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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The Pronoun Talk

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

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

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

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

So I’m gonna talk about it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And trust me, we already know.

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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Printhorsecrazy400geekout400manifest400

 

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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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)


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

Stuff and Things

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.

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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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

Giveaway! $25 Amazon Gift Card + Free Copy of To Summon Nightmares by J.K. Pendragon

Giveaway-Graphic

Hello everyone!

To Summon Nightmares comes out in less than two weeks, so I’ve decided to host a giveaway!

The Rules:

  • To enter just leave a comment on this post with your email address.
  • The draw closes at midnight Pacific Time on November 4th. The winner will be contacted and will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen.

The Prize:

  • A $25 Amazon gift card, delivered to you by email, and a free copy of To Summon Nightmares in the format of your choice, including ebook or print.

To Summon NightmaresAbout 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…

Length: 53,000 words
Pairing: m/m, trans
Available: November 4th
Price: $5.99 (pre-order to save 15%)

Read an Excerpt
Buy Link

Good luck, everyone!


Update:

The giveaway is now over! Congratulations, Rebecca, and thanks for playing everyone!