Wednesday, June 21, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - To Be Sure (Banging Heads) #amwriting #lgbtqia



WIPpet numbers for 21st June, 2017:
It's my wedding anniversary! 18 years! :o

20 x 6 + 21 + 17 = 158 words
from To Be Sure

Sorry for any other WIPpet posts I missed last week. I was very late visiting and had to go a-hunting.

WIPpet Context:
Another snippet from To Be Sure, which continues directly from previous snippets. This is from the first chapter of my story for ‘SAGA’ (title TBC): an anthology of stories featuring older LGBT+ characters (out later this year, from Beaten Track Publishing). And I also have a cover!

The main character of To Be Sure is Saorla (seer-la) Tierney, a seventy-one-year-old (I miscounted, as usual) woman from Derry in the North of Ireland. For readers of the Hiding Behind The Couch series, she’s Sean’s mum. Finn is Sean’s older brother. In last week’s snippet, Saorla had just got off the phone with Sean, and she’s waiting for Finn to arrive home.


* * * * *
To be fair, Finn was trying, and Sean was being the difficult one for a change. Not that much of a change, now she thought on; since Finn’s accident, the two of them had constantly been at loggerheads, and a lot of it was Sean feeling he had to stand up to his big brother whether Finn was in the wrong or not.

She didn’t have a favourite. Mothers should love their children equally; she’d always believed that. They thought otherwise, of course, and sometimes it was hard to treat them the same when Finn needed so much more, on a practical level, at least. Truth be told, they were as bad as each other, and after so long resisting the urge to bang their heads together, she didn’t hold out much hope of the two of them ever becoming pals, but if they could make it through the baptism without a set-to, that would be grand.
* * * * *
What is WIPpet Wednesday?

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Witt - and the excerpt has to relate to the date in some way. For links to other fabulous authors' WIPpets, visit: http://www.inlinkz.com/wpview.php?id=355404


Thanks for reading
Deb x

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Release Day! The Making of Us #LGBTQIA #pridemonth #romance



It's here! Release day is finally here! I bet you're all really pleased about that. :D

That's the trouble with social media; no matter how many times we share our news, there will be some people who miss it entirely whilst others are thinking enough of the constant bombardment already!

So, yeah - sorry if you fall in the bombardment camp.

The Making Of Us is a story I didn't foresee, but in truth, I realise now that - like When Skies Have Fallen - it's a story I needed to tell.

Back in 2014, when I wrote the first instalment of the Checking Him Out series, it was my first foray into writing M/M Romance, and it was intended to be a tongue-in-cheek, quirky story - and a one-off! It's my most-read story, helped in no small part by being free - I'd have made a 'real' bestsellers' list had it not been free.

Checking Him Out is about Sol and Adam - two British guys (competitive, annoying, alpha-male types) who meet in the US, fall in love and move back to England. In the epilogue, I wrote a scene about Noah (Adam's younger brother) and his new boyfriend Matty - as a contrast to show how far Sol and Adam had come. Readers asked for their story.

So...I wrote Taking Him On - Checking Him Out #2 - which is Noah and Matty's story. Again, it's M/M romance...in which Noah introduces us to his best mate Jesse, and Noah and Matty get a new housemate - Leigh.

For Sol and Adam fans, I also wrote Checking In - #3 - which covers the same events as Taking Him On but from Sol's point of view. In both stories, we get to see a little bit of Jesse and Leigh...

And readers asked for Jesse and Leigh's story.
What could I do but oblige? (And gladly.)

The Making Of Us has the same mix of quirky British humour and big things in life as the previous books (and novellas) in the series, and it is a romance (or a love story), but it's less in your face - on matters of sex, at least. With the exception of Hiding Out (#1.2), all the previous stories have been sexually explicit, because all of the other characters are body-confident, whereas Jesse is not.

Thus, in The Making Of Us, while you'll find many romantic moments as Jesse and Leigh get to know each other, and there's some intimacy along the way, this is also a story about Jesse learning to love himself.

* * * * *

Blurb:
When English Lit. student Jesse Thomas meets Leigh Hunter, he has to reconsider a few assumptions he's made about himself.

Two years ago, Jesse joined Pride - the uni's LGBT+ society - to support best friend Noah, and Noah's boyfriend, Matty. As a straight, cismale ally, Jesse keeps a low profile - not difficult for someone as shy and body-conscious as he is.

Leigh Hunter is Noah and Matty's new housemate. Born with a life-threatening congenital condition, Leigh is intersex and identifies as queer - none of which alters Jesse's conviction that they are the most beautiful person in the world.

While Jesse and Leigh get to know each other, a new academic year begins in earnest, bringing with it the usual challenge of balancing work and play. Add in a week's holiday in Cornwall that Jesse and Leigh half-wish they hadn't agreed to, Jesse's unplanned involvement in the election of Pride's new officers, and some big decisions for Noah and Matty, it's going to be an interesting semester all round.

Purchase Links:

* * * * *

Excerpt:
It was at that point I realised I wasn't alone, as in, Noah hadn't followed me out, but I could hear someone in the henhouse...singing to the hens. The door fully opened, and Leigh emerged, shielding their eyes against the patio lights.

"Hey, Jesse."

"Hello." They were shrouded in shadow but it made no difference. At least my heart wasn't short of a good workout or ten.

"You OK?"

"Yep." Urgh. Where the hell were my words? This was starting get really annoying. I'd liked Leigh from the start - not the instant attraction/choking incident...well, obviously, I liked them then, but I was only counting from when we were properly introduced, and I'd realised that Leigh was just as beautiful inside as out. At first, my nervousness made me talk too much, but Leigh was chatty, too, so we just kind of gabbled our way through conversations, and it had all been a bit giddy and out of control, but we were talking. Now, I couldn't think what to say at all, and I was sure it was getting worse.

"What's up?" Leigh advanced and stopped a couple of feet away, frowning inquisitively, mixed with a bit of concern. I pointed at my mouth. "Sore throat?" Leigh guessed, but that wasn't what I'd meant.

"Lip," I uttered.

"Cold sore?"

"No. Yours."

"Oh!" Leigh laughed. It was enchanting, Leigh's laughter, a breathy 'hah' and a gasped inhalation over which their smile lingered. Honestly, sometimes I could've rolled my eyes at myself, because everything about Leigh was just...perfect. To me. They poked their tongue against the inside of their lip, flinching slightly.

"New piercing?" Woot! Actual words. Go, Jesse!

"Yeah. Got it done this afternoon. Do you like it?"

It was a perfect excuse to move closer, but my shoes seemed to have stuck themselves to the ground. I settled for nodding instead. "How many's that now?"

Leigh thought, at the same time reaching up a hand and feeling their way along one ear then the other, counting under their breath. "Eight? I think one's healed over. Has it?"

They stretched up towards me, but their hair was covering their ear. I clamped my lips between my teeth in an effort to make it less obvious that my breath was juddering with nerves. I lifted my hand and brushed Leigh's hair back, trying to stay focused on their ear, overwhelmed by their closeness, their soft hair tickling my fingers, the relative coolness of their skin where our hands touched...

"Three," I pushed out.

"Is there a hole at the top with nothing in it?"

That part of Leigh's ear was still in shadow. My fingers combed through the strands of hair - shiny midnight blue in the twilight - as I moved it behind Leigh's ear. "I think so."

"Eight, then," Leigh confirmed.

"OK."

"It was meant to be a snakebite - " Leigh poked at the lip piercing again, same result as last time " - but it hurt like hell."

"A snakebite? What's that?" I hadn't moved my hand away. I wasn't sure I could.

"One on either side."

"Cool." I liked piercings. They were fun, and if I'd been slimmer, or less bothered about not being slimmer, I'd have probably got my eyebrow pierced, although...maybe it would draw attention away from the rest of me.

I couldn't recall if Leigh had piercings when I first met them. I was kind of overwhelmed, and everything had gone a bit hazy and soft focus. Whether Leigh had them or not, I'd still feel the same, but the nose stud was definitely recent.

Would the one on their lip make kissing more difficult? Why was I even thinking about that?

Leigh had kissed me once. On the cheek. It was the day Matty was assaulted - by his dad. Leigh needed a shot of hydrocortisone, which they self-administered and everything was fine, but they still should've gone to the hospital to get checked out. Of course, they refused to - I didn't blame them, to be honest, but I kept that to myself at the time - and so, I accompanied Leigh home and hung around until Adam and Sol got back.

It was the quickest kiss, and it had only been to say thanks, or maybe it had been more. I just didn't know. We were both pretty shy in that respect. What if we were both also waiting for the other to be bold enough to ask us out on a date, or make a move or something? We might never get any further than this disjointed conversing that seemed to have replaced the ease with which we used to chatter.

"I'd better go in," Leigh said.

"OK." Please don't.

They turned and walked back towards the house, taking their time - were waiting for me to stop them? As they reached the door, they paused and called, "D'you need a drink or anything?"

Oh! "Er...yes, please. Diet Coke?"

Leigh nodded and smiled. "Be right back."

"Thanks!" I shouted, but they'd already disappeared inside. I swear I was gonna be Jesse the Puddle by the time they got back - why did it have to be so damn hot? Why did they?

* * * * *

Thanks for reading! :)
Deb x

Monday, June 19, 2017

Pride - an introvert's contribution #LGBTQIA #pridemonth

June is Pride month.

As a somewhat introverted and asocial author/academic, I find big social occasions (like Pride parades) a bit wearing (to say the least), but I can celebrate and fight in other, albeit quieter ways.

To this end, I've written this post to answer some of the questions I've been asked, mostly by those outside of the LGBT+ community (apologies if it comes across as 'splaining). This is my understanding. It's only one perspective, and I welcome respectful discussion.

I've also included a list of the LGBT+ characters in my stories, as this is another way in which I try to contribute to visibility and acceptance - as both an ally and member of the community.


What is Pride?

Wikipedia's definition is quite good (I don't usually quote from there):
Gay pride or LGBT pride is the positive stance against discrimination and violence toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people [sic] to promote their self-affirmation, dignity, equality rights, increase their visibility as a social group, build community, and celebrate sexual diversity and gender variance.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay_pride)

What is Pride month?

Pride month is a month-long (and longer, internationally) celebration of LGBT+ identities.

The reason it's in June is to commemorate the Stonewall Riots (June 28, 1969). On the night in question, police raided the Stonewall Inn in Christopher Street, NYC (what these days we might call a 'gay bar'). This was a frequent occurrence and part of the ongoing persecution and legal prosecution of LGBT+ people at that time. On this occasion, the persecuted fought back. It is a watershed moment in LGBT+ rights and led to further organised protests and campaigning for rights.

In the UK, most Pride celebrations and parades are held in July/August. The first Pride parade in London was in 1972, on the 1st of July - the closest Saturday to the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

This page lists the UK Pride dates for 2017: https://pinkuk.com/events/gay-pride-2017


What's with the (expanding) acronym?
(or 'why not put ALL of the letters in there?' See also 'why not straight pride?' and 'why labels are important')

The history of the start of those letters is debatable, and I've seen the 'original' incarnation both as GLB and LGB. When I was at university, the society was called the LGB Society, and it changed to the LGBT Society in the three years I was studying. That was 1995-8, and during that time, the term 'queer' was being hotly debated in academic circles. I won't go into that here.

The current variations of the acronym (those that appear most often) are:

LGBT+
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans + anyone else who isn't heterosexual and/or cisgender (i.e. their gender identity matches that assigned at birth or corrected soon after)

LGBTQ
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer/Questioning

LGBTQIA
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning, Intersex and Asexual

LGBTQIAP
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual and Pansexual/Poly

QUILTBAG
Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender, Bisexual, Asexual/Ally and Gay/Genderqueer

Now, I don't venture far on the internet. I use it as a research and marketing tool. Mostly, I stay within the confines of Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Smashwords, the Open University and my blog and websites. This means I miss most of the trolling, in-fighting and ridiculous, ignorant statements made by those who have absolutely no right to pass comment (OK, freedom of speech is theirs for the taking, but exercising it responsibly - or at least after they've engaged their brain - would seem the way to go).

For all of that, yesterday I came across two separate 'debates' about:

1. Whether the 'A' is for ally OR asexual;
2. What the point was of 'all those flags'.

I'll come back to both issues in due course.

The main point here is that most of these terms were first used in a derogatory way and were reclaimed by non-heterosexual/non-cisgender people, because reclaiming the word also reclaims the power infused into that word and highlights the inequality, discrimination, exclusion and persecution to which those who are tarnished with that label are subjected. This is also the case with the use of 'disabled', 'black' and 'people of colour', as well as some more culturally specific terms.

Even within similar societies, there are cultural differences in the way these labels are applied. For instance 'homo' has been reclaimed (and subverted so that it becomes a positive label for those who use it) by many in the USA, but it is still considered profoundly insulting and homophobic by many gay men in the UK.

In almost all cases, the labels were NOT applied BY the people who wear them; they were stuck on by those who hold the balance of power - the political majority - as a way of marking someone as different, other, an aberration.

What do I mean by the political majority?
This is the group that has the most power - not necessarily the most members. Regardless of the percentage of the global population that is -

not white
not male
not heterosexual
not from Europe

- the global political majority is white, heterosexual, monogamous (and sexual), European (or of European descent) and male. This is the legacy of colonialism, slavery, imperialism and patriarchy.

That should give you the answer to 'why don't we have straight pride?'

It's the same (non)point people make when they retort 'all lives matter' when they see/hear 'black lives matter'. Our world is constructed by and for the political majority, who, 'naturally' (I contend not), make it the best possible place for themselves, almost always at the expense of others.

Seriously, if men didn't have to shit, I'd wager there'd be no toilets; only urinals.

So yes, of course all lives matter, and we should all be proud of who we are, but not at the expense of others. We don't matter more than anyone else, and we should use any privilege we do hold very wisely indeed. For instance, I'm white and European. More than that, I'm a UK citizen, which is the most privileged nationality in the world. My ancestors are responsible for slavery, genocide, rape and the desecration of so many cultures it beggars belief. They shaped the world we live in today:
The self-hatred of being black, and thus counting by definition as the weaker and the poorer, is great. Some are reluctant to identify themselves as blacks - they refer to their nation rather than to their real roots. Or they try to approach European beauty ideals. Smooth hair, pale skin; such things show the cultural damage the Europeans have left behind.

(Dr. Imani Tafari-Ama, cultural scientist,
translated from https://www.taz.de/Archiv-Suche/!5416099&s=imani+tafari-ama/)
White Europeans have caused irreparable damage to this world (culturally, ecologically), and with our privilege comes a responsibility to fix what we can.

Why not put all the letters in there?
Well, I have to say I quite like SAGA (sexuality and gender acceptance) as a shorter, all-encompassing acronym. I also like LGBT+, but then that treats anyone who's not lesbian, gay, bi or trans as an add-on, and it doesn't exclude me, so I have no right to an opinion. Ultimately, the people generally asking the question are part of the political majority - those who assigned all those labels in the first place. It's your own fault, so butt out.

Allied to this question is 'what's the point of all those flags?' The discussion I saw of this yesterday was initiated by a white, middle-class, cisgender gay man. Yep, the rainbow flag is just dandy if you're hitting most of those privileges.

It's sad to see the in-fighting within a community that came together because of shared experiences of (often violent) discrimination and persecution, but it's understandable, given the diversity. But it's also why the labels (and the flags) matter. Fighting for LGBT+ rights, if those rights are defined by white gay men, still excludes the majority of LGBT+ people.

Here's a quote from my novel The Making Of Us - yeah, yeah, I know I've been harping on about it for weeks, but it's out tomorrow, so it would be remiss of me to not include this when it's salient. ;)

"...if we want Pride to be truly inclusive, we all must become allies. Our gay members can’t understand how it feels to be lesbian, nor can our cisgender members appreciate what it’s like to be trans or non-binary. Our female members still fight patriarchal privilege, and the male members amongst us will never have to deal with that."

I'm not talking about the 'allies' mentioned earlier (i.e. whether the A in the acronym is for ally or asexual). Those allies are cisgender and heterosexual, and whilst they can do great work supporting their LGBT+ family, friends and community, "...allies have a choice. Now, I know some of you would say you don’t have a choice, but you do. If being an ally meant losing your friends, family, job...you could stop, walk away." (Yes, I'm quoting myself. Again. It's allowed.)

Incidentally, The Making Of Us has the lowest number of preorders of the entire Checking Him Out series, and I envisage that's a lot to do with the couple on the cover not looking 'queer enough' - an observation, not a complaint as such. Or not a complaint about not selling books; this is about erasure and part of 'why we need labels'. Many bisexual, non-binary and trans folks 'pass' as being part of the political majority because people make assumptions based on their appearance/relationship status, particularly if we're not 'out and loud proud'.


Concluding Thoughts

'Pride' is a celebration and commemoration of/for a massive group of diverse people unified by their fight for acceptance and equality - something that has been denied because of their gender and/or sexuality. Equality is not about ignoring or homogenising difference, even if that would make it a far easier battle to fight.

If you're an ally and you want to join the celebration, please be respectful of the safe space that LGBT+ people have fought so hard for. And if you're LGBT+, look after each other and have fun! I'll be raising my coffee cup to you.

10 Ways to Be an Ally and a Friend (from GLAAD):
1. Be a listener.
2. Be open-minded.
3. Be willing to talk.
4. Be inclusive and invite LGBT friends to hang out with your friends and family.
5. Don't assume that all your friends and co-workers are straight. Someone close to you could be looking for support in their coming-out process. Not making assumptions will give them the space they need.
6. Anti-LGBT comments and jokes are harmful. Let your friends, family and co-workers know that you find them offensive.
7. Confront your own prejudices and bias, even if it is uncomfortable to do so.
8. Defend your LGBT friends against discrimination.
9. Believe that all people, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, should be treated with dignity and respect.
10. If you see LGBT people being misrepresented in the media, contact us at glaad.org.


LGBT+ characters in my books:

Note: some of these ARE DEFINITELY plot spoilers so proceed with caution.

'HBTC', 'CHO', 'GF' and 'SOT' are the series Hiding Behind The Couch, Checking Him Out, Gray Fisher and Seeds of Tyrone.

Lesbian
Aileen (To Be Sure/HBTC)
Poppy (Reunions/HBTC - secondary character)
Hay (To Be Sure/HBTC - secondary character)
Sarah (The Making Of Us/CHO - secondary character)
Neema (The Making Of Us/CHO - secondary character)
Lily (SOT - secondary character)
Jill (SOT - secondary character)
Molly (When Skies Have Fallen - secondary character)
Daphne (When Skies Have Fallen - secondary character)
Nic (Double Six)

Gay
George (HBTC)
Josh (HBTC - also asexual)
Ade (HBTC - also sub/poly)
Pete (HBTC - secondary character)
Gray (The WAG and The Scoundrel/GF/HBTC)
Simon (Class-A/HBTC)
Sol (CHO)
Adam (CHO)
Noah (Taking Him On/CHO)
Matty (Taking Him On/CHO)
Calvin (CHO - secondary character)
Ben (The Making Of Us/CHO - also trans)
Patrick (SOT)
Aidan (SOT)
Michael (SOT)
Harrison (SOT)
Paulo (SOT)
Sammy (Champagne)
Frank (Champagne)
Champagne (Champagne)
Leslie (Champagne)
Arty (When Skies Have Fallen)
Jim (When Skies Have Fallen)
Flavier (Cherry Pop Valentine)
Sven (Cherry Pop Valentine)
Jorje (Sugar and Sawdust)
Alec (Sugar and Sawdust)

Bisexual
Kris (HBTC)
Charlie (HBTC - also poly)
Saorla (HBTC)
Taz (Class-A/HBTC)
Will (The WAG and The Scoundrel/GF)
Jesse (The Making Of Us/CHO)
Elise (CHO)
Chancey (SOT)
Seamus (SOT)
Tom (SOT)
Chris (Champagne - also poly)
Kieran (Of The Bauble - also asexual)
Jack (And The Walls Came Tumbling Down)

Transgender
Leah (Those Jeffries Boys/HBTC - secondary character)
Jazz (The Making Of Us/CHO - secondary character)
Ben (The Making Of Us/CHO - secondary character - also gay)

Queer/Questioning
Leigh (queer - The Making Of Us/CHO - also intersex/NB)
Lee Johnson (questioning - HBTC)

Intersex
Leigh (The Making Of Us/CHO - also queer/NB)
Nora (The Making Of Us/CHO - secondary character)

Asexual/Aromantic
Josh (ace - HBTC - also gay/homoromantic)
Jason (aro - HBTC)
Xander (ace/aro - Ruminations/HBTC)
Aaron (ace/aro - The WAG and The Scoundrel/GF - also NB)
Kieran (ace - Of The Bauble - also biromantic)

Pansexual/Pansensual/Poly
Andy (pan - HBTC)
Charlie (poly - HBTC - also bi)
Shaunna (poly - HBTC)
Sean (poly - HBTC)
Sophie (poly - HBTC)
Ade (poly - HBTC - also gay/sub)
Chris (poly - Champagne - also bi)

Non-Binary
Aaron (The WAG and The Scoundrel/GF - also ace/aro)
Leigh (The Making Of Us/CHO - also intersex/queer)
Jinn (Of The Bauble)

Thank for reading (if you got this far!)
Deb x

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Making Of Us - Being Out #RainbowSnippets #LGBTQIA

Brief explanation:
I’ve switched back to snipping from The Making Of Us for a couple of weeks, as the book is out on Tuesday June 20th. :)

Preorder Links:
Beaten Track [Paperback]Beaten Track [eBook]Amazon [Kindle Edition]Smashwords [eBook]Barnes and Noble [eBook]Kobo [eBook]

You can read previous snippets here.

The Making Of Us is first-person, told from Jesse’s perspective. ‘Sarah’ (referred to in this snippet) is the uni LGBT+ society president. I’ve edited to keep it free of major spoilers.

Here’s the snippet:
“That’s what I meant before,” Leigh said. “You’re not what Sarah thinks queer looks like.”

“That’s ridiculous.” I meant Sarah’s attitude, not what Leigh was saying, because now they’d spelled it out for me, I could see for myself. “I’m too introverted for this,” I joked. Kind of joked. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life sharing personal information with strangers who didn’t need to know.

“Yep.” Leigh turned in their seat, hooking their legs over one of mine, and studied me intently for a minute or so, then said, “If you don’t want to do this, I’ll understand.”

“Don’t want to do…what?”

“I mean, if you want to keep us low-key so you get less hassle.”

“Leigh…” I was literally stunned to silence, within which my anger grew and grew, until it was too big to contain. I slid away from Leigh and heard their feet thud against the floor as I got up.

* * * * *

Rainbow Snippets is a group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation (no spoilers please!).

In this group you'll find anything from romance and historical fiction to mystery and YA. The common thread is that every story's main character identifies as LGBTQ+. The snippets could range from zero flames to full-on sexytimes, anything goes content-wise. The only rule is snippets will be 6 sentences long–one for each color in the Pride flag.

* * * * *

Thanks for reading,
Deb x

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - To Be Sure (Big Molehills) #amwriting #lgbtqia



WIPpet numbers for 14th June, 2017:

14 - 6 = 8 paragraphs
(+/-10%, rounded to whole numbers… ;)
Yes, OK, there are 9 paragraphs)

from To Be Sure

WIPpet Context:
Another snippet from To Be Sure, which continues directly from previous snippet. This is from the first chapter of my story for ‘SAGA’ (title TBC): an anthology of stories featuring older LGBT+ characters (out later this year, from Beaten Track Publishing). The whippet is Al Stewart’s fault—he and co-author Claire Davis also have a story in the anthology. :)

The main character of To Be Sure is Saorla (seer-la) Tierney, a seventy-year-old woman from Derry in the North of Ireland. For readers of the Hiding Behind The Couch series, she’s Sean’s mum. Finn is Sean’s older brother. In last week’s snippet, Sean was surprised to discover Finn had accepted his christening invitation.


* * * * *
“Are he and Erin back together?”

“Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe you could ask him yourself when you call him about his room requirements.” She forged on so Sean couldn’t protest. “Right, darlin’, I’m going for real this time. I need to get—” she switched out ‘Finn’s tea on’ for “—the washing in before it starts raining. When should I expect those plane tickets?” She’d insisted on paying for them, but Sean was better with online things than she was. Next would be the infernal back and forth with him trying to return the money she’d transferred to his account.

“How’s Finn getting here?” he asked.

“He’s taking the ferry.”

“Oh, right. Well, I made last post yesterday, so they should arrive tomorrow.”

“I’ll keep an eye out, then. Love to you and Sophie, and my little man.”

“Love you, Mum. Bye now.”

“Bye.” Saorla checked the call had disconnected and put her phone back in her bag, but the conversation continued to play on her mind as she peeled the potatoes and set them in a pan to boil. Living in England had put some funny ideas in Sean’s head, for sure, but he’d never been so brazen before. Or maybe she was making mountains out of molehills. She’d have called Aileen to see what she thought, but Finn would be home anytime now.

He’d left for the clinic first thing, and he should’ve been back a few hours since. Pub or betting office was where he’d be, until his belly drove him home. That was how it had always been, and would no doubt remain so for the rest of Saorla’s days, in spite of Finn having his own place. It was rare for him to spend a night there, but not that surprising; he knew which side his bread was buttered, besides which, thirty years divorced—and before that left to bring up her sons single-handed—Saorla understood the loneliness well enough.
* * * * *
What is WIPpet Wednesday?

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Witt - and the excerpt has to relate to the date in some way. For links to other fabulous authors' WIPpets, visit: http://www.inlinkz.com/wpview.php?id=355404


Thanks for reading
Deb x

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Fat Rage!


Content Warning: fat-shaming, profanity

Today is a Fat Rage day.

Not a Fat Shame day.

Or a Fat Pride day.

I have a book out next week*, about Jesse, who's a big guy, and much more polite about all of this than I'm feeling today.

Here's a few 'come to mind' examples that might go some way towards explaining why.

Actually, forget the examples. I've been sitting on this post for half a day, and the examples included incidents of fat-shaming of friends and their family members. The count DOUBLED in the few hours since I wrote this and then decided I wouldn't post, because my rage simmered down.

Let me tell you, it's ready to blow the lid off now.

Before I go any further, I'm NOT suicidal. I'm actually feeling quite positive today.

But that is today, and that is me. There are people in this world right now who ARE suicidal because of this. Because of fat-shaming. Because of mindless hatred and judgements people have no right to make, but when you're a fatty, you're an easy target. Fat-shaming is 'acceptable' because 'it's for our own good'.

No. It's not. And it has fuck all to do with anyone else. And when you fat-shame, you show yourself up for the shallow, bigoted unthinking creature you are.

***

As I start writing this, it is 1:50 p.m. Half an hour ago, these were my thoughts:

I'm hungry.
Am I hungry, or do I just think I'm hungry?
Can I afford to eat?

I rationalised that two slices of seeded wholemeal toast with butter (254 calories in total) for breakfast wasn't so bad. So I ate a cheese and tomato sandwich for lunch.

I don't remember eating it.

I was too bloody angry, but that's quite a common occurrence - not remembering I've eaten. I don't have a belly rumble now, but I don't really feel any more satiated than I did half an hour ago.

Those of you who, right now, are thinking...

Ooh, cheese is full of fat.

Or

Try drinking more water.

Or

Try this meal substitute.

Or

WHATEVER.

Fuck off.

Really, fuck off out of here and take your judgements with you.

Because most mornings I wake up thinking 'damn, I didn't die in my sleep' and the reason I'm disappointed is because I'm fat and there is nothing I can do about it.

No doubt the second wave of judgements have hit about now.

Well, you could exercise.

Or eat less.

Do you monitor what you eat?

Do you...

Again, fuck off.

I've had to ask for seat-belt extenders on a plane.
I have to squeeze into toilet cubicles.
Chairs in waiting rooms and cafés? Might as well be torture devices.
I've had to walk away from shop after shop because there are no clothes in my size.
I've limped back from walking my dogs wondering if they'll make it home if I have a heart attack.
I'm dreading standing up in front of my colleagues this weekend and being judged for not being dressed appropriately because I have no professional-style clothes that fit.

If it were as easy as 'just doing whatever', don't you think I'd have done it by now?

See, I had a weight-management strategy. It worked really well for a long time - about ten years in total. I ate without thinking all the damn time about what I was eating and whether I'd eaten too much/the wrong stuff/was anyone watching me? And I exercised. Three gym visits a week; five one-hour dog walks a week. I maintained my weight. It was brilliant. Liberating, in fact!

And then my back went into spasm. No more exercise for me, and no control over my eating. I was screwed.

That was four years ago. And the healthcare professionals? Well, they don't really help much. They're too busy punishing you to offer anything in the way of real help, or, better still, acceptance.

But here's another thing. In two months, I turn 48. I've been 'struggling with my weight' since I was a teenager. Thus, I've 'enjoyed' less than half of my life without thinking constantly...

I hate being fat.
I hate myself.
I wish I could wear those clothes.
I wish I could eat.
I wish I could stop eating.
I can't go there.
I can't do that.
I hate.
I wish.
I can't.

Now, add onto all that self-loathing:
- the constant presence of media images of slim people in beautiful clothes;
- the real dangers of being overweight;
- the fact that we live in a culture where it's acceptable to ask someone if they've lost weight while at their father's funeral! (Yes, that really happened.)

There is institutionalised fat-shaming in our schools and workplaces. Employers, teachers and all those other well-meaning never-been-through-this-hell people have NO IDEA what kind of torture it is to be asked 'how much do you weigh?' or 'what size clothes do you wear?' It is not a simple case of 'eat less, exercise more' when your entire life has been categorised as wrong.

Yes, I could eat less, exercise more. I could probably crash diet and lose a shitload of weight really quickly. But if I even think about dropping the ball, I'm done for.

The real problem is this: we've taken the average body size and bastardised the word 'norm' (in statistical terms this is the average). We use this false premise of 'normal' to judge others and ourselves as 'abnormal', because no one actually is 'normal'. No one is exactly average height, weight, leg length, head circumference, shoe size, etc. all in one lovely perfect human package.

People don't have to be that far away from 'normal' to be the victims of fat-shaming. They could even be 'normal' - or appear to be - but live with the destructive fat-shaming messages that bombard us all day, every day.

So, yes, I can make a 'real effort' and pretend to be 'normal' body size for a while, but in the end, I am not normal body size.

I will never be, however much I pretend and try to fit in.

And you, society, need to stop judging me and all of the other people like me.

Accept me. Or fuck off.

*[Find out more about The Making Of Us here: beatentrackpublishing.com/themakingofus]

Thanks for reading,
Deb x

The Making Of Us - June 20 2017 - #LGBTQIA #pride #newadult #Romance


The Making Of Us (Checking Him Out #4)
June 20, 2017

Available to preorder - http://www.beatentrackpublishing.com/themakingofus

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Making Of Us - Falling Deeper #RainbowSnippets #LGBTQIA

Brief explanation:
I’m switching back to snipping from The Making Of Us for a couple of weeks, as the book is out on June 20th. :)

Preorder Links:
Beaten Track [Paperback]Beaten Track [eBook]Amazon [Kindle Edition]Smashwords [eBook]Barnes and Noble [eBook]Kobo [eBook]

You can read previous snippets here. The cover’s also changed slightly since I last snipped.

The Making Of Us is first-person, told from Jesse’s perspective. In this scene, Jesse is sitting with Leigh on Leigh’s bed, and they’re having a deep conversation about Leigh’s family. Jesse’s ‘dream come true’ is in this snippet, which I posted a while back.

Here’s the snippet:
“My feet probably stink. Sorry.”

I leaned down and sniffed the one closest to me. “They don’t,” I assured them, as what I’d dreamed of—was it only three weeks ago?—became reality without me really thinking about what I was doing.

“That feels nice.” Leigh sighed and smiled, looking a bit dopey. “You realise if you keep doing that, I’ll fall asleep?”

“I know my way out.”

I continued massaging, not applying any real pressure, enjoying the contact and the effect it was having on Leigh. Their breathing slowed and deepened, and I thought they had actually gone to sleep until they spoke again.

“Is it a good time to tell you about my mum and everything?”

* * * * *

Rainbow Snippets is a group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation (no spoilers please!).

In this group you'll find anything from romance and historical fiction to mystery and YA. The common thread is that every story's main character identifies as LGBTQ+. The snippets could range from zero flames to full-on sexytimes, anything goes content-wise. The only rule is snippets will be 6 sentences long–one for each color in the Pride flag.

* * * * *

Thanks for reading,
Deb x

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - To Be Sure (Oh, Brother) #amwriting #lgbtqia



WIPpet numbers for 7th June, 2017:

(6+7) x 20 + (1+7) = 268 words from To Be Sure

WIPpet Context:
Another snippet from To Be Sure, which continues directly from last week’s snippet. This is from the first chapter of my story for SAGA: an anthology of stories featuring older LGBT+ characters (out later this year, from Beaten Track Publishing).

The main character is Saorla (seer-la) Tierney, a seventy-year-old woman from Derry in the North of Ireland. For readers of the Hiding Behind The Couch series, she’s Sean’s mum. Finn is Sean’s older brother. In last week’s snippet, Sean asked—and then double-checked—to see if his mum wanted to share a twin or a double hotel room with her friend Aileen on their upcoming trip.

* * * * *
“Yes, Sean, I’m quite sure.”

“Or you can have my place for the weekend and I’ll stay in the hotel. How about that?”

“Don’t be daft. I’ll be needing to keep an eye on your brother, anyway. So, I’ll let you get on. When—”

Sean cut her off. “Hold on. Finn’s coming?”

“Didn’t he tell you?”

“Did he f—”

“Now then…”

Sean’s angry huff made the line crackle. “No, he didn’t tell me. When would he?”

“You know, if you spoke to each other from time to time…” Saorla said, pointless as ever it was, which was why she’d left mentioning Finn’s intentions until the end of their call.

“I invited him to the baptism, didn’t I?” Sean argued.

“Yes, darlin’, you did.”

“Then the ball’s in his court.”

“And he’s coming.”

“So?”

There was no ‘so’, but Sean’s voice had taken on that deep, gruff defensiveness she remembered not so fondly from his—and Finn’s—teens. “The two of you can spend some quality time together on neutral ground.”

“Neutral? Here? He won’t see it that way, will he? I’m not sure I do, to be quite honest.”

“So to speak. It’s not here, that’s what I mean.”

“Aye, true enough,” Sean relented and was quiet a moment further while he absorbed the news. “Do I need to book a room for him as well?”

“I’d say so. He’s bringing Erin along…”

“More like she’s bringing him.”

She ignored his nit-picking. “They’re making a holiday of it. Finn’s never been to England, as you know.”

“If only he’d had somewhere to stay…” Sean muttered sarcastically.

* * * * *
What is WIPpet Wednesday?

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Witt - and the excerpt has to relate to the date in some way. For links to other fabulous authors' WIPpets, visit: http://www.inlinkz.com/wpview.php?id=355404


Thanks for reading
Deb x

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - To Be Sure (Sleeping Arrangements) #amwriting #lgbtqia

I haven’t done WIPpet Wednesday for over a month! :o It’s a really busy time of year for me…

WIPpet numbers for 31st May, 2017:

31x5+17=172 words from To Be Sure 
(potentially a working title, but it might yet end up the final title)

WIPpet Context:
A first snippet from To Be Sure. This is the very first scene from my story for SAGA: an anthology of stories featuring older LGBT+ characters (out later this year, from Beaten Track Publishing).

The main character is Saorla (seer-la) Tierney, a seventy-year-old woman from Derry in the North of Ireland. For readers of the Hiding Behind The Couch series, she’s Sean’s mum (as you’ll see in this snippet).

* * * * *
“Twin or double?” Sean asked.

Keeping her phone to her ear, Soarla Tierney picked up the dishcloth and wiped invisible crumbs from the kitchen worktop. The question was innocent enough, she supposed. “Whichever’s cheapest, darlin’.”

“They both cost the same.”

“Oh, right…” Usually, when she went over for a visit, she stayed with Sean, but those were ordinary visits, not the occasion of her grandson’s baptism. “I don’t want to leave you out of pocket.”

“You’re not,” Sean assured her. “It’s a decent hotel, but it’s not expensive. You and Aunty Aileen can stay here, if you’d rather.”

“You haven’t the space, have you?”

“I’ve the same space as always, Mummy. I thought you might like some privacy.”

A flush of heat shot up Saorla’s chest and neck and filled her cheeks. “Twin,” she confirmed curtly. She would not have this conversation with her youngest son, never mind that he was forty-three and old enough to know better.

“Are you sure now?”

Not too old to go over her knee, though.
* * * * *
What is WIPpet Wednesday?

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Witt - and the excerpt has to relate to the date in some way. For links to other fabulous authors' WIPpets, visit: http://www.inlinkz.com/wpview.php?id=355404


Thanks for reading
Deb x

Monday, May 29, 2017

I reject capitalism

Photo: https://pixabay.com/en/users/AKuptsova-1176597/
I rejected capitalism. I'm not sure exactly when - it could be as much as ten years ago.

Not that I've ever embraced it. Being a working-class northern-English person, embracing capitalism is like lying in front of a steamroller and watching hopelessly as it advances and then flattens you. Unless you own capital - and I'm talking about more than being a homeowner, having a good income that allows for the purchase of further capital, and/or a decent inheritance of capital coming your way - if you 'embrace' capitalism, you're supporting the system that ensures you will never achieve equality.

Karl Marx - and others - call this 'false consciousness'. It's a way of thinking that stops us from seeing what our social/economic position really is. Here's an example, which is a bit long-winded, but I'll get to the point eventually.

In England after WWII, the welfare state was created with the intention of ensuring that every UK citizen's basic needs were met. It was achieved through the partial redistribution of wealth. This worked by taking the excess wealth from each citizen at any given moment and redistributing it across society and each citizen's lifetime.

For instance: a thirty-year-old, healthy, qualified working man (I use 'man' because the system was gender-biased at its inception) who earns more than he needs (at that point in time) pays the excess into 'the pot' through national insurance and tax deductions. That pot is then used to provide basic income and provisions for those who are less healthy and unable to work. It is also used later to pay that man's pension, or at other points in his life, when he is unable to work.

On a basic level, this system should work perfectly. We pay in when we can, claim back when we need to. Nobody gets more than they need, and we all have basic food, clothing, shelter, education and health and welfare.

However, we know now it doesn't work, because...

People
Are
Greedy

I don't believe for one minute it's a natural human 'quality' to hoard wealth at the expense of others. I don't believe we are naturally competitive. From an evolutionary point of view, it's nonsense, and in any case, our ability to reason moves us beyond evolution in so many ways (not all of them with positive outcomes) it's ridiculous to suggest that storing surplus is a natural tendency in human beings.

From what we know of prehistoric humans, they worked together to ensure everyone was fed and looked after. When we look at other predatory species, we see a lot of sharing behaviour, but we also see some hoarding/taking too much. Even non-predators, like the humble squirrel, hoard food supplies for the colder months. That's no different to the 'redistribution across a citizen's lifetime' that was introduced in the post-war welfare state, other than each squirrel is hoarding for itself, not for a community of squirrels. That's because squirrels - like those hoarding predators - are a solitary species, whereas human beings are a social species.

I'm not going to take that point any further, other than to say most species that hoard do so selfishly and don't share, but human beings are unlike most other species - because of our capacity to reason.

Thus, it is a nonsense for businesses to argue they're storing surplus capital in case the market goes into decline (and in fact, it's usually a lie, seeing as the same businesses will pay out profits - surplus - to shareholders whilst at the same time laying off staff and increasing prices).

It's also a nonsense that a mass social welfare system is unsustainable for the reasons that we're all familiar with, which include:
- People are living longer, therefore there is not enough in the pension fund;
- People are refusing to take lower-paid jobs, therefore there are too many dependent on benefits;
- State-run welfare is admin-heavy and inefficient because there is no competition.

A mass social welfare system IS unsustainable...within a capitalist society, where we are brought up to value the accumulation of wealth - houses, cars, jobs with high status, top-class education, savings in the bank, something to leave our children - above all else. In that system, we are always trying to get hold of and keep more than we need.

I've had a few conversations recently with non-UK friends/acquaintances about why I am anti-fox-hunting and anti-royal. Aside from the fact that fox-hunting is a barbaric and unnecessary activity that serves no purpose beyond cruel amusement, both fox-hunting and the continuance of a royal family underpin a centuries-old social/economic inequality in the UK. It existed in feudal society (before the industrial revolution) - the landed gentry who lauded over the peasants - and with the industrial revolution came the new super-rich: the capitalists who owned the factories, etc.

In 2017, this inequality persists. The UK is run by those who inherited their wealth, power and titles, and those who oppress and exploit the rest of society to hoard their surplus.

There is them, up there, with their wealth and power.
And there's us - the rest of us. The middle classes, the working classes, and those who don't even come close to having a 'social class' because they can't get a foot on the bottom of the ladder. The underclass, chavs, scallies - whatever awful label they're given, they're systematically excluded, as they have been for hundreds of years.

That's just the UK, or the USA, or any other 'western, developed country'. We have our super-rich, and we have everyone else, most of whom are comfortable and don't want to rock the boat, which is why we end up with greedy, rich idiots in control. 'It could be worse...'

That's false consciousness.

And it IS worse.

Widen the view a little...

Take a look at this list: http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-poorest-countries-in-the-world.html

Malawi is the poorest country in the world, with a GDP per capita (essentially how much, on average, each person has to live on for a year) of £255.

£255 a year.

And don't bother telling me 'oh, but the cost of living isn't as high in Malawi'. No, it's not, but why isn't it? And why is it SO high in the UK, or USA, or anywhere else?

Greed.

That's why.

It underpins capitalist thinking, and that is how all of us have been conditioned to think.

In school: you must learn this, and pass the exams, so you can get a good job, earn good money, buy a house, a car, get married, have children so you can pass your wealth on to them.

In the workplace: you must do this overtime/undertake this training to get a pay rise, earn better money, buy a better house, a nicer car, save for your retirement...and then die, leaving your wealth to your children.

It's drudgery, always working to earn more, spend more, leave more...and we have no choice.

Or that's how it seems.

But we do have a choice. In western societies, most of us have the luxury of the choice to turn our backs on capitalism.

REVOLUTIONARY TERROR?
"...there is only one way in which the murderous death agonies of the old society and the bloody birth throes of the new society can be shortened, simplified and concentrated, and that way is revolutionary terror."

(Karl Marx, 1848 - The Victory of the Counter-Revolution in Vienna - https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/11/06.htm)

Whether Marx was right, and the only way we end this massive, global inequality is through bloody revolution, most westerners are not prepared for that fight. We've been conditioned by capitalism to value our relative safety. We have food, shelter, security, peace... Capitalism encourages us to only think about our own well-being, not that of our fellow human beings, so many of whom do not have food, shelter, security and peace.

But the idea of revolution is horrifying, and unless we're prepared to live with 'it could be worse, best not rock the boat', we're left with two options:

1. We give up, lay down and die.
2. We reject capitalism.

I think about this often, how many of us are already rejecting capitalism: the credit unions, which work on a non-profit basis and reject profiteering banks; the food cooperatives - again, not-for-profit - where producers are paid fairly and people have access to good food at affordable prices; community cafés, housing associations, hospices and so on - all of them run by the people, for the people. Profit and surplus cease to have meaning, or value, because all of these work outside of capitalism.

You don't have to be part of an organisation to do this (but it's easy enough to find these groups near you). You can do it as an individual. Each of us has something to offer our community/society. It doesn't matter what it is, or how little or how much capitalism says we are worth. There are skills, talents, services each of us can offer for the good of our community, and for our own good. Yes, we're still stuck with bills to pay, mortgages, rent, council tax and so on. As long as we have enough money to pay for what we need (and no more than that), we're heading in the right direction.

It's not easy. I'm not talking about the lifestyle adjustments - that's the easy part. We live to our means. In my case, our household income is about a third of what it was ten years ago, and it barely covers our expenditure. But it does cover it.

The hardest part for me has been hearing the same old rubbish over and again:

Don't you want to earn more?
If you do it this way, you'll make more money.
If you employ staff, you can expand...
Why don't you join a teaching agency?
Why don't you charge?

No, thanks. I reject capitalism.

I work for my own good and the good of other authors. I earn my living through teaching with the Open University - an institution that has changed a lot in recent years but is still about providing access to higher education to all.

I love my work. I'm giving back what I can, and that is enough. I don't need more.

"If we have chosen the position in life in which we can most of all work for mankind, no burdens can bow us down, because they are sacrifices for the benefit of all; then we shall experience no petty, limited, selfish joy, but our happiness will belong to millions, our deeds will live on quietly but perpetually at work, and over our ashes will be shed the hot tears of noble people."

(Karl Marx, 1835, Reflections of a Young Man - http://www.marxistsfr.org/archive/marx/works/1837-pre/marx/1835-ref.htm)

Thanks for reading,
Deb x

Sunday, May 28, 2017

No Filter - First Contact #RainbowSnippets #LGBTQIA

I’m not supposed to be writing this, but some characters are very chatty!

In fact, I wasn’t supposed to be writing (or working) at all today, but, erm, I already made a cover. :D

So, here it is: snippet #1 from No Filter - another Checking Him Out / Hiding Behind The Couch crossover (the first being Hiding Out), featuring Matty (CHO) and Libby (HBTC).

Brief background: Libby and Matty first met in Hiding Out, when Libby was fifteen and Matty was an undergrad dance student. No Filter is a year later, and it’s a friendship story, not a romance. Now I’ve got to figure out where in the timeline of both series this falls…

This snippet is from Matty’s point of view.

I couldn’t believe I’d left it so long to get in touch, but we all do it—say stuff like ‘don’t be a stranger’ and make all these promises to write or call. But time flies by, and before you know it, it’s been too long, and you think ‘I must email whoever later’ and then forget about it again. Or that’s what it’s like for me. I can do texting and instant messages and stuff, but I wasn’t sure Libby would have the same number, and if she did, what if she had a boyfriend and he saw her phone? Then he’d be ‘Who’s this Matty, then?’ Awkward.

* * * * *

Rainbow Snippets is a group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation (no spoilers please!).

In this group you'll find anything from romance and historical fiction to mystery and YA. The common thread is that every story's main character identifies as LGBTQ+. The snippets could range from zero flames to full-on sexytimes, anything goes content-wise. The only rule is snippets will be 6 sentences long–one for each color in the Pride flag.

* * * * *

Thanks for reading,
Deb x

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Making Of Us - Falling Deep #RainbowSnippets #LGBTQIA

Brief explanation:
The Making Of Us is available to preorder! It’s currently with my editor. :)

Preorder Links:
Beaten Track [Paperback]Beaten Track [eBook]Amazon [Kindle Edition]Smashwords [eBook]Barnes and Noble [eBook]Kobo [eBook]

You can read previous snippets others here.

The Making Of Us is the fourth book in the Checking Him Out series, but it’s a stand-alone story about friendship, love and romance—LGBTQIA, with the emphasis on the B, Q and I.

The main characters are Jesse and Leigh, who first appeared in Taking Him On (Book Two), which is Noah and Matty’s story.

The Making Of Us is first-person, told from Jesse’s perspective.

Here’s the snippet:
I wasn’t in the least surprised—if they hadn’t moved first, I would have—when Leigh cupped the back of my neck and pulled me down into a long, deep kiss that rapidly reached fever heat. The soft stretchy fabric of their top bunched beneath my palms as I smoothed their back, my fingertips making occasional, tantalising contact with their skin.

Beyond the swirling of emotions and sensations, I was vaguely aware of the door closing and withdrew enough for Leigh to murmur, “Matty,” before they pushed me gently backwards. I felt the bed against the backs of my legs, and for the briefest moment resisted, but then bent to sit on the edge, rolling my head to the side as Leigh kissed and blew hot breath on my neck, pushing on my chest until I was lying with one arm trapped under them.

This felt good. No pressure, just exploring each other through our clothes and kissing, and kissing, stopping only to draw breath, sometimes leaving it until we were sharing the spent air between our sealed mouths and gasped like divers finally reaching the surface.

* * * * *

Rainbow Snippets is a group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation (no spoilers please!).

In this group you'll find anything from romance and historical fiction to mystery and YA. The common thread is that every story's main character identifies as LGBTQ+. The snippets could range from zero flames to full-on sexytimes, anything goes content-wise. The only rule is snippets will be 6 sentences long–one for each color in the Pride flag.

* * * * *

Thanks for reading,
Deb x

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Non-binary visibility and The Making Of Us

Four days: that's how long I've spent trying to write this blog post. I had it half written and my computer didn't save it (thanks, Outlook, and well done me for my impressive use of technology—thought I'd get clever with speech-to-text on my phone).

Anyway, the long and short of it is this: The Making Of Us is available for preorder!

Beaten Track [Paperback]Beaten Track [eBook]Amazon [Kindle Edition]Smashwords [eBook]Barnes and Noble [eBook]Kobo [eBook]

I finished writing it over the weekend, and it occurred to me, somewhere around the 95k mark (it's 97k words in all), three of the last four books I've written feature non-binary main characters (the other two being Of The Bauble and The WAG and The Scoundrel).

This wasn't intentional, in the sense that all my characters, by default, are non-binary (because I am), so you can assume that's true unless I tell you otherwise.

First, for those unsure of what non-binary means, here is a brief(ish) explanation. This is my understanding—as a social scientist and a non-binary person—and I welcome (respectful) discussion.

Non-binary relates to gender.

As most people fall comfortably into male OR female sex categories (i.e. their chromosomes, hormones, sex organs and genitalia all match EITHER female OR male), we (western society) generalise that all people are one or the other: female or male. This isn't accurate, but it is how science works: making safe generalisations (based on empirical data) that apply in most cases.

From those sex categories, we then generalise two gender identities: the social/psychological feeling of femaleness or maleness. Furthermore, we can, in most cases, assume that a (biological) female will be comfortable with a female gender identity, and a (biological) male will be comfortable with a male gender identity. The term associated with this is 'cisgender'.

There are some people who experience more or less the opposite of this - biologically, they are female but their gender identity is male, or vice versa. The term associated with this is 'transgender'.

There are also people who are comfortable with a 'congruent' sex and gender but they may be more feminine or masculine, for example, a 'butch' woman or a 'femme' man. These people are generally cisgender (but they might not be).

In all of the above, the binary distinctions work fairly well - female OR male, feminine OR masculine, trans- or cis-.

Then there are the rest of us who do not fit into the either/or. We're both, or neither, or constantly shifting between and around.

Intersex is not non-binary.

People who have female chromosomes and sex organs but male hormones and genitalia (or vice versa) are referred to, medically, as having an intersex condition. They may or may not identify as one of the two binary genders. They may identify as trans. Or they may identify as non-binary.

There is an excellent explanation of natural sex variation on this page: http://www.isna.org/faq/what_is_intersex.

My point is that even though intersex is non-binary (as in, biologically difficult to categorise as female OR male), the term 'non-binary' is about how we see ourselves (self-identity).

For the curious, this is how non-binary is for me:

I'm fine with being female; I use she/her pronouns (I'd be fine with they/their, too), but I have never in my life identified internally as 'female'. I wear gender-neutral clothes, and I have long hair because I'm an ageing hippie rocker with a pea head who looks ridiculous with short hair. Nor do I identify as 'male'. I have a conceptual understanding from my studies and research of what binary sexes mean for other people, but in relation to me, they mean nothing.

Back in 1997, as part of my undergraduate dissertation, I interviewed some transgender people about their lack of rights, and I asked one of my interviewees if the problem would be solved by removing sex from birth certificates. She got a bit cross about that. Indeed, her response was along the lines of 'doing that would bring about anarchy and the apocalypse'.

Her gender, and her right to be recognised by her gender, defined her existence. She was a very large woman—tall and wide—with what we typically view as a 'male' physique, and it had denied her life-saving treatment (hormones, surgery) because she 'wouldn't pass' as a woman.

Twenty years later, transgender people in the UK have a right to change their birth certificate and other documentation so that they are legally recognised by their correct gender. It requires an official medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria, evidence of living in their 'preferred gender role' for two years, a declaration of the intention to live in their 'new gender role' for the rest of their life, and that they aren't married.

I won't critique that beyond pointing out it's written in the language of tolerance, not acceptance, and 'preferred gender role' and 'new gender role' should be 'correct gender'. However, there is no requirement to 'pass', nor for reassignment surgery, but there is a requirement to undertake hormone treatment, and there is gender bias in the way the Gender Recognition Panel view reassignment surgery.

(Further information and legal guidance/support for transgender people in the UK can be found here: http://www.pfc.org.uk)

Being recognised by the correct gender is still as important as ever to transgender people. I accept that, even if I don't understand.

I'm not 'gender blind'; I recognise and accept other people's genders, but for me, it's not based on what they look like (I 'read minds' not bodies), and it's only one of many qualities they possess. My attraction to (or repulsion from) another person isn't based on their gender, or limited by their gender. I'm attracted to people's creativity, intelligence, humour and compassion, and whether I find someone physically attractive depends on those other factors.

For this reason, I am bisexual - attracted to more than one gender - because sex and gender have no bearing on my interpersonal attraction.

In short, I'm an in-betweeny, and I'm quite happy here. I'm not 'gender dysphoric'. I know what and who I am, and I don't want to change anything about my sex or gender, or the way those shape my view of the world.

There are three points I want to note here:

1. The binary sex/gender model is a generalisation and ignores most of the natural variation in biological sex.
2. Sex/gender is not the same as sexual orientation (lesbian, bisexual, gay, pansexual, asexual, etc.) or other forms of interpersonal attraction (romantic, intellectual, physical, emotional, etc.).
3. People are entitled to label and identify themselves as they see fit. They may even choose NOT to label or identify themselves.

There is no right and wrong in this. We are each unique, self-defined individuals.

What does all this have to do with The Making Of Us?

Well…nothing and everything. It's not the focus of the story, but it's important because there are too few stories about non-binary people. There are also too few stories about bisexual people and intersex people. So visibility is everything.

Jesse is the main character. He's an English Lit. undergraduate, cisgender, male, and he's attracted to Leigh: an intersex person who is non-binary and identifies as queer. Through his attraction to Leigh, Jesse acknowledges that he is bisexual.

However, the story is NOT about him coming to terms with his sexuality, or fighting his attraction, or any of that other stuff that comes up in romance novels on a regular basis. Jesse's totally cool with all of that. His biggest challenge is fighting a life of being fat-shamed and the toll it has taken on his confidence and self-esteem.

And there are definitely not enough stories about fat people. Which is why, when readers asked for Jesse and Leigh's story, I decided it was a story worth writing.

All of us look at others—be they people we interact with in the real world, online acquaintances or characters in books—and assess them in relation to ourselves. Like me/not like me. It's an entirely normal process of social interaction; it's how we build and make sense of our own identity, and also how we form alliances with 'our own kind'.

But then sometimes, this happens.

We find someone like us, and we're happily tootling along, agreeing with each other and celebrating our mutual understanding, empathising, mentally high-fiving each other and—BAM! The other person does something completely unpredictable, out of the blue, inconsistent with everything we thought we knew about them. We saw them as a reflection of ourselves, but suddenly we're waving and they're not waving back.

When this is a real person, we can't really deny their reality. We can try, but it makes us look silly, because the evidence is staring us in the face. Reluctantly, we go our separate ways or, hopefully, find a way to accept our differences and remember we're more alike than we're not.

However, when this is a character in a story, we can dismiss the contradiction as the author getting it wrong. The character is acting in an unrealistic way. Bad character, bad story, ranty review and no stars for you, amateur author who should've done their research. It's an opinion, and we're entitled to it.

Well, let me tell you...

The Making Of Us is based on real, lived experiences. Whether those lived experiences match a reader's own lived experiences makes them no more or less valid—for either reader or author. We are all individuals, diverse, fascinating and unique. We're more alike than we're not, but we are not all the same.

Ultimately, The Making Of Us is about celebrating our diversity. Why not give it a read and tell me what you think?

Thanks for reading,
Deb x