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Diverse SFF Starter Kit–OryCon 39

Greetings! This weekend I’ll be at OryCon 39, a large SFF convention in Oregon. (If you’re attending, you can see my full panel schedule here.)

One of the panels I’m moderating is on Diverse Voices and Characters in SFF–specifically, how to find them. To that end, I put together a little starter kit for those who want to broaden their reading horizons. I’m making a handout version of this for the panel itself, but since the links aren’t always tidy, I wanted a digital version to be accessible for people to click the links directly. Please feel free to add to this in the comments (left sidebar)!

Goodreads Diversity Book Lists

With lists ranging from “Non-Caucasion Protagonists in Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Paranormal Romance” to “YA LGBT Books – Not ‘Coming Out’”, this is a good place to start browsing titles.

Reviews of trans and/or non-binary lit by trans and/or non-binary reviewers

If you go to the main web address, this is the first link in the left sidebar under “Top Posts & Pages.” It’s just what it says on the package—a round-up of reviews by people who have personal experience with the gender identity aspects of the book they’re reviewing. Not all of the books listed are SFF, but many are. Many SFF titles are also not included on this list.

The Aromantic and Asexual Speculative Fiction Database

Again, a perfectly descriptive title—this is a searchable database. Includes reviews and notes about character relationships and any necessary content warnings.

A Short List of Science Fiction and Fantasy that Celebrates Disability

Disability in Kid Lit Honor Roll

A list of YA and MG titles vetted by the site’s reviewers and recommended as disability rep.

Speculative fiction by writers of color

This page is a good starting point for well-known and critically acclaimed SFF authors of color, including N.K. Jemisin, Daniel José Older, Malinda Lo, and more.

LGBTQ Reads (SFF Tag)

Read Diverse Books (SFF Tag) 

An independent blog focused on diverse books; this tag rounds up all posts tagged as science fiction or fantasy. The “listicles” menu tab includes links to more book lists and recommendation posts.

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Upcoming giveaway: THE TRAITOR’S TUNNEL!

Hello friends!

It’s been a little over a month since The Traitor’s Tunnel was released, and I’ve been so thankful for the many kind reviews, and grateful to those who have been recommending the novella on Twitter and elsewhere. Seriously, it means so much to me!

I had intended to celebrate the release, and then the one-month anniversary of the release, with a giveaway, but…things got a little bit away from me this summer, and I wasn’t able to plan a giveaway by those dates.

SOLUTION: A review goalpost giveaway!

T3 is sitting pretty with 17 reviews on Goodreads, but only 1 review on Amazon, which, much as I loathe them, is currently my main revenue source for the novella. So instead of doing a giveaway on a certain date, I will do a giveaway if/when The Traitor’s Tunnel gets EITHER:

OR

The giveaway will be hosted on Rafflecopter with simple entry methods (follows, RTs, that kind of thing) and will be open to everyone and anyone.

What are you giving away?

A prize package that currently consists of: a trio of enamel pins with the logos of the Bear & Flower, Iron Star, and Dagda’s Eye taverns featured in the book, a knit cap like the one Bridget wears in the book, a print of a map of the city of Del, and a candle inspired by the book.

And, of course, if the winner hasn’t read The Traitor’s Tunnel, the ebook will be included.

I’ll update this post with photos once I’ve taken them. 😀

Countdown! (Count-up?)

Goodreads: 18/50 reviews

Amazon: 1/25 reviews

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Playlist: THE LONGING AND THE LACK

Following my The Traitor’s Tunnel playlist in what may be a new tradition, to celebrate the cover reveal for The Longing and the Lack, I put together a playlist of songs that I listened to while writing the manuscript! 😀

This book is quite different from T3. It’s single-POV, for one thing, centered on protagonist Lucinda Hightower. Lucinda is eighteen, smart, naturally suspicious, and has been haunted by death omens her entire life. She’s possibly my favorite character from any of the things I’ve ever written. If you liked Fiona or Ianthe from From Under the Mountain, you will *love* Lucinda.

Here is her theme song: Be Brave – My Brightest Diamond

Though the book is only from Lucinda’s perspective, her romance with Damien Reed is a very large part of the story. Damien is cut from the charming, handsome, inscrutable character cloth that so many of us love; he successfully woos his way past Lucinda’s barriers, which makes this the perfect theme song for him.

Damien’s theme song: Woman – City and Colour

This isn’t a Happily Ever After romance story, but their relationship still has a theme song in my head–two, in fact. One for the soft moments, and one for the hard.

Poison & Wine – the Civil Wars

War of Hearts – Ruelle

The Longing and the Lack is also a lot darker than T3. So here are a couple of other songs that set the tone for me.

Boris – Lo-Fang

Take Me to Church – Hozier

“Distrust” by Ailbhe Reddy could also double as a theme song for the whole damn book:

But perhaps the best thing about this manuscript was that it helped me discover one of my favorite bands from high school…that’s right. Evanescence. I may have put this song on repeat while working on the dramatic conclusion of The Longing and the Lack.

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Patreon and Publishing Primer

*waves* Hello! If you’re reading this, you already likely know all about Patreon, and publishing–if that’s the case, feel free to skip ahead a little bit or go directly to my Patreon for more about why I, personally, chose to launch a creator page.

If, however, you’re someone who has little experience with or knowledge of the creative industry I’m forging a career in, settle in.

Paying for Publishing

First, a bit on publishing and book production. Books are like any other product, in that it takes a lot of money upfront to produce them. A single title costs thousands of dollars, between editing, design, printing, distribution, and promotion. None of these steps can reasonably be skipped or half-assed, because publishing is a desperately competitive market right now, with literally hundreds of thousands of book being published every year.

In a traditional publishing model, the publisher (a company like HarperCollins) is the one who foots the upfront bill. These companies generally rely on their blockbusters and bestsellers to bring in money that they then spend on debuts or less profit-generating authors. In self-publishing (or author-publishing, or indie publishing), the author funds their own book and gets most of the money from sales. These days, regardless of their publishing path, authors usually end up spending their own money for promotion.

I am a hybrid author, one who is published traditionally and independently. The Trident Chronicles novels are signed with a small publisher who takes care of production costs. The Firmament books will be all self-published, meaning I am hiring specialists and paying for all the elements of their production and promotion.

The Weird World of Book Marketing

Again, as with any product, the idea is that books will earn back the investment and eventually turn a profit. But books are a, shall we say, weird product. They’re subjective pieces of art, which means that a potential reader needs to be, essentially, in the right mood to not only buy the book, but read it, and better yet, review it on retail and book community sites so that other readers can discover it.

Think about your own reading habits, and you’ll quickly figure out why this is so hard. How many times does it take you to hear about a book or an author before you actually buy it? How long, on average, do you wait between buying a book and actually starting it? When you finish it, do you go and review it right away? Believe me, I won’t judge any of your answers–I rarely review after finishing a book, I don’t always buy books right away, and there are books in my physical to-be-read stack that have been there for literally years.

Books that sell well have a very important thing in common: saturation. Whether it’s high-cost ad campaigns, or the author just emailed two hundred reviewers and got half of them to write reviews, it all comes down the simple fact that people can’t buy books they’ve never heard of. Add to that the fact that a given book won’t appeal to every reader who hears about it, and that people very much tend to be mood readers, and you see the difficulty.

All this means that it can take a very, very, very long time for a book to earn enough money to even break even on the (thousands of dollars) investment, let alone earn profit.

What is Patreon?

If you’ve ever taken an art history class, you’ve heard the concept of artistic patronage. Most commonly, we think of wealthy people or families who would kind of adopt an artist or musician, feed them, house them, buy their materials, etc. The artist was able to focus on their craft and their work because they had the support to do so, and didn’t have to worry so much about how they were going to survive (artists don’t actually like to be starving). In return, the patrons could commission portraits or paintings or sculptures.

Patreon is a modern version of that. Creators like me set up pages describing what they do, and patrons can pledge a certain amount of money, per month or per project depending on the type of creation. That money goes toward production costs, living costs, whatever the creator has stated. The support of patrons allows the creator to focus on developing their work.

In return, creators offer rewards as a thank you to patrons. Usually this means patron-only content, free or discounted products, creative participation–like IndieGoGo or Kickstarter rewards.

There are, of course, critics of this system, though I’ll be the first one to say I don’t understand the disdain for creators and creators’ needs when our society very much loves the content they produce. Art of all kinds has costs, financial, emotional, physical costs, and it’s important that we acknowledge that.

Patreon and Publishing

So! To bring these two ideas together: a publishing company has many titles in various stages–on sale, in production, etc–at any given time. While they’re paying the money it costs to produce Title C, they’re bringing in money from Title A that came out at the beginning of the year. This is the business model, and also why traditional publishing companies are often risk-averse in the titles they buy. If Title A earns less than expected, it screws the budget for Title C.

As an author-publisher, I currently have one published book that is earning money, From Under the Mountain. My royalties from that book are being used to fund the publishing of my two 2017 titles, The Traitor’s Tunnel and The Longing and the Lack.

However, the royalties from Mountain can’t cover my costs on their own. And once Tunnel and Longing are published, the money they earn in the first year, two years, three years or more, will be stacked against the money I spent to produce them.

Meanwhile, I’ll be moving on to producing book two of The Unliving, Since Death’s Erasure, which is scheduled to release in September of 2018. I will need to send that book to my hired editor this fall, when Longing will have only been out maybe a month or two.

What I’m saying here is that the timing makes this all a very precarious process. Don’t get me wrong–I knew this when I set out to do it, and I’m doing it regardless of what happens with my Patreon. But, and here’s the important thing: having patron support will make this more predictable, less stressful, and will allow me to do more than I could without it. Patron support will help me send more review copies, will help me submit to more conventions, advertise, all the things that one can do to contribute to a book’s success.

About *my* Patreon

Go on over to my creator page, then come back for a few more details about the rewards. All the levels are cumulative, so higher levels get all the stuff that comes before too.

Behind the Scenes $1/mo: Pretty self-explanatory. You’ll get to hear all the details about all my projects, a privilege at this point only afforded to my husband. Not only is this going to be the best way to keep updated on the stuff I’m working on, this is also a great way to learn about publishing. And it’s only $1 a month, so you probably won’t even notice it missing from your bank account–but a bunch of small drops can fill a bucket, right?

First Looks $5/mo: This level grants you access to all the stuff I’ll be talking about in Behind the Scenes. You’ll get to see covers when I get them, read first chapters of new books before they’re published, and even get to see parts of my drafts-in-progress, meaning you’ll get to see where things are going way before everyone else. For the price of one fancy coffee every month!

Merch Discounts $10/mo: So, to promote these books, I try to do cool and interesting things for swag (giveaway items for reviewers and fans) and merchandise. Because I paint, these will primarily take the form of art prints, but I’m not ruling out other things. For example! This year I’m introducing enamel pins as well! I’ve hired another queer Portland artist to design pins based on the Trident Chronicles taverns and some spookiness from The Longing and the Lack and I. AM SO. EXCITED. *coughs* so yeah patrons at this level will get either free merchandise or a discount code for merchandise (depending on how much it cost to produce). This will also include discounts on the books themselves when possible! (My ability to create discount codes varies based on the retailer.)

TL;DR $10 a month is more significant but you get more significant stuff in return.

Name in the Credits $20/mo: This is essentially a producer level, and as such you’ll be acknowledged in the acknowledgments (*snicker*) of my books. Your name in print! You’ll also get higher discounts on merchandise, and signed (but not personalized) copies of new print books when they come out!

ALL the Books and Things $40/mo: The big leagues. At this level, you’ll automatically get all the merch and a personalized, signed copy of every print book sent straight to you. Plus the acknowledgments, the first looks, the updates, and my undying love.

My Patreon Community

Because I believe in rising tides lifting all boats, I’ll also be using my Patreon page to read and highlight other marginalized authors–marginalized here meaning authors and stories that don’t get the kind of support from publishers or reviewers as more “mainstream” ones. Publishing is overwhelmingly staffed by white, cisgender, heterosexual/romantic people, which means that that common rejection phrase “I just couldn’t connect with your characters” gets disproportionately applied to authors whose identities don’t match up with those of the people working in the industry.

Publishing is getting better about this! But it can still be difficult to find books and authors to support, so I’m going to be doing what I can to share those books with my patrons. Kind of like a very casual book club, haha. I’ll share updates about all the books I’m reading, and when possible, I’ll bring other authors in for interviews or chats.

Conclusion, Finally

Thanks for reading! If you have more questions about anything, please let me know. If you’re interested in becoming a patron, click here. If you’d like to make a one-time or perhaps occasional donation, you can do that through my ko-fi profile here.

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Playlist: THE TRAITOR'S TUNNEL

I never used to be the kind of person who wrote while listening to music. Then my husband got a work-from-home job. We had to start sharing the office, and I started listening to music while I worked. After over a year of this, the music has become pretty closely entwined with my stories.

To celebrate the cover reveal of The Traitor’s Tunnel, I’m going to share the songs that have influenced the novella!

It’s less about the lyrics than the sound for me, but sometimes the lyrics apply. The novella focuses on two very different characters, so they each have their own musical sound–here are their top five songs.

Theodor

  1. I Know You Care – Ellie Goulding
  2. Ribbon – Billie Marten
  3. Dance Me to the End of Love – The Civil Wars
  4. Never Forgive the Angels – Bat for Lashes
  5. Don’t Forget About Me – Cloves

Bridget

  1. Say My Name – Kngdavd
  2. Ain’t No Grave – Crooked Still
  3. Dime in My Pocket – Desert Noises
  4. Arsonist’s Lullabye – Hozier
  5. Bottom of the River – Delta Rae

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Event Recap: Ruth Tenzer Feldman at Broadway Books

Last night, I hiked two miles across Portland to attend a reading by Ruth Tenzer Feldman at one of Portland’s lovely independent bookstores, Broadway Books.

I first heard of Feldman a few weeks ago, when she did a reading at Another Read Through, the bookstore where I work. At ART we hold readings upstairs in our loft, and since I was downstairs working the desk, I didn’t get a chance to hear the event. I was glad to see a familiar name on Broadway Books’ event calendar, so I decided to check it out.

Author Ruth Tenzer Feldman reads, gesturing animatedly, at a podium with the Broadway Books logo on it.
Ruth Tenzer Feldman

It was a relaxed, almost intimate affair, gathered in the back of the bookstore. Feldman chatted with the attendees, and she and I made proper introductions of ourselves while everyone got settled.

Feldman was there to read from Seven Stitches, the third book of her YA Blue Thread Saga. The first book, Blue Thread, won the 2013 Oregon Book Award for Young Adult Literature and has been called one of the best feminist book for young readers by the American Library Association. I went into this reading knowing basically nothing about the series, so you can imagine how that piqued my interest.

The series, which is hard to pin to a genre but may be best described as time travel in the pursuit of justice, pairs not only time periods, but also teenage girls with the time-traveling female mentor Serakh, who guides them as they learn to understand and combat injustice in their own times, and in the ancient world. Serakh’s character is based on actual stories in the Judeo-Christian canon, including biblical census reports several hundred years apart who list the same woman as one of the few important enough to be counted among the men.

Seven Stitches alternates between Portland in the year 2059 and sixteenth-century Istanbul. The modern crisis centers around the aftermath of the massive Cascadian subduction zone earthquake and the thousands of people left homeless by its destruction. Feldman’s past experience in thinking about housing justice led her to conceptualize an emergency housing system, pejoratively referred to by one interviewer as “socialized AirB&B.”

The reading itself was really enjoyable. Feldman alternated between reading short excerpts from Seven Stitches and giving summaries and commentary about the novel and the series as a whole.

I picked up the first book, Blue Thread, and will hopefully be able to review it in the next few weeks.

The Blue Thread Saga books are available for purchase at several bookstores in Portland, including Powell’s, Broadway Books, and Another Read Through; they’re also available online through Indiebound and Amazon.

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A Brief History of Lucinda Hightower

lucindateaserIf you read the original iteration of A Single Thread, you know Lucinda Hightower.

Lucinda is an eighteen year old girl who has been followed by death omens her entire life–so in A Single Thread, when Morgan Fletcher tells her her brother’s life is in danger, she takes him at his word and they team up to stop the attack.

Would you believe she started out as a Weasley?

I’m currently drafting Since Death’s Erasure, book two of the Unliving series, which is a continuation of the stories begun in the original Web books. As I came upon the part in the draft where Lucinda makes an appearance, I felt such an abundance of love for this character that I was about to take to Twitter to force my love on everyone else–it is Valentine’s Day, right?–but luckily for my Twitter followers, this kind of love needs more than 140 characters.

Lucinda was born on a Harry Potter role-playing forum, set at Hogwarts, featuring the children of Harry and company. I was in high school at the time; my character was Lucinda Weasley, Ravenclaw seventh year, a stern academic with few friends and no interest in romance.

Enter playboy Damien Malfoy, of Yes, Those Malfoys, add a “hate to love” trope, and you’ve got all the drama a high school kid like me needed.

That forum didn’t last, but my role-playing friends and I joined and created plenty more, most of them in the Harry Potter universe. Lucinda was my mainstay, a character I was sure to recreate on any board. Her story played out again and evolved most on two other HP boards, one set at a wizarding school in Ireland, the other on our group’s crowning achievement: After Graduation, a board set in Wizarding London, following our Irish characters into adulthood as they dealt with all the shit we’d put them through in school. AG was amazing. It ran for years, and aside from the trappings of Rowling’s wizarding world, was entirely original. It was the site of such genius as the fabric-of-magic-time-space-continuum-connector-gene plot, for heaven’s sake.

I wasn’t about to let Lucinda go just because I ran out of time to role-play. I wanted to officially tell the story of Lucinda and Damien, but I’d learned a few things in the interim. As much as I love a Beauty and the Beast story, that wasn’t quite how I wanted things to go. I wrote The Longing and the Lack, the Unliving #1, which releases later this year–and trust me, “hate to love” is only the beginning.

lucy3In our roleplaying days, my friends and I joked about what a Mary Sue Lucinda was. In a lot of ways we were misusing the term, even back then–we meant that Lucy was beautiful, she was clever, she was kind. I used Naomi Watts as her avatar, which meant no end of fragile, lovely photos at my disposal for character art and signature banners.

We made fun of how perfect she was and how all the characters loved her–but we loved her too! I loved writing her, and my friends and I certainly didn’t stop writing the affection that surrounded Lucinda and practically every character she interacted with. We teased to make ourselves feel better, but the joke was on us, in the end, I think.

When I started The Longing and the Lack in 2014, I thought a lot about who Lucinda Hightower was to me. The thing that keeps pulling me back to her is her solidity. For all the old jokes about her early versions being sensitive or emotional, for me Lucinda is a calm, cool presence in the supernatural storm around her. She’s an immovable glacier who will either shelter you or fucking crush you, and I cannot BEGIN to describe the immensity of my love for those kind of characters.

It’s not that Lucinda is icy or unfeeling (though I love characters like that too). She just has this core running through her that keeps her focused no matter what gets thrown at her. As I’ve written her, it’s taken on kind of a life of its own and become, in my view, her defining characteristic.

In The Longing and the Lack, Lucinda must team up with Damien Malfoy Reed to break a family curse, and I can’t wait to share that story with you this fall. (Add it on Goodreads and sign up for my newsletter to stay up-to-date.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Coming Soon, because screw you, 2017.

Happy new year? I guess? If you know me or my work at all, you probably know how I’m feeling as an American right about now. For those of you who don’t: it’s not good.

But in the face of so much that’s not good, I’m more determined than ever to try and create things that are. Which is why it gives me great joy and a much-needed reprieve to announce the next three books you’ll be seeing from me.

Up first is The Traitor’s Tunnel (A Trident Chronicles Novella), June 2017: Siblings Theodor and Bridget haven’t seen each other in more than a decade, since Bridget ran away from her witch clan. Now they must reunite to stop a traitor whose plan threatens not only their city, but the whole empire. Add it on Goodreads!

Next is The Longing and the Lack (The Unliving #1), September 2017: Since she was a child, Lucinda Hightower has been haunted by death omens. Worse than the hauntings themselves is the anxiety, constantly expecting someone she loves to fulfill the promise of the harbingers. It’s not until she leaves Oregon to attend her father’s university in Ireland that she meets the target of the omens–and learns the gruesome family secret at the root of her curse. Add it on Goodreads!

Last but not least is From Out of the Forest (Trident Chronicles, Guerline Cycle #2). Formal announcement forthcoming from REUTS Publications!

Stay tuned for cover reveals and launch party news. To get information first as well as exclusive sneak peeks, sign up for my newsletter.

<3

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Evolutions and Identity: the Fourth Coming Out

Yesterday, there was a bit of a shakeup on kid lit Twitter over Ramona Blue, a forthcoming YA by Julie Murphy (Dumplin’). Its Goodreads blurb seemed to indicate a lesbian main character falling in love with a boy, which sparked some outrage. People close to the book said that the blurb neglected to mention that the main character identifies as bisexual by the end. That, however, did not ameliorate all the outrage, with some claiming that it was not okay to write that kind of queer experience because it was harmful to lesbians and…well, you can probably imagine. (If you can’t, hit me up and we will talk.)

I was very comforted yesterday to see so many people I admire defending the concept that queer identities can change. It’s sticky to talk about because anti-queer folks will try to use that as a evidence that it’s a choice, or that certain identities are just a phase, but it really just comes down to continuing to learn about yourself–our modern cohort of labels give us a specificity that we haven’t had before, and those specificities are worth exploring.

I’ve talked about this before, in various posts over the years on my queerness. I grew up in a conservative area. There was one openly gay boy in my high school; there was my art club/youth group where girls kissed girls but mostly, as we told ourselves, for the entertainment of the boys we paired up with. On TV, we had Will & Grace, and probably Ellen but I didn’t watch that. I knew I wanted relationships with boys and girls, and I thought that made me bisexual; I whispered that identifier to select friends late at night and never asked girls on dates because there were no queer couples in the realm of my experience. I had neither seen nor known them except in fan fiction.

I didn’t have sex until I was twenty-one, an unremarked upon thing in my town because plenty of girls were saving themselves for marriage. Old-fashioned, but not odd. But after the novelty wore off, my disinterest resumed, and that was odd–until I found out about asexuality, and I had to change my identifiers. Nothing about me changed. I just had a new way to tell people how I’d always been: a panromantic asexual.

Coming out as non-binary, specifically agender…that was harder. That was weirder. That got a lot more pushback from friends and family. But I had discovered something about myself which needed to be shared: that I was not a woman.

Remember that conservative area where I grew up? My college was in the same area. I was steeped in heteronormativity to the point where I couldn’t even smell it, and I tried to do it. I didn’t date the girls I wanted to date. I slipped in and out of clothing subcultures (goth, bohemian, vintage) looking for one that fit. I kept my hair normal, sometimes short and sometimes long but always feminine, dyed but naturally colored, because that was right. That was ubiquitous. Nobody specifically exerted this pressure on me (except my more conservative dad and stepmom, occasionally) because they didn’t need to. I was a good child; I was a normal child. I felt the expectations.

I got a tattoo for my twenty-first birthday, my first one, on the right side of my lower back “where it could be hidden.” It was my first permanent act of transgression, and a mild one at that. My mom had tattoos (pretty ankle ones), my best friend had tattoos–when I got mine, actually, my best friend got what I think was her first visible tattoo, on her wrist. I wanted another tattoo right away, as most do. But then I started dating a boy who didn’t want me to get more tattoos. Didn’t want me to cut my hair or dye it unnatural colors. So I didn’t. And I suffered, with that and other aspects of our relationship (I have no hard feelings, many years later; we weren’t a good fit, it just took a while to figure that out).

I got my second tattoo, a half-sleeve, within a month of getting together with the man who’d become my husband. The first time we visited Portland, I spontaneously cut off my super-long hair. When we moved out here, I felt freer than ever to be open about my identities, to be transgressive with my hair–a side shave at first, and then a mohawk, and then I went completely shaved!–and my clothing and it wasn’t enough.

It helped but it wasn’t right. Which is what led to me coming out as agender.

Let’s talk about how that’s gone.

Some things have been awesome. I didn’t share it here, but I’ve started going by Cal instead of Cait, which is the best. I’ve started dressing more masculinely, which is SUPER FRUSTRATING in terms of shopping because of how my body is shaped, but also SUPER GREAT when it works like I want it to. The pronoun thing has been hard, which is a bummer–but hold that thought.

One thing I’ve struggled with is incorporating my femininity into my presentation, because as I said in past posts, I still like feminine things. Makeup (though I’ve only worn makeup…once? since coming out?); I’m super into wearing necklaces instead of ties (may be because I don’t have any ties that look right on me proportionally).

I’ve struggled with this every day I’ve gotten dressed since August. For a few weeks, I thought wearing a dress would be like a reset for people; that they wouldn’t be able to think of me as non-binary when I was wearing a dress or a skirt.

That was just an excuse. The truth is that I haven’t wanted to wear dresses or skirts since coming out because it makes me a little nauseated. I don’t suddenly hate dresses, it’s more like, me in a dress right now, with my body the way it is, is that reset when I look at it in the mirror, and to see a woman when I look in the mirror is so at odds with who I am that I feel, to put it lightly, icky.

Because I’m not a woman.

I’m a man.

*manly jazz hands*

To reference the beginning of this post that is way longer than I thought it’d be, I am changing my identifier from non-binary person to trans man. I do NOT in any way support the idea that non-binary identities, or bisexual ones, are phases that come before a person picks a side. If you use this post to make that argument, don’t. Just don’t. I went into all that probably unnecessary detail about my background because I needed to indicate that I had a lot of conditioning to unpack. For me, I think I knew I was trans when I came out as agender, but first I needed a stepping stone. I was fucking terrified and I needed to get distance from womanhood, and test those waters with myself and my circle, before diving fully. Now, I know it’s time to dive.

WHAT HAPPENS NOW? you may ask.

Now, I’m getting together with my doctor and finding a therapist to initiate hormone replacement therapy. Now, I am making a game plan to change my name and gender marker on all my documents. I am NOT going to discuss my potential future surgeries with anyone who is not my husband or my medical professionals, for the foreseeable future, so please don’t ask.

Speaking of my husband, you may wonder about him. We are staying together and would appreciate it if you respect the privacy of our relationship as we move forward. My coming out does not automatically make Matt gay; if, upon reflection, he decides to change his own identifier from “disappointingly straight”, that will be up to him. Please don’t bug or tease him about it.

If you have not been calling me Cal, start doing so (Spiv is still okay). Please use he/him pronouns.

Any more questions, please feel free to ask, especially in a textual way (comment, email, private message).

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“Information, at last!”: The Untold Read-Along Part Two

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Welcome to The Untold Tale read-along! The Untold Tale by J.M. Frey is the first book in the Accidental Turn series, the second book of which, The Forgotten Tale, will be released on December 6th. To prep for book two, we’re sharing a ten-part series that will be part recap, part review, and part discussion of the book that has been called the “most important work of fantasy written in 2015.”

If you want to read along with us and avoid the SPOILERS that will follow, you can pick up your copy of The Untold Tale from major online retailers, or snag a free copy from StoryCartel (last chance!).

About the book

Forsyth Turn is not a hero. Lordling of Turn Hall and Lysse Chipping, yes. Spymaster for the king, certainly. But hero? That’s his older brother’s job, and Kintyre Turn is nothing if not legendary. However, when a raid on the kingdom’s worst criminal results in the rescue of a bafflingly blunt woman, oddly named and even more oddly mannered, Forsyth finds his quaint, sedentary life is turned on its head.

Dragged reluctantly into a quest he never expected, and fighting villains that even his brother has never managed to best, Forsyth is forced to confront his own self-shame and the demons that come with always being second-best. And, more than that, when he finally realizes where Lucy came from and why she’s here, he’ll be forced to question not only his place in the world, but the very meaning of his own existence.

Smartly crafted, The Untold Tale gives agency to the unlikeliest of heroes: the silenced, the marginalized, and the overlooked. It asks what it really means to be a fan when the worlds you love don’t resemble the world you live in, celebrates the power of the written word, challenges tropes, and shows us what happens when someone stands up and refuses to remain a secondary character in their own life.

Read part one of the read-along here.

Read my original review of the book here.

Part Two: Chapters 3, 4, and 5

Cal Spivey

In this section, Pip struggles with her slow recovery, while Forsyth just struggles. The man’s crush on his enigmatic guest only deepens, made worse by the waggling eyebrows, knowing grins, and cavalier innuendos of his friends and household staff, who all seem intent on shipping Pip and Forsyth harder than Destiel.

While Forsyth fights his feelings through a combination of duty and low self-esteem, he also attempts–sometimes clumsily–to get answers to his questions about Pip’s origins and the Viceroy’s schemes. It becomes clear to the reader in this section that Pip is from our world–she speaks English and reveals that her mother’s family is Chinese.

Though Pip does occasionally let things slip about her world and her life, she’s nowhere close to telling Forsyth any of the important things, like whether she’s a Reader and why the Viceroy brought her here. When Forsyth broaches the subject of getting her home once she’s well, she has an episode of PTSD that frightens Forsyth, and which he (unsurprisingly) blames himself for.

Despite Pip’s trauma, she’s excited for the small party Forsyth has planned in her honor; and so is he, until the infamous Kintyre turns up with his adventuring partner, Sir Bevel Dom. Forsyth requested that they come escort Pip home, since she must need a hero for such a journey, but Kintyre and Bevel come sooner than expected–just in time to reveal themselves as horribly rude and unintelligent goons.

Though Forsyth warned Kintyre about Pip’s triggers, the “hero” barrels right into them during the party, almost causing another panic attack for Pip. Overcome, Pip excuses herself. Forsyth follows, and comforts her while she unleashes all the pain she’s been trying to contain–and then she finally tells Forsyth the truth about where she came from, what she knows, and why the Viceroy pulled her from her own dimension into this one.


While I appreciate a single narrator, especially this particular narrator (as a character and in terms of the story framing), I admit that some of this is difficult to read without Pip’s perspective. But since the only one who ever belittles Pip’s trauma is Kintyre, I suppose it’s possible to make due with seeing her journey through Forsyth’s eyes.

Pip and Forsyth continue to get along well, and their chemistry is obvious to the reader even though Forsyth seeks her compliments as either lies or taunts. I personally dislike how often he sexualizes her, considering her injuries; but I’m asexual, so I honestly have no idea how legit his physical attraction to her may or may not be. And he is respectful of her physical and emotional boundaries, for the most part–the only hiccup in that regard was in part one, on her first night in the manor after the first time she flinched from his unexpected touch (one of her triggers). He made it all about him, saying “of course, no woman enjoys my touch”; however, when there is no opportunity to self-deprecate, he perfectly comprehends the power dynamic at play, with her as a recovering survivor of captivity and torture, him as her rescuer and caretaker (page 39).

But his sensitivity to Pip as a person goes out the damn window as soon as Kintyre shows up–even before, Forsyth is convinced that Pip will fall for his brother immediately, like all the women do. As the kingdom of Hain is an obvious analog for classic, vaguely medieval fantasy settings, Kintyre is an obvious analog for the swaggering, manly heroes of classic fantasy where all the women do swoon as if it’s the only option they have. Forsyth and Kintyre have many points of contention–like many such sibling characters before them, they are written as fundamental opposites–and this difference in romantic and sexual experience is perhaps the most sensitive. That Forsyth is so smitten with Pip only makes it worse, and he falls into the same toxic trap that many Nice Guys before him have faced: being disgusted with and angry at Pip for appearing to prefer Kintyre to him:

“Disgusted by Pip’s sudden degeneration into some maidenly moron by the mere presence of my brother, I turn away […] I wonder what I ever saw in the woman, if she is lapping [artificial flattery] up so.” (pg 110-111)

This despite a hundred pages of Forsyth telling himself that Pip isn’t interested in him, arguing with and being annoyed by the implications of mutual affection from the people around him, and even assuming that this very situation would come about. Still, he includes Pip in his ire. It’s definitely a low moment for Forsyth. Now, at the party, Kintyre’s terrible manners disillusion Pip entirely and she starts subtly making fun of him. This puts her back in Forsyth’s good graces–which, you know, it’s nice that he’s not mad at her anymore, but isn’t quite enough to make me forgive him for being an ass earlier.

Luckily, he has five hundred pages or so to redeem himself! Which begins at the end of this section, with Pip’s revelation that he and his entire world have been crafted by a distant Writer-god to revolve around the swaggering, macho, grope-first-and-ask-no-questions-at-all hero, Kintyre Turn.

Coming Up

With this premise established, in the next section we get to really see behind the curtain of traditional power-fantasy heroes like Kintyre, who is basically a Toxic Masculinity Ken doll. Get your mugs of male tears ready for next week, hosted by Kathy Palm at Finding Faeries. Part three will go live on Tuesday, October 18th and cover chapters 6 and 7.

He-Man turns to the camera and cries a single tear
Via Giphy