Posted in reviews

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.

Posted in Books, New Release

Release Day: Double Take aka “Oops! I’m Dating Twins!”

Yaaay, it’s finally here! It seems like ages ago that I was sitting at work and was randomly hit with the idea: “What if someone started dating what they thought was one person, but they didn’t realise that they were actually seeing twins?” Obviously I couldn’t pass that up! ^-^

I knew almost instantly that the main character was going to be genderqueer, but for a long time I couldn’t quite get the setting right. I kept imagining the characters at a British-style magical academy, and feeling like it just wasn’t quite right. Then I realised that I was viewing the story through my “white person default” glasses, and decided to try switching the setting, and the story immediately came into focus! (Hasani as a blonde white guy? Uh, no. What was I thinking??)

Anyway, here are some of the places where you can purchase Double Take online, either for your e-reader, or to read on your computer:

Less Than Three

Amazon

Smashwords

All Romance Ebooks

iTunes

I had a ton of fun writing this story, and I hope readers will enjoy it! I also want to draw everyone’s attention to the other stories in Less Than Three’s fab Trans Geek Out collection, because I truly believe it had something for everyone! It’s a lovely example of the diversity in the trans community, and how trans people can and should exist in all different types of stories.

I’ll let the fantastic covers speak for themselves, but click through for more info:sextbasedadventures400Print

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Thanks for reading! As always, have a picture of my cat looking impressed. She’s super proud of me for publishing a book. You can tell.

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Posted in Blog

Tattoos, Tattoos, Tattoos (and Ink & Flowers in Audio)

It’s kind of an obsession. I mean, you wouldn’t know it as I have exactly two whole tattoos, but that’s to do with the flesh being willing and the wallet being weak, if you know what I mean. Were money not an option, I would probably be covered in the things. Also, I’m incredibly picky, and there are only a few tattoo artists in the world who I actually want to draw stuff on my body. And here they are:

1. Nomi Chi

Starting with Nomi because she’s based in Vancouver, and I’m really hoping I’ll actually be able to get some work done by her. She has a fantastic, sketchy, different style, and (like a lot of tattoo artists) works in several different styles besides tattooing. But I’m going to share some of her tattoos for now.

2. Colin Dale

Colin works out of Denmark, and is one of a few different artists (all based out of the Netherlands) who do these absolutely amazing dotwork-style viking designs.

That last one was tattoed by hand, ie poke and rub. It’s often done outdoors (don’t worry, he’s a professional, so it’s completely sanitary) and getting a tattoo like this is absolutely on my bucket list.)

3. Jeff Gogue

Jeff Gogue is totally in a league of his own when it comes to tattoing. He works out of Oregon, and mostly only works with established clients on big pieces, so it’s almost impossible to get a tattoo by him, but looking is amazing too.

NSFW on the next one:

4. LAET

Laura A. E. Taylor is based in London (seriously, everyone is so far away) and she does amazing wood-cut style tattoos which are my absolute favourite.

5. Alex Tabuns

Alex is in Russia so (sigh) that’s probably never going to happen. She does more of the blackwork, woodcut designs I love.

6. Sam Smith

Finally, Sam is the artist I went to to get my tattoo, which I love. She’s in Calgary now, and I may yet make a trip to see her again. Her work is solid and bright with a lovely art nouveau touch.

So there you have it! Some of my favourite tattoo artists. I’m sure there are more I’m forgetting, so I may make a part 2 at some point. For now I’m going to lay about thinking wistfully about tattoos I’ll likely never have. And writing books with tatted up characters, of course.



Ink & Flowers is about a shy, repressed art student, and a gruff ex-tattoo-artist with a heart of gold. It was recently released as an audiobook through Less Than Three Press, and I’m super excited and happy with it!

Click Here to buy it in audio from various retailers or Here to see the ebook version.

Thanks for reading!

Posted in Books

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!
Posted in Blog

Rethinking the Default

I’ve got a lot to say about this. How to organize my thoughts…

So a while ago, a fairly large review site posted a review of a book that was mostly positive. However, at the end of the review, they lamented the fact that the main characters were in an interracial relationship, but that fact wasn’t addressed and explored fully in the book. The reviewer felt that it was impossible for people in an interracial relationship not to receive backlash for it, and that the book should have addressed and included that backlash.

Similarly, another author I follow recently received a review for a short story they wrote in which both of the characters ID as trans. The story is a fairly short, cute romance, but the reviewer thought it was odd that the author didn’t delve deeper into the characters’ past, and their trans identities.

Noticing a trend?

Both reviewers assumed that if the characters belong to a minority, then that fact has to be addressed in the story. For them, the characters identities/race were just sitting there like a big elephant in the room waiting to be addressed, and they felt let down when it never was. Now, if the characters in the books had been white and cis, would they have reacted similarly? Felt let down if the white characters didn’t at some point contemplate their privilege over any non-white characters? Or if the cis characters never stopped to think about when they really realised that they were cis, and all the ways they perform their gender to make sure people know what it is? Probably not.

For most readers, characters who are white, cis and (for readers outside of m/m and f/f) straight, are the default. The invisible norm. They assume that characters are going to be this way unless they have a specific reason to be otherwise. Something that serves the story. The reason for this bias is our culture, and our culture’s stories. Mainstream movies, books, television shows. The vast majority of these stories have main characters who are white, cis and straight. And if they aren’t, you’d better believe that the story revolves around that fact. I read a post a while back that talked about famous, award winning roles by African American actors. The vast majority of them are roles that are based on real people, and real events. Black actors are very rarely allowed to step outside of specifically “black” roles and play characters who’s race isn’t the main point of the movie. (Unless, for some reason, they’re Will Smith.)

So, because of all this, we start to see white, cis, straight people as the “default” and everyone else as the “other”. Which is incredibly faulty logic, but it forms the basis for a lot of discrimination. And this default is no more present than in movies and books with straight, white, cis characters, and in the criticism of stories that feature the “other” without devoting the story to that fact. But when minorities hear criticism like this, what we’re hearing is “there is nothing interesting or important about you besides your struggle and your pain. You are not a full human being, with a life and interests and dreams beyond your struggle. No one wants to hear about you falling in love, or saving the world, or achieving your dreams, unless it is secondary to hearing about your subjugation.” And right now, it kind of feels like no one does.

That’s why it’s so important that stories exist with minority characters that don’t make that fact the main point of the story. And I’m not saying that stories about minorities’ struggles aren’t important. I’ve written them, and they can be incredibly useful in educating the public and changing people’s minds. But so can the stories that just have minority characters in them, for no reason except that those kinds of people exist in real life. We need these stories, and lots of them, so that maybe one day, the “default” will just be human.

I should note, also, that it seems to be much more common for authors to receive backlash for writing a minority character if they belong to that minority. There seems to be this very shitty universal assumption right now that if a white person writes a book about a POC, they’re being forward and brave and breaking stereotypes etc. but when a POC writes a book about someone like themselves, they have an “agenda” and the book needs to be more harshly critiqued. Which is bullshit, but there you go. I sometimes wonder if my decision to make Luke in Ink & Flowers of Chinese descent would have been more harshly criticized if I was Asian-Canadian myself, and I think that yes, it probably would have been. And that’s a problem, and something white authors have to keep in mind.

Getting off track a little here, but this topic is a whole can of worms that I could probably write a million more blog posts about. I’d love to hear people’s opinions in the comments. Have you ever read a book with a minority and felt that it was missing something by not being about their race/gender identity? Do you think “coming out” and “racism” narratives are still important, or that they should be retired for the time being in favour of more books and movies about “incidental minorities”? What are some defaults that you’ve had to unlearn, as a writer or as a reader? Let me know! And thanks for reading!


I’m excited to announce that Ink & Flowers will be available as an audiobook from Less Than Three Press on December 28th! LT3 now has a collection of audiobooks available for download on their website, and from Audible, Amazon and iTunes. Check it out!

Ink & Flowers [Audio]

About to lose his apartment, and desperate to avoid having to move in with his horrendous relatives, shy art student Luke impulsively agrees to a deal from hell: sex with a man he doesn’t know in exchange for a couch to sleep on.

His new “roommate” Cooper is everything that Luke hates: crude, uncouth, and covered in tattoos, not to mention openly gay. Luke has all but resigned himself to a miserable fate when it turns out Cooper might want something a little different than he expected.

Ebook
Print

Posted in Blog, Books, Coming Soon

Stuff and Things

Buy Here!

This is just a housekeeping blog post, since I’ve been busy lately, and have a bunch of little thoughts that I wanted to gather together into a post. It’s been a pretty crazy week, with To Summon Nightmares being released, and working lots, and dealing with a particularly severe, if short-lived, bout of depression. I think it may have partially been brought on by book release nerves, which is a pain. Something that will hopefully lessen the more books I release. Anyway, onward!

So, if you received an ARC copy of To Summon Nightmares from NetGalley, and were really confused by the ending, it’s probably because you received an early copy that had a glitch in which part of chapter one was pasted onto the end. A few people misunderstood and thought that I had pulled a Stephen King style eternal time loop ending on them, which – really, I’m not that evil! Although, interestingly at least one person said they liked it that way. So there’s an example of artistic value in interpretation for you or … something. Anyway, if you have the glitchy copy and would like the proper, final version, just let me know and I’ll send it to you.

Secondly, if you read To Summon Nightmares and liked Cohen, do your self a favour and listen to this excellent song. It’s Cohen’s favourite, and he can often be heard singing it in the early mornings when Niall is trying to sleep.

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So, what’s next? Well, Christmas is coming, and I’m super pleased to have been able to write a short story for a Christmas anthology, especially since it meant getting into the Christmas spirit back in June. x) The Anthology is called A Touch of Mistletoe and … well, I haven’t read the whole thing yet, because I’m waiting to get the paperback so I can sit and read it in front of the Christmas tree with a mug of hot chocolate, but it includes some of LT3’s best authors (and me! <–good save) so I’m thinking it’s gonna be excellent. So that comes out December 16th.

Then on January 27th we have Double Take (this is what happens when you decide to write a few short stories in a row) which is part of LT3’s Trans Geek Out Collection. I’m going to share the cover again, because holy crap, I love it so much. If you’re not a fan of incest or menages, then this story is not for you. If you are a fan of misunderstandings, cute genderqueer characters with blue hair and smut, then this story is definitely for you.

As for upcoming projects, I am still knocking away at Skylark Tower. Still. I may die first, in which case, go ahead and publish the unedited draft posthumously, I’ll be dead, so I won’t care. That’s … pretty much how work on this story is going. No, honesty, I really love this story a lot, and I feel really strongly that it’s a story that needs to be told, which is why I’m working so hard on it. It’s sitting at about 53K right now, and I think I might have another 10K or more in me for it, which is good, because I have a problem with my stories being too short. I’m also eventually going to be looking for some more betas, particularly ones who are of Southeast Asian descent, identify as transgender, or who have some academic knowledge of class struggles and revolutions. Yeah, it’s that kind of story. Also, steampunk, if that interests you.

I do have ten days off work coming up (yay!), and I’m going to try to either finish Skylark, or else Witch, Cat and Cobb, which really only needs another 5K that I’ve just been putting off. It’s a fun, light f/f fairytale. I try to contrast my dark, longer works with shorter fluffier stories, to keep myself upbeat.

And after that, I’m not sure! I have quite a few ideas knocking around in my head, but nothing’s really grabbed me super hard yet. I’m thinking of another m/m contemporary because $.$ … ahem, because I’m trying to save up for a down payment, and I’d really appreciate another paycheck like the one I got for Ink & Flowers. But I also want to write more trans characters – I need to write more trans characters. I keep trying to come up with cis characters but they keep ending up trans. Sort of like when I try to think up a contemporary setting and my brain is like “wait, but have you considered vampires? OR they could be on a SPACE STATION. Yeah!” So we’ll see if I manage.

And I have rambled for long enough, I think. I will sign off with a picture of my cat, of course, and wish you all a very lovely week! Bye!

Edit: Oh, I almost forgot! I’m going to be doing some reading on my days off, so if you’ve read any particularly good books lately, please rec them in the comments! (I’m partial to queer romance, of course.)

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This picture is my desktop right now.
Posted in Books

Release Day!

*toots party horn*To Summon Nightmares

*throws confetti*

Today’s the day! To Summon Nightmares is now available to purchase from these fine retailers:

Less Than Three Press
Amazon
Smashwords
All Romance Ebooks
iTunes
Barnes & Noble

The winner of the giveaway has been chosen, congrats Rebecca! If you didn’t win, there are still a couple of other giveaways open here and here.

I’ve received some lovely advanced reviews which are incredibly appreciated. Check them out here and here.

*cue heartwarming music, designer dress and gold statuette* I just want to thank everyone who helped make this book a reality, from my betas and early readers, to the editors and designers who worked so hard on it. Thank you to Less Than Three Press for their commitment to publishing diverse queer books, because to be able to read and write books about people like myself is still a dream come true. Thank you to everyone who follows me and shares my rambly blog posts (more where those came from) and to everyone who took the time to message me telling me how much the story meant to them. Holy crap, those are the best messages in the world!

Seriously though, it’s a really amazing thing to be a part of this awesome community and to get to do what I love. And know that my sarcastic, brittle heart is dying a little inside me from all this sappiness. But it’s true, goddamit!

Anyway, a writer’s work is never done! I’ve got more books and blog posts and smut to get to writing. Stay tuned, love you all!

And, of course, because what would my blog be without a million and five pictures of my cat, here she is in all her glory:

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Posted in Blog

Genre Lovin’

Genre fiction, also known as popular fiction, is plot-driven fictional works written with the intent of fitting into a specific literary genre, in order to appeal to readers and fans already familiar with that genre. Genre fiction is generally distinguished from literary fiction.

Wikipedia

I love genre. For me, it’s the fun stuff. The stories that focus on plot and excitement, rather than pages of introspection and characters behaving badly. They have likable characters, and involve adventures outside of the normal every day experience. I’ve always been drawn to fiction (and movies/television) as an escape from my everyday world. I don’t want to crack open a book or turn on the tv to see more of the same. I want adventures on the high seas, sprawling fantasy, science fiction that takes me to the very edge of the human experience.

A lot of the time genre is seen as somewhat lesser than literary fiction, partially because it’s jetpack(apparently) more derivative, basing itself on already established conventions like setting, plot, characters. And a lot of the time that’s true, but working within conventions doesn’t necessarily make you less creative. Sometimes it forces you to be more creative. For every hack-job heartless, dime a dozen sci-fi movie, there’s a boundary-pushing, convention-defying masterpiece that surprises you at every turn. And then there are the stories that fit every convention, don’t really offer anything new, and don’t try to be anything better than just quality entertainment, that you can easily slip into and enjoy, without worrying that it’s going to unsettle you, or take you somewhere you don’t necessarily want to be right now.

And I love those stories. I love writing those stories. I don’t always want to be stressed out, or disgusted by humanity, or depressed all the time. Genre fiction and movies give me characters that I love, stories that I want to know the ending to, and they leave feeling happy and content.

But here’s the thing: What do those stories almost always have? Especially the movies and tv shows, but adult genre fiction most of the time too. (Hint: it’s rooted in the very sexist “hero gets the girl” trope.) Yeah, it’s romance. Romance in genre spans from a barely there, shoehorned in with a kiss at the end type of deal, to a deep meticulously developed love that becomes the emotional basis of the story, and everything in between. But one thing that’s missing from almost all these stories: queer romance.

This is something that I love to rant about, because it’s really depressingly prevalent. Queer characters are always relegated to the depressing stories, the literary fiction and its movie equivalent. We don’t get happy endings very much, and even when we do, it’s usually after a lot of depressing things that happen because of our sexuality. Now, queer people are slowly becoming more visible in genre, and it’s great, but we’re almost always given a supporting role, a side character, with a romance that is mostly sex-based, or else completely side-lined. And yeah, a lot of the time, we die.

It’s always a huge surprise to see a genre-type story with a queer person as the main character. I was plesantly surprised to start season 2 of American Horror Story and see a lesbian as the main character (although, don’t spoil it for me, but I’m guessing she dies). I was super excited to read about a new tv show, The London Spy, starring Ben Whishaw, who was rumoured to be playing a gay character who is also a spy. Further digging shows this rumor to be false. And my interest in the show just dropped down to nothing. That’s the thing though, I’m desperate to see a queer character in the lead role of a genre story. I’ll take anything! But it really is depressingly rare. And that’s where I turn to romance.

Well, okay, no, I love romance anyway. For a long time I pretended I didn’t. Probably partially because I was struggling to express my gender identity, and my solution at the time was to distance myself from all things “girly” including, apparently, stories about being in love. But I do love them. My favourite part of all those sci fi and fantasy stories was the romance, and my favourite ones were the ones that made it the centre of the story. When I grew up and discovered genre romance novels, I was hooked.

And that’s how we come to lgbt genre romance. I love it dearly. I can see awesome lgbt characters, the centre of their own story, with a wonderfully developed romance at the heart. This is what I want to read, this is what I want to write, and I’m never going to leave. With the stigma of “queer” inside the further stigma of “romance,” it’s unlikely that it’s ever going to become mainstream. But I’ll keep doing my best to get the word out.

I’m here, I’m queer, and I’m going to keep writing about people like me falling in love and having adventures. Because we deserve it too.


To Summon Nightmares comes out November 4th! Less than a week!

To Summon Nightmares

Three years ago, Cohen Brandwein was “Ireland’s Favorite Daughter”, a popular teenage author and internet celebrity. But ever since he came out publicly as trans, the media’s treatment of him has been less than golden, and these days, Cohen is desperate for escape.

When he inherits an old house in the country, Cohen sees it as a perfect opportunity to escape the press and work on his new book. What he doesn’t count on is becoming embroiled in a small town murder mystery and falling for the primary suspect, a man whose reality makes Cohen’s fantasy books seem like child’s play…

Wordcount: 53,000
Price: $5.99
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Trans, M/M
Excerpt
Pre-order (save 15%)
Comment to win a free copy + a $25 Amazon Gift Card

Thanks for reading! Oh, I almost forgot.

saphlaundry