I’ll be doing readings and signings again this year in Provincetown, MA. Women’s Week is a lively, fabulous bundle of events which take advantage of the beach atmosphere to offer a little bit of everything. Raucous dance parties, teeming crowds of women holding hands, and packed houses for concerts and shows alternate with quiet time on the sand, gentle music at the cafes around midday, and dozens of readings hosted by a handful of LGBTQ publishers.
I’ll be in my element at the sex scene reading. I know the audience will enjoy Kerala and Ravi’s electric attraction. I’ll be a bit more nervous at the other, titled “It’s a Zoo in Here: Four Legged Heroes”. I’ve had cats most of my life and a couple dogs that touched me deeply. But I wouldn’t say it’s a natural, enduring aspect of my writing for the leads to be bonded with animal companions.
Bogart, Kerala’s dog in Heart of the Lilikoi, is a window into her capacity to love and an important creature for her ability to cope with the terrible things that happen to her. He is bright and loyal, well-trained and choosey about who he warms to. It’s lucky that Bogart likes Ravi, and Ravi knows it!
My schedule for the week of October 12-:
Monday, 12th, 2pm: Signing at Recovering Hearts with other Bold Strokes Books authors Radclyffe, Missouri Vaun, Franci McMahon, Laydin Michaels, MJ Williamz, and Jo Victor
Wednesday, 14th, 1pm: Reading at the Provincetown Hotel at Gabriel’s in “It’s a Zoo in Here: Four Legged Heroes” with moderator Barbara Ann Wright and readers D. Jackson Leigh, Franci McMahon, CA Popovich, Radclyffe, and Jo Victor
Wednesday, 14th, 3:15pm: Signing at Recovering Hearts with D. Jackson Leigh, Franci McMahon, CA Popovich, Radclyffe, and Jo Victor
Thursday, 15th, 1pm: Reading at the Provincetown Hotel at Gabriel’s in “Between the Sheets: Erotic Readings” with moderator Missouri Vaun and readers Tina Michele, Nell Stark, Ali Vali, D. Jackson Leigh, and MJ Williamz
Thursday, 15th, 3:15pm: Signing at Recovering Hearts with Tina Michele, Nell Stark, Ali Vali, D. Jackson Leigh, and MJ Williamz
Saturday, 17th, 2pm: Moderating at the Provincetown Public Library for “Readings that Define the Author’s Voice” with readers Franci McMahon, Ali Vali, Justine Saracen, Jo Victor, Melissa Brayden, Missouri Vaun
I’m excited to be hosting a reading of Bold Strokes Books authors at Good Vibrations on Monday, then following it up with a workshop on using erotica to spice up your sex life, communicate with partners, and get yourself off!
Carol Queen sent me some questions for a post on the Good Vibrations Blog and I was highly stimulated. See my passionate answers here on their site.
Olympia and Portland were quiet events. It’s occurred to me that the most successful events so far have been those where I go to someone else’s regularly scheduled meeting and we discuss the book. Check!
Orca Books in Olympia was a Sunday event, which they warned me almost guaranteed a low turn-out. It was the only day that worked, though, so we went through with it. Sold some books, met some great people!
I love reading aloud, so that was fun. And listening to the pieces by (in order according to the photo above) David Holly, Jeffrey Ricker, and Eric Andrews-Katz was a gas.
To be perfectly honest, Portland was a bust. The feminist bookstore that was hosting my workshop has been having troubles of the might-have-to-close kind, and my Facebook event was on Eastern time rather than Pacific, meaning that everyone thought it was in the middle of the workday instead of early evening. Le sigh.
On the other hand, I had a tremendously enjoyable and very necessary meal at an Ethiopian buffet that recharged my magnets. And I stayed with an amazing woman I would probably never have met. Thanks, Markie!
Plus, the great coffee continued.
My GRNW experience was great, worthwhile, and valuable, but slightly overshadowed by the emotional impact of coming home to a place that has both changed and stayed the same.
First, the conference or meet-up.
The first author-centered panel went quickly. Only 45 minutes long and I started to realize how very little we would get to say in the next one. I was a panelist on the Writing Diverse Characters panel and we could have gone for hours. Firstly, because the topic is broad and deep and necessary. Secondly, because the other panelists were bright and thoughtful and had tons of valuable insight into the needs of writers and readers in bringing intersecting oppressions to the table when planning a book.
As a genre that has some diversity by default – mainstream books don’t feature a lot of queer characters – we all agreed that it isn’t enough. That was our starting point.
From there, we immediately talked about ways of writing outside our personal experiences of color, gender, ability, etc. The author-attendees had great questions and the moderator, Marites Mendoza, didn’t even begin to get through the prepared questions. As I said, we could have gone on for a long, long time.
Pearl Love (who doesn’t keep her blog up to date, but has a Goodreads Author Profile that can get you to her books) is smart, sensible, and well-spoken. She was on later panels as well and should be considered by anyone looking to book panelists who can speak to writing both outside their personal experience (as a female M/M writer) and within personal marginalized experience (as a person of color).
Alex Powell (who does update her blog) was also a font of good advice. She has a lot of intersecting identities that aren’t usually featured in books, so she could speak to what it feels like not to read yourself and how much value there is in finding characters even remotely like you.
Pearl is fourth from the left and Alex is last on the right. This is from a later panel.
Heidi Belleau (midrange on the blog updating) did a great job helping everyone understand that intimidation is not a good reason to avoid diversity in your writing.
I hope to see more of them all as I keep making the rounds.
One particular point I brought up was about knowing more than you think. While the old saw goes write what you know, it’s also important to recognize that we also tend to write what we’re comfortable with. It’s true that most white people have mostly white friends, but it’s a rare person indeed who doesn’t know any people of color. Pay more attention in your real life and you’ll find that diversity is all around you. Learn from it, and get help making sure you’re hitting the right notes.
The book fair went…fair. I had some great conversations, but didn’t sell a ton of books. Oh well. Sitting next to Ginn Hale was a gift. She was warm and encouraging…and she’s the first person on my mailing list for Shriving, the science fiction manuscript I’m working on between romance books.
And the rest of the trip was strange and nostalgic.
Mama’s. An important location in Blue Water Dreams.
The loft, crucial to Oly’s life.
The falafel shop where Oly tells Lania about his youth.
But then there were the purely personal ones. The madrona trees all over town. I have a madrona backpiece tattoo so I could take home with me when I left.
Also, a place I used to get lentil soup for a dollar – all I could afford for lunch at that point in my life – and do the homework I’d allowed to pile up. I worked full time during college and took a full load the whole time. It’s a good thing I went for an English degree. I wrote so many of my assignments the morning they were due.
And, once again, what’s a visit to Seattle without excellent coffee?
In Seattle, I stopped by Babeland, where I’d worked from 1998 to 2000. At some point, we made a photo book and these were the two I’d chosen. Me looking boyish and a wedding photo. Pretty cute.
I also got a shot of the first apartment building James and I lived in together. FUCC, a pirate radio station I DJed on, was in the basement with us.
I stayed with an amazing person named Phoenix, who provided me with the most decadent guest room experience of the trip. Her home is gorgeous.
The Gender Justice League in Seattle is…well, it’s home territory. I felt so welcome and comfortable there that I let myself get really open and personal. What a lovely way to do a reading and discussion!
We talked about my characters, the storyline, the queer publishing industry. My favorite moment – like swooning with joy – involved two attendees getting into a passionate disagreement over conflicting interpretations of Oly’s relationships to his own cock – the one that grew on T – and his silicone cock – the dildo he uses in the sex scene I’d read aloud. Real discussion about my real book and the real author’s real intent! Yep – geek heaven.
I signed some copies for the people who remained afterward and slept like a rock that night. The next morning, I did what I wish I could do every morning.
Vivace. Holy shit, that’s good.
And then I drove to Moses Lake to see my dad. Hi, Dad!
The Art of Loving draws you in with warm colors and the warm scent of Nag Champa. Unless, that is, you’re scent sensitive, as were two of the attendees of my reading!
The owner and worker swept into action, first trying to clear the space of scent, then setting up chairs and a table out on the sidewalk. What a wonderful couple people – flexible, kind, and fun.
A small group formed, with two friends of mine anchoring the crowd. A couple sat opposite them – a sailor and a lady ready to be entertained. In the middle span were several people who had seen the listing and thought it sounded fun.
I was ready to provide!
After my abbreviated reading for GASS, I was looking forward to having a full 90 minutes for reading and discussion. To use that time well, I asked everyone what sorts of interests they had and gave them an overview of some themes from the book. I’d filled a three-ring binder with possible readings – everything from the “getting to know you” through “labor stories” and into my favorite “sex scene”. This group welcomed a few introductory and warm up scenes, then I made sure they hadn’t fallen asleep by reading some sex.
Whoo-boy – it worked on them! It also worked on some random people who walked by as I was reading…steps slowing as my words penetrated their busy thoughts.
After all that heat, I went back and read two sailing scenes. Turns out, the folks listening were struck by how sensuous my descriptions of sailing are. What a pleasure to know that I was really able to bring people into the moment with sailing. I frequently find myself speechless when I try to explain why I love to sail, but it seems I did far better in writing.
On the drive back down south (I rented a car for this part of the tour), I stopped in Blaine. James and I wintered there 2000/2001, and he’s famous.
My first event promoting Blue Water Dreams was a visit to the Gender Alliance of the South Sound (GASS). This is a vibrant, engaged group of trans* folk (though some would use other language) who welcomed me warmly. As I said in my previous post, I stayed with the group facilitators and they brought me to the meeting. People were already waiting, a half hour early, and kept streaming in until well after the start time. Almost 30 people were present by the time they gave me the floor.
I had thought I would have more time read than I ended up having, and cherry picked the excerpts that introduce the characters and give you a good sense of the book. I enjoy reading sex scenes, so I did one of those…and it struck me in the middle that I was reading a cis woman and trans man having sex to a group that was almost completely trans feminine. It really made the clit and wet and breast language stand out for me. I could only hope that it would work for the listeners.
They certainly appeared rapt. Many closed their eyes, facial clues reassuring me that they weren’t napping. Others shifted in their chairs. It can be hard to pinpoint the difference between the discomfort of some people in hearing explicit sex read aloud and the discomfort of listening to a type of sex that they don’t (but perhaps would like to) have.
The feedback between readings was slow but honest. The group was big enough that I would have called on people to talk, had I know enough about them to be sure I wouldn’t make them uncomfortable. It was like a big classroom!
The lone trans man in the group spoke up after I read a sex scene and expressed his feelings about hearing Oly’s experience of his body and sharing it with another person. He has more gender dysphoria than Oly experiences and it made him envious. Also, though, he was uncomfortable with the possibility that people may assume that Oly’s body image and way of relating to Lania (his sex partner and the co-star of the book) was somehow representational of the trans male experience.
I was so glad he brought this up. I never thought that Oly would be “The Trans Man” or that his experiences and body image would represent any wide swathe of the trans experience (a far more various than homogenous thing in reality, though so often depicted in simplified fashions). Oly is a particular person and when I wrote him doing, being, reacting, I questioned only what was realistic for him to do…not what a trans man would do.
My opportunity to specify this brought more people into the discussion. We talked a bit about the dearth of positive, fun trans stories and how I’m hoping I’ve provided one. I know that it’s necessary to have serious works dealing with the hardships and roadblocks common in trans lives, written by trans people or with such intimate knowledge that many people can see themselves and their own difficulties.
I also believe that it’s valuable to write stories where things go just a bit better than they usually do in real life. Where a trans person is living without suffering for being trans, where the conflicts and challenges come from other spheres. Books like this, books like mine, can emphasize the whole person, which includes a trans history or identity but is not defined solely by that.
What a wonderful opportunity to talk and think. I learned a lot about my story and about the people who may read it. I hope that those who purchased a copy read and enjoyed it!
Victoria and Annie, both involved with the Gender Association of the South Sound, have been so hospitable. I enjoyed last evening’s conversation and this morning, well, it finally had to end so Annie could get to work, but we could have kept going forever!
Tonight is my first event promoting Blue Water Dreams. I’ll be reading from the book and discussing it and the ideas I raise with the people at the GASS meeting. Wish me luck!
Here’s another taste of the book and some updates on how I’m doing.
By the way, the video was so blue that I changed the colors to make it less distracting…
And off I go! Today, I’m going to walk to the train, train to the shuttle, shuttle to the Boston-Logan, fly to SeaTac, and bus to Tacoma, where I will be picked up by the lovely and gracious Victoria, who is putting me up for my first book tour event.
In the meantime, I made a video from the boat. It’s both a taste of me reading from my book and some chat. Not least, it’s a reminder to buy the book! Here you go – I’ll make it simple. Click here to go to the BoldStrokesBooks.com page for Blue Water Dreams.
And with no further ado, I give you…me!
Dena Hankins will be at Good Vibrations, in the Antique Vibrator Museum, for a group reading September 29th and an erotica reading workshop September 30th. She is touring the Pacific Northwest to promote her queer/trans* romance, Blue Water Dreams, published by Bold Strokes Books and available through major distributors. The tour mixes readings, discussions, erotica reading workshops, and visits to groups for transgender people and their allies.
Publishers Weekly says this about Blue Water Dreams: “Seattleites Lania Marchiol, a cisgender woman, and Oly Rasmussen, a transgender man, meet by chance and quickly bond over shared interests…and when Lania and Oly set their differences aside and embrace their sexual chemistry, the scenes are graceful, sure, and spicy.”
Good Vibrations Polk, 1620 Polk St, San Francisco, CA
Queer Prism: Readings by Eric Andrews-Katz, Dale Chase, Dena Hankins, Clifford Henderson, Kathleen Knowles, and Felice Picano
Smut, humor, memoir, romance, intrigue, and outlaws—queer fiction runs the gamut. This tasting menu of characters will make you laugh, cry, and squirm in the most delicious ways.
Open Windows: Look Inside with Erotica—Fantasy or exactly what you did last night, words add power and excitement to sex. Erotica and romance writer Dena Hankins will ask which words turn you on, and whether you want to try what you just read about. Let’s talk hot language, exploring new ideas, and sharing stories with your lovers.
Good Vibrations has been creating a buzz since 1977. They’ve been trusted for over three decades to provide high quality products, education, and information that promotes sexual health, pleasure, and empowerment. Having invented the concept of the clean, well-lighted vibrator store, they’re proud to provide a safe and welcoming environment where customers can shop for sex toys, books, movies, and attend workshops.
Other stops in the tour include the Gender Alliance of the South Sound in Tacoma, WA, The Art of Loving in Vancouver, BC, the Gender Justice League and Gay Romance Northwest Meet-up in Seattle, WA, Orca Books in Olympia, WA, and the In Other Words Feminist Community Center in Portland, OR.
“I love these people,” says Dena. “The characters in this queer/trans* romance are fierce, passionate folks struggling to balance magnetism and self-sufficiency, trying to love all the way to the core without losing themselves in the process. You will be rooting for them to get it on and fall for each other. I hope you read the book and fall for them too.”
Dena Hankins writes aboard her boat, wherever she has sailed it. After eight years as a sex educator, she turned to writing dirty tales with far-flung settings and a queer/trans* romance novel, Blue Water Dreams. Read more: www.denahankins.net.