Some Thoughts on Love and Writing in the Wake of a Fallen Sister

This week we have another fallen sister to count among our ranks. Leelah, another trans* teen that the world beat and beat and beat until she couldn’t take anymore. I’m 27, and I can no longer count the number of fallen sisters and brothers I have, the number of people I’ve watched the world blot out, the ones I’ve only read about, the ones I’ve seen buried, and I’m exhausted, every day, with this knowledge that today might be the day I lose another. Having a trans* friend preface a text or e-mail to me with “I’m sorry” shouldn’t fill me with the cold dread that I have another one to count, but it does. Because the world is very wrong.

I’ve always lived my life very publicly and been very transparent about who I am as a person. I had the choice, when I was building up a web presence, to be quiet about certain things, to keep others hidden, because frankly it would have been easier, would have exposed me to less hate and bigotry and all the other shitty things people will inflict on other people out of hatred and misunderstanding. I chose not to, not because I consider myself particularly brave or some kind of activist, but because of the simple knowledge of how many Leelahs in the world might need to hear my story, to see me living my life—publicly, openly—and know that they don’t always have to be afraid. That you can be trans* and an alcoholic and bipolar and asexual and still be okay.

And, yes, I’ve had all those things thrown back in my face, sometimes by people very close to me. I can still hear the sick, awful silence that came after being told I’d never find anyone to love me because “who could love an alcoholic, bipolar transgender.” As if asking someone to put up with all of those things together was asking for a Herculean feat instead of just basic decency. It’s one of the reasons I’m so staunch about the need for trans* romance in the queer romance genre, and diversity within that romance: one loud shout to the world that we can be loved, that we are not abhorrent, that yes someone one day will look at all the pieces that make me less than perfect and think “but I love you, anyways.” Not even just “anyways” but because they make up the person I am, and that’s the person they love.

Because I am not an unloveable aberration, despite what I’ve been told. We are all deserving of love, whatever our hangups or imperfections.

I write what I wish for people like me: love stories, stories about deep, true, enduring love that spans lifetimes. And not just for the white cis gay men that overpopulate the queer romance genre. For all of us: trans*, bisexual, lesbian, intersex, POC, mentally ill, persons with disabilities, persons with autism and Aspergers and on and on and on. I want to write love stories for those people, too, the ones who don’t always get told they’ll one day get their “happily ever after.” Because we all deserve a happily ever after. I deserve one. You deserve one. Leelah deserved one.

That’s why I write, in the end. To give those people the world calls unloveable their great love story. And that’s why I’m open about every aspect of who I am: so that people can see me living my life and know that “happy and whole” is not impossible for them, that they’ll get their happily ever after, too, that they deserve one, whatever else the world might tell them. That “different” does not mean “unloved forever.”

Rest in power, Leelah. May you, wherever you are, be getting the happy ending the world denied you.

Why We Need Elderly Trans* Folk in Fiction

So a while ago on Twitter I had a conversation with EE Ottoman about why seeing elderly trans* folk in romance novels (and novels in general) is so important. Important enough for me to write an entire blog post about it. Because while trans* lit remains thin on the ground, trans* lit not about the struggles of trans* folks in their teens and twenties is even rarer, and I think it adds to a toxic narrative in society at large: that if you’re trans*, you’ll struggle with you identity and (more importantly) other people’s transphobia when you’re young and, because of that transphobia, you won’t live to see 60 or 70 or 80 (or, hell, even 40) like it’s just assumed a cis person will. And to be perfectly frank that’s bullshit that we should be doing everything in our power to counteract.

When I was a teen, there were even fewer trans* narratives available for purchase than there are now, and they were mostly written by cis folk who obviously wanted kudos for being progressive while still writing only toxic stories for trans* characters. The first to jump to mind is the very first trans* character I encountered: a trans* woman on CSI who was handled abysmally and was also a murder victim, dead at the hands of some asshole’s transphobia (worse yet, her method of murder was drowning in a toilet, which, uh really makes a point about her perceived worth). And while the point of the narrative was, hey murdering trans* people is awful (which I obviously wholeheartedly support) it still wasn’t the sort of thing a struggling trans* kid needed to see. The next example I can think of is Breakfast on Pluto (which, despite many problematic elements, remained my favorite movie for years because I was genuinely desperate for representation). And I experienced nothing but dissatisfaction with the ending which was essentially the transwoman main character telling her brother (who didn’t know they were related) that she hoped he grew up normal. Because apparently being trans* is a trial. (Also, she never actually found love, which she searched for through the whole movie, because apparently romance is too mighty a thing to expect a trans* person to achieve.) Again, not what I wanted.

And not once—not once—did I see a trans* character who lived past their twenties. So what was I, a young scared queer kid in a small town in Texas, supposed to expect from my future but misery and eventual death at someone else’s hands? I needed, very badly, to see narratives where trans* people lived long full lives, fell in love, raised families, had careers, and died at the end of a long life surrounded by people who loved them. You know, the sorts of stories that are just the norm for cis het people, but for a trans* person is apparently revolutionary.

But the older I get, the more I realize that the narratives I was fed as a scared teen were injected with a healthy dose of sensationalization. Yes, absolutely, trans* people suffer from transphobia. Yes, some of us will die from that transphobia because frankly the world ain’t right. But that’s not nearly our only possible ending. I know many trans* folk, now, who are living lives that make the exact kind of stories I needed to hear when I was that scared teen.  And those are the stories we need to be telling: tales of long life and success and love. Because they’re not impossible dreams for trans* folk but, boy, given the literature and media out there, you’d sure think they were.

I like to tell people than I enjoy writing stories about heroes because everyone deserves to see themselves as a hero: gay, lesbian, trans*, intersex, asexual, POC, disabled, neurodivergent you name it we deserve to have those narratives written about us. Trans* lit in general could be served with more diversity, serving more of the spectrum of our community. And trans* folk deserve to have all sorts of fantastic stories written about us, whether they be tales of heroism, or contemporary romance, or high fantasy, or sci fi set far off in the future. But we need our literature to tell us something else before it tells us that: that, first, we can live long enough and happily enough to eventually accomplish all those fantastic things and that the clock won’t stop ticking at 30.

How to Punch Writer’s Block in the Face

So recently I had a friend on plurk ask for general writing advice, and of course I chipped in my two cents because I’m incapable of keeping my opinions to myself, but it got me thinking about a problem that seems to plague almost every writer out there: writer’s block. And I’ve actually got a lot of advice to offer about this because as a professional writer who’s trying to go full time eventually, I frankly don’t have time for writer’s block and have gotten really good at tricking my brain into producing when it just really doesn’t want to.

The short version of my advice goes 1) learn to use productivity tools effectively, 2) if you have a competitive streak FOR THE LOVE OF GOD UTILIZE IT 3) set up an effective system of rewards and punishments but 4) don’t base that reward and punishment system upon unrealistic expectations of your writing, 5) literally nowhere is there a rule that says you must write your story linearly, and 6) oftentimes writer’s block is all about expectations and fear, brutally crush the idea that your first draft must be good beneath your heel.

Now for the expanded version.

Continue reading How to Punch Writer’s Block in the Face

Everyone’s a Casualty Cover Reveal

Well, I’ve finally gotten enough time in between working (boy, has it been a busy week) to post this. LT3 recently sent me the cover for Everyone’s a Casualty, done by the amazing Aisha Akeju. And now I have the pleasure of passing it on to you! So here we go:

Everyone's a Casualty Cover

I’m pretty serious about thinking that’s the best cover I and perhaps anyone else has ever or will ever receive. After I got the e-mail, I kept going back to gaze adoringly at it, that is how all about this cover I am. Thanks go to Aisha because, wow, did this ever exceed all my hopes and expectations. I do not have a blurb or release date for you, yet, but I will certainly update whenever I receive either of those things!

Free Read: OUTBREAK!

So this little YA story was originally posted on my Tumblr, but since that Tumblr has since been brutally deleted so that I would actually do something with my life aside from reblog pictures of cats, it ceased to exist online. Until now, when I decided this blog was sad and empty and needed more posts on it, especially some free read type things. (Another, longer story will likely be coming some time next week.) It was originally spawned by a prompt on stayintheroom on dreamwidth, which listed the words magazine, silo, fever, carriage, bully, graffiti, and epidemic and said to use three in a story. I, because I am an overachiever used all seven.

So, without further ado, here is OUTBREAK!, a zombie YA comedy ficlet.

Milo has an axe and no emotional grip on his present situation.

Oh, he knows he’s about to be devoured by the risen corpse of a schoolyard bully—Bret Mitchells, who is possibly even bigger and uglier when he’s been reanimated by a virus that has swept across the nation like Bieber Fever only with more ravenous zombies—he just hasn’t emotionally accepted it, yet.

“I still haven’t kissed a girl,” Milo says, as Bret closes in on him. “I just want you to know you’re taking that life experience from me.” Bret curls his lips back from his teeth and drools some more. It’s both unattractive and terrifying. “And I definitely never got the chance to steal my dad’s awesome car so I could have sex in the back. So just … consider what you’re doing here.”

Bret looks decidedly unaffected. Unless you count “ravenous hunger for Milo’s brains” as an effect, in which case, Bret has that covered. Milo’s really smart. His brains are probably delicious. Curse the AP classes he took that made him such delicious zombie fodder! This never would have happened to him if he’d taken remedial math.

Milo’s trapped against a grain silo on the edge of town—getting as far away as possible from populated areas seemed like a good idea until he had to go mano-a-mano with a zombie on a farm with no one remotely nearby to save him—and the wall behind him is decorated with graffiti dicks, so no part of his death is going to be dignified.

“I was supposed to grow up and be on the cover of Science,” Milo says, as Bret closes in on him—curse his propensity for skipping gym classes that has left him puny and entirely incapable of wielding an axe effectively against a member of the undead. “Or maybe TIME magazine. Honestly, I wasn’t going to be picky as long as it was the cover.”

Bret shambles closer—close enough that Milo can smell his rancid breath.

“Alright.” Milo hefts the axe in his hands. “Just you and me.”

As Milo prepares for his first swing though, he hears someone shout “Kowabunga, mother fucker!” followed by the thundering sound of horses sprinting and before Milo can even react, an actual horse-drawn carriage rounds the corner and brutally crushes Bret beneath a combination of hoofs and wheels.

Milo looks up and sees Mason holding the reins.

“You just ran him over with a horse-drawn carriage,” Milo says, because he is very intelligent but not above stating the obvious under the influence of total shock.

“Yep,” Mason says, dropping the reins and hopping down.

“Why didn’t you hit him with … a car or something?”

“I don’t know how to drive a car.” Mason walks over to Milo then stops in front of him. “And my mom said Junior Rodeo would never pay off! Well guess who just saved the day with fucking horses, Mom!”

“Yeah, that actually was pretty awesome.”

Mason smiles at him. “Also, I can’t help you with your girl kissing problem, but I could kiss you. I think you even kind of owe me since I saved your life.”

Milo just stares at a Mason for a minute, trying to figure out if he’s being serious, or just being Mason. Finally he says, “Okay, sure. Why not.”

A New Release and a New Motivational Writing System

So I figure it’s about time to announce this, since I got the acceptance letter almost a month ago, but I have another title, a novella, that’s going to be published throughout LT3 press, called Everyone’s a Casualty. Do not fear the name, gentle readers, and consider the publisher: this story does end happily, even if the characters have to slog through some angst to finally get to their HEA. 

The story stars Joel, a writer whose career could kindly be referred to as “failing,” and Sparrow, a character in one of Joel’s novels. Wondering how I managed a pairing between a writer and his character? Simple! Joel has a door in his bedroom that leans into the worlds he creates. Yes, the story’s a little trippy to start with and gets extremely trippy by the end. Because in that other world is a force Joel can’t control, which eventually locks him out and emerges into his world, to rather upsetting results. In the end, Joel has to choose between staying in that world, separate from what he loves, or helping to tear it down entirely. Or those would be the only two options, anyway, if the ending weren’t a twist because, yes, I’m an asshole who loves twist endings.

In other news, I’ve come up with a new motivational writing system that has turned out to be quite effective in getting me to produce every day. I bought myself a desk calendar and started writing my word count on it each day. Then I got a genius, if fairly childish idea, and decided to institute a reward system: for every 1,000 words I write in a day, I get to place a sticker on that day in the calendar. I instituted the reward system on the 5th (the 1st was a retroactive sticker day because never let it be said I passed up the opportunity to put a sticker on something) and, as you can see from the picture below, it’s been a pretty damn effective system so far.

2014-07-10 16.35.15

Admittedly, it probably wouldn’t be so effective if I weren’t six years old at heart and still in love with getting to put stickers on things. But I’m not going to argue with the end results.

Website of Author Jaidon Wells

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