May 312012
 

by Maurice Sendak

If you’ve been following my blog in the last month or so it’s no surprise to you that the death of Maurice Sendak hit me hard. He was one of my favorite authors, and truly an inspiration to all of us who try to do dangerous things with our stories, to reach people, and tell the stories that need to be told.  I was honored to be given the opportunity to write a memorial essay for Lambda Literary talking about how his work touched me as a leather boy and the significance of his books to the queer writing world.

I like to think that I’m pretty familiar with his work, but was shocked and excited when last week I came across this article in Spare Change News about a storybook I’d never heard of called “We Are All In The Dumps: with Jack and Guy” that talks about childhood homelessness.  I knew immediately that I needed to find this book.  Luckily, Strand bookstore here in NYC has a beautiful and touching memorial display to Maurice Sendak right now, and yesterday I was able to finally bring a beautiful used copy of this book home with me.

It’s dark. Incredibly and profoundly dark in all of the best of ways. I believe that the most important stories are often the ones that are the most difficult to read. It makes me think of a brilliant essay “Why the Best Kids Books Are Written In Blood” about the power of brining reality into the YA genre and responding to concerns raised about his work being inappropriate for children. He says

“And now I write books for teenagers because I vividly remember what it felt like to be a teen facing everyday and epic dangers. I don’t write to protect them. It’s far too late for that. I write to give them weapons–in the form of words and ideas-that will help them fight their monsters. I write in blood because I remember what it felt like to bleed.” – Sherman Alexie

I always identify so strongly with that sentiment because I feel the same about the work I did with Kicked Out. I edited Kicked Out as the fulfillment of a promise I made my newly homeless teenage self when I stood in a library and couldn’t find one book that talked about what it meant to be homeless and queer. I wanted to keep someone else from feeling that alone. In the years that have passed I’ve received so many emails/tweets/letters from folks who told me Kicked Out made them feel less alone, that they kept it in their backpack as they slept on the streets, or read it to realize they weren’t alone.  In Roving Pack and other books that I hope will follow, I want to write the dangerous and complicated stories, the ones that make people uncomfortable because those are precisely the stories I so desperately needed.

by Maurice Sendak

“We Are All In The Dumps With Jack and Guy” is brilliant and horrific, and also utterly magic.  It’s complexly simple storyline that weaves together two nursery rhymes follows two boys Jack and Guy as they live in cardboard houses and dress in newspapers and rags along with other dirty street children under the menacing watchful eye of the moon.  It would have been enough for me to see street kids depicted in a picture book, but the power of the book didn’t stop there. It ends with the creation of a chosen family, of claiming, connection and “bring him (another little boy) up as other folks do.”

Finding this book felt a little bit like coming home to me, and made me wish I’d found it as a child- though of course I know I wouldn’t have been allowed to have it because of how dangerous it is. “We Are All In The Dumps With Jack and Guy” was published in 1993, by that time I was putting myself to sleep every night by imagining myself somewhere safe. From the time I was maybe six or seven and definitely before I was nine I would lay in my bed and tell myself stories so that I could sleep. My favorite was about runaways somewhere where grownups didn’t matter.

I didn’t know much about cities back then, my family only drove into downtown Portland once a year to go to Powell’s bookstore and I would carefully steal glances out the window. I had to be careful. If I’d stared my mother might have suspected something, something as simple as too long a look was subject to punishment. But in my dream/fantasy I was always in a city and I had found a pack of messy/complicated/dirty kids like me. In this fantasy we lived together in an abandoned warehouse only accessible by fire escape taking care of each other and sleeping in a great big pile. I have no idea where the inspiration for this fantasy came from, any media I consumed was heavily monitored and I wasn’t yet breaking rules by reading “dangerous books.”

Every night lying in my bed I would  imagine that I had runaway, and found other kids. I have no idea where the idea came from, but  it was my nighttime ritual for many years. Perhaps in some strange way (and super woo-woo way that makes me a little embarrassed to write) it was a sign of some sort, a promise that if I made it I would find my own crusty pack because as vivid as that fantasy was once I had runaway, those kids did find me, and we “brought each other up like other folks do.”

 

 

 

May 292012
 

This has been quite the weekend for Roving Pack . I sat and actually looked at a calendar- oh goodness! It’s really hard to believe just *how * soon the release actually is! I know the summer is just going to fly by which is a little nerve racking, but mostly it’s exciting. I’m so. damn. excited. To be able to get this book out into the world.

Last week the first promotional postcards came made with the exquisite cover art from the one and only KD Diamond, which I’ll start distributing this week. On Sunday I had formally moved forward with hiring someone for the layout of the book, and feel really great about having made that decision for this project. Roving Pack also now has its very own ISBN !!!! This is a particularly nerdy moment of excitement but something that makes the release feel very very real

AND as if that wasnt enough excitement for one author, over the weekend I received more blurbs for Roving Pack from authors who I really admire!!! There’s nothing quite like queer authors who’s books I read before I was writing professionally reading this novel and liking it enough to endorse it! Zoe Whittall is one of my favorite queer novelists. Her novel Bottle Rocket Hearts remains one of my alltime favorite books and I was so thrilled to be in the audience and watch her newest novel Holding Still For As Long As Possible win a Lammy! I’m beyond thrilled and completely overwhelmed that she wrote an endorsement blurb for Roving Pack! Check out what she has to say!!!!!!

“Roving Pack is a rough and tumble, tender-hearted novel that grips you in its teeth and won’t let go. A satisfying debut by a writer to watch.”

Zoe Whittall

Holding Still For As Long As Possible, Bottle Rocket Hearts

May 272012
 

 

Last month Sinclair Sexsmith and I sat down and talked about leather writing for Lambda Literary online. They have a new anthology that just released (that I’m in!) and I’d just put out the call for Leather Ever After.  We were talking about our own work and relationship to being leather writers, as well as the books that have been the most inspirational to us and that each of us would consider to be the Leather canon.  It was a fun conversation in general and I’m really grateful to Lambda Literary for facilitating it happening.  The part that ended up being the most interesting for me was the perspective difference that emerged around sex and leather and the ways in which we relate to them and how we see them relate or not relate to one another.

Recently I’ve seen folks refer to me as (in part) an erotica writer. I understand how the assumption is made, after all I have stories published in erotica anthologies and magazines, and I do sometimes write about sex but still, I find the thought of me being considered an erotica writer really really funny.  I know it sounds like splitting hairs, but I see myself as a leather writer, a leather writer who at times adds in more sex than I find interesting to increase the likelihood that a story will find a home in an anthology but in my perspective the sex in the story isn’t ever the focus of what I’m writing.

Mainstream culture, and even the queer community to some extent see leather as being highly sexualized, but for me, leather seldom actually has anything to do with sex. I’ve had a lot of shame and self-judgment over putting that into writing and accepting that as the truth (ohhh the conflations of queerness with sexual actions).  If you’d asked me three years ago when I first began writing Roving Pack in earnest about my relationship to sex I would have given an enthusiastic though disembodied response about how sex is wonderful and incredible and the best thing ever etc. etc. etc. The reality?  The reality that it took me a lot of years to be able to actually talk about?  I’m not the most sexual person in the world, and my leather is almost entirely divorced from any sex life I might or might not be having.

I should clarify (justify?) I’ve had a lot of sex in my life with a lot of awesome (and some not so awesome) queer folks. It has been sex that I’ve wanted to have, but how much of that wanting has been because it’s what I thought I was supposed to want? Or, because it was getting me closer to something I really did want or need?  Let me try to add some clarity…

It’s no secret that the protagonist in Roving Pack is based on me, well he’s based on the past life of a gutterpunk trans guy who I was a decade ago. At some point during the writing process my writing mentor/editor on the book left me a note in the margins about how he felt for the poor boy (main character) who keeps having such bad sex that isn’t actually doing much for him. Those comments, along with a whole lot of other intense personal reflective work that happened to coincide with the writing of this novel really led me to examine more honestly my relationship to sex, and leather. Isn’t it funny how that happens?  How these intense creative projects we take on end up teaching us or starting us on a path of self-exploration that goes in directions we never would have imagined, or at least that’s how it seems to work for me.  I know, and have only recently started really talking about the ways in which I have in the past used sex to come close to the very specific sort of intimacy I crave most, the one that only comes for me through an all consuming full time D/s dynamic. It’s been consensual, but it often didn’t bring me where I needed/wanted to be and once I had the D/s, once my life was literally Neverland (think Peter Pan) bubble of magic suddenly sex became a whole lot less important, and significantly les of a focus.

A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog that was in some ways a beginning of a core piece of how I envision this intentional return to blogging looking. I am of course excited to be talking about the work – what my writing and publishing processes look like, the experience of being on the road and perspectives on events, but I’m also interested very interested being more vulnerable in my blog talking about the ways in which the writing reflects my own personal growth, and sometimes in special circumstances is the catalyst for growth itself.

The blog itself was primarily about the lessons about boundaries that Roving Pack has taught me, and the ways in which I’ve been able to grow There was a line in the blog “my primary partnership is built on love and D/s but not sexual attraction” that was in some ways the most difficult line of the whole thing for me to write, but it’s also the piece and sentiment that has gotten me a shocking amount of positive feedback in the past couple of weeks. Turns out as anxious as I was about talking publically about the ways in which leather and sex are pretty separate for me, and always has been it’s something that many other folks have also been experiencing, often in silence and were really excited to see me talking about being Leather oriented and having a primary partnership that was not built or maintained on sexual attraction.

At my core I see myself as being leather oriented, it’s not that I hate sex or don’t ever want to fuck, but that specific sort of attraction and desire very very seldomely occurs within a Leather dynamic. In fact, those who I most intensely click with around Power are folks that I usually don’t click well with sexually. It’s D/s and leather that I’m most connected to, but it took me a LONG time (a decade) to really accept, own, and cherish that there wasn’t something wrong with me if the most important relationship in my life, where I build my home, where I love and play and create family has minimal sexual chemistry and is instead based on a power exchange and that good sex is something that usually happens outside of that relationship. It took me a long time to realize that’s ok, that it doesn’t make me a bad queer, that it doesn’t make me a bad leather person to say that honestly in the bigger scheme of things that sex just isn’t even that important to me, and it never really has been. Instead Leather, which for me is often profoundly nonsexual, is where my most intimate physical and psychological needs are met— another one of those unexpected places of personal growth I can thank  Roving Pack for.

To be extra clear – I don’t associate this difference with any kind of hierarchy. I don’t think there is a “right” or “wrong” way to relate to/understand/connect with Leather just different ways of being/living/experiencing which honestly for me goes directly back to why I’m so interested in expanding the number of Leather stories in the world. I know that the way I understand myself best is when I’m able to read narratives that I can identify and connect with. It’s a reason I think I’ve struggled so much with being open about the way I relate to sex or Leather because so seldom have I seen the kinds of stories that talk about our lives like this.  I’m very committed to creating and facilitating others writing more stories about the diverse ways we live our lives in leather

May 232012
 

I’m not the biggest believer in astrology, but sometimes something comes along and slaps you across the face.  This week it just happened to be my horoscope: 

“Here’s a great question to pose on a regular basis during the next three weeks: “What’s the best use of my time right now?” Whenever you ask, be sure to answer with an open mind. Don’t assume that the correct response is always, “working with white-hot intensity on churning out the masterpiece that will fulfill my dreams and cement my legacy.” On some occasions, the best use of your time may be doing the laundry or sitting quietly and doing nothing more than watching the world go by. Here’s a reminder from philosopher Jonathan Zap: “Meaning and purpose are not merely to be found in the glamorous, dramatic moments of life.”

Pretty timely with everything happening in my world connected to Roving Pack. Things are a bit of a whirlwind as time swiftly brings me closer to the October release.  This week I got the corrected manuscript back from my amazing copyeditor and have been working to pin down details connected to the PoMo Freakshow Europe tour right as the novel releases.

I see the decision to publish Roving Pack as giving it, and in turn these characters the home that they spend the whole book searching for.  I chose this route because I believed I could create a better book than the options that were presenting themselves in the mainstream small press world.  As I’ve said before I want to tread carefully on this topic because I do very much believe in traditional publishing as a model – Kicked Out and Leather Ever After both have/will be released from publishers and I know I will continue through my career to work with publishers BUT I don’t believe that is the home for every book.

Roving Pack is very much on the fringes of genre and queerness.  There was interest from publishers in the novel, but the end result wouldn’t have been *this* book and I couldn’t let my characters be toned down. Roving Pack is full of unapologetic gender that is complicated and intense, and presents BDSM/Leather dynamics without justification as just a regular part of life because that’s the world I came out into, and where I’ve called home ever since.  I didn’t want anything about this book to be an apology/justification for our queerness which was why I chose this route to publication.

The horoscope hit me so hard last night because I’ve spent last weekend/beginning of this week focused on some last minute research to make the decision about the layout for the novel. Essentially I was trying to decide what the best use of my time was right now– teaching myself InDesign or outsourcing this part of the publishing process and hiring a rad person in my local community. I was really focused on what would be the best decision for this book as well as what would be the best use of the resources at my disposal (financial as well as time and emotional) in the next couple of months before the release. My number one priority in all of this is to give Roving Pack the very best life that I can.  The characters in this book deserve that.  When I made the decision to put this novel out through my own imprint it was with the plan of making this book the best that I possibly could.  It has involved a fair amount of outsourcing for the things that are needed to put together a really sharp book (cover design, copyediting ) as well as bringing on an external editor early in the game to really push me and this book to be the best that we can be.  Other than some DIY deaththrows about feeling like I *should* (always a dangerous word) be doing this part of the process myself I knew that doing the layout myself was not the best use of my time or energy, and that the right decision was to outsource that part of the process. As corny as it sounds the horoscope, along with a big ol’ PRO/CON chart really pushed me over the edge.  I don’t want my own lack of computer skills to hurt or hold back the book in anyway.  So now I’m waiting to hammer down the details with the awesome layout person I want to hire, and hopefully ::fingers crossed:: in the next day or so that will be finalized and moving forward!

I’ve got a bunch more blogs in the works — conversations about the publication process, writing, leather, all kinds of good stuff. The decision to outsource the layout means I won’t be pulling hair out of my head in the next two months, and will have a lot more time for actually writing so keep an eye out for more blog postings!

May 192012
 

I scheduled this to post yesterday, but instead the interent ate it! Ack!  My apologies for the unexpected delay but I’m thrilled to be a stop on the blog tour for Katherine Scott Nelson’s novella “Have You Seen Me” which is a Lambda Literary Award finalist this year.  I was thrilled to crack open the beautifully hand bound, signed and numbered collectors edition of the book that CCLaP Publishing sent to me. ‘Have You Seen Me’ follows the adventures of runaway teenager Vyv and her friend Chris who she continues to communicate with in secret from the road. I’m always excited when I see queer authors take on issues of runaways/homelessness so I was excited to sit down  with Katherine and talk a little more about hir process for writing the book, what brought hir to writing about these themes and what ze hoped readers would take away from the book

SL: What made you set your novel around the experience of a runaway teenager?

KSN: Growing up queer in a very anti-queer small town, I can remember that the question “At what point would I just leave?” was on my mind a lot. Ultimately, I made Chris’s choice – to cover, pass for straight, and try to hang on until I could get to college.

I started writing Have You Seen Me when I was nineteen, and initially, I set Chris and Vyv against each other as these two tensions in my life – stay and try to make it better, or run away? It wasn’t until I began finding books like Kicked Out and listening to the stories of people who had run away that I began to understand that in most, if not all, cases, it isn’t really a choice – that queer kids who run are leaving violent families, violent communities, and literally sometimes it’s about life and death. So her story began to change, to align itself with that reality.
SL:  What do you hope readers will take away from the book ?

KSN: I hope everyone who reads it comes away feeling like they’ve had a powerful experience, that they’ve felt something or learned something new and unique. And I want it to tell a different kind of story to queer people, especially young queer people – that you have the ability to change yourself and the world around you, and that you can do it with your own unique subjectivity.
SL: Can you talk a little bit about your writing process for the book?

KSN: I worked on Have You Seen Me, off and on, for about ten years. Every year or so I’d pull it out, try to stitch it into a cohesive story, make a huge mess, get frustrated, and put all my rewrites away again. A couple of years ago, the story finally “clicked.”

People have started asking me how you get a book published, and I tell them I don’t know – in my case, it was REALLY random. During one of my revision periods, I got a cold-call e-mail from Jason Pettus, the editor/owner/publisher of the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, asking every self-described writer who had ever “liked” CCLaP’s Facebook page whether they were working on anything novella-length and transgressive. Have You Seen Me fit the
description, and I liked the publishing program he was running, so I sent him a draft.

What followed was eight months of the most intense rewriting and editing process I’ve ever been through. We literally took the book apart and put it back together again multiple times, but I think all the blood and sweat we put into the process really shows in the finished product.

One thing I worried about throughout the process was the politics of representing Vyv’s experience when I hadn’t lived it myself, whether I had any right to tell her story. I really didn’t want to be another Margaret B. Jones or JT Leroy, flattening the experiences of queer street kids and twisting them to suit self-aggrandizing purposes while telling myself I was only “trying to help.” I’d love to come to you today with a really good answer to that question, but I don’t have one yet. I hope I did a good job.

If I were revising Have You Seen Me one more time, I’d want to add another layer of complexity to Vyv and her family. I’m an abuse survivor, and I know a lot about the dynamics of living in a violent situation where the people around you suspect that something’s up, but don’t want to make assumptions or pry.
SL:  What has the response to the novel been like so far?

KSN: So far, the response has been extremely positive – save for a couple of lukewarm reviews, but you’ll never please everyone. Lots of people are connecting with the characters in ways I hadn’t expected – when the book first came out, I had several people corner me and demand to know whether Vyv would be okay.

It’s a huge rush. And that’s why I started writing fiction in the first place – to create art that would speak to people on a very deep, intimate level, and so I’m very happy.
SL: What’s next for you?

KSN: Haha, I wish I knew! Since I didn’t want to be planning for failure, I never looked that far past getting Have You Seen Me written and published. Now I’m staring at the walls and thinking “Now what?”

There’s always more to write, so at least I know more books are in my future. Jason and I have also talked about selling the reprint rights for Have You Seen Me to a mainstream publishing house, especially if we win something in June. I’m big on access, and this would potentially get Have You Seen Me into libraries, which is huge to me.

 

 

May 152012
 

This weekend I was lucky enough to have the chance to head out of town with Kestryl for an artist retreat!  We brought the dogs and a whole bunch of outlines and plans for the work we each individually wanted to focus on and headed upstate.  We spent the long weekend in an adorable cabin a little outside of New Paltz, New York.  I can now say for certain that there is nothing quite like laying in a hammock after swimming in a river to get the creative juices flowing!

For me the big focus of this retreat was to start working on plans for the layout of Roving Pack which I’ll be launching into June 1st when I get the book back from the final copyeditor! With that in mind I spent a good chunk of the weekend familiarizing myself with the ins and out sof InDesign software that I will be using.  The retreat was also a great opportunity to make headway on some practical work that I’ve been avoiding like turning the amazing cover art that KD Diamond created into a promotional postcard which two hours and a migrane later (that sort of work is not one of my strengths) looks awesome and is now at the printer along with my brand new business cards that are updated to include all three of my books.

Beyond the really practical work I did upstate on the postcards and some writing for an anthology I’m submitting to, I focused a lot on strategic thinking. In between forest hikes to a secluded swimming hole I was really focused at looking at the overal direction my work is going growing out of Kicked Out through everything Roving Pack represents and all that I hope Leather Ever After will become, and even beyond that into directions I imagine my future work going in. A lot of the thinking  I was doing this weekend  was about how my seemingly different works fits together and in actuality is extremely connected with the central core being about the creation of home and queer family.  It’s been exciting and inspiring  for me to see diverse directions that common theme can move into.

I did a lot of planning at the upstate retreat for the direction I’m taking this blog. Definitely stay tuned for a bunch of new posts coming in the coming weeks and months. I’m planning to talk in more detail about how as an author who believes in and continues to work with traditional publishers I still chose to launch my own press to publish Roving Pack, and share more intimate details of what that process looks like.  I received a lot of positive private feedback from folks who really connected on a personal level with the ‘lessons from Roving Pack: poly, leather, boundaries and whale legs’ blog that I posted last week and have several blog posts in the works that are much more vulnerable and talk in greater detail about the experience of living in a long-term 24/7 power exchange relationship, the ways in which Leather and sex are separate and how that influences the ways in which I write about queerness and specifically queer leather lives.

A huge part of how I understand myself and my place in the world is in connection to stories- especially first-person narratives and fiction based on a queerness I can relate to.  A huge part of why I write (both fiction and non-fiction) is about putting out into the world the kind of stories I wish I’d had when I was first exploring various identities. It’s about creating a home on the page for the worlds I love, and the kinds of queers – homeless teens, gutterpunks, kinky perverts etc. etc. that are/have been my family, in hopes that others will see themselves in my words and feel less alone. It was really exciting to have the space and time at the retreat to think about these core themes that run through all my work, and to brainstorm my plans for talking about my life and work more here on the blog. Stay tuned!!!

May 102012
 

I’ve learned over the years that next to the feedback of readers who have been impacted by your work, there are few things more powerful than having authors who you really respect tell you they read your book, and were hailed by it.  There’s something about having someone whose books you’ve looked up to and read for years pick up *your* book and connect to it. I struggle even to find the words to describe how good it feels that they really got your characters and found the meanings you were carefully burying like treasure between lines.  I’ve been privledged enough to have a couple of those moments in the last few weeks – first when Mattilda blurbed Roving Pack, and now again when the fabulous author Kristyn Dunnion just sent me a fantastic blurb for the novel! I fell in love with Kristyn’s writing when I first read her novel Mosh Pit, and stalked online book retailers to purchase The Dirt Chronicles before it even released in The States.  She’s one of the few authors I know of who can really accurately and authentically write about  the beauty and gritiness of queer punk kids.  Having her connect to my work, to the queer punk world and characters I created in this novel, and be willing to blurb Roving Pack is incredibly exciting and really humbling. Wanna see the blurb?!  I can’t keep it a secret anymore, so here it is!!!!

 

Fucking A. Sassafras Lowrey takes ‘queer punk’ to a whole new level of insidious drama. Roving Pack cracks out the microscope to examine this Portland-based scene circa 2002 – whether or not the rest of the world can take it. My guess? Hella no!

~Kristyn Dunnion, Author of The Dirt Chronicles and Mosh Pit

May 082012
 

This morning I’m struggling with the news that Maurice Sendak has just died.  There is an obituary in The New York Times and I’m sitting here crying and thinking about the impact his words and pictures and the impact they have had on my work, the way I approach writing and the stories that I need and want to tell even when it’s dark or complicated. There is an incredible video of him  speaking about his work that I’ve posted before that I want to share again along with my favorite quote from it that was instrumental to me as I was finishing the writing of Roving Pack. I believe that if we’re not taking risks with our art, if it’s not edge play than there’s really not much point in doing it, and Maurice Sendak put that sentiment so brilliantly when he said:

Artists have to take a dive. And either you hit your head on a rock and you split your head and die or the blow to the head is so inspiring that you come back up and do the best work you ever did. But you have to take the dive. And you do not know what the result will be.”

– Maurice Sendak

One of the other ways Maurice Sendak’s work has truly influenced my life is also in the way I approach joy and pleasure and living in the moment. Our youngest dog is very much a little Wild Thing – just two weeks ago I had her tattooed onto my shin with her face attached to the body of a Wild Thing…. she is full of Rumpus and takes pleasure in each and every joyful moment in life inspiring/reminding – and I always think of this wonderful Sendak quote/story

“Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim: I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.”
― Maurice Sendak

“He saw it, he loved it, he ate it….. ‘ hard to find better words to live by when it comes to enjoying and living in the moment even really sad moments like right now

May 082012
 

When DL King asked me to be a stop on the blog tour for her new anthology ‘The Harder She Comes’ I was delighted to help.  With that in mind I bring you today’s guest blog!

The Harder She Comes blog tour presents:

A Guest Post from Valerie Alexander, author of  “A Date with Sharon Tate”

I’ve always loved butch-femme themes. In college, I was always getting sniffed at for “looking straight,” so it was immensely gratifying to walk into my femme identity and own my girliness with pride. But of course it was finding butches -crushing on them, dating them, hunting for them – that made me swoon.

So when I read about a butch femme anthology submission call, I knew I had to write something for it. My story, “A Date with Sharon Tate,” is about a cheating (and now repentent) butch desperately trying to woo back her ex-girlfriend. Eventually they reconnect at a Dead Movie Star Party but it doesn’t go smoothly at first:

I walked over until I towered over her. Shandra had always liked how tall I was and she bit her lip now and looked up coquettishly as if waiting to be kissed. I didn’t touch her. Instead I leaned in close to her and said, “I built a treehouse too. You should come out and see it.”

She frowned. I had made a tactical error by using my sex voice. “Don’t hit on me. You know I’m here with April.”

“Fuck April,” I said. “Just go on one date with me. We’ll start over. You can have all the time you need to trust me again.”

Shandra made a scoffing noise. “I’m a married woman now.”

I laughed. I couldn’t help it, it was such an obvious exaggeration intended to hurt me. Now Shandra looked furious, her face going red under the makeup. I’d forgotten how gorgeous she was when she was mad. She started to leave and I took her arm to stop her.

“Don’t manhandle me,” she said.

I released her arm. She didn’t move and I leaned my leg against hers. She looked at the sink, looked at the new tiles. Then she looked at me.

My mouth was on hers in less than a second, recapturing all the heat and sweetness of her tongue. She kissed me back just as passionately and I leaned in to pin her against the counter. I wanted to smell and taste every part of her but her tight vintage dress had her pretty much imprisoned as my hands stroked her breasts and legs. “One date,” I said in her ear, “one date, your terms” because I wanted her to agree to a meeting beyond this momentary lapse in sanity. I lifted her up and sat her on the black granite countertop and she leaned back and opened her legs for me. Oh my god. She was wearing a thong, just a little scrap of white fabric, and before I could even go near it, she slid it down herself, spread her thighs and looked at me. She wanted me to fuck her. The sex between her and that stupid girlfriend was as boring as I’d guessed, and she needed me to fuck her hard and good just like I used to.

I like writing from a butch perspective (even though in real life, my bathroom looks like a Sephora blew up in it) which I suppose is kind of an alter-ego thing.  At any rate, the entire book is a hot read, with a lot of titillating diversity in the stories. You can get it at from Amazon or Cleis.

Don’t forget to stop by the rest of the tour, or check out what you’ve already missed. And of course you can always stop by and visit me (http://www.Valeriealexander.org), too.

Schedule:

May 1  D. L. King  http://sacchi-green.blogspot.com/

May 2  Anna Watson  http://dlkingerotica.blogspot.com

May 3  Evan Mora  http://donutsdesires.blogspot.com/

May 4  River Light  http://sapphicplanet.com/blogtour_sapphicplanet.php

May 5  Sinclair Sexsmith  http://www.sugarbutch.net/

May 6  Crystal Barela  http://kathleenbradean.blogspot.com/

May 7  CS Clark  http://bethwylde.wordpress.com/

May 8  Valerie Alexander http://pomofreakshow.com/

May 9  Andrea Dale   http://lulalisbon.wordpress.com/

May 10  Beth Wylde  http://adrianakraft.com/blog/

May 11  Kathleen Bradean  http://cyvarwydd.blogspot.com/

May 12  Teresa Noelle Roberts  http://lisabetsarai.blogspot.com/

May 13  Shanna Germain  http://lantoniou.blogspot.com/

May 14  Charlotte Dare  http://madeofwords.com/posts/

May 15  Rachel Kramer Bussel  http://lustylady.blogspot.com/

 

 

 

 

 

May 052012
 

It’s interesting for me to think about the different lessons projects unexpectedly teach us about ourselves. I didn’t go into working on Roving Pack thinking that I would walk away with a novel, nor did I certainly think that I would end up learning so much about myself – not only where I come from, but perhaps more importantly where I’m going.

Roving Pack began as a group of short stories that came out of text messages sent between me and an old friend who is sick. We began texting snippets of memoirs, punk houses, spoken word basement shows on stages built with pallets, our mutual ex-Daddy and the scars he left on us both.  As we texted, I couldn’t hold the stories in anymore. They flowed into the note app on my iPhone during subway delays, and started squatting in haphazardly named word files across the desktop of my computer.  The idea that they would become my second book and my debut novel could not have been further from my mind.

This week I put the final polish on the book reviewing the last of the line-edits from my editor saved the book as “RovingPackFINAL” and hit send, now leaving it in the capable hands of the copyeditor.  Writing Roving Pack book came at a really pivotal point in my private life where I have been thinking a lot about what it means to exist in the world in the ways that I do. The last year has been filled with big changes and lots of instances of processing, self-reflection.

A big piece of this, and something that I haven’t been particularly public about has involved a serious reexamination of my boundaries especially around polyamory, what works for me, what doesn’t.  Roving Pack is in some ways about failed boundaries and desperate attempts at connection.  It’s about the way that we hurt ourselves and each other when we are injured and trying to survive in the most basic of levels.  I am in so many ways lifetimes away from the crusty punk trans boi I was, who this novel is based on, and yet over the last year I’ve had to reconcile that some of my boundaries were his, and still were coming from a place of survival.

In our house, we call edgeplaying with boundaries “Whale Legs.”  Let me explain, whales have little  vestigial leg bones hidden in their tales, that are left over from a time when they roamed the earth instead of swimming through the sea. Sometimes there are boundaries I’ve held unexamined for 10 years, holdouts from a place and time where I was a very different person, and sometimes as scary as I imagine it must have been for the little whale to realize that it no longer needed its legs, it’s equally powerful for the whale to realize it can glide through the water no longer inhibited by unnecessary boundaries uh…. Appendages ;)

In the last year while vigorously working on piecing together this novel, I’ve simultaneously been doing intense work in my personal life.  I’ve vanilla dated someone for the first time in years, playing hi-femme to their butch proving again to myself that there is no lasting spark in that relationship structure for me, that I’m regardless of the gender presentation that works well for me, I’m just a funny boy and that without the D/s I’m just bored and uninterested. At my core I’m an edge player and pushed myself to the limits this year challenging one of my oldest and most deeply held boundaries by giving consent for my Daddy to travel half-way around to world to visit someone who had become their long-term girlfriend, and I didn’t break.  Let me repeat, I didn’t break.

Working on Roving Pack gave me this level of healing and closure that I didn’t even know I was looking for. A month ago I sat in tears, the realization washing over me that all these years later my boundaries were still constructed out of fear. I realized in that moment that nearly all of the boundaries that I’d set especially around polyamory were about trying to prevent myself from ever being hurt again in the ways that ex’s had nearly destroyed me. I realized in that moment that my boundaries had always been set in survival mode that they were the boundaries of a young orphaned leather boi whose heart was bruised.  These were boundaries about trying to prevent something bad from happening, to prevent someone from leaving me. It was scary to realize that all these years later I was still working through the scars left by others. I came to a place as I finished Roving Pack where I could say that I don’t want to wield boundaries in an effort to keep myself from getting hurt, it didn’t work back then, despite my fortress of boundaries I was always left and hurt.  I have been my Daddy’s Private Property for nearly eight years now. I know intimately and daily that I am safe, and cherished and cared for, but it’s not because of the boundaries I might set.

Fear is a powerful weapon in my history, and it fucked me up a little to realize that there was this big area where I had subconsciously still been giving it a lot of power in a false effort to keep myself safe.  Working through Roving Pack was a major part of getting me here.  As I laid down the final edits to the book, hit save that final time and sent it to the copyeditor I was left with an overwhelming sense of calm. I get into the most trouble when I attempt to be something that I’m not, or attempt to align myself or my life with someone else’s (even queer folks) perception of what is normal, or good.  This year has been a lot of challenging these norms for myself. It’s been about owning on a deeper level that my life doesn’t look how most queer folks think it should – my primary partnership is built on love and D/s but not sexual attraction, I’m not interested in egalitarian dating folks in my community, and despite the presentation that works well for me “femme” isn’t a community or identity that holds much pull for me, an I was able to reach these places of deep understanding because of my work on Roving Pack.

I’m a little anxious to actually talk about the things that this novel has taught me, and the unexpected transformative quality of writing it. I’m nervous that it will make the novel or my relationship to it seem somehow self-indulgent, but that’s a risk I have to take if I’m going to be honest with myself, my family, and my community about what this book has meant to me. At it’s core my work is about a search for self, home, and community within queerness. If I truly believe that, which I do, then it’s important that I own my own struggles and work towards cutting free from the expectations of how our queer lives should or shouldn’t  look.