Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday - Stuck in the Middle with You by Jennifer Boylan

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

Stuck in the Middle with You: Parenthood in Three Genders: A Memoir by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Bestselling and acclaimed author Jennifer Finney Boylan returns with another remarkable memoir about gender and parenting. Jenny Finney Boylan told her wife that she was transgender when their two children were young, and as Jenny transitioned from a man to a woman and from a father to a mother, their family faced unique challenges and questions. In this thoughtful, tear-jerking, hilarious memoir, Jenny asks what it means to be a father, or a mother. 

From the friends who support their new configuration to the woman who says she's "too close-minded" to let their sons continue to play together to Jenny's wife, their family grows and changes together in ways both utterly exceptional and entirely commonplace, as their sons turn into teenagers and a relationship of many years weathers illness, loss of parents, and a husband turning into a wife. 

Through incredibly insightful interviews, Jenny examines relationships with fathers and mothers, people's memories of the children they were and the parents they had, and the many different ways a family can be. Jenny includes conversations with Richard Russo, Edward Albee, Ann Beattie, Augusten Burroughs, Susan Minot, Trey Ellis, Timothy Kreider, Anna Quindlen, and other parents and children discussing gender, how families are shaped, and the difficulties and wonders of being human.

Followed by an Afterword by Anna Quindlen that includes Jenny and her wife discussing the challenges they've faced and the love they share, Stuck in the Middle with You will be another classic. [Apr 23, 2013]

In what is sure to be a wildly successful follow up to her first two memoirs, She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders and I'm Looking Through You: Growing Up Haunted,  Jennifer Boylan turns the literary camera outward to focus not on personal journeys, but on journeying through parenting.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Collection edited by Tom Léger and Riley MacLeod (REVIEW)

Founded in 2011 as a specialty publisher focused on transgender narratives, Topside Press brings their first work to market with The Collection: Short fiction from the transgender vanguard edited by Tom Léger and Riley MacLeod.

Like most collections, this one is hit-or-miss, with some absolutely outstanding entries, as well as a few stories I admittedly skimmed through to the end. On the 'miss' side of the spine are a few bland, boring, slice-of-life stories that unfortunately tended to revolve around some sort of substance abuse. I realize the abuse is a coping mechanism, and that it's an authentic part of the life experience for some of those who live on the fringes of society, but I quickly lost patience with those stories, and was unable to generate the kind of sympathy needed to get involved with the narrative.

On the 'hit' side of the spine are those stories that have a true narrative arc, those that are genuine pieces of fiction, often charged with an undercurrent of imagination. "Black Holes" (RJ Edwards) is an interesting tale of genderqueer relationships and quantum physics - tilt your head and scoff all you like, but it works. "Tammy Faye" (A. Raymond Johnson) is a sweet fan-letter to a celebrity, thanking her not for something spiritual, but for inspiring a confidence in one's own fashion style. "The Queer Experiment" (Donna Ostrowsky) may have been a bit heavy-handed in its message about homophobia, but I quite liked the campy Victorian sci-fi element. "Masks of a Superhero" (Mikki Whitworth) is a subtle, understated story of an unusual superhero that almost sneaks up on you.

"Ramona’s Demons" (Susan Jane Bigelow) was easily my favourite story of the collection, an urban fantasy with a heart. Even if I saw a few of the twists coming, they way in which they were played out was wonderful, and I loved the message at the end about "unorthodox journeys" . . . delivered by a fire-elemental who was originally born a water-elemental. "Malediction And Pee Play" (Sherilyn Connelly) is definitely an odd story, but a solid runner-up for my personal favourite. It's a tale of sub-cultures, both gothic and fetish, involving acts of gender rebellion, fetish exploration, and satanic blasphemy. It certainly has the potential to rub some readers the wrong way, but it's the one tale that has me most curious about reading more from the author.

Like I said, it's an uneven collection, but that's likely to be the case when you have such a wide variety of authors tackling such a wide variety of genres. Fortunately, the stand-out pieces are well worth the price of admission, and you really have to admire Topside Press for what they've set out to accomplish.

[Reviewed by Sally]

Monday, September 24, 2012

Skin by Tanya Allan (REVIEW)

There is no growth without change. For Edward, truer words were never spoken, as he finds himself transformed into the lovely and self-actualized, Emilia. This is accomplished with the assistance of Tom, a man who has the scientific expertise to make transgender dreams happen, and as we come to find out, by rather unique means.

As a male, Edward was not a person who was obsessed with transformation to womanhood, just someone suffering from a vague feeling of being out of kilter with life, and focused only on expressing his feminine persona in the privacy of his own domain. However, as they say, timing is everything. So, when Edward losses nearly all that he holds dear, including his beloved Carly, the time is right for Tom to apply his scientific knowledge and loving assistance in an attempt to save, as he so altruistically relates, “even one little starfish.”

Tanya Allan’s novel “Skin” is a lovely and highly romantic work by a prolific author who writes eloquently about such issues. It is a book that holds your interest from start to finish.

[Reviewed by Samuel]

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Sissy Pilot By Sara Desmarais (REVIEW)

Although, perhaps, the least sexual of all the Sara Desmarais novels I have had the pleasure of enjoying to date, The Sissy Pilot is the most interesting from a sheer storytelling perspective.

It is the duelling themes of emasculation and feminization that propel the story along, and if you think they are one-and-the-same, then I suggest you give the story a read! The way in which Sara explores each theme is absolutely fascinating, with the two alternating between cause, explanation, and justification for Dana's reluctant transformation.

Dana is a man emasculated by the loss of his job as an airline pilot, and the resulting inability to support his wife - to the point that he can no longer please her sexually. When a case of mistaken identity results in an interview for a prestigious, well-paying pilot's job, his wife demands he put aside his pride and do whatever he needs to do to land the job - even if that means being aggressively feminized to accommodate the mandatory (and very sexy) uniform.

While these kinds of stories usually involve a husband who is secretly a sissy, or a wife who has always dreamed of making her husband a sissy, Sara makes the feminization here an act of necessity. There is no sexual element to it (at least, not at first), just an act of costuming and role-playing to secure a job. This allows her to slowly, subtly, and erotically explore the ways in which Tiffany comes to enjoying her husband's transformation. Similarly, it allows her to guide us through the conflicting emotions that evolve within Dana as he begins to find some pleasure in his role as a sissy.

There are really only a handful of explicit sex scenes in the story, which Sara carefully uses to accentuate her story, and to further explore her themes. As Tiffany watches the last of her already emasculated husband's masculinity be powdered and perfumed away, it is only natural that her thoughts should turn to real men . . . and the idea of cuckolding her sissy pilot husband. By the time everything comes together for an act of final emasculation, we have accepted the inevitability are are excited to see Dana and Tiffany settle into their new life together.

If you are already a fan of Sara's work, then you need to read this next. If you have yet to discover her erotic storytelling charms, then this is a great place to begin.

[Reviewed by Bobbi]

Passionate Blood by Victoria Foxxe (REVIEW)

While I had previously read (and enjoyed) a few of Victoria's transgender fetish tales, I wasn't quite prepared for blossoming of her storytelling abilities with Passionate Blood. Here, Victoria Foxxe has managed to take two rather tired cliches, reinventing them through the erotic intermingling of two very different genres.

She introduced it to me as "Rocky Horror Picture Show crossed with True Blood," but while it appropriates the transgender elements of the first, it lacks the tongue-in-cheek cheese factor of either. Instead, it's more of a Dracula homage, complete with the inclusion of the weird sisters . . . who get a vampiric BDSM twist.

What makes the story work so well is the slow, uncertain, reluctant transformation of young Christopher into the reincarnation of Count Radu Velescu's long-lost bride. Here we have a man who has never questioned his gender, never so much as had a stray gay thought, being forcibly feminized and seduced by the power of the Count. There's the suggestion of a supernatural element here, a destiny foretold that he cannot deny, but I loved how Victoria refrained from offering any final confirmation or his true motivation.

Erotic and a bit chilling, this was an altogether fantastic story that really pulled me in, satiating both my curiosity and my own fetishistic desires.

[Reviewed by Sally]

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Introducing Karin Bishop (GUEST POST)

About My Writing:
I have written all of my life, but with a big gap in the middle where I traveled professionally before the age of laptops. There were some fiction awards when young, and I went the usual high-school-and-college-creative-writing-magazine-editor route, but most of my writing has been non-fiction, technical writing for manuals, newsletters, and “whatever the client ordered”.  All along I’d been writing fiction on my desktop computer, and making notes by longhand.

Finally taking the dive back into fiction, I needed to know how my writing fared so I began participating in every writers’ conference and writers’ group around. Loved the conferences; hated the groups. There was more ego and backbiting than literary critique. So I took graduate courses in fiction and screenplay writing. There was a bit more of the same, with politics and ideology added. In the writers’ groups your work might be dismissed as “trivial” while the same piece at university was dismissed as “Marxist”.

I found that the face-to-face nature of a group or class created prejudice—in the literal sense of “pre-judging” even before the story was read. This was especially apparent after we were encouraged to “tell us a little about yourself”. Housewives were dismissed out of hand; only edgy young things wearing black were considered valid, and so on.

Every critique’s point-of-view was prejudiced by the age, sex, and background of the author—none of which, I felt, should be a factor of a literary critique in a learning environment. I attended to have my writing reviewed, not my life. I withdrew from the groups, finished the semesters and still wasn’t sure about the quality of my writing. Writers’ conferences are still valid and I attend whenever possible, but I decided to find writers’ groups online, hoping the anonymity and geographical disbursement would shift focus from the writer to the writing.

That anonymity worked both ways; I began noticing critiques based on a female name, so I flipped it and posted with a male name. I played with ambiguity, such as “Kelly” or “Dana”, and even posted the exact same story on two different boards, one as “Danny” and one as “Dani”. Predictably, disappointingly, the critiques followed the same gender lines as the face-to-face groups. Mourning this over drinks with some other writers, it was suggested that I try transgendered fiction. He’d been writing for a site called “Storysite” and, as he put it, “venting the steam of my inner porn”.

I never forgot that phrase, but I never really had inner porn! However, I am supremely interested in People and Plot rather than Porn, so I was reluctant but decided to try. As before, I used different pseudonyms for different boards, before finding a home, of sorts, on Big Closet Top Shelf. I was referred to that board because it's very supportive to its writers, with comments and criticism It's also international, which is interesting in the readers’ comments and reviews, specifically concerning the believability of dialogue and how it "translates" to other English-speaking countries.

My stories were very well received, and the public and private critiques were instructive. I can say that I’ve learned more about my writing from those readers than from my writers’ groups, but I’ve also learned more about the myriad of personal experiences of transgendered men and women. It helped that I have always been interested in what was called "abnormal psychology", ever since I was a teen. Not for prurient reasons, but because I was interested in criminal or socially-aberrant behavior—when I was in high school, I seriously considered going to college to study criminal psychology. Then I saw what they pay a penal psychiatrist for the state's prison system—the pay is criminal! So I went into other areas.

Unfortunately, for a time, transvestites, transsexuals—and the later term, transgendered—were grouped together and classified by the DSM as mental aberrations. That's changing now—not far enough and not fast enough, but changing—but I was also influenced by Julian Jayne's controversial "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind", in terms of inner voices, core identity, and so on. I also read everything I could get my hands on, from transgendered fiction to extracts from medical and psychological journals.

My books currently listed grew out of that transgendered-fiction board, which is why they all have a transgendered character. However, my other "influence" of sorts, is Alfred Hitchcock's theory of the "MacGuffin", the plot element that drives the narrative but is not itself of importance. In his film "Notorious", the whole point is to get Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman together, although it's radioactive sand in the wine bottles that Cary's initially after.

But nobody cares about the sand at the end of the movie. Nobody cares whether Indiana Jones actually got the Tabernacle. Nobody cares about “the letters of transit” in “Casablanca”. All we care about, what moves us—what we cry over and cheer for and remember—is whether Cary and Ingrid get together, about Indy’s adventures, and about Rick and Ilsa’s parting in the fog.

First and foremost, I want to write stories that move people.

About My Writings:
Samuel Rafaels’ review zeroed in on a central point of "Fool Moon", which deals with a gradual magical transformation. The book is really about choices, roads taken or not, and so on. The irony is that the protagonist does not have a choice, as the inner female becomes outer, so to speak, but it's by no means just a book about a sex-change.

And yet that's a criticism I've received; my book "The Haight" is a study of a group of people in a house in Haight-Ashbury in 1967. I was intrigued by the era as a "tipping point". There is a transgendered character, yes, but she's not the protagonist. Yet one review said they didn't finish the book "once my agenda became clear". I had no agenda other than a snapshot of an era, the tumultuous social cauldron of the Sixties.

"I Should Have Known" is by far the most erotic I have written, and deals with a forced feminization, a hot topic in the transgendered community (and generally despised).  It has sections that are the closest to porn that I’ve ever written. But the book is my own take on Michael Crichton's book "Disclosure", where the illicit liaison between the two (Michael Douglas and Demi Moore in the film) is not the point; it's truly about industrial espionage, as is my book. The TG aspect is the MacGuffin, in a way; it's really about an elaborate con job.

Reclamation” grew out of my vacations to Whistler, British Columbia, originally to ski and then year-round because I fell in love with the place—and with the “Whistler Women”. I tried to get their society and nature, and used an escapee from a religious compound as the wedge, peppering the story with the women I’ve met. There's also a thriller element.

Sail Away” also has a thriller element and features a transgendered woman living and working successfully as a woman, caught up in a dangerous situation because of her past as a male. It not only threatens her future happiness, but her life itself.

Then I have my “YA” titles: Several books that feature younger characters, who either know they are transgendered, discover their true nature, or have it forced upon them. This is really the case with only two books: “Desperate Measures”, about a family on the run disguising the two sons as daughters; and “Solutions”, about a grandmother desperate to curb her grandson’s juvenile delinquency, and discovering a granddaughter underneath the antisocial exterior.

Dress Code” concerns a girl, already transitioned during her adolescence, dealing with the transition not from boy to girl, but from home school to public school.

Fashion Class” is about a boy taking a fashion design class and discovering his skills and true nature.

The XY Axis” tells about a boy transitioning and meeting her family as a girl, and the genetic anomalies within her family.

Role of a Lifetime” is for every young actor wannabe; in this case, the boy must play a girl for a television pilot—but at some point, learns that the role may be more real than television.

Breath of Life” creates a new (and I hope believable!) world of urban magic, as a boy gradually becomes a girl, the better to fulfill her magical destiny.

My YA titles also try to examine the family and friends around the transgendered character, and especially to capture the language and culture of teens.

And, finally, the "On The Road—Again" series of four books, was an opportunity to live out some rock-and-roll fantasies, as well as being the closest day-to-day transition journal I’ve written. And doesn’t everybody dream of working their way up to become a world-class rock star?

Breath of Life by Karin Bishop (REVIEW)

"Embrace your Goddess within.”

These are the final words of wisdom spoken to the lead character by her teacher and mentor, before the spiritual guide moves on to find her own destiny. Breath of Life by Karin Bishop is another very fine effort from an author whose books deal primarily with transgender characters and gender switching.

In Breath of Life the author explores the world of magic, wizardry, and gradual sex change as she did in her book Fool Moon. This all happens in the context of a classic and powerful battle of good versus evil, resolving itself in a breathtaking conclusion, a kind of clash of the souls. The central theme, as is often the case with this author, is about choices, roads taken, or paths untraveled. Ironically, the protagonist does not really have a choice, as the inner female emerges to become the outer. One wonders if free choice is a complete illusion, or was our destiny completely pre-determined.

How the transmogrification of this hero happens has all the beauty of time lapse photography showing a flower emerging from a seed, first becoming a twisting seedling before unfolding the total magnificence of its petals to the world. The author’s books have in common their focus on the discovery of the leading character’s true nature and sexual identity. Breath of Life, a sensitive and very well-constructed effort is no exception. An excellent read.

[Reviewed by Samuel]

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Get your FREE copy of Frock Magazine

I am delighted to announce that Issue #17 of Frock Magazine is now available, once again featuring my "Frock Books" review column, and also featuring the first 2 stories I've sourced as part of my role as Assistant Editor! Very exciting to see those stories in print, and to be able to share some stories that I find inspiring.

Check out "Taking Pride in Drag - A World Record Attempt" on page 16 (a hometown effort!), and "Warning! This Label May be Dangerous to Wear" (from one of my favourite bloggers and authors) on page 38.

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.).

While you're at it, we're always looking for new and exciting stories and articles to share, so if you have a transgender related idea you'd like to see in Frock Magazine, or a 
story/article you'd like to share, please drop me a line (sally AT frockmagazine DOT com).

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!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hops, Follows, and Tag Alongs, Oh My!

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

Q. What hyped up book do you think was not worth all the talk?

A. I finally checked out Anita Blake after hearing all the hype, but she just didn't work for me. Yeah, she kicked ass, but she certainly lacked something. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is another well-hyped tome that just bored me to tears and made me wish I could have those precious hours back.

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 listen to music while writing reviews or do you need quiet?

A. Absolute quiet while reading, but definitely music while writing reviews. Lately I've been in a very 80s mood, so my playlists haven't strayed far from the likes of KISS, Lizzy Borden, LA Guns, W.A.S.P. and Oingo Boingo.

18 and Over Giveaway Hop

Good morning, all, and welcome to the 18 and Over Book Blogger Giveaway Hop, hosted by Laurie (from Bitten by Paranormal Romance) and Gabrielle Bisset (paranormal romance author).

There are nearly 100 bloggers participating, so please be sure to check out the complete list, then make the rounds to see what you could win. Each blog will have a book, ebook, or gift card to offer, providing the winners with something fun, sexy, and suitable to the 18 and over crowd.

It's been a while since we've participated in something like this here at Bending the Bookshelf, so I've decided to sweeten the pot with a two-part giveaway.

For starters, we have an ebook copy of Afflicted by Brandon Shire (courtesy of the author).

A high priced male escort and a blind gay man meet by chance. What ensues is a hot, steamy romance by two men looking for something more than a one night stand. But can they reach beyond their own insecurities to grasp what they really desire?

Hunter Stephens is gay, tall, dark haired, and he’s hot. Very hot. But he doesn’t rely on the visual cues when appraising a man because he’s also blind. He listens to the timbre of their voice, trembles at the touch of their skin, and luxuriates in the deep richness of the aroma of man. He’s hard of the hand because he’s a black belt and takes no shit, but soft of the heart because he’s lonely and has been for a while.

Until he meets Dillon.

Dillon Chambers is straight man candy. He’s a high priced male escort that works with an exclusive agency who handles only the wealthiest of clients. But it wasn’t always like that for him. At sixteen he was thrown out of the house for being gay and struggled to survive, turning tricks on the street and finding food and a place to sleep wherever he could. He met two people that changed his life, but he has never met anyone who could change his heart.

Until he bumped into Hunter.

And now they are both Afflicted.

But that's not all! We also have a winner's choice of any anthology from Storm Moon Press (courtesy of the publisher).

♥ All Wrapped Up - Tentacles are a taboo subject for most, something most people look at from between their fingers as they hide. But for a growing number of people, it's a subject that is fascinating and sexy!

♥ Daughters of Artemis - Werewolf lore has long been dominated by tales of the strong alpha male, but what of the strong alpha females?

♥ Fraternal Devotion - When you pit knowledge against emotions, there's the no-man's land in between those two opposing forces where taboos lie.

 Like It or Not - Be it forced seduction/dubious consent, non-violent intimidation, or pre-negotiated fantasy, there is something wickedly taboo about non-consensual sex, where consent is muddled.

♥ Love & Agony - Between love and agony, there is a world of pleasure and pain, want and need.

♥ Weight of a Gun - Everyone knows that guns are dangerous; they have long been a subject surrounded by controversy. Combine them with sex and you have a subject that is virtually taboo, but smoking hot.

♥ Wild Passions - Other worlds, other planes of existence, other places where humans are not the only type of creature to walk and talk. Human-like animals populate the pages of Wild Passions!

Enter below for your chance at a copy of Afflicted, along with your choice of any 1 Storm Moon Press anthology.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ellen Datlow Brings Alien Sex and Demon Lovers to ePublishing

Some very exciting news tonight!

Ellen Datlow's Alien Sex; Off Limits: Tales of Alien Sex; and Sirens and Other Daemon Lovers are (finally) being released as ebooks.

To celebrate, the Nebula Award winning editor has published a mini documentary in which she talks about being "the gatekeeper and also the quality-control manager for fiction." With a video shot in her own home, Datlow discusses her passion for sci-fi.

My Teenage Daughter's Sex Slave by Crystal Veeyant (REVIEW)

My Teenage Daughter's Sex Slave is an interesting story, based on a premise of deception that initially seems like a cheat, until you realize just how carefully Crystal Veeyant has crafted the whole scenario. For a work of erotic fiction, it's actually quite clever and inspired.

The relationship established between Kaity and Helen works quite well on several levels, but it's the fractured family dynamic underlying the relationship that holds it all together. Although she comes across as a pampered princess, Kaity has been through an emotional ordeal, one that certain explains (and possibly even justifies) the extremes to which she pushes the woman she once believed to be her mother. She is as sympathetic a character as she is erotic, pulling the reader into her tale on both an emotional and a physical level. What's more, she is a character who grows and develops before our eyes, her motives slowly evolving from cruel vengeance into taboo passion.

Helen isn't quite as well-developed as Kaity, but that's okay, since she exists more as the fetish/kink/taboo focus of the tale. For the most part, her role is simply to submit . . . to serve . . . to satisfy the young woman who holds the leash that preserves her sliver of freedom. She is emotionally complex, however, wracked with guilt on so many levels, not the least of which is for having so gleefully having taken advantage of her step-daughter's dominatrix fantasies. It's incredibly erotic to see how their roles are reversed, with mother submitting to daughter, and to see the power exchange coming full circle, with the professional dominatrix submitting to the young woman who initially scorned her for that career.

As always, Crystal's tales are very well-written, with some lovely turns-of-phrase, carefully crafted dialogue, and graphically executed sex scenes that hit all the familiar notes, while still managing to come across as fresh and original. Like I said earlier, hers is a very clever tale as well, riding that razor's edge between guilty pleasure and inappropriate taboo, complete with a few shocking revelations overlaid carefully upon one another at the end. Quite an enjoyable read.

[Reviewed by Bobbi]

God Bless the Child by K.T. Leone (REVIEW)

God bless the Child by K. T. Leone (illustrated by Michael Mena) is a book that is so poignant and touching, it will tear at your heart strings and move you to tears. In part, it is about the physical and emotional scars of child abuse, but it also carries with it an interesting overlay of gender identity issues.  The "child abuse" portion of this book is the more significant of the two areas, and the one needing immediate triage, as it is a life-threatening condition. Even after the dust settles and the child is safe, there are nightmares and PTSD to deal with, along with the issue of trust in forging new and loving relationships. This novel does a wonderful job of depicting the ups and downs of the burgeoning and often agonizing relationship between the scarred child and his foster parents.

The gender identity issue, although not immediately critical to the well-being of the child, is no less vexing.  Many individuals who have a gender identity problem invariably wonder what was at the source of it, often looking for a "smoking gun." Was it in utero flooding of testosterone or estrogen? Was it genetically ordained? Was it an environmental factor that was at the root of the problem or, perhaps, a combination of these areas? Of course, after many years of searching, the affected person generally gives up their quest as futile, and hopefully accepts and/or begins to deal with the issue in some constructive manner. In the final analysis, does it really matter? Can one begin to embrace and accept the person who they really are, regardless of the pressures surrounding them?

That said, this reviewer cannot help but notice that Jeremy's initial foray into wearing female attire was inadvertently triggered by the good intentions of his well-meaning foster mother.  We wonder whether there was a predisposition already there, or if Melissa's innocent desire to ease Jeremy's pain was the impetus for his affinity for the "comfort" of wearing feminine clothing. In any case, Jeremy's foster parents and their affectionate and loving dog go a long way toward assisting him to facilitate this self-acceptance, also learning who they are in the process.  Having just read 56 Sanchez by Rene Jax, I want to point out that his fine book is another example of a novel that must have been penned by an author having wonderful and intimate familiarity with police policies and procedures. It is a very realistic and exciting effort and the authors should be commended.

[Reviewed by Samuel]

Waiting on Wednesday - Seductress: Erotic Tales of Immortal Desire edited by D. L. King

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

Seductress: Erotic Tales of Immortal Desire edited by D. L. King

She’s beautiful. She’s enchanting. She’s mysterious and unfathomable. She’s your fondest dream and your worst nightmare. She’s sweet and sublimely submissive. She’s dark and fully in charge. She’s flirty yet mysterious. She promises safety in her arms but there’s danger in her eyes. One look, one scent, one taste, one sigh and you’re rock hard or dripping wet. She’s sex incarnate.

Succub are sexual vampires, women who steal the life force from their victim, but what a way to go! Some say succubi visit their victims in dreams; others say they seduce them in the flesh. Whether your succubus is a shape shifter, has permanent bat wings or wears a mini skirt; whether her victims are taken unawares, follow her with glee or scream bloody murder as they come, these stories are hot. As hell. [Oct 16, 2012]

Another lovely warm-up to a very sexy Halloween, complete with a new tale from one of my favourite authors, Giselle Renarde.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Storm Moon Press' New Serial Fiction (GUEST POST)

Storm Moon Press' New Serial Fiction!
by K. Piet

For those familiar with me and my writing, you might already know that I got my start writing fanfiction. In that world, I was used to writing my stories and releasing them by chapter. In some cases, I wouldn't have even plotted out the next chapter but waited for some feedback before proceeding. When I finally moved out of other authors' sandboxes and into my own (well, shared with S.L. Armstrong, of course), I was somewhat happy to leave that format behind. As a reader, I always hated having to wait for the next chapter of my favorite fanfiction to come out. When the idea of serial fiction was first tossed around by the three of us in the core group of Storm Moon Press, I simply asked, 'Why would anyone want to pay more for something they have to wait on each step of the way?'

In the case of serial fiction in the GLBT genre, it's usually presented in a format where the reader has to buy each section of the work as it comes out. Ultimately, however, this means they ended up paying something like $30 when they theoretically could have paid $8.99 for an e-book of all the pieces gathered into a whole. Price gauging is very common, so when we seriously considered serial fiction as a new format for submissions at Storm Moon Press, we knew we had to come up with some way to make it fair not only to the publisher and the author in the way of gaining royalties good enough to make it worth the effort, but aso make it fair to the readers, who have so often paid an unfair price in the past!

What we've come up with at Storm Moon Press is quite a bit different in that we view our serial fiction a lot like we would a great television series. We've broken it down into 'seasons', which are then comprised of six or twelve 'episodes'. Think of shows like Law & Order or Buffy the Vampire Slayer or the first two seasons of Torchwood (one of my favorites). You have your 'monster of the week' format for the individual episodes, where a plot plays out from beginning to end in one episode, but you also get the hints of characterization and a larger plot arc that usually culminates in the last couple episodes of the season (and sometimes even bridges seasons to make an even larger series arc). With Storm Moon Press' serial fiction, that's what we're going for!

And we're leaving the door open for all sorts of possibilities. We aren't just looking for gay erotic romance stories for this kind of fiction. We want all kinds of fiction! That means that you lovers of lesbian, bisexual, or trans* fiction will also have a place with us! We love fiction that pushes the envelope, and that means spreading our wings into our new imprints for heterosexual fiction, QUILTBAG genre fiction, and even QUILTBAG young adult fiction. If you're an author who prefers this format for writing but don't think there's a place or your lesbian murder/mystery series or your coming-of-age exploration with genderqueer teens? Think again! We'd love to see it!

By thinking of serial fiction in this new way, I've really found my own creativity renewed, and I have several projects I could see publishing this way! I can only hope that you readers out there like this format and enjoy the ways we offer it up for sale (pay-per-episode, season pass, or final completed e-book). And to all you authors who might be perking up at the sound of all this, by all means, visit the Storm Moon Press serials page to take a look at the details. Don't be afraid to pitch us an idea either! Just send it to, and we'll tell you if we think it would be appropriate for our line of serials, which will begin in 2013!

I'm excited to be part of this expansion in the genre, and I hope you'll come along with us for the ride, be it as a reader or a writer! So, come on! Bring us those submissions so we can share serial fiction done right!

K. Piet is the Marketing Director for Storm Moon Press and the author of Catalyst and her upcoming illustrated novel, Making Ends Meet, both co-authored with S.L. Armstrong. She can be found on her website or Twitter.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Help Kickstart Fringe: On the Edges of the Mainstream Gay Community by Gayle Pitman

My name is Gayle Pitman, and I am a professor of psychology and women’s studies, with an emphasis on LGBTQ psychology, at Sacramento City College. I’d like to take this opportunity to talk in more detail about this new project I’m working on – and how you can potentially be a part of it. The working title for my new book is Fringe: On the Edges of the Mainstream Gay Community, which will explore the experiences of people who exist on the edges of the LGBTQ community. These groups include people who are bisexual, polyamorous, alt-sex/BDSM/kink, disabled, non-White, poor and/or working class, older, trans or genderqueer – groups that don’t get as much attention in the mainstream LGBTQ rights agenda, and who often experience marginalization within the LGBTQ community.

When I use the term “marginalization,” what do I mean by that? As an example, I recently spoke with Dr. Keely Kolmes, who works with the bi, poly, and kink communities in her psychotherapy practice. Early in her career, when she decided to focus her research and therapeutic skills in this direction, she experienced all sorts of negative reactions – and many of those reactions came from members of the LGBTQ community. “Most of us who are gay aren’t like that,” a highly respected gay male professional made a point of saying.  The assumption behind that statement, of course, is that we want to be seen as normal by heterosexuals – not like those “freaks.”

Or take Dany Atkins, who is bisexual and gender-variant, and who has been in a triadic polyamorous relationship for almost two decades. Although she would like to undergo a full gender transition, her disabilities (and, as a result, her fragile health status) preclude her from going on testosterone or undergoing any form of surgery. She had previously been part of a quad relationship, and when the biological mother of their son decided to leave the quad, a fierce and ugly custody battle ensued – with little support from the LGBTQ community. “You got what you deserved,” one lesbian woman told Dany, who was denied any legal rights to her son.

And then there’s Qui510, formerly known as TriQui Di, a vocalist and songwriter hailing from Oakland, California. Her start began in the African American Baptist and Pentecostal churches, singing in the choir that produced the Hawkins Singers (of “Oh Happy Day!” fame).  At the height of her career, Qui510 was signed with a major record label, went on a world tour, and performed with Snoop Dogg, Aaliyah, Natalie Cole, Chaka Khan, and Tony! Toni! Toné! Since 2009, when she came out as a lesbian on her radio show, she’s had difficulty getting even local gigs. “Before, I was on the front page,” Qui510 told me. “Now, I’m an afterthought.”

We could even consider Phyllis Lyon (of Phyllis Lyon/Del Martin fame, the first couple to be legally married in San Francisco and under pre-Proposition 8 California law). If anyone has been a trailblazer in the LGBTQ community, it would be her. Back in the 1950s, Lyon and Martin started the Daughters of Bilitis, the first national lesbian organization in the United States. They helped start the Council on Religion and the Homosexual. They were the first out lesbian members of the National Organization for Women. As they got older, they started the group Old Lesbians Organizing for Change. The San Francisco LGBTQ community is what it is largely because of them. And while Lyon was once front and center in the LGBTQ community, at 88 years old, she now exists on the edges of it. In an ageist culture that celebrates youth, Phyllis Lyon finds little connection in the community she helped build.

That’s what I mean by “marginalization.” It happens within the LGBTQ community – even though we all know what it feels like to be a member of an oppressed group. And that’s why I feel so motivated to write Fringe.

But in order to make this project happen, I need your help.

First, I need to raise money in order to make this project happen. I invite you to take a look at my Fringe Kickstarter campaign, and please consider contributing whatever is possible for you. Also note that with your contribution, you will receive a reward – including a signed copy of Fringe, an opportunity to guest blog on The Active Voice, or an invite to my book launch party, where many of the people I’ve interviewed for the book (including the three individuals listed above) will be present. Every contribution makes a difference, no matter how small – and if you decide to contribute, you will join a community of people who are involved in making this project come to life.

Second, I’m looking for additional people to interview for Fringe. I’ve completed about a half-dozen interviews so far, with another half-dozen lined up in the next few months. If you are a member of an “edge community” within the larger LGBTQ umbrella, I’d be interested in hearing your story. Note that the opportunity to be interviewed is also a reward for contributing to my Kickstarter campaign. If you think your story would be relevant to this project, please contact me at

I want to thank Sally for giving me the opportunity to guest blog on Bending the Bookshelf, especially since her purpose is exactly why I’ve been led to develop this project. “Open minds and open hearts, the power of creativity, the wonder of originality, the delight of curiosity, the beauty of diversity and the joy of imagination” – this is the mission of Bending the Bookshelf, and all of it is at the heart of Fringe.

Waiting on Wednesday - Night Shadows: Queer Horror by Herren & Redmann

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

Night Shadows: Queer Horror edited by Greg Herren & J. M. Redmann

What scares you the most? An impressive lineup of the biggest names in gay and lesbian publishing come together to share tales of things that go bump in the night, murder and revenge most foul, and dark creatures that will haunt your dreams, while putting a decidedly queer twist on the literary horror genre. 

Edited by award-winning authors Greg Herren and J. M. Redmann, the stories in Night Shadows are masterfully told, disturbing tales of psychological terror that will continue to resonate with readers long after they finish reading these delightfully wicked stories.

Don’t read these stygian tales when you’re alone—or without every light in the house burning! [Oct 16, 2012]

With authors like Lee Thomas, Felice Picano, Steve Berman, Michael Rowe, Jewelle Gomez, and Victoria A. Brownworth involved, this looks like a great warm-up to a very Queer Halloween!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Transgender Spirituality by Sakhi Bhava (REVIEW)

Gender issues have been around for a long time, and are likely to have existed for as long as human beings have. It isn’t that far-fetched to think that at least a few of the first male hunters of woolly mammoth may have wished to trade this dangerous pursuit for the relative warmth and safety of the cave and child rearing. And, no doubt, for some of our early female ancestors, the thrill of the hunt was much more appealing than being relegated to satisfy the needs of babies and tending the home fires.

In any case, in the more recent and written history of western civilization, gender dysphoria was first observed and documented in the mythology of the ancient Greeks, then alluded to in the Old Testament, and has since surfaced in classic literature over the centuries. Gender Identity Disorder has been studied as a psychological phenomenon since the late 19th century, originating with the early works of Sigmund Freud, the founding father of psychology.

Because this condition has persisted for countless eons, the emotionally painful and often misunderstood condition known to the professional and gender community as Gender Identity Disorder (GID) is soon to be officially and simply known, as per the new release of the diagnostic bible for the profession of psychology, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V (DSM-V), as Gender Dysphoria. This is defined as a persistent unease with having the physical characteristics of one's gender, accompanied by strong identification with the opposite gender and a desire to live as or to become a member of the opposite gender.  For now, though, it is still known as GID. Because GID seemingly cannot be cured, many people believe that it is not actually a malady, but a naturally occurring state. Gender identity issues can sometimes be addressed by transition to the opposite gender role or, less dramatically, they can be controlled and/or incorporated into one’s life. They can also be suppressed, rationalized and ignored but, alas, they cannot be eliminated from the psyche.  It stands to reason then that so-called "gender dysphoria" must therefore be a normal human condition and not a disorder. Gender identity issues may be problematic only insofar as there are societal prejudices fostered by the one-two punch of organized religion and a paternalistic-based, bi-gendered society.  Therefore, for all practical purposes, the term “Gender Identity Disorder” is a misnomer.

The timing could not be better for the release of  Transgender Spirituality, by Sakhi Bhava, a well-researched, academic, and learned work about what’s right with being a transgender individual. Eloquently tracing the history of this issue from the pre-historic era to modern times, the author makes the case that for MTF transgender individuals, the drive to emulate the feminine, is clearly a spiritual attempt to, as Carl Jung theorized, get in touch with the “Anima” or female side. This is a natural attempt to achieve wholeness and spiritual completeness and not a disorder. For those of us who continue to experience severe guilt and shame in relation to our crossdressing behavior, this book can be a breath of spring and a way to normalize a behavior that is really only frowned upon by the Judeo-Christian culture, but is and has been acceptable to other societies, both great and small throughout the history of mankind. This informative and well-written book is a great read and a great value.

[Reviewed by Samuel]

Tangled Web by Jade Falconer (REVIEW)

If you enjoy books in the genre of knighthood and chivalry with a transgender element thrown in for good measure, this one is for you. Jade Falconer's Tangled Web is written in the spirit of The Empress Sword, The Prisoners of Gender, and The Misadventures of Ka-Ron the Knight.

This novel is a well-conceived and intricate tale, set in the time of the Middle Ages, about two troubled (star crossed?) people who meet by happenstance and fall deeply in love. Unfortunately, each of them is concealing a deep, dark secret from the other that has the power to destroy their relationship and more. When the secrets are revealed, a dramatic shift occurs and our two lovers are set adrift, having to work through their deepest feelings and preconceptions about how things ought be in order to learn if they can be with each other.

This insightful and thought provoking book tests our concept of who we are and who we can love.

[Reviewed by Samuel]