Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Cover Wars and MORE

 So, for the first time ever I have entered one of my covers into cover wars. Falling Light. I know I might be biased, but I think it's the best of the choices available.Of course, we also know that most people vote for their friend's book which means it's not always a fair contest in that way. 

I would love it if you could vote in cover wars and, if you agree that mine is the best cover there, please vote for me. 

 Here is the link: https://authorshout.com/cover-wars/

Other than that, just a quick update. Summer has seen me stretching myself thin with social demands and the garden. I have a lot on my plate and a lot to do which is why I've been mostly silent in blog posts because that would be one more thing to have to do.

I've been loving working on my new press and have discovered a new love of formatting books. I think it's by far my favourite behind-the-scenes work when it comes to publishing. To the point that I am now offering freelance formatting for those who need it. Just drop me a line to get a quote.

Okay, back to the one million things I am working on, but one last reminder: I also now have a newsletter so if you are curious as to what I am up to, about my life, my garden and new things... then sign up by going to my website, crystallkirkham.com

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Writing Outside the Lines


When I first started writing, all I wrote was science fiction. Year after year, I wrote science fiction until I wrote my first mainstream novel and then found a groove in urban fantasy. Like most creative endeavours, writing is an art. One that takes practice to perfect. So how did a science fiction writer end up publishing various types of fantasy novels?


I learned to write outside the lines of the type of writer I thought I wanted to be. I practiced writing in other genres and styles. I expanded my writerly horizons. I learned how to deepen the emotional impact of my scenes by practicing romance and erotica. Neither are genres that I want to spend a lot of time in, but they are different style of writing than what one typically sees in most speculative fiction genres.

The more I dive into the world of writing, the more I learn about what other genres can offer each other and every genre has something to offer to writers.

From contemporary fiction, I learned the impact of character driven stories, from fantasy and science fiction I’ve learned the importance of world building and overarching storylines. Mysteries, thrillers and suspense can teach you a lot about pacing and the importance of the little details.

There is so much to learn that sometimes I wonder why so many authors rigidly write and practice only a single genre. I do know that this can work well for some people and can make them an expert in their chosen genre, but I also believe that learning other genres—even without the intent to write and publish in that genre—can expand your abilities.

When I started on the journey of learning genres, mostly it was so I could better understand what makes a genre what it is. I didn’t go into it with the intention of actually writing these things. I simply wanted to a better understanding.

While I am still learning, I have had the good fortune to help guide other writers on their journey into learning new styles of writing, even as I learned from them about their genre. Even something as small as writing microfiction can teach you a lot about editing and conciseness. How to make an impact with few words.

Writing outside the lines you have drawn in the sand can you teach you a lot. I highly recommend giving it a try. You never know what you might learn.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Review: Sophie's Key by Jodi Jensen

Cover of Sophie's Key
This is a novel by Jodi Jensen and published by Champagne Books.

It's been a while since I've done a book review. For those of you in the know, this is because of a few factors that led to me being so busy I wasn't able to find the time to read anything other than the work I was editing. Unfortunately, Sophie's Key by Jodi Jensen was a book that arrived right before all this started so it has been sitting on my bedside table waiting for me to say hello to the story contained within.

I finally had a chance when I was stuck with a friend at the hospital while she had day surgery. It was a good book to have with me even though it is not the type of tale I would normally read. While I do write and read some romance, I am rather particular about it. I am not a fan of the insta-love trope. If you've ever read my work (any of it), you would know that I prefer stories with a dark edge to them.

This is not that kind of story.

Which also means that I am definitely not the target audience of this book, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't give it a fair review. A part of being a good reviewer is knowing that and still be able to review a book without the bias of that preference. So, let me tell you about this novel.

Sophie's Key is a brilliantly written time-travel romance. There is no denying the talent with which the author crafted the book and the scenes within. Every character you encounter is well-developed, intriguing, and delightfully written. I fell in love with a couple of the side characters that were so dynamic that they almost stole the scenes!

There is also ample evidence that Jodi did her research into the historical accuracy of the era in which our heroine, Sophie, finds herself. There is nothing that can ruin a time travel book quicker than a blatant inaccuracy. Or even a minor inaccuracy, if you're a history buff.

And of course, this is a true blue romance. That means there are several scenes that do get rather "spicy". Once again, the talent of the writing shines in that the author does a great job of balancing the sensual prose with the physical descriptions. These scenes were neither too technical nor too flowery.

Even though I was not the target audience, I can say that there are plenty of scenes in this story that made me laugh, wonder what was next, or simply kept me engaged. So there is no denying that this is a good book.

My biggest critique that I do have is that I wish I had a better feel for Sophie prior to her ending up in the past. I didn't really feel like I knew her before things got turned upside down, but the facts that are relevant later in the novel are established well enough that it doesn't affect the plot line at all. So my biggest critique is rather minor in the long run.

So, if I am not the ideal audience for this book, who is? Well, I would say this book is for readers who adore a more traditional style romance with only slight fantastical elements, or anyone who can't get enough of those good, old-fashioned, hunky cowboy heroes.

Find out more about this story and where to purchase it here: http://champagnebooks.com/store/blanc-de-blanc-paranormal/837-sophie-s-key-print-9781771553421.html

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Dark Brew Press


For awhile now, I've been thinking about doing something more with my self-published work. However, because I was working for another publisher, I had no time to really work out my idea. 

Until a few days ago. 

I'd like to introduce you to my own publishing label, Dark Brew Press.

The name is a reflection of both me and my work. Dark fiction is my signature and dark coffee is my go to fuel for working. 

For now, I will be focusing on using this label to further improve my abilities within the publishing world using my own work as the guinea pig. Once I believe I can make other people's work as profitable as mine, I will consider taking on a few select clients who write dark fiction. 

I love writing, I love being able to help other authors succeed and I think this is a perfect use of my knowledge and expertise. 

I am excited for all of you to join me on this exciting journey as I slowly grow and develop my own publishing imprint for dark fiction. 

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Not Safe For Words

A long time ago, I had an urge to do a podcast about writing, for writers that didn't put on airs about being a fountain of knowledge or used fancy words. I wanted something that was fun, informative, and honest. Not a lot of fancy language, and something where I could be myself (as in, I swear a lot). 

I kept putting the idea off, but it never left. I always thought I had nothing to really offer other writers and I had no clue how to do a podcast. It was a great, big scary mystery area.

As I became more known in writing circles, I started getting to do the occasional interview or podcast with others. I loved it so much, being able to talk about myself, my books, or topics I was comfortably knowledgeable about. Eventually, that devolved into the co-creation of "SQUIRREL! A Writer's Podcast" with Sam Hendricks. This was a chat style informative podcast for writers that was coupled with author interviews. (You can listen here if you're curious.)

It was what cemented in me two important things: I had a lot more knowledge about writing and how to be a writer than I thought I did and I actually could figure out how to do a podcast on my own.

And Not Safe For Words was born.

Throughout my years of involvement in the writing community and in publishing (both traditional and self), I have seen so many people making mistakes that might actually sabotage the career they were pursuing. None of us are perfect, we all make mistakes—myself included—but I figured that it was time to share the things I've seen and learned over the years so that others could avoid these same mistakes.

I hope those of you reading this are looking for the kind of honest and, sometimes blunt advice that I am going to be imparting on my podcast, Not Safe For Words. It will be launching in January 2021 and you'll be able to find it on most platforms where podcasts can be found and at the home of the podcast on Anchor.fm: https://anchor.fm/not-safe-for-words.

Friday, July 3, 2020

In Memory of My Princess

 Today I had to do one of the hardest things a pet owner can do—I had to make the decision that it was time to say goodbye.

Missy was more commonly known as Princess because she ruled over the house was grace and dignity. Even the dogs feared and respected her.

I had the honour of serving this darling for pretty much my entire adult life. She was found in a dumpster in 1999. At 6 weeks old, the vet told my best friend (her original servant) that she wasn't going to make it. To put her down then.

Today, July 3, 2020, that first vet has now long been proven wrong. At 21 years old, she's lived a long time for a cat.

When she was still rather young, my best friend and I lived together and she chose me to be her servant for the rest of her life. Most of my adult life, she has been with me. Moving provinces, every short story or novel, she was there. Judging my words, sometimes getting the way... or occasionally just blessing my work with her mere presence.

She wasn't your typical cat. She loved belly rubs, she hated other cats, but tolerated the dogs. She came when I called her, meowed at me when I sneezed. She talked to me when I came home from work—often being the first one to greet me at the door.

I know my life will never be the same without her. I hope, wherever she is, she will still bless my writing and judge my editing.

21 years was a long time... And yet, I still wish it could have been longer.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

The Damage of JKR's Statement

Okay, before I post what is a very long post, I want to say something to those that are reading. This was written as a way to explain in basic terms why JK Rowling's statements regarding trans people and the trans community are so harmful and misleading.

I did not go overly deep in detail as I could have, nor did I respond to every single statement she said. For anything I did get wrong, I apologize profusely. I also don't normally weigh in on topics like this in my blog, but this is something that is very important to me. It's why I cannot remain silent.

This entire post stemmed from one person saying that they didn't see what the fuss was about, that JKR's statement seemed rather reasonable. So, I offered to break it down. Enough people have told me that what I wrote helped them to really understand why JKR's words are such an issue and why it has the LGBTQIA+ community so angry.

There will be no pictures to break up the words this time. And to all my friends, no matter what anyone else says — I love you, I see you, I accept you.

Now follows my breakdown of much of what JKR posted and my responses to it. For the full text of what was posted by JKR you can read that by clicking on this link.

For people who don’t know: last December I tweeted my support for Maya Forstater, a tax specialist who’d lost her job for what were deemed ‘transphobic’ tweets. She took her case to an employment tribunal, asking the judge to rule on whether a philosophical belief that sex is determined by biology is protected in law. Judge Tayler ruled that it wasn’t.

The Maya Forstater scandal began with a statement regarding the construct of gender and that, no matter how you feel, you can only be the sex you are determined to be at birth. She also infamously made the statement that trans women are only “men in dresses”.

These are messages that are central to the struggle of acceptance for trans people. It is a rhetoric often used to dismiss who they are and not only comes from outside the LGBTQIA+ community, but far too often from inside the community as well. It has been a long battle for many trans people to get their identities recognized not only by those who should love them, but from those within a community where they should feel safe and free to be themselves.

All the time I’ve been researching and learning, accusations and threats from trans activists have been bubbling in my Twitter timeline. This was initially triggered by a ‘like’.

The ‘like’ that she is referring to is liking the comment by Maya Forstater regarding trans women being “men in dresses”. Her vocal support for Maya with the #IStandWithMaya hashtag as well as her like on that comment was the tipping point in the JKR saga.

She tweeted at the time “Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill”

A statement such as this once again, denies that trans women are women. That they are still nothing more than men in dresses. Despite her denial that she liked that men in dresses tweet by accident.

Months later, I compounded my accidental ‘like’ crime by following Magdalen Burns on Twitter. Magdalen was an immensely brave young feminist and lesbian who was dying of an aggressive brain tumour. I followed her because I wanted to contact her directly, which I succeeded in doing. However, as Magdalen was a great believer in the importance of biological sex, and didn’t believe lesbians should be called bigots for not dating trans women with penises, dots were joined in the heads of twitter trans activists, and the level of social media abuse increased.

Okay, here the narrative leaves from the truth because her following Magdalen Berns (NOT BURNS) happened BEFORE the I stand with Maya Fiasco. As it stands though, Magdalen Burns was extremely vocal in her belief that trans women are not women. While many claimed this alone cemented her position as a TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist), others also claimed that she had not yet firmly declared her stance.

However, the question remains — why did JKR want to get in touch with her? Someone so opposed to a community (LGBTQIA+) that she claimed to support

What did cement her position as being a TERF was the tweet I quoted above that negated the identity of trans people everywhere.

I mention all this only to explain that I knew perfectly well what was going to happen when I supported Maya. I must have been on my fourth or fifth cancellation by then. I expected the threats of violence, to be told I was literally killing trans people with my hate, to be called cunt and bitch and, of course, for my books to be burned, although one particularly abusive man told me he’d composted them.
Okay, anecdotal statements aside, people were angry after her statement. This was someone who had previously claimed support for a community where part of them were now being told by someone they admired that their identity wasn’t valid. So, yes, her statement was literally killing trans people. A huge celebrity someone so many looked up to suddenly telling you and others that your identity is lie hurts to the point that there would be those on the edge of suicide who will be pushed over the edge by things like this.

Nothing like finding out your personal hero doesn’t think you are, who you are. To have their voice lent to the many voices that are already slinging hate in your direction and telling you that you are not worthy.

What I didn’t expect in the aftermath of my cancellation was the avalanche of emails and letters that came showering down upon me, the overwhelming majority of which were positive, grateful and supportive. They came from a cross-section of kind, empathetic and intelligent people, some of them working in fields dealing with gender dysphoria and trans people, who’re all deeply concerned about the way a socio-political concept is influencing politics, medical practice and safeguarding. They’re worried about the dangers to young people, gay people and about the erosion of women’s and girl’s rights. Above all, they’re worried about a climate of fear that serves nobody – least of all trans youth – well.

Now, here’s the thing, there are people from all walks of life who are very anti-trans — both inside and outside of the LGBTQIA+ community. Though trans people have often been in the forefront of fighting for the rights of the entire community, they haven’t and still do not consistently have community support.

In terms of “socio-political concept”, what she is referring to is the difference between gender and sex. Once again, she is placing the idea of binary sex (which is not actually a binary, but I will talk about that later) being more important than gender. She is saying once again, gender doesn’t matter as it is not important. That the bits in pieces you are born with that are used to identify your sex at birth are absolute.

Okay, going to skip a bit as it doesn’t really need to be overly address or that I have already covered and go to this interesting statement of hers…

The fourth is where things start to get truly personal. I’m concerned about the huge explosion in young women wishing to transition and also about the increasing numbers who seem to be detransitioning (returning to their original sex), because they regret taking steps that have, in some cases, altered their bodies irrevocably, and taken away their fertility. Some say they decided to transition after realising they were same-sex attracted, and that transitioning was partly driven by homophobia, either in society or in their families.

A statement like this makes her stance against transpeople seem that much more reasonable. For many people who are not trans or do not know a lot of people who are trans, this seems like a legitimate. Does it happen? Yes. Does it happen that often? Not really.

In most places to be able to transition is takes a lot of work and can be prohibitively expensive. This is not an easy process to start, and it is not the snap of the fingers change. This statement exclusively plays on the worries of the fears of those who might be on the fence regarding the legitimacy of trans people.

A lot of the stuff that follows that paragraph to support and further sway people comes from studies that take correlations as causation. A great example of correlation equals causation lines of the debunked study on vaccines causing autism. Something people still believe, but has been scientifically debunked and even retracted by the scientist who published that study.

The more of their accounts of gender dysphoria I’ve read, with their insightful descriptions of anxiety, dissociation, eating disorders, self-harm and self-hatred, the more I’ve wondered whether, if I’d been born 30 years later, I too might have tried to transition. The allure of escaping womanhood would have been huge. I struggled with severe OCD as a teenager. If I’d found community and sympathy online that I couldn’t find in my immediate environment, I believe I could have been persuaded to turn myself into the son my father had openly said he’d have preferred.
Holy cow. Yes, transgendered people have a lot of issues with dysphoria (duh, they are in a body that doesn’t align with their gender) and are often told that feeling this way is wrong, being told that they are not valid, having their identity being negated at every turn is going to lead to a lot of issues — more so if they grow up in a homophobic household.

Most people who are not dysphoric about their body are not going to go through everything just to be what someone else wanted them to be. If that were the case, a lot of trans people would not transition and just be the son or daughter that their parents want instead of being thrown out on the street.

Once again, she saying that trans people are not valid, that it is only a whim. This is something that she doubles down, relating the struggles of many women to finding their own voice and the disconnect of strong feminine voices (mentally sexless) to being the same thing as being dysphoric.

The important thing to remember here is that the dysphoria of trans people isn’t that they simply feel like another sex for a period time or, as JKR put it mentally sexless, but their entire identity is at such odds with their physical and assigned identity at birth, that they are unable feel comfortable within their own bodies. (See above comments for the mental health issues that can stem for these things, especially in repressive or homophobic environments).

As I didn’t have a realistic possibility of becoming a man back in the 1980s, it had to be books and music that got me through both my mental health issues and the sexualised scrutiny and judgement that sets so many girls to war against their bodies in their teens. Fortunately for me, I found my own sense of otherness, and my ambivalence about being a woman, reflected in the work of female writers and musicians who reassured me that, in spite of everything a sexist world tries to throw at the female-bodied, it’s fine not to feel pink, frilly and compliant inside your own head; it’s OK to feel confused, dark, both sexual and non-sexual, unsure of what or who you are.
This statement sums up to the fact that she is comparing the societal message fo what a woman should be as the same thing as dysphoria. These are not the same. A lot of women do struggle with the societal ideal of what a woman should be compared to who they are and how they present themselves. Being a trans person, having that dysphoria has nothing to do with “feeling like you are more feminine or masculine” compared to a societal belief of how men and women should behave, believe and look like. Yet again, here she treats sex/sexuality and gender as the same thing. They are NOT the same thing.

I want to be very clear here: I know transition will be a solution for some gender dysphoric people, although I’m also aware through extensive research that studies have consistently shown that between 60-90% of gender dysphoric teens will grow out of their dysphoria.
Breaking up this next bit because there is a lot to unpack in this paragraph. First off, if dysphoria persists past puberty (ie - TEENS) then it is likely permanent. You can find stats to support anything and a lot of people aren’t going to question numbers that authority figures throw out, especially if they are in agreeance with what is being talked about.

There are two different classifications for gender dysphoria as per the DSM and ICD, one for children and one for teens and adults, which would apply after puberty. Not all children have dysphoria that continues into puberty, this may be where the stats she pulled are based on, but I am unable to find any reliable, unbiased sources to support her claims.

Again and again I’ve been told to ‘just meet some trans people.’ I have: in addition to a few younger people, who were all adorable, I happen to know a self-described transsexual woman who’s older than I am and wonderful. Although she’s open about her past as a gay man, I’ve always found it hard to think of her as anything other than a woman, and I believe (and certainly hope) she’s completely happy to have transitioned. Being older, though, she went through a long and rigorous process of evaluation, psychotherapy and staged transformation. The current explosion of trans activism is urging a removal of almost all the robust systems through which candidates for sex reassignment were once required to pass.
Okay, next part, she is throwing the fact that she isn’t anti-trans since she has trans friends. Much in the way someone cannot be racist because they have black friends. However, notice she puts in qualifiers for why this person counts, but other people with dysphoria and who are working transitioning are not valid in her mind. Their identity must not be real by those qualifications. It’s fine for some, but most people are totally not dysphoric.

A man who intends to have no surgery and take no hormones may now secure himself a Gender Recognition Certificate and be a woman in the sight of the law. Many people aren’t aware of this.
This is a UK thing. You can find more about the qualifications for it here (https://www.gov.uk/apply-gender-recognition-certificate), but it is not a “fill out the paperwork and you can walk around pretending you are another sex” simply as pie thing. It’s a lot more complicated and that statement is HIGHLY misleading.

Okay, not copy the next few paragraphs, but the intention of these are to bring the reader who might be teetering on the edge whether or not she is being reasonable or not back into the belief that she is being perfectly reasonable. Yes, this is still a rather misogynistic world, more so in some countries than others. Not many can disagree with that.

Then she follows that up with a statement, not for pity she says, but so that you understand how terrible things have been and why she must believe as she does. Despite her words, this is designed to gain sympathy for her, if not pity. Feeling sympathetic towards someone makes you more receptive to their message — whether or not you fully agree with them.

What follows is more claiming of support for trans people and a plea of “see how reasonable I am?” a simple thing to bring the entire article to a soft and gentle close. It’s honestly a great tactic because ending anything like this on a soft note also leaves the reader feeling more sympathetic to what is being asked of them.

However, the biggest thing to note is she NEVER once takes back her statements regarding sex being the ultimate decider of who you are. She doubles down in multiple ways on gender being a mostly fake construct and that dysphoria is not a real thing for the majority of people. There is no apology, no sympathy or understanding from her on the pain she caused to those are hurt by being told that they are not who they are.

In fact, everything is focused on making you agree with her and feel sympathy for her. As an author she should know, and most likely does, the power of words and how to use them. This also means that if a community says, “Whoa there, that is really a horrible thing to say or do for those who are still actively fighting for recognition in their own community”, and she refuses to listen or apologize knowing the power of her words, but instead only focuses on herself and making an argument for her POV — then you know that her heart and sympathies are likely not with the community.

Also, she did not address her most recent controversial tweet in response to the comment “people who menstruate” in which she appeared to mock it by responding “‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”

This statement really reduces being a women as only a biological process. So trans men who have not had a hysterectomy are still women, trans women cannot be women because they cannot menstruate, and of course a statement like this excludes those with genetic issues that prevent them from menstruating as well.

Okay, final comment. I mentioned early I would address the binary sex that has been a long-held opinion of people when it comes to humans. We have two sexes. Male and female. This is not true and never has been true even if you only at phenotype instead of the genetic classifications.

Sex is actually a sliding scale. While there are extreme outliers that are wholly male or wholly female, and those who fall directly in the middle (known as intersex), most of us appear as a part of the sex binary but carry the genetic aspects of the opposite sex to varying degrees as well. It’s something that really shows up strongly when looking at reactions to medications that tend to affect women and men differently.

Anyway, the result is the same. Sex is not a binary, gender is not a binary and is not the same as sex.

Hopefully, this makes sense and helps you understand why JKR is facing the sort of backlash regarding her comments that she is and why those in the community are still hurt and angry about her comments and opinion.