Dena Hankins - Author

“Quite Inventive Sexually” ALA Reviews Blue Water Dreams

by , on
March 28, 2015

I always go for the sexual references.  Not that this is news to me or anyone who’s been friends with/followed/slept with me over the years.

The American Library Association has a sub-group called the GLBT Round Table, which has published a review of Blue Water Dreams.  Its tone reminds me strongly of the librarian in Moses Lake, where I went to high school.  She took her job seriously and gauged each book almost dispassionately.  The same tone is clear in the review, even with multiple references to sexy-times.

The reviewer finds it “refreshing to read a love story where there is no jealous triangle” and notes that Lania and Oly are both “fairly free of hang-ups” (which made me smile).

The wrap-up has the tone that I referenced above.  It’s so wonderfully librarianish that I’m going to quote the whole last paragraph.

Blue Water Dreams falls well within the expectations of the romance genre, albeit with an atypical male lead. It may appeal to romance readers who are willing to try something a little different. It may also find a readership among trans men for the ways it affirms their sexuality and desirability.

49 Copies of Blue Water Dreams in US and UK Libraries

by , on
December 17, 2014

I started reading young and never stopped.  My dad fed me science fiction at what he considered an age-appropriate pace; I pulled random books from his shelves and got an accelerated education.  My school librarians learned to introduce me to series because I read so much and so quickly that I would be a pest if they couldn’t hand me at least five books at a time.

Town and air force base libraries had more to offer than my dad or my school.  They stocked things that would never fly for a school library and had a much wider idea of what might be a good book.  I devoured science fiction, romance, adventure, and more.  I dabbled in and turned my back on autobiography, biography, and war histories.  I developed the tastes that I’ve been broadening and refining ever since.

It’s not just the access to books.  It’s the space, filled with books and readerly accoutrements.  Lamps and chairs and tables to enable my passion.  Card catalogs and librarians and featured shelves.  The plainest of them still smell like books and the most ornate still turn one’s attention back to the books they exist to present.

I got on Goodreads today and saw again the link that reads Libraries.  Curious, I went to my book, Blue Water Dreams, and clicked the link.  It showed me the list of 24 library systems that have it.

This was so exciting to me that I clicked through on every one of them and discovered that some systems had multiple copies – as many as six copies – and that, even more exciting still, there were five copies checked out!

Oh. My.

I geeked out completely, made a list of all the locations that have copies, added them all up.  I have 49 copies of a book with my name, with my words, in 24 library systems, in something more like 45 individual libraries.  One put me in New Adult, some put me in Erotica, others stuck with Romance.  But I’m out there.

With excitement and joy, I share the list of libraries that have Blue Water Dreams:

On library shelves now in:

Fort Wayne, IN
Fargo, ND
Bettendorf, IA
Los Angeles, CA
Hull, in the freakin’ UK!
San Diego, CA, currently checked out
2 in London…also UK.
3 in Santa Monica, CA
6 in 4 San Francisco libraries
5 in Kent County, WA – 2 copies checked out!
3 in Snohomish and Island Counties, WA – 1 checked out!
5 in 4 Seattle libraries – 1 checked out!
3 in 2 Minneapolis libraries (as New Adult Fiction, by the way)
3 in Louisville, KY
4 in Allegheny County, PA
2 in Fort Myers, FL
2 in Denver

The conservative town I went to high school in, Moses Lake, WA, has a copy, plus nearby towns of Ephrata, Omak, and Wenatchee.

I went to the Moses Lake Library for a lot of reasons.  I wanted books, obviously, but I also wanted to live in a bigger, wider world.  I wanted to know more and books held a lot of what I needed.  I wanted a quiet place where I could read in the public privacy one can achieve in a library.  I wanted a haven when the world hurt me.

I found all those things in the Moses Lake Library, and more.  I found respectful interaction with adults and the joy of reading to children and the honor of doing ESL tutoring for a Mexican banker turned agricultural worker.  I found a version of me that I carry to this day.

So thanks, libraries.  Thanks for being there for me.  And thanks for stocking this book about being queer and trans and in love, about being passionate and deeply caring about social justice and independence and working it all out to have everything when you think you’ll have to choose.



Out in Print Best of 2014 features Blue Water Dreams

by , on
December 16, 2014

Out in Print has done it again!  They had great things to say about Blue Water Dreams in their review last week, and they were impressed enough to put the book on their Best of 2014 list.

One of ten books chosen, it seems to be the only romance on the list and one of three published by Bold Strokes Books.

How cute is this?  “In fact, it has some extremely hot sex–something I neglected to mention in the original review because I was so blown away by how well-drawn its characters are and how naturally they interact.”

What a thrill!

Out In Print Reviews Blue Water Dreams

by , on
December 10, 2014

What a pleasure to see that Jerry Wheeler has reviewed Blue Water Dreams!  He’s an excellent author and editor, and I think very highly of his opinion.  It’s lovely to read that he thinks that I “made some interesting choices that pay off in a big way” and “whatever her next project is, it’ll be on the TBR pile”.

Read it yourself and see if you agree with him: Blue Water Dreams at Bold Strokes Books.

Q&A with Carol Queen for Good Vibes workshop and reading

by , on
September 26, 2014

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.

All Quiet Down the Coast

by , on
September 24, 2014

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.


Gay Romance Northwest Meet-Up in Seattle

by , on
September 21, 2014

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?


Gender Justice League and Home

by , on
September 17, 2014

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.

PhoenixHouseFrontWe went out for Thai food before the event and had a great talk that primed me for reading.

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 – Sex on the Sidewalk

by , on
September 16, 2014

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.


GASS Gets Hot

by , on
September 13, 2014

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!