Category Archives: Guest post

Guest Post: Recommendations for Polyamory in Fiction, by Shira Glassman

For those unfamiliar with Shira Glassman, she’s not only an author of some of the queerest fantasy around, but also my super go-to person when it comes to tough-to-find queer rep. (Her encyclopedic brain for indie queer lit is unmatched. Seriously.) So when I was getting requests for poly fic, I knew who to beg for a guest post of recs, and as always, Shira delivered!

*****

I don’t seek out poly specifically for its own sake, but I have nothing against it, so when it pops up in my LGBT reading searches I’ll read anything that suits my plot, demographics, and setting preferences just as I would with a two-person romance. For those unfamiliar with me in general, my preferences tend toward f/f, fiction with trans people, older men, cultural diversity (especially Jewish stuff), “found family”, costume drama, high fantasy, science fiction, and anything having to do with Central Europe or Florida. As such, here are the top recs from my poly shelf on Goodreads, at least two of which were finalists in the most recent Bi Book Awards:

She Whom I Love by Tess Bowery. Configuration: f/f/m triad; all parties involved with each other, although one of the women is pretty explicitly described, in period-appropriate equivalent terms, as homoromantic bisexual and is in love with the other woman whereas she’s only sexually interested in the man. The setting is Regency England and the book is unusual for a Regency romance not only in its poly triad but in the fact that all three characters are members of the working class: you have a corset maker, a lady’s maid, and an actress (which back then was not treated like royalty the way it is today.) Two women who have been friends since girlhood realize they’re in love with each other just about the same time they start a flirtation with a certain man. When they realize it’s the same man, they play a trick on him for revenge and then the next thing he knows he’s got two girlfriends. This is that story you want if you’re that person who gets frustrated at love triangles and says “why can’t they just ALL DATE?” The book’s main conflict comes from everyone trying to figure out how to make sure they’re being treated with as much respect as they deserve as human beings despite living in a class system that denigrates actresses or people born of sex workers, rather than bullshit manufactured conflict and misunderstandings. I was also impressed by the fact that it had actual adventure and action in the plot instead of just the romance. (Buy it here.)

Kneel, Mr. President by Lauren Gallagher. Configuration: m/m/f triad where all parties are involved with each other. I initially assumed a book with a title this outrageous would be unabashedly silly, but no, far from it — this is actually a fully fleshed out complicated triad romance novel, complete with all the realistic turbulence and angst that any throuple (I’m sorry, I know that’s an awful word but I can’t help myself) would go through while navigating their beginning stages. This is a President/First Lady/Secret Service Former Boyfriend When They Were Navy SEALs Together setup. I was really impressed by how well rounded the book was in terms of character interaction besides the sex, of which, predictably, there is lots. I didn’t get bored by the extra sex scenes, either, since each one introduces a new angle (either within the D/s setup, or a new configuration of how all three of them will interact, since the wife initially starts out just watching, etc.) (Buy it here.)

Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver. Configuration: f/f/f triad including trans woman; all parties involved with each other. Chameleon Moon is temporarily unavailable due to the publisher closing down, but the author will be reissuing it in a new self-published format to be quickly followed by several short stories and a Book Two. The male lead is a lizard man named Regan who will be on-the-page ace in the second edition as the author originally wanted. The female lead, a trans woman lounge-singer-turned-superhero named Evelyn, is involved in a f/f/f triad of all superhero women. They even have a child together of which she is one of the biological parents. The book is a “hopeful dystopian” (the author calls it a dys-hope-ian) taking place in an American city that was quarantined by force when everyone there began developing mutant superpowers in response to an overpresecribed wonderdrug. Evelyn and her superpowered girlfriends and the rest of the characters are fighting to bring happiness and justice to the inhabitants of the city. This isn’t a book with sex scenes; the poly representation is focused on love and family. Warning for deadnaming (which Evelyn defeats like a champ) but it’s possible that may not reappear in the second edition. (Buy it here.)

Midnight at the Orpheus by Alyssa Linn Palmer. Configuration: poly V, a bisexual woman with a girlfriend and a boyfriend. This is 1920’s Chicago gangster noir, and that means it comes with a lot of genre conventions: plenty of violence and death, and an ending that’s happy but highly unstable since her girlfriend and boyfriend are not involved with each other and are both violent people. The setting is very bi-normative in the sense that in this particular underworld culture it’s just accepted that some of the women are dating each other and never assumes that a woman who likes women is uninterested in men. There is also a gay cop antihero who is not part of the triad, so all in all a very queer take on a well-established genre. Warning for Irish and Italian slurs. (Buy it here.)

Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi. Configuration: Multiple interlinked poly V’s as part of a found family. This is a book about queer disabled women fighting Big Pharma in space, with strong themes of found family, and the link between bodily autonomy and tough medical decisions. The main character is shown coming to terms with the idea of polyamory as she starts a relationship with a woman who is already involved with someone else, who is also involved with someone else. Warning for loss of family members and also a graphic mutilation flashback. (Buy it here.)

One final note: the Fierce Family anthology is a wonderful collection of sci-fi and fantasy shorts written on the theme of “positive depictions of queer families.” It has plenty of nonbinary representation and families with two moms, and cis m/m isn’t the majority of the stories. I’m mentioning it here because of the story about the space pirates–both the pirates and the ship being attacked have a crew of a bi, poly family. That was just so remarkable that I think it deserves special recognition. The whole anthology is worth it, though. (Buy it here.)

I don’t really have anything of substance of my own to offer as far as poly representation goes, except for a tiny piece of erotica about three Chanukah fairies (Eitan’s Chord.”) Also, I’m told my witch/tavern owner Eshvat (Climbing the Date Palm) is “solopoly” because she’s aromantic and doesn’t form romantic connections with her casual sexual partners. But maybe some day! (Buy Shira’s books here!)

*****

romanescoShira Glassman is a violinist living in Florida with a very good human and a very bad cat. She is best known for writing fluffy queer fantasy that draws inspiration from her tropical upbringing, Jewish heritage and present life, and French and German operas. She believes that we need infinite princess, dragon, and superhero stories for all the demographics who never got to play those roles when she was little; some of the ones she’s written have made it to the finals of the Bi Book Awards and Golden Crown Literary Society awards. Her latest is The Olive Conspiracy, about a queen and her found-family saving their country’s agriculture from a foreign plot.

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Goodbye, Bad Bi: The Lose-Lose Situation of Bisexual YA, a Guest Post by Casey Lawrence

You may recall Casey Lawrence from her recent cover reveal for Order in the Court. Now she’s back to talk about the tricky business of writing bisexual YA. Without further ado, Casey Lawrence!

Young Adult literature is often characterized by discovery, by firsts. First crush, first kiss, first loss, first love. YA is a genre that helps generations of teens find their place in this world and discover who they are in it. For this reason, it is extremely important that YA novels reflect their demographic; most of the readers in dire need of that help are young members LGBTQ+ community.

For young queer teens, the world can be a scary place. YA books can be an escape, but also a mirror: for many queer teens, their first taste of what it might be like to actually be queer comes from the media’s representation of queerness.

LGBTQ+ YA is a growing market. More and more authors are taking the leap to publish stories with diverse characters. My own book series, The Survivor’s Club, has a bisexual teenage protagonist. Today I’m going to outline a major problem I’ve encountered with writing a bisexual character: it’s a lose-lose situation.

Because YA usually has some kind of romantic element to it, authors writing bisexual characters need to make a choice: who does your bisexual character “end up” with? (Since I write bi girls, I’m going to use bi girls as examples, but the same goes for bi boys.) If your bi girl ends up with a boy, your character gets accused of being “basically straight,” “bad [queer] representation,” or “reinforcement of compulsory heterosexuality.” If your bi girl ends up with a girl, she ends up having to be representation for all wlw (women who love women). She’s “basically a lesbian.” Either way, the character’s bisexuality is somehow “negated” by their relationship status. Sure, in Chapter One she’s a Bi Girl, but by the end she’s Basically Gay or Basically Straight—in either case, thinking this way is Bisexual Erasure.

Bi characters in m/f relationships are “bad representation” because they’re basically straight.

Who one is in a relationship with does not define one’s sexuality. A bisexual woman married to a man is not straight. A bisexual man who has only dated men is not gay. In both cases, these people are bisexual—both in real life, and on paper.

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts lately about how having a bi character enter an m/f relationship somehow invalidates their queerness. Bi women suddenly must have their wlw cards revoked because they love men, which makes about as much sense as saying a person can’t enjoy both chocolate and vanilla ice cream. For bisexual women in particular, this idea reinforces the patriarchal idea that men can fundamentally change a woman’s identity.

Here’s a conversation I recently had:

Them: You mostly date men, right?

Me: Yeah, so?

Them: So you’re mostly straight, then.

Me: I’m bisexual.

Them: Oh I know, but I mean, you’re not 50/50. You’re more on the straight side. More straight than gay.

Bisexuality is not the condition of being half-gay and half-straight. A bisexual person is entirely bisexual, not fractions of other things. When a bi person of one gender dates a person of another gender, their sexuality doesn’t change, in the same way that being single doesn’t make a person asexual until they start their next relationship. The number of relationships one’s had with different genders do not fill in a pie chart that somehow can determine the percentage of their queerness—they’re bisexual, completely, irrespective of their relationship status.

But heterosexual relationships already act as representation for bi people in m/f relationships, don’t they?

Nope. Bisexual people in relationships with people of a different gender can have a very different dynamic with their partner than a heterosexual couple. They face different challenges, one of which may be being told that they’re basically straight because of who their partner is. A lot of real bi girls do end up with guys and they deserve better than to be told that relationships that look like theirs are the “disappointing” option, or “not real queer representation.” It’s not fair that they aren’t allowed to have representation of how to conduct their lives in different-gender relationships because of how those relationships are perceived.

These assumptions have real world consequences. People say things like “Bisexuals in het relationships don’t belong at Pride.” This is equivalent to parents accepting their bisexual children only as long as they date the opposite sex. Why is the latter abhorrent but the first tolerable in the LGBTQ+ community? Accepting someone as long as they act like you is not okay. Conditional acceptance is never okay. This is true of the LGBTQ+ community as well as outside of it. Both of those statements are example of biphobia. They make it seem as if a bisexual person can “choose” to be gay or straight—rather than being bisexual, which is a sexuality in and of itself.

Can’t you just let your bi character have both an m/f AND an f/f relationship over the course of a book/series?

Sure I could. But that leads to a whole ‘nother conundrum: which relationship gets the HEA (happily ever after)? No matter which order I choose, there are going to be complaints. This is where the lose-lose situation comes into effect:

If my bi girl dates another girl only to later date a boy, I run the risk of implying that her bi-ness was just a phase or an experiment. I’ll get all those accusations about bad representation outlined above; my bi girl can’t end up with a boy, because then readers will think she’s straight (no matter how many times she tells the world she’s bisexual).

If my bi girl dates a boy first and then dates a girl, it reinforces the idea that bisexuality is a “stepping stone” identity on the way to declaring oneself a True Homosexual. This is more prevalent in m/m stories, but holds true for female characters as well. Bisexuality is considered by some people a way of keeping one foot in the closet.

Why does that happen?

There’s something called the One Drop rule when it comes to m/m romance: one m/m attraction or relationship is enough to call a male character gay, despite having been in m/f relationships in the past. One drop in an ocean is enough for that male character to be considered queer, negating an entire history of attraction. For bisexual female characters (and real bisexual women!), the opposite is true. Often, any evidence of opposite-sex inclinations is cause for exclusion from wlw spaces.

Bisexual men are assumed to be gay and performing bisexuality in order to cling to heteropatriarchy’s idea of masculinity, while bisexual women are assumed to be straight and performing bisexuality for heterosexual male attention. Thus bisexual women are in the unique situation of being “too gay” or heterosexual spaces, but “too straight” for queer ones, creating a need for bisexual women’s spaces, whereas bisexual men are, for the most part, welcomed into gay spaces with open arms—assuming they consider to “perform” their queerness. The same holds true with literature.

Romantic or sexual relationships with men are seen as bad representation for wlw because it appears to adhere to the patriarchy, or compulsory heterosexuality. One reasons why gay men do not feel betrayal toward bisexuals in “het” relationships to the same degree or in the same way as lesbians do is that to them, bisexual women in relationships with men are choosing to adhere to the heteropatriarchy, despite the capacity not to.

Can’t you just write a bisexual character in a polyamorous relationship then? Why does she have to choose?

Ah, now wouldn’t that just be the perfect solution! Many bisexual people are also poly. But the thing is, most bisexual people aren’t. Writing bisexual characters as poly  unfortunately enforces the stereotypes that bisexual people are greedy, can’t be satisfied by one person, are promiscuous, more likely to cheat… the list goes on. If everyone wrote bisexual characters into poly relationships, bisexual monogamists (of which there are many) would be left completely without representation or a voice.

Bisexuality and polyamory are different things. The first is a sexuality—to whom one is attracted—and the second is a relationship style—how one performs their sexuality in the context of a relationship. A person or character can be both bi and poly, but not everyone who is bi is also poly, just like everyone who is a pianist is not also left handed. I’m sure there are left handed pianists, as one certainly doesn’t negate the other, but one does not necessarily mean the other. They are completely separate.

So while I’d be excited to read (or write) a bisexual/poly romance, that’s not going to work with every character, just like it wouldn’t work for every bisexual person.

So why can’t you just write your characters as individuals making personal choices? Why do they have to represent all bisexual people?

And there’s the real reason for the lose-lose situation: since there are so few bisexual characters, every bi character that makes it to the published page is suddenly expected to be representation for all bi people. Gay people want bisexual representation that is “queer enough” to fit onto the existing LGBTQ+ shelf at the library, straight people want to see bi people that look like them or someone they could date / have dated, and bi people—well, we all just want to see ourselves on the page. With so few examples, it’s no wonder that no one is satisfied. There aren’t enough bi characters to go around.

What’s the solution, then? Is it hopeless?

Hopeless? No! Of course not. The only thing to do is to keep writing bisexual characters. Bi characters who end up falling for someone of the same sex. Bi characters who get their HEA with a member of the opposite sex. Bi characters who love nonbinary characters. Bi characters who are also trans. Bi characters who date trans characters. Bi characters who are in polyamorous relationships with people of different genders. Poly bi characters who date multiple people of one gender. Bi characters who end up heartbroken. Bi characters who end up alone, but happy. And, most of all, bisexual characters who proudly say “I’m bisexual,” no matter who their partner(s) is.

The only thing we need less of is stereotypes. If we create enough unique bisexual characters and stories, hopefully we can beat this lose-lose system. Each and every bisexual person is different, with different preferences and experiences. Why should bisexual characters be any different?

Casey Lawrence is a 21-year-old Canadian university student completing an undergraduate degree in English Language and Literature. She is a published author of LGBT Young Adult fiction through Harmony Ink Press and has been actively involved in LGBT activism in her community since she co-founded the Gay-Straight Alliance at her high school. Her first novel Out of Order is available through all major online book retailers and its sequel, Order in the Court is currently available for preorder.

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SoRo: Three Ways Socially Conscious Romance Can Change the World (A Guest Post by Karelia Stetz-Waters)

Please welcome to the site today author Karelia Stetz-Waters, whose newest release, a Contemporary Romance entitled For Good (Book #2 in her Out in Portland series), just released on July 5th! Just before we get to her post, check out a little more info on the book:

Stetz-Waters_For Good

In this too-small, dusty town, brand-new district attorney Kristen Brock knows she’ll never fit in. Still, the job will look great on her résumé—if she can just keep her head down and play by the rules. Because in a town run by a self-serving, powerful family, the last thing Kristen needs is trouble . . . but one kiss from the beautiful ex-rodeo queen Marydale Rae turns her world upside down. And Marydale is definitely trouble.

Marydale didn’t intend to hide her past from Kristen, but the prospect of a friend who doesn’t know she spent time in prison is too tempting to pass up. Add in the passionate night they share, and Marydale never wants Kristen to know the truth. But small towns don’t keep secrets, and the powerful Holten clan is determined to destroy anything and anyone who makes Marydale happy.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * iBooks

And now, Karelia, on Three Ways Socially Conscious Romance Can Change the World:

I see you Romeo…shaking that ass! Wait. That’s now how the line goes. My Shakespeare’s getting rusty now that I’ve plunged into the world of genre fiction. Romance, no less.

One of my academic colleagues told me she hoped I’d be able to get back to writing meaningful literature. “Karelia, you’re so talented…” she trailed off mournfully. I think it was a compliment. I didn’t bring up the nonlinear, staccato, trans-generational epic poem she’d been agonizing over [but not actually writing] for ten years. Why be mean?

I loved writing my first romance novel, a lesbian version of You’ve Got Mail in which I challenged myself to employ the old Harlequin Romance sex equation: a sex scene within the first fifty pages and then every seventy-five pages after that. And I got to do some crazy research for my most recent release, a kind of Orange Is the New Black: Parole Edition, about a paroled felon and a district attorney who fall in love. The result is a fast-paced, poolside read, that’s cheaper than a mocha Frappuccino and just as easy to consume.

I’m not ashamed.

My colleagues in the greater world of the academy have yet to recognize romance as a meaningful literary art form, but romance is the language of hope. And it sells. People read romance. And I believe a well-written, socially conscious romance (my wife coined the term “so-ro”) can do three powerful things to change the world.

SoRo Gives the LBGTQ+ Community a Vision of Happiness

I spoke on the plenary panel at the Gay Romance NW Conference last year. Someone posed the question: can romance novels have tragic endings? The consensus was no. “…All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” That is the contract.

Romance imagines happiness. It paints a picture. It draws a map. With violence and prejudice still part of the LBGTQ+ community’s experience, we need those portraits. And, yes, of course, we need artists to bear witness to suffering and injustice, but we simultaneously need to surround ourselves with pictures of health and hope.

I recently watched Jane McGonigal’s TED talk “Gaming Can Make a Better World.” In it, she mentions one special trait possessed by gamers; they believe in epic wins, wins so great, so sweeping they change everything. True love is an epic win. Believe!

SoRo Breaks Down Gender Stereotypes

And I think romance, when done well, can do more than just comfort and uplift our community. LBGTQ+ romance is gaining a following among heterosexual readers. When I ask straight readers why, the answer is almost unanimous. They want to see love without gender roles.

I recently started a blog called “Ask the Girls: Lesbian Love for Straight Couples.” The premise is this: excepting the fact that it took me and my wife fifteen years to be legally married, our marriage is easier than our heterosexual friends’ marriages. My wife and I may have absorbed all the same gender stereotypes, but we don’t live by them. We can’t. Taking out the trash may be the man’s job, but if we wait around for a man to do it, we’ll be waiting a long time.

SoRo Teaches Compassion

Finally, let me step out of my role as blogger and back into my comfortable, everyday English-professor clothes. The quiz is closed book, closed notes, no Wikipedia:

Who were the Montagues and Capulets and why were they feuding?

You don’t remember, do you? With Juliet’s hair loose across her shoulders and Romeo’s voice rising up through the filtered moonlight, we don’t care. They could be Republicans and Democrats, Muslims and Christians, “East End boys and West End girls.Love takes our differences and casts them in the gentle twilight travelers crave, that soft glow that erases what we’ve been taught to loathe and lets us view the world as it is, imperfect and beautiful.

When else are we more open to the beauty of the stranger than in romantic love? We love our family, our neighborhood, our children, but they are a kaleidoscope of ourselves. A lover is the other. And through love we come to see without criticism, to make the stranger’s plight our own.

While researching my latest release, For Good, I attended a poetry reading at a maximum security prison. I was ushered through several security checkpoints and into a bleak, all-purpose room. I assumed the incarcerated men would look like monsters. But they offered me cookies, and they read their poems. Most clutched their poems to their chests, reading with their eyes down and their voices flat, earnest, and nervous. They looked like my students. I couldn’t see their sins.

And I’m not about to say that I’d like them released in my neighborhood, but I did see a part of their story that was never in the newspaper. That vision inspired the way I wrote about Marydale Rae, the paroled felon in For Good. I hope that it will inspire my readers to pause, at least for one poolside moment, and consider the greater societal issues that underlie the book.

In Conclusion

Romance has been called the backbone of the publishing industry. We have reach. We have market share. We can paint a picture of hope for our people. We can teach love that defies gender roles. And if we are careful with the way we portray the “other,” and avoid the stereotypes that have, admittedly, plagued this genre in its previous incarnations, romance can teach compassion for the stranger, for the wanderer who arrives at our door in tatters.

Isn’t that who we all are in that tremulous moment when we first feel love?

~*~*~

Karelia Stetz-Waters My wife recently dubbed my writing “so-ro,” short for romance with a social conscience. I guess that’s what I do. Whether I’m exploring the problems of gentrification or the evils of human trafficking, every book I write has a lesbian romance at its heart and a social issue in mind. They’re the kind of books that read like fun, lazy-Saturday page-turners and yet leave your unexpectedly enlightened. That’s two for the price of one and way more fun that keeping up with the news.

When I’m not writing, I’m being inspired by my amazing community college students and hanging out with my lovely wife and my charming spuglette (that’s a technical term for spaniel-pug mix). I’m a fan of snakes, corn mazes, popular science books on neurology, and any roadside attraction that purports to have the world’s largest ball of twine.

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Of find me on Facebook, Twitter, or at www.kareliastetzwaters.com

Authors and Asexuality: a Guest Post by Calista Lynne

Today on the site, please welcome Calista Lynne to talk about her upcoming book, We Awaken, which is one of very few YAs featuring asexual main characters. This is one of the number one recommendation requests I get, so I’m excited to help bring awareness to this one, coming July 14 from Harmony Ink! And now, here’s Calista to share about it.

WeAwaken_postcard_front_Harmony

I never intended anyone to know that I published a book; that’s why I chose a pseudonym with care and stuck with it.

So of course the majority of my friends and my entire family are well aware that there’s a novel coming out with the back of my head as the author pic. When my parents first found out they were beyond excited. I got free chinese food out of the announcement which was all well and good. When they found out the topic of my novel was asexuality, though, the concept was met with a bit of confusion.

There were the usual “what’s that” and “that’s sad” remarks made when I explained it and my father decided I would forever be an author of “alternative sexualities.” Except asexuality isn’t alternative or a fad. It’s literally just a sexuality in addition to all the rest. As a society we have no luck. Individuals are degraded both for having sex and for expressing no sexual desire whatsoever. A Catch- 22. People laugh at asexuality because they don’t understand it, and as someone who is in constant need of validation to the point of annoyance, I understand how frustrating it feels to be a sexuality many people do not even know exists.

One in every one hundred people is asexual, which is no small number. Compare that with the size of your graduating class and you’ll probably get the point. Plenty of people hit puberty yet neither gender does it for them. Now there are layers and variations in asexuality, one of them being demisexuality. That’s when specific individuals, regardless of gender, get the demisexual in question going. No matter how gray someone’s asexuality is they oftentimes feel broken. So much media is dedicated to sex and the pursuit of it that not having these urges seems inhuman.

With this novel I hope to widen asexual discourse even if it’s only slightly. Maybe one teenager out there will pick it up and realize they aren’t the only one who feels this way. Because the utter confusion sucks, plain and simple. Personally, I’m still lost in regards to my own sexuality, but through writing my characters finding theirs, mine has become slightly clearer.

Now let me tell you a bit about the book. It’s titled We Awaken and is being released on July 14 but is now available for pre-order. There are two female asexual protagonists, one of which is a creator of good dreams. The genre is cheesy, young adult fantasy with a dash of romance because I don’t see any fault in happy endings. Here’s how the back of the book describes itself:

Victoria Dinham doesn’t have much left to look forward to. Since her father died in a car accident, she lives only to fulfill her dream of being accepted into the Manhattan Dance Conservatory. But soon she finds another reason to look forward to dreams when she encounters an otherworldly girl named Ashlinn, who bears a message from Victoria’s comatose brother. Ashlinn is tasked with conjuring pleasant dreams for humans, and through the course of their nightly meetings in Victoria’s mind, the two become close. Ashlinn also helps Victoria understand asexuality and realize that she, too, is asexual.

But then Victoria needs Ashlinn’s aid outside the realm of dreams, and Ashlinn assumes human form to help Victoria make it to her dance audition. They take the opportunity to explore New York City, their feelings for each other, and the nature of their shared asexuality. But like any dream, it’s too good to last. Ashlinn must shrug off her human guise and resume her duties creating pleasant nighttime visions—or all of humanity will pay the price.

Pre-order it here so that I can afford coffee: https://www.harmonyinkpress.com/books/we-awaken-by-calista-lynne-399-b

Stalk my social media:
http://calista-lynne.tumblr.com/
https://twitter.com/calistawrites
http://calista-lynne.blogspot.co.uk/

 

Bisexuality, Intersectionality and Me: a Guest Post by Carrie Pack

Please welcome Carrie Pack to LGBTQ Reads! I met Carrie at RT in Las Vegas, when I was dancing around to every rainbow-flagged table in the room and froze at the sight of her beautiful cover, and now her book is out, you can buy the cover for yourself, and you can read this guest post!

Interlude Press * Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Apple iBookstore *
All Romance eBooks * Smashwords * Book Depository * Indiebound

When I started writing In the Present Tense, I knew I wanted an intersectionally diverse cast of characters. I was already writing LGBTQ characters, so that part was a no-brainer. But this time, I wanted more racial diversity. And not because I wanted to check boxes or fill a quota, but because I’m sick of the whitewashing of the entire entertainment industry. I’m appalled that when I read a book I default to imagining the characters as white. I’m angry that American media have conditioned me this way, and I’m bored with this homogenized view of the world. There are so many stories to tell that aren’t about white, cisgender, heterosexual people and they can and should be told.

But simply put, there are certain stories that I can’t write because they’re not mine to tell. I am not the person to tell the story of what it’s like to live as a person of color because I am white. But I can make sure that my characters aren’t “white by default.” So I wrote a bisexual bi-racial man whose mother is black and father is white. I wrote a first-generation Colombian woman. I wrote a gay Korean adoptee. However, I did not write about their struggles or challenges as those identities.

Instead, I wrote about something I know: mental illness and the effect it has on the people we love. (I have depression and anxiety.) But what I didn’t realize at the time was that I was also writing about my sexuality. What I didn’t realize until it was all written was that I am bisexual.

Even now it’s tough for me to say it. To claim it outright. To not feel the need to excuse it or qualify it.

In fact, just a few months ago I wrote this in a blog post:

Ultimately, I don’t identify as bisexual… I have exclusively been in relationships with men my entire life. And since I’m happily married, I don’t see that changing any time soon. Even though I am occasionally attracted to women, my sexual feelings toward women are far less pronounced than the attraction I experience toward men… [Bisexual is] just not my label.

But the truth is, it is my label. I can claim it because it’s my identity. I am bisexual. There is no test to qualify. No requisite number of female partners. I am attracted physically and romantically to women. I am married to a man. These things can be true all at once.

I always leave little hints of myself and my loved ones in my characters. Little tiny Easter eggs that my friend and family may never find. So when I wrote Miles, the aforementioned bisexual man, I unknowingly left a little part of myself in his back story. Miles says that in high school, he thought he was only attracted to guys. He built his life around it. It wasn’t until much later he realized that girls were pretty great too. This was so similar to my experience that I can’t even believe I didn’t notice it before. I denied attraction to women because I had always been interested in men. Straight and gay were my only options, obviously. Isn’t that what the media tells us?

I think one of the reasons I never considered bisexuality when I was younger—despite several same sex attractions—was that I didn’t know it was an option. Fictional characters are always identified by the sex of their current partners. If a man who has always dated women is now dating a man, he’s suddenly gay. There is no room for fluidity.

It took me writing a book about a bisexual character for me to figure this out. I had to actually create the story in order for me to see myself reflected. It sounds almost rote at this point to say it, but I think it can’t be emphasized enough. Representation matters. It matters because there are still people out there who need to see themselves reflected in media. They need it because they need to be seen and they need to see possibility.

My name is Carrie, and I am bisexual.

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carrie-packCarrie is the author of two novels—Designs On You and In the Present Tense—and a part-time college professor. She recently left her job in marketing to actively pursue her writing career. Her early career focused on advertising, journalism, and public relations while she also did freelance writing for businesses in the nonprofit sector. Carrie lives in Florida, which she fondly calls America’s Wang, with her husband and four cats. Visit her website at carriepack.com or follow her on twitter @carriepack.

Guest Post: Jess Walton on Introducing Teddy!

I’m excited to introduce Jess Walton on the site today, to talk about her new picture book, Introducing Teddy, inspired by her transgender dad. You can see more about the book (and buy it!) here. Please welcome Jess!

Today, my book is being released in the United States. As a first time author from Melbourne, Australia, that first sentence is utterly thrilling and still quite hard to take in. I can’t imagine what it will be like for this book to exist in another country, on the shelf of a bookstore somewhere, where people can pick it up and look at it, and maybe even buy it. Over the next few days, it will also be released in the UK and Australia. Eventually, Introducing Teddy will be translated into nine other languages, something I never would have imagined being possible at the beginning of this journey.

I wrote Introducing Teddy a little less than twelve months ago, so it’s been a whirlwind of a year, but this story really started about five years ago when my dad came out as transgender. We were all surprised but accepting, though our family went through a period of adjustment as the family home was sold, Tina transitioned and my parents split up in fairly quick succession. I had come out as gay years before, and we were always a very open-minded, progressive sort of family, so my initial response to Tina’s revelation was just love and a desire to help in any way I could. As Tina’s transition progressed, all of us adult kids experienced feelings of grief, which seems completely irrational to me now. I’m told it’s a common feeling for adult kids with parents who come out as transgender later in life, but now I look back and think, ‘What was I afraid of? What did I think I’d lost? The way my dad dressed? Her old name? The sound of her voice? What on earth does this have to do with our relationship, with who she really is?’ If anything, Tina’s transition has meant I get to see my dad as she really is, and that’s deepened and strengthened our relationship. I’ve gained so much, not that it’s about me. It’s about Tina being her whole and happy self.

At some point during Tina’s transition, my siblings and I asked her about alternative names to “Dad.” We talked about “Mum” but it didn’t feel right. I looked up the word “mum” in other languages and we tried one of them for a few weeks, but that didn’t feel right either. We’d all called her Dad for our entire lives, and while the switch to the name “Tina” and the pronouns “she/her” felt right, we all agreed on keeping “dad.” It feels like a term of endearment instead of a gendered word meaning ‘male parent’. When people refer to my dad as my “father,” I correct them. She’s not my father, she’s my dad. If there’s a gendered word for parent that fits, it’s mother. I have two mothers: one I call mum, the other I call dad. Got it? Good.

Anyway, it’s not confusing to me. It’s just my family. We have mum and dad (nanna and grandma to the kids), then the four of us adult children and our partners. There are two grandkids, and one more on the way (my wife is due in August). We are a very happy rainbow family. I wanted to read my children books that reflect my family, including transgender characters. It was really hard to find anything, especially for a very young age group. I started to think the only way to get the books I wanted on to my son’s bookshelf would be to write them. I had three months off work to look after my son, and I thought, it’s now or never.

I had an idea for a picture book about a transgender teddy. My son was obsessed with a book called Teddy Took the Train by Nicki Greenberg, so I knew he’d love a book with a teddy bear as the main character. I also thought it was interesting, the way we all have teddies we love as children and give them a name and a gender even though many teddies look totally gender neutral. What if one of our beloved teddies spoke to us and said, “actually, you thought I was this gender and you gave me this name, but deep down I know I’m a girl teddy not a boy teddy, and I wish you’d call me Wendy instead of Peter.” I imagined the way that young children would react to news like that. I think they’d say, “sure, no worries! Let’s keep playing!” This story idea would allow me to focus on identity, on what we know to be true in our hearts, instead of thinking too much about gender presentation.

Once I had an illustrator on board, we decided to put the book on Kickstarter. I figured there were other families out there like mine – families with transgender grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, mums and dads, kids – who needed picture books with transgender characters. What was genuinely surprising and delightful was how many of our backers did not have a trans family member, but wanted this book for their kids anyway. They could see the diversity in the world, and wanted it reflected and celebrated in the books they read their children.

The Kickstarter really took off when Neil Gaiman tweeted about it. Suddenly backers started pouring in, and international media began getting in touch. In the end it took six days for us to hit our funding target, and by the end of the campaign we had doubled it. An amazing agent from Writers House in New York contacted us via Kickstarter. We signed up and before we knew it, our book had been picked up by Bloomsbury Publishing. I still remember the moment I got the news. It was the middle of the night when the email came from our agent. I was so happy and excited, I woke my wife up. (“BLOOMSBURY are publishing Introducing Teddy, Charlotte! Is this real?! Can this really be real?!”) There wasn’t a lot of sleep in our household that night.

So now, a year after I wrote a little story for my son Errol and my dad Tina, my book is about to be released into the world. I couldn’t be happier, and I couldn’t be more determined to keep writing into the gaps, and celebrating others who write into the gaps. I hope that Introducing Teddy will eventually be one of many picture books for young kids with transgender and gender diverse characters, and that kids will know right from the very beginning that there is nothing wrong with being yourself, and that there is everything right with being open minded, kind, and accepting of our friends and family.

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Jessica Walton lives with her wife, son, and cats in Melbourne. A former secondary teacher, Jess is passionate about literature, board games, the ukulele, and funky prosthetic legs (her current one features green dragon scales). Introducing Teddy is her first book. To find out more visit http://www.jessicawalton.com.au.

 

Machine Gun Legs and Aromanticism: an 8th Grade Story

So excited to welcome Brooklyn Wallace aka Wes Kennedy to the site today! Her debut novella, To Terminator, With Love, features a fat Asian asexual biromantic male main character and a Black pansexual male love interest, and releases today! In honor of its entrance into the world, I asked the author to write my a post, and voila, she wrote a fabulous one! 

29002965Growing up a bisexual aromantic black girl in a Southern Baptist family in a Texas town with a population of less than 1600 wasn’t easy. Growing up a bisexual aromantic black girl in a Southern Baptist family in a Texas town with a population of less than 1600 and being the weird kid into trading cards and theatrical Japanese heavy rock was definitely not easy.

Needless to say, my formative years were the stuff PSAs were made of.

Despite my weird interests that were out of place in my little southern hole in the wall, I was pretty okay with my differences. Being black, I had a hefty extended family that lived in town so I was never really alone. I didn’t get bullied so much as ignored or asked a ton of probing questions. I made a few white friend (“You don’t even sound black!”), and otherwise ate lunch with my cousins and kept to myself. I liked being alone. I still like being alone. Three cheers for dreading human interaction!

The one area I felt weird in was dating. Everyone was doing it, or talking about doing it, or wish they were doing it. When friends would ask I would make up some excuse, or pick a guy at random and just hope they didn’t ask me anymore questions. In reality, I had zero interest in dating. The more I thought about that, though, the more it got to me. I mean, what was wrong with me? I was a teenage girl. Teenage girls date. If Moesha taught me nothing else, it was that.

I knew I appreciated the aesthetic of boys (I still have a Orlando-Bloom-as-Legolas poster in my childhood bedroom), and I would admit to absolutely no one that I appreciated the aesthetic of girls, too (there may or may not be a Rose-McGowan-in-Planet-Terror on my childhood bedroom wall, too).


But can you blame me?Dating, though? Even the thought sounded ridiculous.

So what was wrong with me?

What got me through the hectic mess that was my middle and high school years was books. We had a tiny public library in town, and a tinier school library with a dismal young adult sections. I was one of those kids that read levels ahead of myself (which gave my parents false expectations of me that fueled my spiral into a bottomless pit of C+ college despair, but that’s a horror story for another time), so I stuck with fantasy and sci-fi for my escapism. The Bartimaeus books, Eragon, and Inkheart were stories I read and re-read. In class, at lunch, and sneakily between the pages of my bible in church. You just couldn’t tear me away from lands far, far away.


The first book I ever fell in love with was Nancy Farmer’s Sea of Trolls, the first book in the Sea of Trolls trilogy. I was thirteen and browsing in section when I grabbed it on a whim. I mean, vikings? Norse mythology? I was all in. I read the whole thing in about three days, making myself stop every now and then just to last longer. The story was amazing, and I loved everything it had to give.

What I loved most, though, was what it didn’t have: romance. There’s no romantic subplot in Sea of Trolls. The protagonist, Jack, meets up with a rude, aspiring berserker named Thorgil, but the two become reluctant friends with no hint of anything more.

I had no idea how much I needed to see that until I picked up that book.

Thorgil had no time for boys. She was a shield maiden with dreams of becoming a powerful berserker and one day going up to Valhalla.

Thorgil doesn’t want a boyfriend, I thought to myself during my second reading. She doesn’t want a boyfriend, just like me. Thorgil was strong and determined and so, so cool, and she had no interest in boys. How could I be weird for not wanting to have a boyfriend when Thorgil only had eyes for her sword?

What I found in that book was a kickass shield maiden with dubious morality (like I said, my formative years were wild). I found validation in that story. I remember picking up the second book in the trilogy, The Land of the Silver Apples, with a gnawing sense of dread. What if Jack and Thorgil started liking each other in this one? What if I was wrong?

But nope. Thorgil and Jack met elves, battled evil, and rescued Jack’s sister all without so much as brushing hands. It had felt like I’d won something, which was a big deal, because roughly 86% of my life is dedicated to losing.

Through the long, long eighteen years in my tiny town I scrounged and found pieces of my identity in books. I expanded into libraries town over, broke my mother’s heart when I discovered online shopping, and took advantage of my libraries’ interloan program. Later that year I read Freak Show by James St. James—and I still have no idea how that got through to our library, by the way—and found LGBTQIA representation. I found Sharon G. Flake and was confronted with my own internalized anti-blackness. I read books about powerful black girls and bisexual heroines and weirdos who loved themselves for being weirdos. I found me, and wondered how I ever got through not seeing me for so long.

Later, when I found words for the way I felt, I mellowed. Now I write queer romance novels (Aromantic Romance Author has a ring to it, eh?) and do my best to include a variety of identities into my stories. It’s an amazing experience to write the stories I needed when I was younger, and stories that I still need now, but not everyone has that chance. So many people are quick to call representation in books and shows pandering, but I call it realism. People are diverse, and stories that reflect our lives should be just as diverse.

Somewhere there’s a dorky 8th grader with an unhealthy Rose McGowan obsession wondering if there’s something wrong with them. The stories you tell could help them, even if it’s just one, feel a lot less alone, and isn’t that kind of power amazing?

biopicBrooklyn Wallace (aka Wes Kennedy) is a queer fiction author and starving graduate student from the great state of Texas. She loves libraries, hot wings, Pepsi, Blaxploitation, the Golden Age of Hip-Hop, and kpop. An anxious perpetual sleeper with a penchant for self-deprecating humor, Brooklyn has a soft spot for writing comedies, forbidden love, and nerdy queers.

When not writing, she enjoys touring various anime and sci-fi conventions across Texas, reading and writing fanfiction, yelling about sports, and watching TV shows religiously. Her debut novella, To Terminator, With Love, releases April 27th.