Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hops, Follows, and Tag Alongs, Oh My!

The Feature & Follow Hop, courtesy of Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read.

Q. You are a matchmaker -- your goal, hook up two characters from two of your favorite books. Who would it be? How do you think it would go?

A. Hmm, good question. I can't think of a couple I'd put together, at least not off the top of my head, but I'd look for an odd coupling from different genres- a pair of would-be-lovers who otherwise would never cross paths. Maybe a princess from an epic fantasy and a dominatrix from an erotic novel, or a geeky paranormal investigator from a classic horror novel and an old-fashioned Western cowboy.

The 18 & Over Book Blogger Follow is a weekly feature that begins on Fridays and runs through the weekend, hosted by Crystal from Reading Between the Wines.

Q. Is there a super hawt & smexy book that you've read and loved but would die if you ever caught your mom reading?

A. Oh, hell . . . I have shelves of hawt & smexy books I hope she never sets her eyes on! The Best Bondage Erotica 2012Red Velvet and Absinthe, and Take Me There anthologies immediately come to mind.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday - Benders by Jonathan Orlando Woolf

"Waiting On" Wednesday spotlights upcoming releases that everyone's excited about (created by Jill at Breaking The Spine).

Benders by Jonathan Orlando Woolf

A suspenseful contemporary serial murder novel, 'Benders' takes place against the steamy underworld in California amongst transgender nightclubs and the street walkers looking for money, drugs and the ultimate hustle. New to the task force, Detective Alan Patrick is drawn into the erotic world of the ladies from Club Paradiso, causing him to question his sexuality while searching for the killer committing a series of grisly murders. All the prominent victims can be linked to sketchy pickups of the benders on the strip, and the mayor's office is pressing for swift resolution. In this small community of transgender suspects, no one is above suspicion. 

Past traumas, dramatic motives, and increasing tension from police bias, leaves close friends banding together... and questioning which one of them negotiating a price for a few hours of passion, is hustling their john on a one way trip. Benders is a razor sharp psychological thriller, digging deep into a world of shadows and exposing complicated layers through anger, frustration, and sensitivity. No longer viewing from the fringe of their world, cruise the strip, watch the burlesque show, and become immersed as the drama unfolds. [Now Available!]

This one just came out last week, but I must admit I'm intrigued . . . sounds like an exciting read!

Monday, May 28, 2012

GIVEAWAY - The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to Their Younger Selves.

The Letter Q: Queer Writers' Notes to their Younger Selves

Life-saving letters from a glittering wishlist of top authors.

If you received a letter from your older self, what do you think it would say? What do you wish it would say? 

That the boy you were crushing on in History turns out to be gay too, and that you become boyfriends in college? That the bully who is making your life miserable will one day become so insignificant that you won't remember his name until he shows up at your book signing? 

In this anthology, sixty-three award-winning authors such as Michael Cunningham, Amy Bloom, Jacqueline Woodson, Gregory Maguire, David Levithan, and Armistead Maupin make imaginative journeys into their pasts, telling their younger selves what they would have liked to know then about their lives as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgendered people. Through stories, in pictures, with bracing honesty, these are words of love and understanding, reasons to hold on for the better future ahead. They will tell you things about your favorite authors that you never knew before. And they will tell you about yourself.


Check out a few select excepts below: 

David Levithan 
"I have no idea if there's such a thing as retroactive gaydar, but I'm pretty sure now that Mr. Jones is not in fact gay. And you, indeed, are.

I'm still not entirely sure whether I use the word irony correctly, but I believe there's something exquisitely ironic about making fun of your non-gay teacher for being gay, and then going home and listening to Barbra Streisand's Broadway Album over and over again."

Sarah Moon
"Just between you and me, we both know that the weirdest thing about coming out on your first day of high school in this tiny cow-town is that you haven't even kissed a girl, yet. All you're going on is that feeling in your stomach when you see those pictures of the Spice Girls. It feels a little strange to go around proclaiming that you're a lesbian when you're not even sure that, you know, you'll like it. That quiet fear that this isn't the right thing, that you're going through all of this trouble for nothing, that if you had Angelina Jolie right there in front of you, you wouldn't know what to do with her, it's very scary. I have good news for you: The trouble is worth it, and you'll learn what to do; and that will be fun."

Michael Cunningham
"As you're nearing thirty, you'll say, screw it, maybe I'll never be recognized, but I still want to write. It's the only thing I've ever wanted to do. So I'm going to start writing about the people who matter most to me, the people I know best. I'm going to stop trying to court the New Yorker with tales of adultery and divorce in Connecticut. I'm going to write about gay people. I can live with the idea that no one will ever publish me. When I'm the oldest living bartender, I'll try to keep those errant hairs plucked.

And that's when your writing career will take off. Try to believe me."



Scholastic is giving away a copy of The Letter Q to two (2) lucky readers here (open to US addresses only). 

If you'd like a chance to be 1 of those lucky 2 winners, just leave a comment below . . . and I will choose 2 lucky winners at random on Friday.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Frock Magazine - Issue 15 Now Available (and it's free!)

I am delighted to announce that Issue #15 of Frock Magazine is now available, once again featuring my "Frock Books" review column. This month's column was a ton of fun, and features an interview with the lovely Angie Bowie, author of Lipstick Legends.

The column had a bit of a facelift this month, and I must say it looks fabulous!

Completely free, and available digitally, Frock Magazine is one of the finest transgender lifestyle magazines around, and one that prides itself on being coffee-table friendly (i.e. free of any erotic content, suggestive ads, etc.).

Don't just pick it up for my column, though - the magazine has a wonderful variety of articles and features, looks absolutely gorgeous, and is a wonderful read. Please hop on over to Frock Magazine and give it a read today!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Holiday Weekend Deals!

Okay, so it's not technically a holiday here in the Great White North (we did that last weekend), but it is a holiday weekend in the US, and there are great book deals to be found all over the place!

Torquere Books is offering 15% off all purchases from now through Monday, May 28 at Midnight (EST). Just put 'memday2012' in the coupon code box when you check out to get the discount.

JMS Books (and Queerteen Press) are offering 30% off the regular price of all their e-books through Monday, May 28. No codes or coupons required . . . just pop over and start shopping!

Hops, Follows, and Tag Alongs, Oh My!

The 18 & Over Book Blogger Follow is a weekly feature that begins on Fridays and runs through the weekend, hosted by Crystal from Reading Between the Wines.

Q. Do you feel the need to write a review for your personal reads, as oppose to requested reviews, or are there some books you read just for the joy of reading?

A. Good question. There is definitely a clear divide between books I've been provided with for the purposes of a review and those I've picked up for pure pleasure. For the most part, however, I tend to review both with equal fervour, especially the good ones! I find that when I really like a book, I want to share it with the world, regardless of how I came across it..

It's also time for the Friday Follow, courtesy of Parajunkee's View!

Q. Activity! Dream cast your current read.

A. I know this is a total cheat, but I have to be perfectly honest - dream casting just about always puts me in one of the lead roles. As for co-stars, Nicole Kidman usually gets the 'classy' roles, Alyson Hannigan usually gets the 'cute' ones, and Andrej Pejic gets all the 'hot' ones.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

REVIEW: Offspring by Michael Quadland

Michael Quadland's Offspring is an odd read, bogged down by a loosely constructed plot that relies far too much on coincidence, but elevated by its marvellously charming characters. I lost interest in (or, perhaps, patience for) the story itself around the halfway mark, but I liked the characters enough to keep reading and discover what ultimately happened to them all.

Sadly, I actually wish I could have let the characters go their merry way without me. I honestly can't remember the last time an ending left me feeling so empty and bereft.

Anyway, what we have here is a lonely Vietnam veteran who donates his sperm for cash, a slightly unstable actress who craves the child her relationships have failed to provide, and a transsexual friend who brings the three of them together,and yet also keeps them apart. A chance meeting in an elevator prompts Karen to break the rules and seek out Hank, the father of her unborn child, while another series of chance encounters establishes an awkward situation where Joey/Josey isn't just flirting with her best friend, but potentially harassing an employee.

Hank is a solid enough, if unremarkable, character. As the central protagonist of the novel, he's kind of like the nice guy at work who you love to chat with in the elevator, but who you would never consider asking over to dinner. He's interesting, intriguing, and safe. Karen, by contrast, is a deeply troubled nut-case who, I kept thinking, should never be allowed to have another relationship again, much less a child. She was more like bitch you love to gossip about in the office, but would never want to be stuck with in an elevator. Josey was, no surprise, my favourite character in the novel. Perhaps a little too progressive, confident, and proud for a transsexual in the l970s, she was like the office free-spirit you wouldn't mind being trapped with in a broken elevator for a while.

The story itself wasn't nearly as amusing as I expected, and I found the pacing frustrating. I prefer a tale that moves along, that has a sense of purpose, and which is clearly moving towards a destination. Here, I felt more like we were biding our time and waiting for something to happen. I suspect it's the kind of literary tale that would appeal to those readers who love to stand around the book store or coffee shop and chit-chat, but I'm the kind of gurl who prefers to get in, grab what she wants, and get back out. A book for extroverts, if you will, whereas I am very much an introvert.

As for the end, I don't want to spoil the "fiery conclusion" but I didn't care for it at all. I guess I can appreciate it on some level, as a necessary progression of the relationships in the novel, but it left me shaking my head and asking WTF. A good book if you're interested in character studies and human relationships, but not so good if you're looking for a good storyline.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday - Female Force: RuPaul by Michael Troy

"Waiting On" Wednesday spotlights upcoming releases that everyone's excited about (created by Jill at Breaking The Spine).

Female Force: RuPaul by Michael Troy

Don't be a drag, just be a queen. Bluewater productions breaks new ground again with big heels in it's latest offering in the popular Female Force Series focusing on Rupaul. Rupaul is easily the most famous drag queen and self-described "Supermodel of the World." This whimsical look at the life and times of the host of the popular Logo series, "Rupaul's drag race is as unique as the woMan himself. A must have for any collector's closet- or shelf rather. [July 15, 2012]

What's not to love here? It's RuPaul. It's a bio. It's a comic book. I so can't wait to get my hands on this!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hop Against Homophobia WINNER

My apologies for being a bit late in posting the winner, but this was a holiday weekend here north of the border, so I was out enjoying the sun . . . and absolutely no where near a computer. :)

As I'm sure you all recall, the Hop Against Homophobia was an attempt by over 250 authors, reviewers, and publishers to stand together and create awareness of homophobia, with each participating blog featuring a message on homophobic discrimination in its various forms. Each blogger had a message or idea to share, as well as a giveaway.

I am pleased and delighted to announce that KimberlyFDR was our lucky winner, receiving her choice of any book from my towering review pile. I'll be emailing you later today, Kimberly, with the list of books available to choose from.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to stop by and participate.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

INTERVIEW: Cari Z (author of Changing Worlds)

Good morning, all! Please join me in extending a very warm welcome to the lovely Cari Z, who has stopped by  to chat a bit and help promote her latest release, Changing Worlds.

In this sequel to Cari Z's Opening Worlds (which originally appeared in the Wild Passions anthology, but is included here at no additional cost), former starship captain Jason Kim travels to Perelan, the homeworld of his lover, Ferran, to start a life together. The ruling council of the Perels have allowed this unconventional union to continue in the hopes of strengthening relations between themselves and the humans. And while Ferran's family welcome Jason with open arms, not all of the other major families are as pleased. The arrival of an outsider to their insular, subterranean world challenges the traditions of centuries. 

Tensions soar as old rivalries are rekindled in the wake of Jason and Ferran's relationship. Inevitably, something snaps. Jason and Ferran soon find themselves literally fighting for their lives when xenophobic anger pushes things beyond the breaking point. Only their devotion to one another can see them through, but a ghost from Jason's past threatens even that. With Perelan on the brink of civil war, Jason and Ferran must find a way to stand together in the face of chaos and to change the world on their own terms before it tears itself apart.


♥ Thanks so much for stopping by, Cari! For those who may be new to your writing, can you tell us a little about yourself?

I'm in my late twenties, a Gemini, blond hair, blue eyes, my measurements are...oh wait...not like that!  I've been writing erotica for a number of years and kept it up even when I lived in a place with only occasional electricity (I was in the Peace Corps for two years) so I can safely say that writing is indispensable to my well being.  I never start something I don't intend to finish, and I strongly believe in satisfying endings.

♥ Okay, let's get right to the juicy bits. How did you first come to incorporate M/M relationships into your fiction, and why do you think it is that so many women (authors and readers) are drawn to those relationships?

I went through a phase in my teens where I was obsessed with the Age of Sail.  I read C. S. Forester and Patrick O'Brian, I watched all the movies about it I could, I loved it with a passion... and then I got kind of frustrated, because it was an age where the vast majority of action belonged to the men.  I wanted romance as well, and I couldn't really find any, so eventually I say down and wrote my own historical erotic romance starring the people at the heart of the conflicts: the men.  I was reading plenty of M/M erotica at that point, and I think a large part of the allure, at least for me, is the fact that it's easy to lose myself in a fantasy like that.  I love men, but there's also no pressure anywhere in my mind for me to draw a comparison to myself, especially a physical one, because I just don't have the parts.  I do love to see those parts in action, though, and putting two hot men together and having them go at it, figuring out the physical and emotional give and take, it's just so much fun, and kind of empowering, too.  I can't speak for every female reader, but I imagine that many of them feel the same.

♥ Are the relationships in your books more a product of your own imagination, where you put something of yourself into the characters, or do you have gay friendships upon which you can draw to explore those experiences?

A lot of myself ends up in my characters, simply because that's what I understand and find easy to write.  I have gay and straight friends that have occasionally formed a basis for an idea or a character, but for the most part I prefer to rely on my own imagination.

♥ Before we leave the characters for a moment (I promise we'll come back to them later), it's often said that great characters take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions the author hadn't originally anticipated. Has a twist or turn in your writing ever surprised you, or really challenged your original plans?

Honestly, I feel like my most compelling characters are the ones I understand the best, and so when I write them I can usually follow what's going on and get a good handle on what they need to develop.  It's the side characters that can throw me for a loop sometimes.  If I don't flesh them out enough, then I find myself writing them doing things that make me go, "What?  Really?"  At that point I either need to sit down and chat them up some more or go in an entirely different direction.

♥ Looking outward instead of inward for a moment. What is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've ever encountered and how did you respond?

Oh, man.  Well, when I first started posting my work (I put it up on Literotica, free to everyone) I was totally stunned when I got a comment from a reader offering me very descriptive violence for writing what I had.  I had never anticipated that writing M/M erotica would get that kind of reaction, and every other commenter had been really positive.  I showed it to my boyfriend, now my husband, who pointed out to me that this reader had had to go through the entire story, plenty of clicks, and then clicked again to comment and write this out, so at the very least, I had provoked a strong emotional reaction, and sometimes that was what art was about.  He also said that reader was a total asshole, which I could totally get behind.

♥ As an aspiring author myself, the mechanics of writing always fascinate me. Do you have a schedule or a routine to your writing? Is there a time and place that you must write, or do you satisfy the muse whenever and wherever she taps your shoulder?

I do most of my writing right after I get home from work.  I find that on days I don't work, it's harder to motivate myself to do something regimented, although occasionally the muse does take control of my brain regardless of where I am and what I'm doing.

♥ For some authors, it's coming up with a title, and for others (myself included) it's writing that first paragraph. What do you find is the most difficult aspect of writing?

The title is definitely the hardest part for me.  I've resorted to brainstorming with my editors to figure out proper titles before.  One of my most recent titles came from a wonderful reader whom I appealed to for help.  Titles are my bane>.

♥ Okay, I promised we'd get back to the characters, so total fantasy fun time here. If you could choose just one of your books to make into a movie, knowing you'd have total total control over the production, who would you cast for the leading roles?

Mmm, fantasy time!  I don't often cast my books in my head, I prefer to go strictly from my imagination, but there is a notable exception.  I recently published a short story called Different Spheres that features older protagonists, and if I had my way and could make the story long enough to be a movie, I would definitely pick Simon Baker from The Mentalist and Mark Harmon from NCIS as the leads.  I looove sexy older men, and Mark Harmon is a total silver fox.

♥ I'm kind of partial to Abby, myself, but Gibbs is great! People often forget that authors are readers as well. Is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired your writing? Somebody who either made you want to write in the first place, or who refreshes your literary batteries when you're not writing?

I read a lot of urban fantasy, and I have a desperate love for Ilona Andrews.  When I need to unwind, I just slip into something comfortable and read about her characters battling evil undead mermaids or mad scientists.  If I'm in the mood for something more explicit, I really like Mary Calmes' Warder Series.  Dudes fighting demons.  Go dudes!

♥ If we can talk a bit about Changing Worlds for a moment, what is it you hope reader take away from the read? Is there a key theme or message you're looking for them to embrace, or a favourite scene you hope they'll share with friends (and lovers)?

The message behind Changing Worlds is definitely one of love, mutual tolerance and, first and foremost, patience with change.  When I started writing this book I was living in another country with a different language, a place where I was in a tiny minority, and even after being there almost two years I still felt out of sync.  This book is infused with moments that reminded me of how important it was that I kept my patience with myself and my community, and that while it was hard, I was learning and playing and, in the end, having one of the best times of my life there.

♥ Finally, before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? Is there a project on the horizon that you're really excited about?

I'm considering my options when it comes to the next big thing, but I'm submitting a lot of shorter works to various anthologies this summer.  I love a good prompt when it comes to writing, and there are some highly creative publishers out there who ask for things that make me instantly hot and bothered.

♥ One last thing - where can readers find you and your newest release?

Readers can find me at my blog, which is the best place for updates on my writing and what I have coming up next, at, or they can check my website at  If you're a twitter-phile, I'm here:!/author_cariz.  The best place to find Changing Worlds is at

Thank you so much for having me today!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hops, Follows, and Tag Alongs, Oh My!

The 18 & Over Book Blogger Follow is a weekly feature that begins on Fridays and runs through the weekend, hosted by Crystal from Reading Between the Wines.

Q. What are you currently reading? Do you love it? Is it a new-to-you author or an old favorite? Tell us all about it!

A. I'm currently reading The Lurker War by Donald Allen Kirch, a fun fantasy novel with a transgendered heroine, and Consensual Infidelity by Kaysee Smart, a fascinating true story of one ordinary couple's experiment with swinging.

It's also time for the Friday Follow, courtesy of Parajunkee's View!

Q. Summer Break is upon us! What would be the perfect vacation spot for you to catch up on your reading & relax?

A. I'd go wtih a deserted tropical island. Somewhere with tall trees, long beaches, an nice lagoon, a dry place to sleep . . . and a certainty of rescue after a few weeks, perhaps by a cute Coast Guard officer in a skintight wet-suit.

Hop Against Homophobia Giveaway

The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia is a global initiative that launched in 2004, building upon the success of similar local and national initiatives around the world. The date of May 17th is a significant one, as it commemorates the World Health Organisation’s decision to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

The Hop Against Homophobia is an attempt by over 250 authors, reviewers, and publishers to stand together and create awareness of homophobia, with each participating blog featuring a message on homophobic discrimination in its various forms.

For those who wonder how homophobia can still be such a big issue in this day and age, let me present you with a pair of very unsettling facts:

  • Only 11 countries in the entire world recognize the right same-sex marriage (I'm proud to say Canada is 1 of those 11)
  • Conversely, 76 countries still prosecute people on the grounds of their sexual orientation

So, what is homophobia or transphobia? Basically, it is a negative, hostile, cruel or malicious response to gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender individuals. It's an entire irrational behaviour that causes (and is caused by) negativity, which leads to inequality and intolerance. It's a prejudice, pure and simple, and one that leads to often violent forms of harassment and discrimination.

As for what I'm doing about it today - I have brought a selection of books to the office with me that are all visibly gay, lesbian, or transgender in nature (based on the title and/or the cover). I am going to leave them lying on my desk throughout the day. I am going to carry them with the cover facing out as I wander the Thursday farmers market so people can see. I am going to sit outside city hall, have my lunch, and openly read one while the others sit beside me, face-up.

More importantly, I am NOT going to be embarrassed or defensive if somebody questions my reading choices!

As for my participation in The Hop Against Homophobia, I will be giving away a book of the winner's choice from my towering pile of review titles. Some of them are m/m, in keeping with the spirit of the hop, but some of them are also f/f, bisexual, or trans . . . all in keeping with the spirit of the day. 

To enter, please leave a comment below and let me know what you're doing to help end homophobia and transphobia today. Also, let me know if you've shared this post on your blog, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or anywhere else, and I'll double your chances. :)

The contest will end on Sunday at midnight (May 20th), so speak up today!

Monday, May 14, 2012

REVIEW: Licorne by Giselle Renarde

Licorne is a short, sweet, romantic tale that Giselle aptly describes as a "trans lesbian fantasy-ish short story."

It's hard to say much without giving away all it's secrets, but this is the tale of a relationship that is (at best) misunderstood and (at worst) forbidden. Galiana is a beautiful young virgin, in love with a stunning unicorn by the name of Licorne. While her parents approve, society at large is not so understanding. When Galiana's home is attacked and her family slain, Licorne uses the magic of her horn to carry the young maiden to safety.

With literally nothing left to lose, Galiana welcomes the chance to spend a night alone with Licorne, secure in the magical mid-world of Limen. There, for one night only, Licorne is able to reveal her human form and consummate her love for Galiana. The unicorn's human form isn't quite what the maiden expected, however, prompting some very serious discussion surrounding love, lust, gender . . . and what happens to a unicorn's horn in transformation.

Giselle absolutely shines with these kinds of confrontations, pairing honest, sincere emotional outbursts with thought-provoking arguments. Of course, she never allows a confrontation to end poorly, and the make-up sex is always worth it! She never fetishes the expression of gender but, instead, incorporates is as part of the romance. To say that there's a happy ending for all is a given, but (as always) the experience in getting there is lovely to behold.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

GUEST POST: Two Spirit: Tradition, History and Future

After having the opportunity to speak with two elders a few weeks ago, one being a Lakota living in Hot Springs, South Dakota from the Rosebud and Pine Ridge reservations and the other who is Chiricahua Apache (one of my own tribes), Blackfeet and  Cherokee, regarding the two spirit tradition, which some tribes evidence during the bow and basket ceremony. We had a very interesting discussion, the background of which follows below.

In 2010, I was approached by an author who writes m/m fiction who planned a “Native American” story. Naturally it would center on two or more male characters in a relationship of some sort which would eventually include a sexual one. The author had general questions about Native Americans and the “blood brother” bond which they had heard could include a sexual relationship. They also queried regarding the “berdache” tradition (berdache is actually a non-native word) as they considered what area, what people and what time period to set their story in.

They inquired about research materials, and referenced a few works from non-native writers, and when I saw who they were I had to give my honest opinion. These were European descended writers some of whom, which was generally agreed upon among natives, had no true inside insight or knowledge of natives beyond what they had observed and superimposed their own religious and culture interpretations upon. One writer regularly used the word “squaw” which is a highly offensive term to many Native Americans used by French explorers to describe Indian women which means “c***” or “vagina”, though it is originally descended from the Algonquin word for “woman”.  Just the same, considering it is a very controversial word to many, how could anyone accept such derogatory remarks about one’s people?

Eventually, the author gave me an overview of their story asking for insights. I pointed out the scenes and/or actions of a character which wouldn’t take place in a native tribe, and the fact some natives would not look kindly on someone trying to write on a topic about which they knew so little even if the author considered it "imaginary" or "fiction." Offensive to us mostly means something we would not advocate or support, but after long years of misinterpretation and misinformation about us, it is something we are unfortunately used to. The opinions I expressed were general, as I believe an author can write whatever they wish, but understandably should consider reaction and responsibility regarding the work. A long story short: the author became quite irritated and defensive, though I was only giving her an honest answer, which is the only kind I ever choose to give.

For some topics, Native American oral tradition is the proper source, if you are fortunate to be able to do so, and are trusted with information. There are few extensive and factual documents by native people which have been made about “two spirited” people written by two spirits. Two spirits are called the Dinéh (Navajo) refer to them as nàdleehé or ‘one who is ‘transformed’, the Lakota (Sioux) as winkte, the Mohave as alyha, the Zuni as lhamana, the Omaha as mexoga, the Aleut and Kodiak as achnucek, the Zapotec as ira’ muxe, the Cheyenne as he man eh, etc. (Roscoe, 1988). Some tribes had different names for two-spirited men and women.” I had explained that much of what I knew was through that oral tradition but it was sound, as well as some titles of academic work. There are some scholarly works wit pertinent information also, but the author I spoke with wasn’t interested in the factual for the facts part, but rather to take some aspects and change them to suit their story. That is another issue altogether: “creative license”, but back to the Two Spirit tradition.

I presented this incident to the two elders, and a couple of other natives near my age, along with my son who was listening in.  The female elder deferred to the male but she smiled to herself looking down, perhaps knowing what he was going to say. I’d watched his face and reactions as I recounted what happened.

He is an older man of indeterminate age who answers, “Old enough”, if you ask him what that number is. He looks a bit to the side with a smile as mischievous as a child’s. A multiple decorated veteran of two wars and featured in a number of history books both Native American and military, he’s well known and respected across the world, for like myself, he’s travelled from one end of this earth to the other.

His arms had continued to rest folded across his chest, which is his usual stance, sitting or standing, but I’d heard his indrawn breath, it’s slow release. I saw a brief hand come up to his brown brow before returning to its place. The jaw had tightened at one point. The eyes rose hard and focused to a point above my head but soon slid back down to the side. He laughed a little, as I finished.

“You did better than I would’ve.” He laughed again.

The Elder speaks:

(Note: Among the Lakota, such ones are called winkte. To pronounce it correctly, it’s not exactly two syllables as it appears, but has an almost subvocal, gutteral “drop” after the “K”, making it sound more like: “wink-(kuh)-tay”.)

“We people have mysteries. Things we cannot explain. Things we don’t know how they came to be or how they stay alive but it’s all part of life. For some things we have legends and tales passed down from our ancestors, and they’re enough though now we have science and all kinds of stuff which explain how things work inside. Or they try to anyway. There are still mysteries and will always be. There are some things you don’t need answers to in order to have a happy life or just get by even.

There have always been winkte. Even now we have winkte who live on the reservation and they’re accepted just like anybody else. There’s no need to comment on them, make up tales about them or treat them badly because that’s just the way they are. That’s how they were born. If a man wants to live as a woman and take a male partner, then it’s his choice, and he is the woman he wants to be, doing woman’s things that feel good to him.

That’s the way it’s always been with the People but when the black robes came (the European settlers with their Christian religion. The Catholics are directly referred to first as “black robes” but that term came to include all Christians) they saw something they didn’t understand. Well, they thought they understood it and put their own words to it, words like “evil”, “wrong” and “sin”. But there is no evil among the People. Things happen. People are certain ways. That’s just life. We don’t try to force our own thoughts or beliefs on anybody else, but that’s what the black robes did to us.

Then you had some of the People converting to the black robe religion and they too tried to say certain things were “evil” and “sin”, but it’s not our way to judge others. It’s the white man’s God’s way. Every body should just be how they are and be allowed to. I can be happy with very little because their definition does not apply to me. They might be unhappy with what I had. I think that’s why they are so unhappy and so far from the earth. They’re always looking at someone else and trying to change them when they don’t really know themselves in the first place.”

To understand the two spirit tradition, you have to try to understand the People themselves and not place other cultures terms or definitions upon it. Take it as it is. In some ways, in both the literal and traditional sense, there is no “gay” among natives. If someone born with a male outward appearance feels they are female, then they are then female to us. It’s as simple as that. No other psychological terms or interpretations. That is the tradition of most Native American tribes.

Same thing with a person born with a female appearance, if they choose to be a man, then they are a man. This is one of the reasons you will find no records of such in certain tribes. In the spirit of modernization, what a person chooses to term themselves is their choice, for “two spirit” can refer to a range of realities: intersex, transsexual, transgendered, hermaphrodite, gay, lesbian, but if you are using to the term or applying to it someone, make sure you ask or define clearly and respect that answer you are given or the silence you receive. Life is simply life. Sexuality is a part of it, but not central to being.

In this modern age, of course and especially with globalization, in order to try to understand others, people naturally apply or assign their own definitions, but be careful and considerate. Respect other people’s cultures and don’t just ask the questions, but accept the answers. Accept there are differences, but there need be no dividers.

The full article can be found at Songs of the Universal Vagabond, under "Two Spirit: Tradition, History and Future." 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday - Bound by Lust edited by Shanna Germain

"Waiting On" Wednesday spotlights upcoming releases that everyone's excited about (created by Jill at Breaking The Spine). It's a great way to share and discover new books, including some titles that you likely would not have stumbled upon otherwise.

Bound by Lust: Romantic Stories of Submission and Sensuality edited by Shanna Germain

Imagine finding a partner who is just as naughty, kinky and dark as you are, a lover who wanders the hardware store with you in search of new ‘toys,’ a man who can wrangle both you and the dishes into submission, a woman who accompanies you to office parties and play parties. Think that heady combination of: sweet and sexy, dirty and romantic, love and leather. 

Bound By Lust is a romantic, couples-focused erotica with a BDSM slant. The couples range from newly blossoming relationships, lont-time loves and reunited flames. BDSM aspect of this is both naughty and nice — bondage, spanking, domination, submission, power-play, pain and pleasure, or whatever your dirty mind can think of. Bring on the rope and rough stuff, the dens and dungeons, the corsets and clamps and cuffs. Romance can be a little rough and still have VERY happy endings!. [June 12, 2012]

What's not to love here? Romantic, couples-focused erotica is lovely enough on its own, but throw in a BDSM slant and put it all together under the cover of the always reliable Cleis Press . . . well, consider me all leashed up and ready to read!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

REVIEW: Pearl by Kelly Rand

As the first Trans* title to be offered by Storm Moon Press, Kelly Rand's Pearl is a story that I was really excited to read. What Kelly has offered up is a thoughtful, romantic, deliciously (and deliberately) dated tale of love between an innocent small-town Canadian woman and the handsome young man who wanders into town.

This is not just a tale that's conveniently set in the 1920s for the purposes of atmosphere, but one that makes careful use of small-town sexual repression to explore the consequences of such a taboo relationship. It looks, sounds, and feels authentic on every page, with just the right narrative tone and language to bring Edith and Clark alive.

The fact that Clark is a transman is integral to the story, and the details of his gender are just as significant as they are sympathetic. I loved the way in which we drew Edith out of her shell, exposing her to the greater word and all it has to offer. Their love is sudden, frantic, and overwhelming - it's not the slowburn kind of romance you'd expect from the time period, which adds a sense of danger to the delight surrounding their spontaneity.

Just an overall great story, the kind of romance that leaves you with a contended smile upon your face. Hopefully SMP will continue to delve into the Trans* shelves and bring us more stories like this.

GUEST POST: Beyond His And Hers: Breaking the Gender Binary

Beyond His And Hers: Breaking the Gender Binary

For the majority of people, sex and gender are not only interchangeable, but also pretty cut and dried. There are your males, and there are your females. If you're XY, you're male; if you're XX, you're female. But among a growing number of anthropologists, sociologists, and even biologists, that conception is changing. In addition to the growing number of recognized intersex conditions which result in the expressed gender of a person being incongruent with their genetically-coded sex, a number of animal species have been identified that exhibit more than two genders. And while this may be revelatory to Western culture, elsewhere in the world, the concept is nothing new.

As far back as ancient Mesopotamia over 4000 years ago, literature has been rife with examples of person who were neither man nor woman. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all described a third gender that inhabited a space between male and female. Even the quintessential sex manual, the 4th century CE Kama Sutra makes specific reference to three distinct genders, which they call prakrti, or "natures". Today, India is home to what is probably the most populous and well-known third gender group in the world -- the hijra. While physiologically male, the hijra express a feminine gender identity. Many of them consider themselves to be a third gender, enough so that in 2005, India allowed for an "other" category to be available on government documents like passports and voter rolls. Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, the kathoeys of Thailand, the hijra of Pakistan, the fa'afafine of Samoa, and the third genders of Nepal have all made significant advancements in becoming recognized by their respective governments as legally separate from both men and women. In addition, the khanith of Oman, the waria of Indonesia, the ashtime of Ethiopia, and the mashoga of Kenya are other (but by no means an exhaustive list of) examples of recognized third genders in other cultures around the world.

Ancient and modern cultures on this side of the world, too, have long been aware of the existence of more than two genders. The Aztec, Mayan, and Incan civilizations all recognized a distinction between sex and gender and understood the fluidity of the latter. Many Native American tribes to this day – including the Lakota, Navajo, and Mohawk – have adopted the term two-spirit as a way to identify persons expressing a non-binary gender variance. Throughout Latin America and the Carribean, third gender roles are also called, variously, muxe, biza'ah, travestis, guevedoche, and kwolu-aatmwol, among others.

As more research becomes available, it becomes increasingly more clear that it is only the West – Western Europe and the United States – that are slow to acknowledge what most of the rest of the world appears to take for granted. In fact, some scholars have gone to great lengths to redefine third gender persons in terms of sexual orientation rather than gender identity. Rather than accept the truth that is before them, many choose to ignore the facts in favor of an interpretation that they can accept – one that doesn't make them nervous or uncomfortable. And that's the wrong attitude to take when dealing with something as precious as a person's identity.

The simple fact is that there are more people in the world who accept some form of non-binary gender than there are those who don't. And there is enough solid science backing up the first group that I believe it's time to put aside our preconceptions and deal with people on their terms rather than the ones we force upon them.

Roger Armstrong is the webmaster for Storm Moon Press and a sometimes author. He can be found on Twitter @slutbamwalla.


Today's guest post is in celebration of the first Trans* title to be offered by Storm Moon Press, Kelly Rand's Pearl:

Edith sleepwalks through a life so normal as to be boring. She lives with her mother, works a mundane job to support them, and makes no waves among the ladies of her sleepy 1920's Canadian town. Secretly, though, she watches the flappers and so-called "loose women" with envy, dreaming of what glamorous lives they must have. And that's before Clark walks into her life.

Clark embodies the world that Edith wishes she could be a part of. He's slick and dangerous and sexy in a way Edith has never experienced. So when Clark offers her a window into his world, she dives through without thinking. On the other side, though, her black and white world explodes into shades of gray, challenging Edith in ways she never imagined.

Be sure to stop back later today for my review!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

REVIEW: Beyond Binary edited by Brit Mandelo

Brit Mandelo's Beyond Binary is a collection of previously published Genderqueer and Sexually Fluid Speculative Fiction that I'd been looking forward to for quite some time. Having finally had a chance to read it through and go back to revisit a few of the stories I felt weren't quite so deserving of the tag speculative fiction, I have to say it's an interesting enough collection. There are some stellar entries that definitely make this worth a read, but overall I was disappointed in the extent to which the authors attempted to queer the concept of gender.

Nalo Hopkinson's "'Fisherman'' was definite highlight of the collection for me, with it's languid revelation of gender and its remarkably sincere exploration of sexuality. The relationship that develops here is a delight to experience, with an understanding whore who acknowledges and respects her client's chosen gender, while equally accommodating and his birth gender in their intimacies.

Ellen Kushner's "A Wild and Wicked Youth" was another strong addition to the book, a longer story about very personal expressions of gender and unusual expressions of sexuality. If you never thought fighting could be sexy, or that enjoying the thrill of victory could be orgasmic, then you need to read this. Very clever, and very well-done.

Sonya Taaffe's "Another Coming" was a beautifully written piece, full of haunting imagery, but it only strains the gender binary with one relationship, and it's never satisfactorily explained how it could work. A lovely bisexual story, but not necessarily genderqueer.

Sarah Kanning's "Sex with Ghosts" was another favourite of mine, featuring a robot sex worker with a flair for English poetry. Deeper and more intellectual than the idea of a robot sex worker might have you suspect, this definitely played into my love for authors like D.B. Story who explore gender and sexuality through those artificial constructs who exist outside the binary.

Keyan Bowes' "Spoiling Veena" lacked something in the storytelling that would have elevated it to favourite status, which is a shame because the subject matter was so compelling. Bowes explores a future in which parents can choose their child's gender, and looks at how things can develop when your child doesn't like the choice you made.

Liu Wen Zhuang's "The Metamorphosis Bud" is one of the oddest stories in the collection, but an interesting read. We've all had fantasies about waking up with something new in the way of sexual equipment, but I doubt any of us would handle it quite as wonderfully as the old woman who wakes up with a penis.

Not quite as breathtaking a collection as I had hoped for, it still offers a good mix of stories, genders, and sexualities with which to draw in readers and maybe, possibly hopefully introduce them to something new. Worth checking out, especially if you're new to the stories.