you see as you’re reading. Try to get a feel for how the story is flowing, what kind of pace it’s moving at, what direction it’s going, and what your instincts and/or outline (don’t be afraid to pit those two against each other either) tell you should be happening next. Then start writing, and keep going until you hit your wordcount.

3. Develop your ability to sense when something isn’t working.

I’m still working on this myself. Sometimes I’ll write up to 2000 words, the whole time completely ignoring that little nagging voice in my head that’s telling me: This isn’t right. This isn’t how the story is supposed to go. Then I’ll finish and wonder why I’m not satisfied with the day’s writing. For me, it’s essential that I listen to that voice. If I don’t, everything I write after that will be flawed. Pushing on with the knowledge that that one scene is wrong will colour everything else in the story, and when I do have to inevitably go back and fix it during edits, there will be a million other little things in the story that I’ll have to fix in order for everything to line up. Sometimes it will have changed the whole course of the story! Instead, I prefer to stop and rewrite before continuing, so that my path is clear. Unfortunately, this requires you to be really in tune with your story. It also requires a lot of patience, and a touch of perfectionism. But if you can do it, you’re saving yourself a lot of time and frustration later.

4. Don’t think this gets you out of editing later.

I know, I said it already, but I mean it. Writing like this will keep you from having to spend too much time getting your story submission-ready after you’ve finished the first draft. But you should be prepared and willing to make it even better with the help of a professional editor. And that’s a good thing. Having a professional editor is a great privilege, and listening to them and being willing to rip your book apart and put it back together for the sake of the story is incredibly rewarding. Going through and fixing all the typos and grammar mistakes you made the first time around? Not so much.

So there you have it, a peek into my writing/editing style. Let me know in the comments if you write like this too. Or if you’re the type to write without doing any editing until after, let me know how that works for you! It’s fascinating how different writing styles can be, and what works for some authors and doesn’t for others.

Thanks for reading! Oh, and have a picture of my cat. She loves to sit like this. It’s the weirdest thing.

IMG_3393

SEAN BEEEEEEEE!!!!!–ahem, I mean: My Thoughts on Jupiter Ascending

So my reaction to this movie was pretty similar to a lot of other reviewers’. Basically: “It was so awful, BUT I LOVED IT.” There were so many things wrong with the movie, but it somehow managed to keep me riveted and genuinely enjoying it for the duration, and I’m not sure why.

Things wrong with this movie:

  • The romance is AWFUL. We’re supposed to believe that the characters have fallen in love with each other, in fact large parts of the plot depend on this, but like… it would be literally impossible for the characters to fall in love because they don’t know anything about each other because there’s nothing to know?
    • Seriously, who are these people? I know nothing about them. I mean, I know that Jupiter is an immigrant maid and Caine is a disgraced soldier, but their personalities? Interests? Hopes and dreams? What do they do in their spare time? What do they think about… about anything? I got nothing.
    • And it’s really, really not that hard to write a convincing romance, and flesh out the characters at the same time. All you have to do is take out five minutes of explosions, and add five minutes of the characters talking quietly, sharing some intimate details about each other while looking into each others’ eyes, because that’s how people fall in love!!
  • The Wachowskis don’t have time for your “show don’t tell” bullshit. There are things happening! More things are happening! Explosions! Aliens! We can’t possibly slow down long enough to explain all this stuff to you by showing. Listen up while this character explains everything in quick soundbites, because that’s all we got time for. More things!
  • Jupiter has no agency. I’m sorry, she doesn’t. She is dragged around, manipulated, she falls a lot, and is caught by Caine. She makes one very big decision at the end, but other than that, she’s basically a pawn.

HOWEVER:

  • It kind of works? Jupiter is kind of every 14-year-old’s wish fulfillment. She gets to leave her boring, monotonous life and discovers that she’s a SPACE PRINCESS and omg everyone is paying attention to her and she gets to wear pretty dresses and go toe-to-toe with clever sparring diplomat-types. And there’s a mysterious, brooding guy with his shirt off a lot, and he’s a little scary and she probably shouldn’t be into him, but she is anyway, and no one can tell her no. Oh, and she gets a fancy glowing tattoo that shows that she’s a princess. SO COOL.
  • The breakneck “this is the way it is, okay ACTION!” actually kind of works too? You kind of feel like you’ve already been here, like either you’ve already been introduced to this world, and the soundbites are just for the newbies, or else like this is just the way things are, and you should know about it because, um, you live here.
  • Sean Bean is an alien bee guy, but also inexplicably northern (probably because “lots of planets have a north” x) He’s part bee, guys! SEAN BEE!
  • Eddie Redmayne. I seriously can’t. He’s an ancient space capitalist with a tortured, evilpast, and I TOTALLY BOUGHT IT. I can’t even argue about this.
  • There’s a space-ship with a plucky crew a la Firefly, and I’m not sure where they came from or why they’re helping Jupiter, but the captain is a badass black lady and I’m totally down.
  • This film is BEAUTIFUL. It just is, it’s glorious. Rich sumptuous colours, lots of burnished golds and hardwoods, and then giant cathedral-looking factories on Jupiter (the planet) and a gorgeous planet that looks like Rivendell in space, and really cool, well-thought out space-ship designs, and the 3D is EXCELLENT. I actually flinched from something coming towards me at one point, because I’d forgotten I was wearing the glasses.
  • The plot is actually really good too. A lot of people complain about it being predictable and/or confusing, but I really, really enjoyed it, and thought it was well done.

I mean, I could go on about it for ages, but the fact is, even though there were glaring issues with the film, I really did enjoy it. And I wonder if that says something about what we think a film needs to have to be a “good film” and whether or not it’s true. I wonder if it says something about our review culture that we can fill in a check box like, “this film did this wrong and this wrong and this wrong and therefore it’s a bad film” but it’s really not?

Or maybe movies lately have just been so bad that the bar is set really low. I don’t know. All I know is that I got genuine enjoyment out of this movie, despite my being able to tell, theoretically, that it was a “bad movie.” And I think that’s really interesting.

Also, the space-scapes are awesome.

The Pronoun Talk

I wasn’t going to write this post. Originally this was going to be some “How to Review Trans Books” shit, but I reeeally didn’t want to do that for two reasons:

1. I really, professionally, do not want to ever write something that would suggest I have anything to say to reviewers about how they should review my books. I understand that reviews are not for me. I also understand that there is a long history of authors being absolute shit to reviewers, despite the fact that reviewers are pretty much integral to their success. Reviewers should be lifted up on a pedestal by authors, not dragged down and attacked.

2. I had really hoped that the few particularly transphobic reviews out there (not of my books, actually, but of other trans books) were just an anomaly. I wanted to believe that they were just trolls who were being mean or transphobic because they could, and that ignoring them was the best course of action.

But more and more I’m seeing reviews of trans books pop up where the reviewer genuinely seems well-meaning, and doesn’t realise that what they’re saying is something that trans people hear over and over, micro-aggressions that end up being incredibly hurtful at the end of the day. I know that if I was doing or saying something that was hurting someone in that way, I would want them to tell me, and I would hope they were comfortable explaining why.

So I’m gonna talk about it.

I am a genderqueer individual. I was assigned female at birth, and I present largely as female for various reasons (see my post about it here) but I’m not really a girl. Not at all. The way my dysphoria manifests changes from day to day. Some days I can’t stand my body. Some days I just feel vaguely disconnected to it. Sometimes when people call me “miss” or “lady” I get a pang in my stomach, like “no, that’s wrong”. Sometimes I just feel tired. But I always have, deep in my gut, this knowledge that I am not a girl, and I’m not a boy either. I just am.

I dealt with this, the sort of weird to uncomfortable feeling I get from being called “she”, by adopting the pronoun “they.” At first it felt weird to me, and sounded off to my ears. But I wrote up an author bio using it, and immediately felt a sense of relief, because even though it sounded a bit weird, it also allowed me to be perceived, at least by people passing by on the internet, as someone who is not female or male. And that was a big, big deal.

So here’s the thing. I know that gender-neutral pronouns are a bit weird. They’re new, and they take a bit of getting used to. Remember when apple came out with the iPad and everyone laughed, (menstruation is hilarious, you heard it here first) but now people say it all the time without a second thought? New words take a little bit to catch on. But they do, and it’s normal. In this case, it’s desperately needed. We have a whole population of people who don’t identify as male or female, and don’t wish to be gendered in every single sentence used about them. The solution was to come up with new pronouns (and I say “new” but most of these pronouns have been around for decades) or to use the pronoun “they”, which has already been used to refer to someone when you don’t know their gender yet (albeit in a slightly detached way) for a very long time.

If you’re not familiar with the term “micro-aggression” it’s basically a very small, minimally offensive thing that someone says or does that would be fine on it’s own. But when it happens time after time, again and again, it’s like Chinese water torture. It becomes unbearable. That’s why a cis person might laugh off having the wrong pronoun used for them once, but for a trans person who has been having the wrong pronoun used for them their whole life, it becomes an awful, hurtful thing whenever someone does it. Here’s a quote from my book, To Summon Nightmares, that explains it a little bit:

“Well, you’re my little sis—” She cut off with an intake of breath and Cohen flinched violently. Niall who had gone into the kitchen to put the kettle on, glanced at Cohen, looking concerned.
It’s okay, Cohen mouthed at him. The line was silent.
“I’m really sorry,” said Halley, sounding wretched. “Cohen, I’m really sorry, okay? I just forgot.”
“I know.” Cohen nodded, trying to breathe. “It’s fine, really Halley. I appreciate that you’re trying.”
“I am trying,” she said. “Really, I am.”
Niall took a step into the living room. “Do you want me to go?” he asked, and Cohen shook his head.
“It’s okay.” Cohen forced a smile into his voice. “You’re my sister, so I can’t be mad at you.”
“Yeah, right.” Halley gave a forced laugh. “Okay, call me tomorrow, kid. You hear me?”
“I will,” he said. “I promise.”
“G’night little brother.”
“Goodnight.”
He hung up the phone, leaning back against the couch and breathing slowly. His tolerance for being misgendered had gone down now that it wasn’t happening all the time. When it had happened all the time, it had just been like a slow burning, unidentifiable sickness. Now every ‘he’ was a relief, and every ‘she’ and ‘sister,’ every mention of his birth name was like a punch to the gut. He hated it.

So we choose a gender-neutral pronoun to avoid the feeling of being misgendered, but all too often a new micro-aggression takes it’s place, in the form of people complaining that our pronouns are too difficult for them. And I understand that it’s a normal reaction to want to talk about how the words are confusing, you don’t know how to use them or how to pronounce them. But trust me, we’ve heard it before, a lot. We know you’re going to have trouble with it, so did we. But it was worth it for us. And if you respect us at all, it’ll be worth it to you too.

The problem that’s come about, particularly with reviews, is that when you’re writing a review for a book, it’s normal to pick apart and critique aspects of the story. The world building didn’t make sense, so-and-so’s character was hard to understand, the made-up language seemed needlessly complex. Those are all valid critiques. The trouble starts when you treat something like gender identity or pronouns as something that the author has similarly “made up” to put into their book. There’s a difference between a world that an author has created from scratch, and a world that actually exists, that the author has researched or lived, and is representing in their book. One is open for debate and critique, and the other is just the way the world is. Complaining that you don’t like it doesn’t really add anything.

And I mean, it’s perfectly acceptable to read a book about, say, a sheep herder, and then say in your review: “I’m actually not a big fan of sheep, and I found it boring and confusing. Your mileage may vary.” But sheep herders don’t hear every day, in a million different little ways, that their profession is stupid and confusing and ridiculous. Or maybe they do. Equal rights for sheep herders?

For me, as a genderqueer person looking for books to read about people like me, it’s really difficult to get on goodreads, find a book that looks promising, and then scroll down to the reviews, just to read a bunch of reviews about how my pronouns are too confusing to be bothered with. And obviously this is a problem that extends beyond and didn’t at all originate with reviews, which is why I didn’t want to make this post all about them. But book reviews seem to one of the spots where the problem is really showing, so I wanted to address it.

Please, if you meet a person who asks you to use gender-neutral pronouns for them, don’t tell them that it’s too difficult for you. If you mess up, don’t go on about how it was because their pronouns are just so complicated, and it’s hard for you to learn how to use them. Just say sorry, and move on. And if you’re reading a book about a genderqueer character, and you don’t want to be bothered with the pronouns, just put the book down and go read something else. Don’t write about how difficult it was for you, or how you felt put off the book by their existence, because genderqueer people are going to see that, and read it.

And trust me, we already know.