J.K. Pendragon’s Witchy Giveaway!

~GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED. THANKS EVERYONE!~

Hello everyone! Welcome to my giveaway to celebrate the release of my new f/f fantasy novella Witch, Cat and Cobb which comes out October 14th! I’m going to be giving away a collection of fun Halloween-themed goodies plus a free copy of the Witch, Cat and Cobb ebook!

To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment with your email address on this post. You can also get multiple entries by sharing (or reblogging, retweeting etc.) this post on any social media platform you like! Just leave a comment with a link to the place(s) where you shared it (your twitter, tumblr page, facebook etc.) and your username on that platform so that I can see and add your entries.

Have a look at the photos and list of giveaway items below and please leave a comment and share!

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Giveaway Includes:

-One free copy of the Witch, Cat and Cobb ebook, any format
-Spiced Elixer ‘Liquorice and Snake Weed’ mason jar candle
-Wood Craft ‘Cracklin’ Fire’ candle
-Halloween-themed mug with adorable owls
-Set of handmade aluminum earrings
-Light up paper lantern
-Orange glass candle holder
-Witch’s hat with headband
-Ceramic witch’s hut figurine
-Halloween socks. They are very cute and have pumpkins on them.

Here are a few more pictures of the goods:


Finally, here’s the cover and blurb for Witch, Cat and Cobb:

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!


Limit one comment entry per person, but you can share as many times and in as many places as you like! The draw ends October 14th, which is when WC&C comes out, and that’ll give me time to ship it to you hopefully in time for Halloween! You must be willing to provide me with a mailing address by email to enter obviously, too.

Thanks for reading, and good luck everyone!

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!

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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!

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.

My Diverse Books 2015

So, with the #weneeddiversebooks movement still going strong, and everyone tweeting about their hopes and desires for #Romance2015, I thought I’d take a minute to take stock of how I’m doing diversity-wise with my books.

I’m doing this both because I want to highlight and promote my books in the hopes of getting them to people who want to read them, but also because I talk a lot of talk about writing diverse fiction, but at this point I don’t feel like my books 100% back me up. I want to see where I’m lacking, and how I can improve going forward.

I also want to encourage my author friends and followers to do this as well, because I want to read and support all your diverse books as well! So, without further adieu, here are My Diverse Books 2015:

Stories with a gay main character:

Stories with a bisexual/pansexual main character:

Stories with a lesbian main character:

  • None! In fact, I don’t currently have any books published with a female main character. This is something I really hope to remedy in the future, and I currently have two books in the works with female main characters. I’m very excited!

Stories with a transgender main character:

Stories with a non-white main character:

Stories with a main character with a mental illness/disability:

Stories with a main character who isn’t super thin/athletic:

Stories with a main character who is aged 40+

  • None! But people fall in love later in life too, so I want to write about that as well.

So, most of these lists are pretty sadly short. I especially need to make more of an effort to write female main characters, and more trans characters! And the two can definitely intersect. I also want to write more characters with disabilities, and who aren’t traditionally attractive and/or young.

I’m a little worried about this list though, because I don’t want to make diversity in my stories into something that I can check off and then go back to writing perfect white cis dudes. I want to throw out the idea that those characters are the default, and that everyone else is a special alternative. Writing diverse characters means that every time I come up with a new character, I’m drawing from the complete well of human experiences, and getting a new, unique person every time. It’s not about creating a character and then arbitrarily assigning them a minority. It’s about allowing my characters to be that way in the first place. If I chose human beings at random, and asked them to tell me their stories, I know those lists up there would fill up pretty fast. So I hope that in my writing I can reflect that.

Please let me know in the comments if you think of any other categories to add, and let me know the stories that you would like to see in 2015. Thank you for reading, and I hope everyone has a wonderful new year!

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Christmas gave me an opportunity to replenish my stock of cat photos. Feast your eyes on the cuteness!

Being Conscious of Your Narrative

So last week I talked about diversity in fiction, and why it’s important to have a variety of stories about diverse characters. Some of those stories should address the issues of privilege and discrimination, but it’s also important to write stories about diverse characters that don’t function solely to expose prejudice, and just show diverse people as the real, rounded individual people they are. And this sentiment is echoed by a lot of people. There’s a great discussion going on online about how important it is to include people of different race, sexual orientation, gender identities and backgrounds in stories. But what I don’t hear discussed often enough, is how it’s not good enough to just insert diverse characters into your story, you have to also be mindful of the narrative of your story, and the way those characters are used in the narrative.

A few examples come to mind of wonderfully written, complex, developed minority characters who were completely betrayed by the narrative of the story. 

1. Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I haven’t even seen every season of Buffy (I know, I know) but I’ve heard enough people lamenting Willow’s fate to know what happened. The show’s creators spent years developing an amazing gay character (problematic bi-erasure aside) that people related to and identified with, and then threw everything away by having her turn evil and die, and incredibly common and harmful trope surrounding lesbian characters. (Edit: my apologies, as mentioned in the comments, Willow doesn’t die. Her girlfriend Tara dies, and Willow reacts by “going dark”. Queer characters have a history of being evil and/or dying, and the show hit them both in one fell swoop, which was disappointing after they had done such a good job developing Willow and Tara’s sexualities and relationship.)

2. Daisy Fitzroy from Bioshock: Infinite. The game goes to immense trouble to set up the city of Columbia as a false utopia, where the rich white bourgoisie live in luxury, while the poor black and Irish workers are exploited. One character whom we are led to sympathise with is Daisy, an African American maid who becomes the leader of the inevitable revolution that occurs. For the first half of the game, we are shown just how awful the situation is, and how justified Daisy’s actions are. And then Daisy is abruptly killed by, and her death used as character development for the white, female main character. To add insult to injury, the formerly sympathetic rebel group is then condemned in the narrative, and it is implied that they are nearly or just as bad as the wealthy bourgeoisie because they resorted to violence.

3. Well, just read this: Visual Representation: Trans Women in Comics

These are all fairly extreme examples, but there are also a million little ways in which minorities can be negatively represented. Female characters constantly falling for and/or being less competent than the male main character. The same female character dying to further the male main character’s character development. And even just plain old stereotypes like gay characters being interested in fashion and black female characters being “strong, independent women.” There’s a seemingly endless trail of pitfalls to avoid when writing diverse characters. And often a narrative tool or trope isn’t inherently bad, but it’s been used so often with regards to a particular minority, that it becomes a harmful stereotype. And of course there’s the simple but dangerously easy pitfall of including diverse characters, but in the end making them less important in the narrative, and ultimately sacrificial to the needs and character development of he majority characters. Like I said, there’s really no foolproof way of avoiding hitting some of these stereotypes, which is why it’s important to accept that when you’re writing about a minority you’re not a part of, you are going to screw up, and behave graciously when you do.

So why do we write these tropes? Why can’t we seem to avoid falling into these pitfalls? Well partially it’s because, like I said, there are just so many of them, you’d need extensive history and study to unearth them all. Although, here is an excellent reference page from tvtropes: Avoiding Unfortunate Implications. (Yes, that’s three external links in one post. Next you know I’ll be writing academic essays and citing my sources.) The other reason is that, unfortunately, we’re steeped in these stereotypes. A lot of the time it’s subconscious, and for a lot of authors, we rely on our subconscious knowledge of stories, plots, and characters to produce our work. I mean, yes, some authors study narrative extensively and produce best-selling books based on a perfected formula. But for a lot of us (myself included) we’re mostly winging it, allowing our experience with stories and our natural creativity to guide us. Unfortunately, a lot of the stories we experienced growing up and are continuing to experience are deeply racist, homophobic and sexist in ways that aren’t always visible on the surface. If we’re not careful, we take these deeply hurtful tropes and insert them into our work, without ever becoming aware that we’re doing it.

I don’t really have any easy tips and tricks or life hacks to help avoid putting harmful stereotypes into your stories. The number one thing is just to be aware, be critical of all the media you consume, and look for patterns that you want to avoid. It’s also really important to listen to people from the minority you’re writing about, and if possible, ask them to beta your work. And be creative, for goodness sake. Don’t use tired old tropes in your writing. Come up with new ones. Subvert the old ones. Have the girl save the guy. Make your main character a person of colour. Make the story revolve around them. In fact, write a book with no white people in it at all! Write something different. And write something real.


Coming January 27th, 2015: Double Take
Part of Less Than Three Press’s Trans Geek Out Collection
Wordcount: 14,500
Pre-order now for only $1.91 (save 36%!)

Studying magical science at the prestigious Kemet Academy is a privilege and dream come true for Teka, a poor student from D’mt. But focusing on school doesn’t mean xe can’t also admire Hasani, the handsome graduate student overseeing Teka’s work.

Then late one night at the school library, Teka runs Hasani and is completely astonished when the stern, quiet man xe knows by day acts so flirty and casual, it’s like he’s a different person. When the late night encounter leads to dating, Teka can scarcely believe xyr luck.

But the luck plays out when xe discovers why Hasani seems so different between night and day, a discovery that seems to have no resolution except heartache… (Warning: This story contains incest)


What’s New

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Like my new website? I love this little guy, although I can’t seem to find him in higher resolution than this anywhere.

Hello, all! I’m coming off an absolutely lovely week of holidays from my day job. It’s been gorgeous and sunny out, and I’ve been relaxing, playing video games, eating, and of course, writing.

It’s a little bittersweet for me, having to go back to the wretched day job. It’s not a horrible job, by any means. It pays well (over minimum wage anyway) it’s relatively low stress, and it gives me medical benefits. But at the same time, for someone who is on good days, an introvert, and on bad days, an anxiety-ridden lump, going to work, pasting a smile on my face and interacting with people for eight hours a day takes it’s toll. This holiday was a little glimpse into what life on the other side is like.

I want to be able to one day quit my day job. I don’t think it’ll ever happen. Right now I’m able to only work 4 days a week and write the other three, and I consider that a blessing even. But I can dream.

Anyway, like I said, I got quite a bit of writing done. I’m about 8K into a new story called Witch, Cat and Cobb, a cute fantasy romance about a princess who runs away and falls in love with a witch. It’s my first lesbian romance, and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve been pushing myself to write more female characters, and confront my internalised misogyny that tells me I won’t enjoy writing/reading female characters as much. I really am enjoying writing this, and I hope others enjoy reading it too.

It’s also a nice break from the 50K story I’ve been working on SINCE THE DAWN OF TIME (since last year.) It’s tentatively titled Skylark Tower and is a steampunk romance with a transgender narrative and also a revolution. It’s very complex, emotional, and has taken it’s toll on me in terms of deciding how I feel about serious issues and how I want to portray them. Right now I’m in the process of comMore Info... pletely re-typing the whole thing and editing it as I go, and it’s arduous. I think I’m seeing the end of the tunnel though, and like I said, WC&C is a very nice diversion.

ANYWAY!

I’ve got lots of publishing news too! We’ve got To Summon Nightmares finishing up it’s serial rotation and coming out on November 5th.

Touch of MistletoeThen A Touch of Mistletoe, the Christmas Anthology I wrote a story for is coming out December 17th. My story is called Here For You, and it’s about a blind piano teacher who is convinced he’s going to be alone forever after the death of his wife, until he meets a man who makes him question that, along with his sexuality.

Ink & Flowers is also going to be released as an audiobook around that time! I’m excited, but also not sure I’m going to be able to make myself listen to the whole thing. Especially not the sex scenes. >.< Anyone else get super embarrassed hearing their work read out loud?

Then! (yeah, I’m not done) on January 28th, LT3’s Trans Geek Out collection will be released, which includes my genderqueer twincest menage story (say that three times fast) Double Take! You can buy all the stories individually, or get the bundle (tip: get the bundle) and read all of them!

And finally (at last, I wanted to get this typed up, but I really want to go watch the new episode of Doctor Who) Prince of the Forgotten Planet is in the works to be translated into Spanish and French. Which is brilliant, because I’m sure French and Spanish people really want to read about gay magical tentacle sex and have had a limited selection up until this point. Just hold out a little longer, French and Spanish people!

I think that’s it! Thanks for reading, and have a great week, everyone!