Rainbow Award Finalist!

Rainbow Award FinalistThe other day I was absolutely thrilled to be notified that I was on the Honorable Mention list for the Rainbow Awards. The review I received was incredible (and may have made me tear up just a little… okay, a lot).

Today the finalists were announced and I am even MORE thrilled to discover that If We Shadows is a finalist in the Transgender Fiction category. There are six books in this division (you may remember one of them–Beloved Pilgrim–from the excerpt that posted here last January) and I am super excited to be in excellent company.

Thank you to the jury so far, and to all readers who have fallen in love with Jordan.

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Gluten Free Cornbread Muffins

Gluten Free Cornbread Muffins

Okay, so, my life is complicated. Yes, I’m a writer and yes, I do martial arts. I have also been a diet-controlled diabetic for eight years and I eat gluten free due to sensitivities. The first two (plus a full time job and being a mom) make managing the latter two (time? What is this time thing you speak of?) very difficult. But I’m trying to be better about it and search out recipes that I can make ahead and just pull out of the freezer when I need them.

Recently our CSA has been overabundant with summer sweet corn. We froze some uncooked. We cooked a ton but haven’t gotten to eat it. So I was left staring at four ears of grilled corn and needed something to do. I searched for recipes for gluten free cornbread muffins that included corn kernels. I shouldn’t have been surprised to find myself at Gluten Free on a Shoestring, which has been one of my favorite sites since discovering her cookbook for baking bread shortly after it came out.

I found the recipe Late Summer Corn Muffins, which was almost perfect. The thing is, I really trust Nicole. Between her and America’s Test Kitchen, I find a lot of the recipes that I adapt. And yes… adapt. Because the problem is that not only am I gluten free, I have to pay strict attention to sugar and carb content. I’m not super low-carb. I eat between 21g and 28g of carbs per meal, but I need very little sugar (like 4g or less) in that content. So 1/3 cup of sugar in the whole recipe was a bit much.

On the other hand, I’m always willing to take a chance on an adaptation, and I happen to prefer less sweet cornbread AND I knew the grilled corn would add the taste of sweetness without being real sugary. So I leapt in and cut the sugar to 2T sugar and 1T Splenda. I used the corn kernels cut from two ears of grilled corn (the ears were big so that gave me more than the 1 1/3 cups required). And I baked.

Single Corn Muffin

Look at that muffin. Isn’t it gorgeous? And that’s after freezing, because I forgot to take pictures last night, and I’m too impatient until I wait to make a second batch today. Which I will be doing because I had four ears of corn and only needed two for the batch thus… I have to make another batch! Plenty of muffins in my freezer to eat with salad for lunch, or with chili for dinner, or maybe just for a quick breakfast on the run when I don’t have time to make my favorite oatmeal.

Because these muffins are worth it. They are dense, but not dry. They are super flavorful and just the right amount of sweet for me. They are something I want to be able to pull out of my freezer and enjoy any time I want. So good!

Later today I’m going to be trying her Gluten Free Vanilla Bean Ricotta Pancakes (pancakes for lunch!). Sort of. I mean, I don’t have a vanilla bean available. And I happen to love the taste of almond with ricotta. And I really like cinnamon in my pancakes. And well, sugar again. So yes, there will be some adaptation going on. But I trust her to give me the best base, and I’m going to enjoy the hell out of these.

Hope y’all don’t mind if I talk about food while I’m working my brain around writing so I can talk about writing again. I promise, I’m still me, I’m still working in the background, and I still love to talk about anything you want me to talk about. I just have to be ME and not just writer!me here, I think. Then you’ll hear from me more often because I love to work stuff out in an out loud kind of way.

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Breaking Bricks (not bones)

When I tested for my black belt in June, one requirement was to try to break a brick. I did try, and I failed, and while I still got my black belt, that failure hung over my head.

I’ll admit, I didn’t go in with the best of attitudes. You may or may not remember my post on Commit to the Kick. When trying to break a brick (or a board), commitment is one of the key parts of the technique. If you don’t go all in–think it’s the board or the hand–then the thing’s not gonna break.

I didn’t go all in. I was scared, I’ll admit it. I have issues with my joints in my hands and my elbows, and I was terrified to risk damage. I need my hands for my job. So I psyched myself out. I used a technique that wasn’t a good technique for me (but was safer for my hand), and I did my damnedest, but it did not work.

Master Yun told us that he’d give us another chance, do a brick breaking workshop later in the summer. That workshop was last night.

I was terrified. I was in tears (which is embarrassing as hell, to be in tears on the TKD mats, I DID NOT LIKE). But I thought I had to use a hand. I wanted to use a foot. Because I can go all in with my feet. They don’t scare me. I’m more than willing to go with all the power and break my foot if I need to.

If I tried with a hand, it was never going to happen. I’d psyched myself out. I knew I couldn’t risk injury. I knew I wouldn’t put all the possible power behind it because I didn’t trust myself.

But I rerouted, talked technique, and I found the right technique for me. During black belt testing I had done a break through 2 boards with a step-up side kick. This was significant because they very first break I ever attempted as a yellow belt was a step-up side and I had never done one on the first try before black belt testing. In fact, I was known for stating I hated the side kick. So I chose that break very much on purpose, as a rite of passage and a way of coming full circle and blowing past the first thing that blocked me in my TKD career. And those two boards shattered easily.

So last night I went after that brick with a step-up side kick.

And it broke.

So, here’s the next lesson from TKD: Know yourself, and if one technique doesn’t work, try another. In fact, learn what your go-to techniques are and keep those waiting, in case you need to be pulled out of a corner you’ve written yourself into.

This doesn’t mean don’t take risks. DO take risks. Try new things. Test your limits. But sometimes, if you can’t get past a block, retreat back into the toolbox and find that thing that works and use it. Get your confidence back, then start taking risks again.

Because remember, that thing in your toolbox was once something new to you… it was once a risk you took until you made it yours. Just like my side kick was once a failure and is now my go-to killer kick, that technique might surprise you and become that thing you always want to use.

Don’t give up. You’ll find your killer technique too, and you’ll break your brick (whether it’s physical or metaphorical).

P.S. I can’t seem to upload the video here, so I’ll try to post it on my FB page later today!

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Reading! Signing! Cookies! (+apology)

First things first: I will be at Flights of Fantasy in Albany, NY on Sunday at 4pm to read and talk and sign copies of my book! Please come out and join us there and enjoy cookies! I will have buttons to giveaway and the aforementioned cookies (Chick’s in the kitchen whipping up another flavor for me to bring).

After the signing we will be going out to dinner at NinetyNine and anyone is welcome to join us and keep up the chatter!

And now the apology… I haven’t yet had time to get in contact with contest winners, and that is TOTALLY my fault. Life has been crazy busy at work, and my stress level skyrocketed… then I went on vacation and pretty much dropped out of everything for a week.

However, the vacation helped the stress some, and I’m slowly managing to get my brain back online and hope to get things done (like contest winners and posts about writing and maybe even some fic if you watch my tumblr). With luck you’ll hear more from me soon!

In the meantime, come visit me in Albany!! I hope to see you there.

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Interviewed By Death! (And other Things)

I’ve been quiet because life away from the online world has been absolutely crazy. The list of posts I owe (and things I need to do) is crazy long! But I just wanted to quickly let you know about a couple of things that have happened online since I was last here.

Harmony Ink Press did a series of Author Spotlight posts throughout March and mine posted on March 23rd. So you can go read all about me!

Also, Jordan has been interviewed by Death!

Jackie Morse Kessler, author of the Riders of the Apocalypse series, has a fake online-talk radio show, Post Mortem, where Death (yes, one of the Riders) interviews fictional characters. Jordan’s interview posted yesterday!

Coming soon, I’m taking part in the Writing Process Blog Hop, and I’m already late posting! That will be up just as soon as I can finish it up.

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Why A Midsummer Night’s Dream?

JB asked in a comment: Did you feel naturally drawn to telling a trans* character’s story through/with Shakespeare? Were the World Mine, for example, felt very natural for a gay romance because of the original concept of Shakespeare’s productions, with all the parts being played by males, and because A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s male characters seem, at least to me, at least a little inherently fey (literally and in personality traits). I mean, there’s even a gay joke in one of the protagonist’s names: Bottom, which makes me giggle on the inside every time I say or read it. What about Midsummer inspired you to tell Jordan’s specific story, if anything?

It was actually the combination of Dream and Twelfth Night, which is how Pepper’s involvement in the play came about with her writing the mash-up.

I have always wanted to write a YA story with Dream as a backdrop, in part because it had a big influence on one particular fall semester of my own high school life, and in part because of other stories I saw which had been influenced by it (although not Were the World Mine; I actually watched that on Netflix either after Jordan’s story was written or after it was plotted, I don’t remember exactly). There is something about Puck’s magic that has always drawn me in, and to me, Dream seems to be the epitome of the concept of Fairy magic gone wrong. And that lies at the root of the Shakespearean comedy, where everything seems so simple on the surface, but then nothing is exactly as it seems.

And that theme is perfect for Jordan’s story, except… Dream doesn’t have the gender themes that appear elsewhere in Shakespeare’s work. For that I needed to dig into Twelfth Night, which I fell in love with when I was just a kid and saw it performed. I always loved the character of Viola/Cesario, and the questions that the role brought up along with the mistaken identity and the questions of what it meant to fall in love.

I knew Viola was what I wanted to use as my device for Jordan’s story, but I wanted to mix that with the actual magic of Puck. Which meant, for me, rereading both plays and extracting what I needed from them (I carried around both scripts in my laptop bag for months, actually, with notes scribbled in the margins).

For me, in the end, the real root was Shakespeare himself. The stories he told were more than just comedies or histories or tragedies. He included social commentary couched in entertainment, and he was brilliant for it. And some roles, like Viola, were already very meta just by their creation: every actor in the play was male, so there was a male, playing a female character, who then played a male role during the course of the play. He poked at gender roles constantly, just as he poked at the fickleness of human emotion. He was a natural fit for a play that push at those boundaries, which then allowed for the story to be told around it.

Also, that was an awesome question, and one I really enjoyed answering! And if I didn’t actually say enough, please poke at my words and ask new questions. 🙂 Sometimes I forget things. Okay, often I forget things, I have a brain like swiss cheese.

Thank you for stopping by to chat!

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Where did Jordan come from?

I answered this Ask on tumblr, and since I wrote a rambling essay instead of a quick response, I wanted to post it here as well.

christophermossworld asked: OK, you’re on. I’ll ask. How ddid you get to bee so brilliant? I am reading “If We Shadows”, and I’m blown away. What a perfect use of the gender beending in Shakespeare. And how do you know what it’s like to be me, a transman? Seriously, how did you come to write Jordan?

First things first: THANK YOU. I’m seriously blushing, and so thrilled that you like Jordan and his story. He is a character of my heart and I was so nervous and have been happy with how people have received him.

I’ve taken three days to answer this because the short version is: it’s complicated. The slightly longer version (still minus all the details) is that every writer has something they do well, and something they have to learn… for me, characters have always been the thing I can create, and plot is my serious weakness. So it’s actually difficult for me to explain exactly where Jordan came from, but I’ll try.

Most of this is going to come through a filter created decades ago, before vocabulary became what it is now, and I apologize if any of it is offensive by today’s standards. I am trying to explain through the way I saw the world (and was taught to see the world) as a child, because in the end, that’s a lot of where Jordan came from.

(This got long, let me put in a “more” thingy so it doesn’t take over everyone’s dash…)

Continue reading

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