On Spite and other Things that Empower Me

Me, age 3, pre-Rabbit Heist. Yes, I was a Kindergarten Pirate (though people claimed the bandaid was to help my left eye become stronger). The expression says it all. I really think my parents should have known at this point that nefarious things were afoot.

Me, age 3, pre-Rabbit Heist. Yes, I was a Kindergarten Pirate (though people claimed the bandaid was to help my left eye become stronger). The expression says it all. I really think my parents should have known at this point that nefarious things were afoot.

I’ve spent a lot of my life doing things out of spite.

Spite is what made four-year-old me very much complicit in my then twelve-year-old aunt’s ploy to steal our neighbor’s rabbit, determined to save him from becoming stew. (Our neighbor totally caught on, but apparently our rabbit-stealing caper impressed him enough to let us keep the rabbit--we named him Peter. And no, Peter wasn’t the first, nor was he the last animal Tiny Me would steal--or bring to Kindergarten show and tell. My Kindergarten teachers were NOT impressed.)

Spite is what motivated fourteen-year-old me to become highly politicized and march against Neo Nazis in my German hometown. Spite also prompted an at the time probably questionably impulsive move to the U.S. but spite also helped me push through the mess that is immigration, paired with probably some of the hardest and most toxic times of my life.

It makes sense then, that spite is what prompted me to keep writing sweary queer science fiction, even after all the uncomfortable looks I got whenever people asked me what I wrote when I first started on this journey more than ten years ago. Spite kept my spine straight and my head high when I walked out of the intro session of an advanced fiction writing class in college when my professor told me to “consider what will offend your audience and don’t write that.” My professor followed that up with how she specifically didn’t want to see any “homosexuality, violence, or other vulgarity like that.” I still remember what it like to stand up after that and leave a crowded classroom, fully aware that everyone’s eyes where on me, when I stood up and said, “In that case, I suppose my very existence isn’t something you want to see in this class, so I hereby withdraw.”

I don’t remember what my professor said in response, because I was too busy getting the hell out of that room so I could fall apart and have a panic attack in the privacy of my car instead of in front of a packed classroom. At this point I very much like my sexuality, my identity, my writing, were an affront to everyone around me. Frankly, it was a shitty feeling and a personal low point that to this day motivates me as a writer, a teacher, and a person to do better.

Oh, yes, and spoilers: I graduated winning a shitton of awards and that former professor is now no longer teaches while I do. Spite - 1 : Bigotry: 0.

Oh, yes, and spoilers: I graduated winning a shitton of awards and that former professor is now no longer teaches while I do. Spite - 1 : Bigotry: 0.

Fortunately things changed. I kept going. I kept writing. I found supportive professors, friends, and a writing community who all get just how important representation of all kinds is not just to marginalized folk, but to everyone whose perspectives are expanded by unapologetic representation that transcends the pages it is printed on. Spite is what kept me moving forward when it was all I had to lean on.

But finding myself represented on the pages of queer books, finding people who not only felt similarly about representation and inclusion as I did, but also challenged and expanded my perspectives was a game changer. It truly made me realize how important being unapologetic about what we write, what we are, is. Not just for ourselves, but for those around us, because this shit has a ripple effect and you never know who might be having an existential panic attack in their car and needs your voice, your words, right the hell now.

So, whenever someone asks me why representation and inclusivity is important in writing, as well as all areas of being alive, my answer is simple: because no one should ever tell you you don’t belong. Because everyone does. And everyone can do better if they’re just willing to push on. If spite is what it takes, fine.

But it’s when spite turns into empowerment and community that magic happens. So, let’s all be a little magically spiteful today, whether it’s by saving rabbits from the stew pot, standing up to bigoted professors, or simply writing your resistance. Do the thing. And tell us all about it.

Oh, and yes, after what my professor told me, I resolved to write one hella gay, vulgar, and violent book. That book is Empire of Light and it comes out one week from now.

I think I win.

EMPIRE OF LIGHT Pre-Order Campaign!

Are you #TeamDamian, #TeamAris, or #TeamRaeyn?

Empire of Light releases 10 days (!!) from today and you can preorder it now from your favorite retailer in eBook and Print format.

To get exclusive #TeamDamian, #TeamAris, or #TeamRaeyn swag, save your receipts (or take a screenshot of your request confirmation at your local library) and fill out the Empire of Light Pre-Order Giveaway Form here to receive the following:

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#TeamDamian:

  • Bookmark

  • Bookplate

  • #TeamDamian Sticker

  • #TeamDamian pin

  • #TeamDamian gin-flavored lip balm (print pre-orders only)

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#TeamAris:

  • Bookmark

  • Bookplate

  • #TeamAris Sticker

  • #TeamAris button

  • #TeamAris vanilla-cinnamon-flavored lip balm (print pre-orders only)

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#TeamRaeyn:

  • Bookmark

  • Bookplate

  • #TeamRaeyn Sticker

  • #TeamRaeyn button

  • #TeamRaeyn lavender-mint-flavored lip balm (print pre-orders only)

Also, if you are pre-ordering Empire of Light, please consider reviewing it on Amazon and/or Goodreads!

Questions? Email me at alex[at]alexharrow[dot]com or use the contact form on this site.

Thank you all for helping me make this launch awesome! I can’t believe it’s only 10 days away!

Cheers and happy reading!

—Alex

Queering Up Your Bookshelf: W. D. Foster-Graham

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

Happy Wednesday!

Today, I welcome W. D. Foster-Graham to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to talk about drawing inspiration from his father, being a gay teen during the times of Stonewall, and representing often-overlooked African-American gay men in historical fiction.

Welcome, W. D. and happy reading!


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W.D. Foster-Graham is a native of Minneapolis, Minnesota. He received a B.A. in psychology from Luther College, and he was an original member of the multi-Grammy Award-winning ensemble, Sounds of Blackness. He has also been recognized by the International Society of Poets as one of its “Best Poets of 2003.”

His passion for reading and writing was inspired by his father, who read voraciously. His tastes in writing run to family sagas and M/M romance, seasoned with his own brand of African-American flavor—at the end of the day, it’s all about the love. He shamelessly admits to a love of romance novels, whodunits and classic movies of old Hollywood. He was also inspired by the late novelist E. Lynn Harris, who believed that an author should write the books he/she wants to read.

When not in laptop writer’s mode, he loves travel on the open road, nature walks, and time with his husband and son.

Find W.D. online:

WEBSITE TWITTER AMAZON


1. What is your writing origin story?

I couldn’t not write. It was hardwired into me from an early age. My father was a voracious reader, and I inherited that trait from him. It was common for me to go to the library and come home with a stack of books under my chin—and read every one of them. My reading translated into writing short stories as soon as I knew how. The idea for writing my first novel, however, didn’t come until I was in my late thirties.

2. What inspires your writing and how do you keep that inspiration alive?

The African-American LGBT authors and poets who went before me are part of it. The other part is much closer to home. My father was my biggest fan and my biggest critic. He always had my back. Rather than complain about a lack of representation, I took a page from him and wrote the books myself. Because all my novels are dedicated to him, as well as my husband and son, the inspiration is kept alive.

3. What does representation mean to you and how does it feature in your writing?

As an African-American/Native American gay man who was a teenager at the time of Stonewall, who didn’t see any characters who looked like me in the fictional stories I read in those days, representation is key. In my historical novels, my characters represent the successful African-American men who were often overlooked in novels past unless they were entertainers or sports figures, and LGBT family members are featured in them.

4. What are some of your favorite tropes (or ways to subvert them)?

In the world of m/m romance, my favorite trope would be friends-to-lovers. A close second is having a main character who realizes he’s not as “straight” as he thought he was.

5. What is your writing process?

Once I have the idea down, I create psychological profiles of my characters. Taking a page from Agatha Christie, I write the beginning and the ending of my novel first. My outline is brief and topical. From there, I write it the same way a movie is shot—out of sequence. It all comes together in the end.

6. What is your best piece of writing advice?

I was inspired by the late E. Lynn Harris when he said, “Write the books you want to read.”

7. What is the hardest lesson you learned while writing?

It happened when writing my first novel. It was to ignore the naysayers. I got over them and published the novel anyway. “Believe in dreams and never give up” is my motto, no matter how long it takes.

8. What do you hope readers will take away from your work?

Entertainment, inspiration, the importance of the richness of diversity and sharing our stories. If we don’t, who will? In my work, family is everything. At the end of the day, it’s all about the love. In the words of Aretha Franklin, “Be your own artist, and always be confident in what you’re doing.”

9. What is a great queer book you’ve read recently?

There were two: Play It Forward by Frederick Smith, and Visible Lives, an anthology paying tribute to E. Lynn Harris by Terrance Dean, James Earl Hardy and Stanley Bennett Clay.

10. What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?

I am currently writing two m/m romance novels. One is The Right to Be; the other is To Thine Own Self. My whodunit, Never Give Up, is ready for the next phase of publication. Since my novels are all part of a family saga/series, it’s best to read them in sequence. With the size of this extended African-American family, there’s plenty of room for more m/m romance in the future.


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Allan Beckley Christopher is a self-made, African-American multimillionaire. Starting out with nothing but family, high intelligence, ambition and drive, he succeeded against the odds. He dealt with racism, discrimination and the naysayers, Black and white, who were convinced he would never make it as an entrepreneur in the 1960s. Opening a fix-it shop in southside Chicago, through hard work and determination he turns it into a multi-million-dollar corporation.

He’s “made his mark.” His home is a thirty-room estate. He is among the Who’s Who of Black America. His company is listed in the Fortune 500. He is a “mover and shaker” in the community, and all the connections that accompany it. He faithfully attends church on Sundays.

But has he made it?

With the advent of his sixtieth birthday, his character, his past and his beliefs come into focus, honor and question as his story is told through the eyes of his family—including his four LGBT children-- and with it his impact on their lives.

The time is 1988; the place, Chicago.

“Is there more to learn? Well, if you were raised in a family, you know very well there is.”

       – LAVENDER Magazine

Note: Mark My Words: A Christopher Family Novel is a 3-book series.

BUY A COPY: AMAZON BARNES & NOBLE

Queering Up Your Bookshelf: K. Parr

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

Happy Wednesday!

Today, I welcome author and NineStar Press pub sibling K Parr to Queering Up Your Bookshelf. K recently ran the #LGBTrelease hashtag on Twitter and is here to talk about the writing community and how important it is to find your people, inspiration from fanfiction, favorite tropes, and her upcoming release The Sun and Moon Beneath the Stars, forthcoming from NineStar Press.

Welcome, K and happy reading!


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K is a writer of multiple genres, including young adult, romance, fantasy, paranormal, and humor, all of which star LGBT characters.

She received her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in 2017.

In her spare time, K reads and writes fanfiction, keeps up with way too many TV shows, and dances wildly in her apartment.

She currently works as a teen librarian in Rhode Island.

Find K online:

WEBSITE TWITTER INSTAGRAM PINTEREST AMAZON


1. What is your writing origin story?

I started writing when I was young, maybe 5 or 6. My first story was called ‘Pie World’ and starred cavemen who learned they could cure their hunger by saying the word ‘pie,’ since a pie would then fall from the sky and splat on their faces!

I was 12 before I started to write more seriously. That’s when I came up with the original concept for ‘The Sun and Moon Beneath the Stars.’ I’ve been writing ever since!

2. What inspires your writing and how do you keep that inspiration alive?

Other stories and characters—either through film, TV shows, books, or video games—inspire my writing and keep my own inspiration alive! I particularly love complex, flawed characters, and storylines that challenge them to grow at every opportunity. Nothing is more cathartic than good storytelling with both comedic and dramatic moments!

Some of my favorites:

Characters - Dean Winchester, Bucky Barnes, Steve Rogers

Shows – Black Sails, Skam, Queer As Folk

3. What does representation mean to you and how does it feature in your writing?

As someone who is currently questioning, I appreciate stories that center on characters who are not the ‘typical’ protagonist. Representation is crucial, and not just for me, but the generations growing up who will hopefully be more accepting of themselves and others. I’m happy that my work can help fill gaps in the industry.

4. What are some of your favorite tropes (or ways to subvert them)?

As a fanfiction addict, there are SO MANY tropes I adore! My favorite is probably hurt/comfort. I could read that trope over and over again! I also love the pairing of royalty/commoner, which I’ve written three times now. I can’t seem to get enough of it!

5. What is your writing process?

I get a spark of inspiration, then let it percolate in my mind for a while until I can come up with a few scenes. After that, and because I’m a pantser, I sit down to write and see what happens! The story will either unfold as I write, or I get stuck and have to pause. I keep going until I finish the draft, and then I get beta readers to help me know what to edit, and I complete my project and start querying it!

6. What is your best piece of writing advice?

Find your community. Writing by yourself is tough, and at some point, you need an outside perspective. Engage writers on social media, join writers groups, meet writers at conventions. Find people who want to see you succeed, and help them succeed in return!

7. What is the hardest lesson you learned while writing?

Related to the previous question, the hardest lesson I learned was that I couldn’t do it all alone. It was, and still is, hard to find other writers to help, but my work—and my sanity—has benefited from it!

8. What do you hope readers will take away from your work?

I hope readers will fall in love with my characters and appreciate my characters’ journeys. I also hope they leave the story with a positive feeling, as major themes in my work include gaining self-worth, forgiving others, and being kind.

9. What was your favorite character or scene you’ve written recently?

I’ve been editing more recently, but there’s a character in my head who’s been nagging me to write his story. Long story short, Xander is cursed to live while his boyfriend is cursed to stay dead (though he managed to come back as a ghost). They’ve got to find a way to be together! Xander is snarky, sarcastic, and nihilistic. I love him, and will someday figure out how to tell his story!

10. What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?

Despite my usual love of fantasy, I’m actually editing an M/M contemporary romance that I’m hoping to sell soon! After that’s done, I’ll move on to an M/M romance fantasy, and possibly a sequel for ‘The Sun and Moon Beneath the Stars.’


Novel Aesthetic by K Parr

Novel Aesthetic by K Parr

Can two girls save their loved ones before it's too late?

After being orphaned and forced to work as a palace slave, 15-year-old Rasha decides to end her life, but when she plunges a knife into her chest, she doesn’t die. Instead, a strange, icy power possesses her. The last time it took over, someone got hurt, and Rasha can't let that happen again.

But she's got bigger problems. Her twin brother is alive, yet held captive by Solaris, a powerful sorcerer. When Rasha runs into Adriana, the selfish princess she once served, they discover Solaris is a common enemy since he destroyed the palace and kidnapped Adriana's parents.

Together, Rasha and Adriana set out on a rescue mission. Personalities clash and tempers flare, but other feelings surface as well, feelings neither girl could have predicted.

And with the help of a ragtag group of companions, they might just be able to succeed on their quest...until an ancient evil emerges to wreak vengeance on their world.

Coming soon from NineStar Press!

This week’s news roundup!

  1. Missed my first newsletter? Check it out below!

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I know, I know, this has been WAY too long in the making, but I finally sent out my first newsletter today. If you missed it, you can check it out here and sign up for upcoming updates here and get news, current projects, and queer book recs directly to your inbox!


2. Check out my interview on Carrie Pack’s Bi Sci Fi Podcast!

Okay, so I already mentioned that being a guest on podcasts is my new favorite thing ever, so I’m super excited to share my very first podcast interview with the lovely Carrie Pack on her Bi Sci Fi podcast here. I had a ton of fun chatting about Empire of Light, labels, and finding community both among writers and queer peeps in general. We also talk about #QueerSpec and book recs!

Also, check out the rest of the episode to hear Lex Chase talk about mental health and better mental health representation. Thanks so much, Carrie, for having me and making my first ever podcast interview awesome (even though Luna Cat totally started screaming in the background at some point. Because she is a cat and demands to be heard.)


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3. EMPIRE OF LIGHT ARCS ARE HERE and you can snag one and become part of The Harrowing, my awesome review and street team!

There’s just a special kind of elation mixed with panic to have your book’s advanced reader’s copies (ARCs) out in the world. So, if you want to contribute both my excitement and my terror, you can snag an early copy of Empire of Light on Netgalley or sign up for my review team, The Harrowing here. I’d love to have you on board to make this launch awesome!

Warnings: graphic violence (including shootings, beatings, tasing, mild gore, depictions of a hanging, and an execution by burning), explicit sexual content (including mentions of sex work, a sexual relationship that begins in a negotiated contract for sexual services, and on- and off-page descriptions of explicit sexual situations involving bondage, control, mild pain play, and Dominant/submissive dynamics), trauma (including allusion to past physical and sexual abuse, and a depiction of a panic attack), deaths of supporting characters (including a young teen, mentions and depiction of assisted suicide, and one queer character who is a person of color), as well as substance abuse (alcohol, smoking, drugs, and a mention of an overdose)


4. Come to my launch party and signing with fellow debut fantasy author Sarah Chorn on March 1st!

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If you’re on Facebook, you can RSVP to the public event here! There will be readings, a Q&A and awesome swag!


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5. Want the eBook of EMPIRE OF LIGHT three days early? Preorder it directly from NineStar Press!

In case you missed it, you can pre-order the digital version of Empire of Light directly from NineStar Press and get it three days before publication. Links to preorders on other retailers and print copies coming soon!

Queering Up Your Bookshelf: M.K. England

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

Happy Wednesday!

Today, I welcome debut author M.K. England to talk about their writing process, how writing without an outline is terrifying (hard same, here!), the usefulness of story seeds and specificity, and representation in their debut YA science fiction novel, THE DISASTERS, out now from Harper Teen!

Welcome, M.K. and happy reading!


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M.K. England is an author and YA librarian who grew up on the Space Coast of Florida and now calls the mountains of Virginia home.

When they’re not writing or librarianing, MK can be found drowning in fandom, rolling dice at the gaming table, climbing on things in the woods, feeding their video game addiction, or talking way too much about space and science literacy.

They love Star Wars with a desperate, heedless passion. It’s best if you never speak of Sherlock Holmes in their presence. You’ll regret it. THE DISASTERS is their debut novel. Follow them at www.mkengland.com.

Find M.K. online:

WEBSITE TWITTER INSTAGRAM GOODREADS


What is your writing origin story?

I’ve always loved reading and have dreamed of being an author since I was a kid. Sadly, I was painfully self-conscious for most of my life and couldn’t handle the terror of seeing my own words on the page, much less actually sharing my writing. I had to be perfect at something the first time I attempted it or I was an utter failure. I loved creative writing assignments in English class because then I HAD to write, but I never went beyond that. Throughout my early 20s, I collected scraps of paper with ideas, but never got up the courage to write any of it. Mid-20s, I finally started writing… the same book three times over three different years. I finally said FINISH SOMETHING DANGIT and forced myself to finish my first book NaNoWriMo-style in February of 2014. It was an awful book, but I learned a lot. Most importantly, I learned I COULD actually finish a book. Later that same year I wrote THE DISASTERS. I signed with my agent and sold the book in early 2016.

What inspires your writing and how do you keep that inspiration alive?

I’ve always wanted to write because of the way stories make me feel. When I read adventures or romance, it fills me with a sort of enthusiasm and ambition for life. This was especially true for me as a kid and teen. Stories build me up! That’s the kind of experience I want to create for my readers, and the kind of experience I still seek out in a lot of the reading I do. I feed that inspiration with creative works that fit the bill in all mediums: video games, TV shows, books, podcasts, movies, tabletop games, pen and paper RPGs, and so on. I want to keep that feeling alive in me!

What does representation mean to you and how does it feature in your writing?

Representation means everyone gets to have the feeling I described above. Everyone should be able to see themselves as the one with the power to dig into life and shape the world. Representation is really important to the world of THE DISASTERS because it’s set in Earth’s future. The people in the book are a reflection of all the people who were in my life at the time of its writing, especially my nieces and library teens (I’m a YA librarian). When I look forward two hundred years, of course it’s them who are saving the galaxy. What would it say if the fictional future weren’t full of beautiful diversity?

What are some of your favorite tropes (or ways to subvert them)?

I wrote a lot of my favorite tropes into THE DISASTERS: found families, misfits, spaceship crews. On the romance side of things, I lovelovelove fake dating, friends to lovers, and anything that involves a queer couple coming out with a giant middle finger to the homophobes. In terms of subverting, I’m always a fan of anything that plays with gender and orientation.

What is your writing process?

I’m a big outliner. I find the prospect of diving into a story without a plan totally terrifying, and I’ve tried it before—it doesn’t work for me. My stories start out as little idea seeds that sit around for months or years until they bump into the right catalyst. Usually sometime around then a little bit of dialogue from the main character will pop into my head that gives me their voice, and once I have that I know I’m ready to start outlining. I’m a total external thinker, so I have to talk out the plot exhaustively with critique partners or family.

What is your best piece of writing advice?

If you haven’t finished something, FINISH SOMETHING. It doesn’t matter how bad it is, just race for the end to prove to yourself you can do it. Sometimes that’s the biggest lesson you need to learn. It was for me. Other than that, specificity is key when it comes to writing great characters. They aren’t just archetypes moving through a conflict, they’re also people who take exactly three drops of milk in their tea, who always step on ONLY the black tiles at the mall, and who totally overuse the word “badass” to the point that their friends want to strangle them. What are the weird things you know and love/hate about your friends and loved ones, and how can you get to that level of specificity with your characters?

What is the hardest lesson you learned while writing?

I have to be meaner to my characters. I really soak up the mood of whatever I’m reading or writing, so I can occasionally pull my punches when I should be leaning in harder. Gotta twist the knife!

What do you hope readers will take away from your work?

Whoever you are, you have power, you have a voice, and you can be okay.

What is a great queer book you have read recently?

Okay, I know I’m a YA person, but I gotta recommend this great series of adult mysteries featuring the detective Roxane Weary. She’s a bi woman, a badass private investigator, and my personal favorite, she isn’t good with emotion and has lots of issues and demons to battle. There have been two books so far (The Last Place You Look and What You Want to See), and there’s a third coming in July 2019. Just… AHHHH! Read read read! (content warning for sexual assault in the first book)

What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?

Right now I’m working on copyedits for my second book, which will be out in early 2020. It’s a sci-fi/fantasy mashup, a futuristic world with magic, full of queer characters and mental health stuff. My main character is a total hufflepuff who thinks she’s a slytherin and can’t process an emotion to save her life. Can’t wait for y’all to meet her! I’m also getting ready to submit the sample chapters for what I hoooope will be my third book, which is another wild space adventure, but heavier on the queer romance. Fingers crossed!


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The Breakfast Club meets Guardians of the Galaxy in this YA sci-fi adventure by debut author M. K. England.

Hotshot pilot Nax Hall has a history of making poor life choices. So it’s not exactly a surprise when he’s kicked out of the elite Ellis Station Academy in less than twenty-four hours. But Nax’s one-way trip back to Earth is cut short when a terrorist group attacks the Academy.

Nax and three other washouts escape—barely—but they’re also the sole witnesses to the biggest crime in the history of space colonization. And the perfect scapegoats.

On the run, Nax and his fellow failures plan to pull off a dangerous heist to spread the truth. Because they may not be “Academy material,” and they may not even get along, but they’re the only ones left to step up and fight.

Full of high-stakes action, subversive humor, and underdogs becoming heroes, this YA sci-fi adventure is perfect for fans of Illuminae, Heart of Iron, or the cult classic TV show Firefly and is also a page-turning thrill ride that anyone—not just space nerds—can enjoy.



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Wait, Wait, This is a THING?! -- WROTE Podcast Interview

I had a ton of fun being a guest on Vance Bastian and S.A. “Baz” Collins’s WROTE Podcast this past week. Check out my interview in which I chat about Empire of Light, #ownvoices, labels, and writing in a language that isn’t your first here.

Got any follow-up questions for me? Drop me a comment!

Happy listening!

Also, have a shiny animated version of my gorgeous cover for Empire of Light by the amazing Natasha Snow!

Alex

Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Kellie Doherty

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

Happy Wednesday!

Today, I welcome Kellie Doherty to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to talk to us about her upcoming release, Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties, how she got her start to writing in fanfiction, quickly disillusioned herself of the romantic notion of writing in coffeeshops, and how sometimes the best way to move forward is giving up on a project. Welcome, Kellie and happy reading!


Photo courtesy of Kellie Doherty

Photo courtesy of Kellie Doherty

Kellie Doherty is the author of the Cicatrix Duology (Finding Hekate and Losing Hold) and is currently working on a five-book fantasy series. The first book Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties will be out in early 2019!

During the day, she’s an office assistant and freelance editor, and by night she’s crafting adventures full of magic and daggers...and maybe a few dragons, too.

Find Kellie online:

WEBSITE TWITTER INSTAGRAM FACEBOOK


1. What is your writing origin story?

I’ve always been a voracious reader. Ever since I was young, I devoured books. When we went on camping trips, I’d go to the library and leave with an armload of books only to have read all of them before we even got to the campground. I liked all kinds of stories—sci fi, fantasy, horror, mystery, comics, manga—and eventually all my reading led to me wanting to write. I started writing fanfiction and although it wasn’t in the book-ish realm—Digimon and Pokemon mostly—it sparked my creativity for sure. I credit J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series that pushed me over the edge, though, and inspired me to write my own original fiction.

2. What inspires your writing and how do you keep that inspiration alive?

Inspiration comes in many forms for me. I get inspired by epic things—legendary music like the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, amazing writing like V.E. Schwab’s Darker Shades trilogy, great character building like on Critical Role—but I also get inspired by small things—the colors on flower petals, the cat’s eye shine in the middle of the night, the unique names I’ve come across at work. I also get inspired by my characters, since that is by far my favorite part of writing—character creation. As for keeping that inspiration alive, most of the time it’s pretty easy, actually, especially if I get to create a new character or start a new section of a work-in-progress or even write a flash fiction piece! When the inspiration doesn’t hit, though, I simply immerse myself into the things that I know help me be creative—read a good book, watch some Critical Role, etc.—and that spark will eventually come back.

3. What does representation mean to you and how does it feature in your writing?

To me, representation means showcasing all facets of our society so everyone can have someone they can relate to. It means weaving in other diverse cultures and characters into the story so kids, teens, and adults can see themselves in the adventure. I read a lot of stories where men were the leads and women were “damsels in distress”—especially in fantasy and science fiction. Now all of my main characters are female who can take care of themselves. (Even if they are also super awkward in the process.) I also didn’t see many queer characters and being bisexual, I wanted to change that so my main characters are also queer. I really hope that my characters can speak to readers out there and help those readers see a little bit of themselves in my story.

4. What are some of your favorite tropes (or ways to subvert them)?

While I wouldn’t call the damsel in distress a favorite trope, I do like to subvert it at every turn or use it in unexpected ways. My main characters are women and they can kick ass, but they are also in distress in different ways. Whether it’s being haunted by their past or hunted by evildoers, my main characters do need help from friends or family, but it’s not in that all-encompassing way that was portrayed in the damsel in distress idea. I also like playing with the “chosen one” trope and focusing instead on a character that may not have the best assets for the job or even be the most powerful. I also love the evil-in-waiting idea, where the evil was defeated ages ago only to burst forth once again to wreak havoc; the epic quest, where the characters go on this amazing adventure to complete their goal; and the stories that go into what the world would be like after an apocalypse!

5. What is your writing process?

My writing process starts with character creation. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s my favorite part of storytelling so I always start with a character. It doesn’t have to be the main character, either, just someone in the story that will knock on my creativity door and we go from there. After that, I dive into worldbuilding and plotlines and drafting and editing. I like to do my writing at home. I’ve tried the romantic notion of writing in a coffee shop, but the vibe doesn’t sit well with me—either the music is too loud or the people are talking about something vaguely distracting or the seats just aren’t comfortable. No, I prefer to write at home on my couch, with my two cats sitting next to me, my notes strewn about, and a cup of hot tea on the table. I usually write on my computer—it’s just faster, you know?—but I also carry around a notebook and have one sitting by my bed, too, in case inspiration strikes. I have a pretty busy schedule during the week, so I try my best to write during the weekends.

6. What is your best piece of writing advice?

End your last writing session in the middle of an intense spot so you’ll be excited and inspired to come back to it. Keep in mind, “intense” doesn’t have to be a life/death cliffhanger! It can be an emotional scene, a fight between best friends, a sudden crack in the middle of the woods, or a entrance into a new town—really anything that you’ll want to come back to after a long, hard day or if you’re not really feeling motivated to write.

7. What is the hardest lesson you learned while writing?

Sometimes you have to just stop writing that story or poem or book and be okay with it. I wrote a novella for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and while I really enjoyed the characters and the basic plotline, the more I kept going back to the story, the more I just couldn’t get into it. I felt like I had to, though; I mean, I wrote the thing for NaNoWriMo, right? That had to mean something! I couldn’t have just concentrated on this one story for a whole month, wrote over 50K words, and basically worked myself dry all for nothing. But as much as I wanted to, I still couldn’t get into it. So I stopped working on that story and moved on to something else. Doing that, disconnecting myself from that piece, was like a weight off my shoulders, and I was thrilled to work on something new. Maybe someday I’ll try work on that NaNoWriMo story again, but maybe not—and that is perfectly okay. (And don’t worry, I do know that month of pure creativity wasn’t all for nothing; the month was intense but also really fun and made me prioritize my writing!)

8. What do you hope readers will take away from your work?

Wow, so many things! I hope my work can provide a sense of escape from real life, a deep dive into imagination and storytelling to disconnect from the stress of the daily grind. I hope readers will find a character to connect with, to see themselves in, and will learn from their struggles and triumphs. I hope readers will take away an aspect of my characters to use in their own lives—whether it be the awkward girl who finally learns to be brave or the guilt-ridden woman who accepts her past or the fighter who changes tack—I want my readers to be inspired by them. Finally, I really hope my work can help readers to be creative! I was motivated to write because of the books I read and I hope my stories, my characters, my worlds can do the same for someone else.

9. What is a great queer book you have read recently?

Becky Chambers’ Record of a Spaceborn Few! The story is amazing, the characters are interesting, and one big thing at the beginning has an intriguing ripple effect on the rest of the story. Plus her worldbuilding is gorgeous. It’s what I call a “quiet queer” book since some of the characters are queer but it’s not the main storyline or even a secondary storyline. The queerness is just a part of them, one aspect not their whole reason for being in the story, and I love that kind of representation.

10. What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?

Currently I’m working with Desert Palm Press to publish my first fantasy novel called Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties. Basically, a woman gets a pendant fused to her neck and she has to deal with the deadly consequences of being its wearer. It’s the first book of a five-book fantasy series that I’m super exited about—the first four books will have a different main character and the fifth book will bring them all together. Right now we’re gearing up for the launch of Sunkissed Feathers, so that’s what I’ve been focusing on—final edits, design work, marketing, etc. Next, I’ll be working on book two of the series, which focuses on another main character named Orenda Silverstone.


Misti Eildelmann is a Vagari—a race whose innate crafting ability is connected to the creatures of the world. She’s also a Moon Knight. Misti is fighting a banished one when he slips a pendant around her neck that saps her strength. The pendant is dangerous. Deadly even. It harnesses crafting in a way not seen before, so she sets off to find help. Old and new friends join her on this quest, including her longtime crush Dylori Clyofis and a villager named Arias Silverstone. The journey is risky—filled with frightening suncreatures, evil worshippers, and twisted betrayal. Misti is thankful to have friends on this path into the scorching light, but something much bigger is waiting for them in the sunshine. Her pendant is just a piece of puzzle.

OUT FROM DESERT PALM PRESS EARLY 2019

Sunkissed Feathers will be released in early 2019 so keep an eye on my social media for more info! Otherwise, check out kelliedoherty.com to see my other works available for purchase and the platforms in which you can purchase them.

Favorite Five: 5 Podcasts to Fuel Your Writer Brain

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In the past two weeks, I have been interviewed for three different podcasts to talk about anything from queer spec fic, to my writing process, and craft advice. It’s honestly been one of the most fun things I’ve done as an author so far and I hope to do more of them as I go. That said, I only got into listening to podcasts regularly recently and have pretty much fallen in love with podcasts, so I thought I should probably share some of my top podcasts guaranteed to fuel your writing brain.

PRINTRUN PODCAST

This podcast, hosted by agents Laura Zats and Erik Hane discusses the ins and outs of publishing—including great takes and updates on current publishing news and trends. If keeping up with publishing on Twitter just seems too much for you or you want current news, trends, and ins-and-outs of agenting life directly into your inbox, I suggest you subscribe to this podcast via iTunes or your favorite subscription service. Want more insights on queries, first pages, and bonus episodes? You can support them on Patreon, too!


BISCIFI PODCAST

Want to discover new queer speculative fiction authors and hear about their writing process, work, and commentary about current LGBTQ+ issues? The fabulous Carrie Pack hosts BiSciFi, a monthly podcast in which she interviews two queer speculative fiction authors per episode.

My favorite part about this podcast is how it features authors published through small presses or independently and includes a lot of thoughtful advice and commentary on what’s current in queer speculative media. Also, I’ll be on their next episode, which I’m incredibly stoked about!


WROTE (WRITTEN ON THE EDGE) PODCAST

This podcast, hosted by authors Vance Bastian and S.A. “Baz” Collins interviews a different queer author, creator, and other contributors who discuss their experiences, influences, and the ins and outs of queer storytelling across all media.

This podcast features many queer authors talking about their current releases, writing process, and experiences that shaped (and still shape) their (writing) lives, and wraps up with an RFQ (Recommendations for Queers) feature that gives great recommendations and focuses on self-care in 2019. Check them out here.


WRITE THROUGH THE ROOF PODCAST

Write Through the Roof, hosted by author Madeleine D’Este focuses on the key question of “What’s the one thing that took your writing to the next level?”

This podcast interviews all types of authors and covers writing advice such as plotting vs. pantsing, writing rituals (and fuels!), tips and tricks that have worked for authors, as well as new techniques they are currently trying out to add to their craft. This was a new-to-me podcast and I wholeheartedly recommend it for anyone who wants to learn more about different takes on craft and ideas that might just bring your writing to the next level. Find out more and listen to past episodes here.


LORE PODCAST

Lore is a podcast about the “darker side of history, exploring the creatures, people, and places of our wildest nightmares,” according to its website and frankly, I’m incredibly addicted to Aaron Mahnke’s incredibly soothing way to tell incredibly terrifying true story—to the backdrop of soft piano music.

People have been telling me to check out this podcast for years, and frankly, it’s totally on me that I haven’t gotten into this until just recently. But at least that means I have tons of episodes to binge. Give this a listen. Maybe not, like I do, just before going to bed. Unless you want your writer brain to go into creepy overdrive, of course.


These are currently my favorite podcasts, specifically for writers, but what are your favorites? They don’t have to be writing related, but I love queer-focused ones. Got recommendations? Drop me a comment and I’ll check it out!

Oh, and if you’d like to interview me for your podcast, please reach out via my contact form, because this is seriously my new favorite thing to do.

Happy listening!

Alex

Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Xan West

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

Happy Wednesday!

Today, I welcome Xan West to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to talk about writing kink, erotica, D/s dynamics, and their inclusion of PTSD, autism, fat rep, D/s dynamics, vulnerability, and food (seriously, check this novelette out for the food!) in their latest release, Nine of Swords, Reversed. I’m especially excited to share all the links Xan shares to previous blog posts and further resources on writing, representation, and writing kink and erotica in particular with you.

Welcome, Xan, and happy reading!


Photo courtesy of Xan West.

Photo courtesy of Xan West.

Xan West is the nom de plume of Corey Alexander, an autistic queer fat Jewish genderqueer writer and community activist with multiple disabilities who spends a lot of time on Twitter.

Xan’s erotica has been published widely, including in the Best S/M Erotica series, the Best Gay Erotica series, and the Best Lesbian Erotica series. Xan’s story “First Time Since”, won honorable mention for the 2008 NLA John Preston Short Fiction Award. Their collection of queer kink erotica, Show Yourself to Me, is out from Go Deeper Press.

After over 15 years of writing and publishing queer kink erotica short stories, Xan has begun to also write longer form queer kink romance. Their recent work still centers kinky, trans and non-binary, fat, disabled, queer trauma survivors. It leans more towards centering Jewish characters, ace and aro spec characters, autistic characters, and polyamorous networks. Xan has been working on a queer kinky polyamorous romance novel, Shocking Violet, for the last four years, and hopes to finish a draft very soon! You can find details and excerpts on their website, and sign up for their newsletter to get updates.

Find Xan online: WEBSITE TWITTER NEWSLETTER


Content Warnings: references to erotica, kink, abuse, chronic pain, trauma

1. What is your writing origin story?

I come from a family of writers, grew up surrounded by amazing writers, and have been writing for my whole life. I started taking writer’s workshops when I was 8 years old. Whatever else I was going to do with my life, I knew I was going to be a writer as well.

I’ve written a lot of different genres, but I didn’t start seriously publishing my work until I’d been writing erotica for a few years. I wrote to explore my kinkiness, I wrote my fantasies for my play partners, I wrote to describe what I was seeing in kink communities, and I wrote to imagine something better. My first serious D/s relationship was abusive, and I wrote a story as a way to hold on to being kinky, by imagining D/s that was caring, careful, and supportive, instead of what I was experiencing. That story is a big part of what helped me to leave that relationship. After I did, I began to submit my erotica to anthologies. That story, the one that helped me leave, was my first erotica publication. It paved the way for all the others.

2. What inspires your writing and how do you keep that inspiration alive?

I draw inspiration from reading (especially in the genres I write, and not just from great books either), from talking to other writers, from the ache of not seeing my own reflection and the desire to see myself on the page.

With short stories, I’ve also been inspired by the challenge of meeting the parameters of a call for submissions; it’s a lot of fun to think about what I could write that fits a particular theme. And if I’m lucky enough to get solicited for a call, it gives me an extra push to write for it, because of my connection with that editor, and them wanting my work. Not all those stories end up in those collections, for a variety of reasons, but calls for submission have inspired some of my personal favorites.

I’ve noticed that readers motivate me a lot, that if I share things about my work, snippets, details, plot bunnies…and I get enthusiastic responses from readers, it helps me motivate to continue working on something or pick it up again. It also inspires me to sprint with other writers; I’m part of a queer writers slack where we sprint together a lot and share snippets, and that cycle of support and sharing and comraderie keeps me going.

3. What does representation mean to you and how does it feature in your writing?

When I talk about representation, I’m talking both about seeing marginalized folks represented with care on the page and also marginalized authors having support for their work. In my book reviews, I have a representation section where I mention character and author identities; to me it’s just as important to support Black authors as it is to support stories with Black characters, in a lot of ways it’s more important. I’d say the same for identities I share. I’m interested in books by trans and non-binary authors, even where the MCs are cis. Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds by Rose Lemberg, one of the fantasy stories that has resonated particularly deeply with me in terms of trans issues was by a trans author and had a cis POV MC.

In my own writing, I care particularly about the representation of identities I share. For example, in my most recent release, Nine of Swords, Reversed, I cared especially about the disability representation. I really wanted to show what daily life is as an autistic person with PTSD and chronic pain, and endeavored to illuminate that experience in some detail in the story. I was writing that aspect of the story particularly for disabled readers who have similar experiences; I wanted them to see themselves on the page. I also cared about showing that on the cover, and am so pleased with the way the cover showed a cane that looked like mine, the MC in a bed in a way that was lush and resonant, as both myself and the MC spend a lot of our daily life in bed.

4. What are your favorite things about writing erotica and kink in particular?

I really love writing dominants being vulnerable, having needs of their own, being supported by their submissive partners. So often dominants are expected to be stoic and inscrutable and have no needs of our own; I’ve written a series of essays about this issue. Essays are great; but showing the different ways that can look in fiction is a deep joy for me, and is about writing myself onto the page. I also really love describing the sensory experience of kink in detail; it’s such a visceral thing to write, and it’s wonderful to sink into writing that aspect of a story.

5. What is your writing process?

I try to capture inspiration and get enough down that I can pick something up again. I often have a number of projects that are partly done, and even more that have just a few notes, a couple paragraphs, a beginning to jump off from when I want to/am able to. My writing time and capacity is scarce because of my disabilities, so it’s rare for me to write big chunks at once.

I’m still fairly new to writing longer form romance, so I don’t have a set process yet. I’m playing around with different ways to write things longer than a short story. Erotica short stories, on the other hand, I’ve been writing for close to 20 years, so I have developed a process for those. I generally start with either the call for submissions or what I think of as the spark for the story, which are usually notes or a couple paragraphs I’ve written before. Then I often think through the structures that limit the story, draw it’s boundaries for myself, like length, pairing/grouping, theme, but also what I want to say with the story (a particular political point I want to make, a particular aspect of kink life I want to illuminate). These can come from the call, if there is one, or a market I have in mind, if I’m writing to market, or can come from me. Once I have that structure, as I write kink erotica, I also build a structure for the BDSM scene itself. I wrote a longish blog post describing this aspect of how I write kink. When I have some clarity about the kink in the story and what it will look like, then I think about how to put it into context, so that I establish character, consent, the emotional aspects of play and how they work. This is often when I start drafting, and see where that takes me. I revise as I write, so I get a fairly clean first draft, but it’s often missing aspects of the story that matter to me. I generally go back and layer in more emotional depth and internal tension, more sensory description, more vulnerability for the top, a deeper emotional arc, and the cues the reader needs for the characters identities. When I’ve done this, that’s when I send to beta readers and sensitivity readers and begin the editing process based on feedback from others.

6. What is your advice for authors writing t4t (trans for trans) relationships?

My biggest piece of advice about this is to do what you can to not think about cis readers, to shut them out of the room, so to speak, and let the trans folks interact with, talk to, build connection with each other, as if they are alone in a room together. Ideally, actually get them alone when you start writing, even if it means not starting at the beginning. Get a sense of who they are when they aren’t there for a cis audience. Dialogue is a great way to start.

So often we make trans characters explain themselves, teach, perform, be there for the learning of cis readers. Imagine you are writing an insider story that only other trans people will read, that’s for trans readers. Get inside the moments when trans characters are together, talking. What do they say to each other? What do they not say? What don’t they need to explain? What are they hiding? What are their places of connection? How do they feel that they must perform for each other? What shape is their armor? Where do they relax and breathe because no cis people are around? How do their insecurities manifest? Where are they afraid and what sparks those fears? What does their anger look like? What can they build together, that’s not for cis people?

I’d also suggest reading stories by trans and/or non-binary authors that center relationships between trans and/or non-binary folks. My recent release Nine of Swords, Reversed is an example; it has three central characters and they are all genderfluid. I’m going to suggest some other things you might read for that. (These are a sample of ten; there are more out there.)

• Nevada by Imogen Binnie

• A Boy Called Cin by Cecil Wilde

• Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girls Confabulous Memoir by Kai Cheng Thom

• Caroline’s Heart by Austin Chant

• Can You Say My Name Again by Nadia Nova

• Long Macchiatos and Monsters by Alison Evans

These are free:

A Portrait of the Desert in Personages of Power by Rose Lemberg

The Rivers Children by Shweta Narayan

Rental by Morgan M Page

This Shall Serve As a Demarcation by Bogi Takács

7. What is the hardest lesson you learned while writing?

To consider feedback carefully and decide what I want to take in. Particularly when writing insider stories, like trans stories for trans audiences, for example. I wrote an essay about the importance of this, and how I do it.

8. What do you hope readers will take away from your work?

I primarily write for queer & trans folks, disabled folks, fat folks, kinky folks, who want to see themselves on the page. So my greatest hope is that I created that kind of mirror.

Some of my stories are intended to be comfort reads; Nine of Swords, Reversed is one of those, as is “Tenderness”, which was printed in Queerly Loving Vol 2. I hope that these stories provide cozy comfort to readers.

I also really care about depicting access intimacy and queer chosen family and community on the page, showing folks being careful and caring with each other, honoring consent, and creating room for each other to be who they are. My queer kink erotica collection is titled Show Yourself to Me because one of the greatest gifts a play partner or lover can offer is to hold space for you to show them who you are. I would love for these aspects of my work to offer possibilities to folks who are struggling to imagine these things in their lives. One of the best compliments I ever got from a reader was that my story showed them the kind of queer chosen family that might be possible for them to have in the future.

9. What is a great queer book you have read recently?

I’ve mostly been reading winter holiday romance novellas, recently; I’m going to concentrate on the speculative fiction ones, as that’s the focus of your blog!

• I really enjoyed Holly and Oak by R Cooper, which is a contemporary fantasy winter solstice m/m romance that is full of angst and pining and witches who have adored each other from afar claiming their own destinies and finally finally getting together.

• I loved The Coyote’s Comfort by Holley Trent, which is a shifter second chance Christmas f/f romance with a very prickly coyote shifter MC who has a lot of emotional armor, a quality I especially enjoy in romance MCs.

• I adored Hearts Alight by Elliott Cooper just as much on my second read. This is a paranormal Chanukah m/m romance between a grumpy MC who hates the commercialization of Chanukah and a golem who he’s been pining for forever but never thought would be into him. I loved the family in this story, which includes a BFF brother in law who is trans.

• I found Keeping the Cookies by Brianna Lawrence wacky, hilarious and really wonderful. It’s a contemporary fantasy Christmas meet-cute m/m romance that has an awesome BFF and a fat love interest who I completely adored.

10. What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?

I am currently editing my contemporary kinky polyamorous queer m/f novella Their Troublesome Crush, which has a Jewish autistic demiromantic trans man submissive MC, who realizes that he’s got a crush on his metamour, Nora, a Jewish disabled femme cis woman switch, while they are planning their mutual partner’s birthday party. It’s slated to be out 3/18/19!

I want to finish a draft of Shocking Violet this year, which is my kinky queer polyamorous contemporary romance novel-in-progress that has 5 disabled queer MCs, four of whom are trans.

If I am able, I’d also like to write a Chanukah romance novella this year, tentatively titled Eight Kinky Nights! That one is at the very beginning stages of development.


Dev has been with xyr service submissive Noam for seven years and xe loves them very much. Dev and Noam have built a good life together in Noam’s family home in Oakland, where they both can practice their magecraft, celebrate the high holidays in comfort, support each other as their disabilities flare, and where Noam can spend Shabbos with their beloved family ghost.

But Dev’s got a problem: xe has had so much arthritis pain recently that xe has not been able to shield properly. As an empath, no shielding means Dev cannot safely touch Noam. That has put a strain on their relationship, and it feels like Noam is pulling away from xym. To top it off, Dev has just had an upsetting dream-vision about xyrself and Noam that caused one of the biggest meltdowns xe has had in a while. It’s only with a timely tarot reading and the help of another genderfluid mage that Dev is able to unpack the situation. Can xe figure out how to address the issues in xyr relationship with Noam before everything falls apart?

This romance novelette includes Jewish queer genderfluid mage MCs, the couple on the rocks trope, and fat, autistic, disabled, chronic pain, PTSD and depression representation.

Buy your copy here:

AMAZON GUMROAD Content Warnings

Other works by Xan West:

Show Yourself To Me: Queer Kink Erotica

 “Tenderness” in Queerly Loving, Volume 2

“Trying Submission” in Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year, Volume 3