Pre-Conference Shenanigans

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So I just arrived back to Chilliwack from Seattle, so I’m going to tell you all about the fun that J.K. Pendragon, Laurence, and I had at the GRNW meet-up this year. There’s a lot to tell, however, so we’ll have to break this up a little for pacing.

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I think I will begin at the beginning, as stories often do.

I drove down from Prince George, my hometown, to Chilliwack, which is where J.K. Pendragon and their boyfriend Laurence live. It’s a seven hour drive, so it’s quite a trek to make. I will have to do it again tomorrow on the way back. At least the drive is scenic, if isolated, as there is nothing but Canadian wilderness and intrepid pioneers in between towns in the north.

From Chilliwack, the three of us made the epic journey across the border into Seattle, and the border guard let us into the States with three bags of grapes (he didn’t even ask about them). Navigating Seattle without any phone data was a bit of an adventure, but eventually we made it to our hotel.

GRNWcrab GRNWdoor

We stayed at the Moore, which is apparently haunted. Also, as we found out upon checking out, we were staying in a room that has had ghost sightings. We didn’t see any spectres whatsoever, so I suppose that’s a good thing. We went exploring our hotel, which was very old and had a lot of interesting little nooks, including a tiny door on the 7th floor that looked as if it had come from Jane Eyre and came with a madwoman in the attic.

The world reknown Pike Place Market was only a few minutes away from our hotel, and so we spent a lot of the day wandering around and getting lost, as tourists often do. We ate delicious seafood while we were meandering – I think you’ll find food is a very common theme in my ramblings about this trip.

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Alex Powell (me)

Then, we get the the actual pre-conference reading #LoveWins and 5 Minutes in Heaven. I was one of the readers at #LoveWins, and I read J.K. Pendragon’s favourite scene from Rangers Over Regulus in which my main character Liberty plays a very intense game of cards with Rory in the midst of a saloon filled with vagabonds.

 

 

 

Also reading for #LoveWins were GRNW Attending Authors Edmond Manning, Radclyffe, Anne Tenino, and Yolanda Wallace.

Edmond Manning

Edmond Manning

Edmond Manning read from his book King John, the 4th book in the Lost and Founds series. The excerpt he read takes place at Burning Man, and the scene is one in which the main character takes in an argument between a couple and helps to reconcile them, not only resolving the argument, but bridging a gap in understanding. The scene which begins with a certain humour ends with an emotional reconnection of lovers.

 

 

Radclyffe

Radclyffe

Radclyffe read from The Price of Honour, which is the 9th book in the Honor series. In this excerpt, the main character and her dog meet a member of the press, during which both women find themselves strangely drawn toward one another. The tension between the characters is delicious, and as usual, Radclyffe was a delightfully fun reader.

 

 

Ann Tenino

Anne Tenino

Anne Tenino read a hilarious excerpt from Frat Boy and Toppy in which her jock main character has to explain to his roommates that he’s gay after he’s caught the morning after leaving the vehicle of a gorgeous graduate student. One of the best coming-out scenes I’ve ever read, and definitely the most laughter-inducing.

 

 

 

Yolanda Wallace

Yolanda Wallace

Lastly, Yolanda Wallace read an excerpt from her historical novel Breaking Point, which takes place in 1937 and features a tennis player who wakes up to an unwelcome visitor in the form of an FBI agent. The intense scene left us all wondering what kind of choices she would need to make, all against the backdrop of pre-WW2 America.

 

 

 

The 5 Minutes in Heaven readings were short, spicy-sweet glimpses of writing from some of our favourite authors. There were hilarious commercials for Catholic condoms, a Kavka-esque scene with an orgasmic ending, a cute first date between a movie star look-alike and a film nerd, a fun and hilarious blowjob scene with amazing banter, mysterious admirers and even more mysterious letters, sex rituals, the zombie apocalypse, delicious food porn, and cozy domestic bliss. And of course, as usual, the wonderful Tracy Timmons-Gray organized the whole fabulous event. Thank you, Tracy!

Austin Chant

Austin Chant

Heidi Belleau

Heidi Belleau

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rick R. Reed

Rick R. Reed

Tracy Timmons-Gray

Tracy Timmons-Gray

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the reading events, a few of us (including some of our GRNW Attending Authors J.K. Pendragon, Heidi Belleau, Austin Chant, and Amanda Jean (LT3 editor), plus many friends and J.K’s boyfriend Laurence) went on a late-night adventure to Seattle’s mystery coke machine that gives people mystery pop. Surprisingly (or not? Because it was a mystery machine) not a single person got the same soda.

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Also, we intrepid Canadians experienced Dick’s for the first time (I’m sorry to say there were a lot of penis jokes made).

Thus we came to the end of our two days in Seattle before the beginning of the GRNW meet-up.

I will fill you all in on the amazingness which was the Gay Romance Northwest meet-up of 2015 in my next post!

 

Ethnicity and Unspecified Characters

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I was toodling around on the internet, as I often do, when I came across a discussion about ethnicity and unspecified characters. It was interesting, so I followed the thread for a little while.

The discussion was about how readers imagine characters when the author didn’t specify which ethnicity the characters were. One of the participants said that they imagined all the characters as white if they weren’t specified, and one of the others argued that this was racist, and that they imagined the characters as they were described by the author.

It is true that Western society as a whole has been socialized to see white as the default ethnicity. This is how our society was constructed, and it’s a hard mindset to get out of. When I was younger, I also imagined unidentified characters as white, and not First Nations, which is my ethnic background, because I didn’t see myself as a default, I had been trained to view myself as an anomaly. Sometimes it was even difficult to imagine characters that were described as non-white as such because it was so ingrained in my head that in order to be important, characters had to be white.

As an off-shoot discussion, this is why diversity in visual media is so important, because I didn’t start to realize that not all characters had to be white until I started seeing media branching out. Shows like Avatar: the Last Airbender, The Proud Family, shows in which a lot of the main characters and not just a token character were POC.

What that person in the conversation said was ultimately true, it is racist, but it’s racist in an insidious way, because it’s not intentional, it’s been hard-wired into people’s heads to think that way. Overwriting our social coding is really difficult to do. Society is inherently racist, and many people ignore it, because we’ve been taught that people who are racist are intentionally racist. That is a very harmful fallacy that removes responsibility from all of us to try and change how society functions.

It took me years to recognize how much I had been brain-washed into only seeing white people as important enough to have a place in a narrative. I had to train myself to not only see other writer’s characters as POC when described as such or possibly POC when left undescribed either way, but I also had to train myself into writing POC characters.

I have written numerous POC characters. All of my Shui-long characters in Across Borders are Chinese. Silveira and her family from Insanity Girls¬†are¬†Indian. Stella from Rangers over Regulus is black. Every character in Hakusan Angel is East Asian, and most of them are specifically Japanese. Maira from Love Rampage is Brazilian. I’m listing them off, not so I can say “look how diverse my characters are, look at how inclusive I am, give me a gold star,” but to tell any readers that might have had the same problems as I did that yes, these are all people of colour.

Now, for the characters I didn’t specify, because there are a few. I didn’t think it was necessary or important, but that might have been an oversight.

I didn’t specify the ethnicity of anybody in Envy’s band or their manager. Personally, in my head, I saw Jae as Korean, but since it’s not in canon, that will remain unspecified. The city from Insanity Girls is based on Vancouver, which is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in Canada. I didn’t specify the ethnicity of Liberty in Rangers over Regulus. In my background notes, Liberty himself isn’t entirely sure either. But it should be noted that he was born during the “cowboy and indian” days of the United States, so there’s a possibility of him being a mix. I also didn’t specify almost anyone in Sky Knights. A lot of them are probably Eastern European, but it also should be recognized that Russia spans an entire continent, and people living in the far east of Russia have a closer resemblance to Eastern Asian people than to anyone in Eastern Europe.

I’m not asking for miracles. This is a hard paradigm shift to acclimatize to. It needs to be acknowledged that changing the way you think is not an easy task and it won’t happen overnight. But it is important to try, even if it is difficult.

Just something to think about.

 

Conference Prep

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Hey everyone, there’s two weeks to go, and I’m still doing some last minute preparation for the Gay Romance Northwest meet-up. So while I was at it, I decided that I might as well put up a blog post about preparing for writing conferences, tell you some new announcements for GRNW, and tell you about the events I’ll be participating in for the conference.

Getting ready for GRNW

Getting ready for GRNW

My preparation for GRNW started ages ago. I’m Canadian, and the conference is in Seattle. That meant I had to renew my passport so that I could cross the border. Also, the friends I’ll be traveling with, J.K. Pendragon and their boyfriend Laurence are also Canadian and needed passports. Luckily, my passport came several weeks ago.

I also needed transport and hotels. I arranged us transport, but it won’t be anything too fancy. We’ll be taking the Beast, which is a 1995 Chevy Silverado. It’s twenty years old and still running well. Also, it seats six people, which is kind of ridiculous, but should fit 3 people, all their stuff, plus merchandise fairly easily. It runs on diesel, so hopefully I can find gas stations along the way that have diesel fuel pumps.

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I also had to order merchandise far in advance. Publishers are only too happy to help authors out on the book front. I also have postcards and posters that I have leftover from last year as well as business cards and magnets I ordered brand new for this year.

GRNW also offered authors the option to donate free giveaway books, which my friend J.K. did, as well as swag giveaways for the gift bags.

This year, I’m taking part in a couple of different GRNW activities.

I’ll be one of the readers for the #LoveWins reading event at Hugo House. I’m really excited about this one, because it’s my second ever reading event. My first one was the Read and Write with Pride event in Edmonton. This time, I will be reading from my novel Rangers over Regulus, as I will be selling it at the Book Market after the conference. The other readers will be Edmond Manning, Radclyffe, Anne Tenino, and Yolanda Wallace.

#LoveWins- Celebrating LGBTQ Love Stories_banner

I’ll also be on the last panel of the day at the conference itself, the Evolving LGBTQ Romance Genre. This one promises to be very interactive and dynamic. What is going to happen is that at the very beginning, everyone gets to write down what they think about where the LGBTQ romance genre should go in the future on a sticky note. The wonderful GRNW volunteers will organize your thoughts into themes, and then the last panel of the day will discuss your ideas! This is going to be a really fun panel, and I’m really glad to be part of it!

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My fellow panelists will be Austin Chant, who is one of my fellow LT3 authors and also one of the GRNW keynote speakers, Laylah Hunter, and Karelia Stetz-Waters. Our moderator will be Gunner Scott, the Pride Foundation’s Director of Programs.

I’m still preparing for all the events! Discussions with my fellow panelists are still taking place, and I haven’t yet decided what section of Rangers over Regulus I’m going to read from yet.

I might be able to fit a new haircut in before I have to drive to Seattle.