News! The Fairy Gift Re-release – New Cover – #Trans wins Best LGBT Memoir/Biography at Rainbow Awards!

Hello everyone! Long time, no blog! I hope everyone who celebrates had a wonderful holiday season! I was actually down with a bad cold for most of the holidays, so I didn’t get much celebrating done. I did go and see The Shape of Water, which was excellent and filled the fishman-romance-shaped hole in my heart.

This blog post is just to share a couple different pieces of exciting news! First up, The Fairy Gift has been picked up for re-release by Less Than Three Press! A new, lightly polished second edition will be available for purchase on January 24th, and is has a new cover!

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It’s so pretty! @.@ If you haven’t read The Fairy Gift, it was my first published book, and it’s a fun, sexy fairy tale about a plain young man who receives seductive powers from a fairy and is dragged into a world of magic and romance. And brothels. If you’re up for a light, tropey read, check it out! Pre-order here.

The other exciting news is that the trans memoir anthology I contributed to, #Trans did really well at this year’s Rainbow Awards! It tied for first place in the LGBT Memoir/Anthology category, and got second place in Best Transgender Book. Here’s what they had to say about it:

1) Trans was somewhat painful to read – not by any fault of the author but as a collection of difficult and heartfelt stories it was heart wrenching, but I felt it was a book that needed to be written and will be loved by many.
2) I rather like that each piece was allowed to create it’s own setting. The diversity of the pieces was part of the power of the book. The voice of each essay allowed me to glimpse into different worlds and gave me a clearer understanding of many things.
3) #Trans brings use collection of genuine stories from transgender and non-binary writers who share their heartfelt experiences and insightful thoughts on identity formation and how it has been impacted by technology, film, literature, social media, and music. Well written and edited, this is a must read for youth and adults.
4) #Trans is by turns academic, thoughtful, and provocative, providing insights and deconstruction of what it means to occupy a body in space and time… and how the internet has made it more possible than ever to find the others asking those same questions.
5) Thought provoking and informative, well written and edited, I really loved this book. It sparked quite a few family discussions! 
This was a total departure for me, but I’m really happy with how the anthology came out, and super proud of how well-received it’s been. Evelyn did an amazing job with it!
Well, I think that’s everything. I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year, and gets to read lots of excellent books. As usual, here is a picture of my cat being cute this Christmas:
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Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!

Visualizing Self: Gender Identity in a Vacuum

Imagine your ideal self. How does it differ from how you look now? Are you more attractive? More masculine, more feminine? Skinnier, fatter? How does your voice sound? How do you have sex?

Now imagine your ideal self again, but in a social vacuum. Are you attractive in the way our society defines attractiveness? Are you masculine or feminine without the societal stereotypes attached to those things? Is the way you want to have sex the way society wants you to have sex?

How much of your ideal self is based on what other people think of you?

For a long time I didn’t want to medically transition. “I don’t want to go on hormones. I don’t want my voice to be lower, or to have more facial hair. I don’t want to have to explain the changes to people.” “My breasts are attractive, I don’t want to get rid of them. How would I explain it to my family?

Anxiety is a bitch. But I’ve been on anti-depressants that help with anxiety for a couple of years now. And I’ve started to realize that my reasons for not transitioning weren’t so much to do with what I wanted, but with what other people expected.

I’ve spent so much time trying to visualize my “ideal self.” Not having a societal representation of non-binary existence doesn’t help. But then again, the societal representation of “masculine” is not what I want to be either. I have to create that vacuum. I have to visualize myself in that space where “masculine” and “feminine” are not personality traits, but simply the body’s response to different hormones.

And more importantly, I’ve had to create a vacuum where who I want to be isn’t influenced by the anxiety I feel about coming out, explaining my androgyny to people, dealing with the response from my family. It’s just… who I want to be.

I do want to have a lower voice. I don’t want breasts. Maybe I do want to be a man,  but I want to be a radically different kind of man than what our current society says a man is.

Coming out sucks. Having to explain myself to people sucks. But it is what it is. And I can’t let those things affect my gender identity. As cliche as it sounds, I’m on the path to being the truest version of myself, and I don’t want to be stuck in traffic anymore.


Life updates!

In January I visited Dr Melady Preece in Vancouver, BC. I sat with her for an hour and talked about my experiences with dysphoria, and my desire for top surgery. At that time she suggested to me the possibility of going on a low dose of androgel to help ease the other symptoms of dysphoria. I didn’t like the idea at the time, but a few weeks later, I emailed her and asked if she could include a recommendation for HRT in her letter to my physician.

A couple months later, my physician received my diagnosis of gender dysphoria and letter of recommendation for top surgery from Dr Preece. He forwarded it to Dr. Bowman in Vancouver, and I’m now on the waitlist for top surgery.

I also asked my physician about my options regarding HRT, and he recommended me to Dr. Tregoning in Abbotsford, who is an endocrinologist who specializes in providing HRT to transgender patients. I made an appointment to see him, and we talked about my options. I stressed that my period was giving me a lot of dysphoria and I wanted a way to stop it without taking a lot of testosterone. I suggested the idea of estrogen blockers, and we decided to try that out.

So as of today I’m three weeks into a month-dose of estrogen blockers, and three weeks on testosterone! And the longer I’m on it, the more impatient I am for the results because, a few days before I started, I posted this picture on facebook:

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…and basically told everyone that I was starting HRT. And now that that’s out of the way, suddenly I do feel like I want the effects of testosterone after all. Hence what this post is about.

I posted about it so publicly because (besides wanting to get coming out out of the way) one of the main reasons I decided to transition medically is because I finally started to see other non-binary people doing it. Visibility and representation are so, so important for trans people. It’s where we look once we’ve finally managed to find ourselves in that vacuum. It can be lonely in there. And I want to be visible to others.


Promo time! I haven’t been working on anything much lately, but here are my three latest projects:

Junior Hero Blues is a gay superhero YA novel I published last year with Riptide Press’s YA Imprint Triton. Sea Lover is a m/m trans romance novella about a fisherman and a selkie that I published with Less Than Three Press also last year, and #TRANS is an independent collection of essays by trans people about their experiences online that I contributed to.

If any of these three interest you at all, please check them out!

And finally, no blog post would be complete without this beauty: IMG_0280

FEAST YOUR EYES!

Thanks for reading, everyone! I know I haven’t been active lately, but this blog still exists, and I really wanted to take the time to talk about my transition. Hope you enjoyed!

#Trans Blog Hop – An Anthology about Transgender and Nonbinary Identity Online

Hi guys! Guess who nearly forgot that I was supposed to write this blog post! In my defense I’ve been working all week and um… it’s  my birthday tomorrow?

b7b5193632599af1554c82fa0950e4f061ad71aeAnyway, this post is part of a blog hop to promote a new collection of essays put together by the amazing Evelyn Deshane called #Trans about how transness intersects with technology and the internet. It’s subject that’s near and dear to my heart because (like a lot of people) I discovered that I was trans because of the internet. If it wasn’t for the community and support I’ve found online, I would probably still be very alone and confused. I believe the internet and online communities have revolutionized the queer experience, allowing otherwise isolated young queer people to discover a community of people like them, to connect and grow together.

My essay, which is called Trans Romance and Radical Love: My Autobiography in Binder Rippers (couldn’t pass that title up,) is about existing as a trans person in the larger LGBT+ romance community. I talk about both the good and bad aspects of it, from discovering my identity alongside other non-binary authors, to the difficulty trans authors in the communities have faced and continued to face. It was actually a pretty difficult essay to write because some of the stuff I talk about is still pretty upsetting for me, but Eve was an absolutely phenomenal editor and she helped me turn my personal ramblings into an essay that I’m pretty proud of.

So, #Trans is available at Amazon and Smashwords now! Here’s the blurb:

#Trans is an essay collection featuring the works of twenty transgender and nonbinary writers as they share their experiences with online communities, video games, and dating apps–among other technologies. Each author’s experience of their identity breaks away from the typical transgender narrative that is predominantly hung up on surgery and medical intervention. While that aspect is still a part of the story for some of these writers, surgery has never been the sole inspiration which pushes these writers forward.

Whether it was the love of a particular movie, the desire to share a feeling on social media, or a song they couldn’t get out of their heads, these twenty writers’ experiences of their identity have been shaped by media, technology, and the internet. And now, #Trans is ready to share with all of you.

It’s also going to be available in print on March 31st. If it sounds at all interesting, please go check it out, and maybe leave a review if you feel up to it! That would be great!

You can check out the official site here, and I’ll list the other stops on the blog hop below.

Thanks for reading, and hope you’re all having a great spring!

#Trans Blog Hop Schedule:
March 10th: Eve Deshane blogging evedeshane.wordpress.com.
March 13th: Erika D. Price blogging on their tumblr.
March 17th Ariel Estrella on their website.
March 20th: J.K. Pendragon on their website.
March 22nd: Gabriel D. Vidrine on their tumblr.
March 24th: Velvl Ryder on his website.
March 29th: Allen Hope on #Trans site.

 

GRNW 2016

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Hello everyone!

I’m writing this from my hotel room in Seattle! We drove down early today, and spent the evening having delicious Chinese food at PF Chang’s, buying lots of body products at Lush, and even more makeup at Sephora. Now were back at our favourite haunted hotel, the Moore, relaxing for our big weekend!

transficsThere are two main events that Alex Powell and I will be attending and speaking at this weekend. The first is TransFics + Love Bites, a free to attend reading at the Hugo House where we’ll be reading snippets of some of our published works, alongside Austin Chant, Tobi Hill-Meyer, Laylah Hunter and EE Ottoman! Then there will be an intermission followed by more short readings by a variety of LGBTQ authors! If you’re going to be in the Seattle area tomorrow (Friday the 23rd) night, please stop by! The readings start at 7PM.

Then on Saturday, the main event! Gay Romance NorthWest 2016 at the Seattle Library! Unfortunately, passes for the event are completely sold out, but if you already have a pass, I can’t wait to see you there!

Registration starts at 12, and then there are panels from 1PM to 4PM. Alex and I, along with the other readers from TransFics will be speaking on a panel called “Trans Authors on Characters, Stories, and Industry” that starts at 2:10. Austin is the moderator, and it looks like it’s gonna be a really awesome discussion!

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I made a bunch of these! Please come by and grab one!

Finally, from 1-6, basically the whole time, there will be a book fair where you can buy books from the bookseller, and from 4-6 there will be an author meet and greet! I’ll be at my table handing out my little business cards and candies that I put together! If you’d like a book signed, or just to chat, please stop by!

Also, when you get a swag bag, check inside for a “Hello, my pronouns are:” tag courtesy of Alex and I! Even if you’re cis, wearing a pronoun tag is a great way of normalizing the idea, and makes trans people more comfortable wearing them as well!

I think that’s everything! There will be an afterparty at the Rendevous after the conference, but last year we were way too tuckered out to go, so we’ll see about that one. XD

We have all sorts of other fun things planned for the weekend, including Alex and I getting matching tattoos and a visit to a cat cafe, The Meowtropolitan! I can’t even tell which of those I’m more excited about. I’ve wanted to go to a cat cafe since I first learned of their existence. I’ll be sure to keep everyone updated via twitter, so feel free to follow me there! I’m @JKPendragon.

And now, I must go wash a green mud mask off of my face and head to bed. Hope to see you all soon!

Cheers!

All The News! Cover Reveal, Tattoo, Print Copies etc….

Hello, everyone! Long time, no blog! I’ve been taking it easy, enjoying my new place, intermittently battling the great depression beast, as you do. I haven’t been writing at all, something I hope will change soon, but I have been editing and preparing for a couple of new releases, as well as preparing for GRNW in September! So, to that end, I have a bunch of stuff to share with you guys! Hold on, lemme get my camera.

Okay, so first off, these babies arrived:

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They are gorgeous, and I wish I could bring them with me to GRNW, but they don’t come out until November! *pout* But I think I’m going to see about maybe doing an advance giveaway possibly maybe. We’ll see. Anyway, next up is these!

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Please ignore the typo on the back. Oh great, now you can’t because I drew attention to it. Go me. I seriously can’t believe I didn’t notice that but… ah well, what can you do? Nobody’s perfect. They are still glorious and rainbow, and I’ll probably be handing them out at GRNW (with candy bribes attached!)

ALSO, I’m going to be on a panel at GRNW! It’ll be Trans Authors on Characters, Stories and Industry. We have an amazing line-up of trans authors, and it should be a pretty great panel! I’ll also be at the book fair selling books and just hanging out, if you want to come and talk to me!

So JUNIOR HERO BLUES is coming out November 7th (go pre-order!) but I also have another romance novella coming out sometime after that! No blurb or release date yet, but I just got the cover, so I have to show it off! It’s by the wonderful Aisha Akeju who like, takes images directly out of my brain and turns them into covers (she is obviously a witch) and this one is no different!

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Perfect, right? Sea Lover is a fairly low-key, sweet romance between a seal-merman and a reclusive fisherman who finds him on the beach. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I can’t wait to share more!

And finally, in personal matters, I finally got a new tattoo!

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Taking pictures of your right arm with your left hand: surprisingly difficult. Anyway, it’s based off of the designs at Newgrange, and I couldn’t be more in love with how it came out. The placement, the size, even the fact that it looks like it was drawn by a human, and not a machine, are all exactly what I wanted. I actually didn’t know the exact placement I wanted going in, so I let the artist (Deborah at Unicus Studios) decide how it would look best, and she came up with this kind of off-centre position that I think looks so great and organic.

This one hurt like a mother-fucker too. Inside arm, and she had to start with a thin line and then go over it multiple times to thicken them. Ouch. It’s still quite tender and sore today, but it seems to be healing well. You can tell in the picture it’s still at that awkward healing, slightly swollen stage, but I’ll post photo updates on my twitter  to show how it comes out!

Thanks everyone for reading! 2016 has been an awesome year so far, and I hope it continues that way. Stay tuned for more info about Sea Lover, and a Junior Hero Blues giveaway.

Oh, and one more thing. No blog post is complete without this face:

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She loves the camera.

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!)

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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!

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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!

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

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!

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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.

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