It’s my first Christmas as Alison, and in many ways I have never been happier.

The blog has died down in recent weeks, but I’m not stressing about it. I’ve been doing a lot of writing, both over at Wattpad and in a private writing group where I’m blazing on a novel. It feels good.

Life just feels good, generally. My first Christmas as myself, both in my heart and on my driver’s license, is something I’ve wanted for a long time. I was so close to it last year, but it was a few days after Christmas that I came out to my kids and more than a month later before I started telling everyone. To be here now, a year later, finally whole … the feeling can’t be quantified. It just is.

Oh! And I was recently interviewed for an article in the Toledo Blaze, a thing that happened because someone read the Skeptoid article I wrote on Christmas last year. So that was pretty cool.

There are a lot of things I could be complaining about right now, job and money chief amongst them, but there will be time for that after the holidays.  I will also write more regularly on the blog again after the new year. The next few days are about my kids, my family, and my Self.

Happy holidays, everyone.

Categories: Uncategorized

About a decade ago, my brother-in-law loaned me his copy of City of Heroes. At the time I was craving an MMORPG but didn’t feel that I had the time to invest in World of Warcraft. CoH seemed like a good choice — it felt more casual to me, and it was in a genre I loved.

Character creation in CoH was pretty standard for superhero games — decide on a power type, choose powers, set your costume, and on your way. I decided to make a “strong” character based on a technology power type. So I made a tall, well-muscled woman with a long blonde ponytail and a cybernetic arm (and maybe leg, too — I don’t recall anymore). She basically punched really hard, jumped really high, and had a few other powers. No lasers, no cape [“NO CAPES!”], no weapon. Just a girl with a big punch who was taller than all the other female PCs I encountered. I named her Tara Titan because she was so tall and strong (named after the Greek Titans, of course) and because name alliteration is a standard comic book trope (e.g., Silver Surfer, Peter Parker, Martian Manhunter, etc.).

I’m not going to admit that Tara was some kind of Mary Sue for my trans self at the time, but she was endemic of the kind of characters I always played in MMOs: female, pretty but not sexy, and always the very first character I created in a game. My alt character was always male, I guess to take the curse off it; but I never played that male alt much. My female PCs were always the first to reach the level cap. The only thing that made Tara stand out from the rest was than I didn’t give her some variation of a name with Ali in it.

Something about the Tara Titan concept stuck around long after I stopped playing CoH. I liked her, liked the idea of her, and eventually recruited her into my fiction. Tara’s journey from a City of Heroes PC to the leading P.O.V. character in the superhero opus I’ve been composing in my head since middle school is not a story easily told. It’s just one of the creative quirks in my head: eventually, every idea of value I have seems to get swept up in the Touched. My brain is wired for epic world-building. You’d think, given such a proclivity, that I would be the kind of nerd who obsesses over Tolkien’s Silmarillion or who knows the name of every midshipman on the USS Enterprise, but you’d be wrong. I don’t enjoy being a fan of such universes. I just want to build my own.

I tell this story merely as backdrop to this week’s big Wattpad experiment. I thought you might want to know a little about where she came from … and why certain story events are about to happen. It’s weird sometimes; once an idea digs in I don’t like to change it so much as make it fit the story. Tara is no longer a technology hero, but the original had that cybernetic arm and there’s a fragment of that concept that I just couldn’t let go. I will be interested to see how it plays out on the page.

There are four segments of The Trials of Tara Titan published right now, clocking in at over 5,000 words, and I hope to have another 1,000 up by the end of the day. Give it a read, why don’t’cha? Thanks.

Categories: Writing

Last week was a bit of a derailing for my writing. I’m back on track though this week, and I have begun writing something I’ve wanted to get serious about for a long time.

Tara_Cover_NewI have tried for years to get a story out of my head. Honestly, there are many stories in there clamoring for attention, but one in particular has been in my heart and in my head since quite literally middle school, where the first seeds of the idea planted themselves. I have tried and failed in the past to tell some part of this story, including a spectacular fail at writing a “Twitter novel” back around 2008. Now, I think that both the idea and my own writing have matured to the point where the story can be told in full

The overarching series concept is called The Touched. Put briefly, it’s my take on a superhero mythology. Emphasis on the mythology, because my superheros derive their super abilities not from mutation or accident or alien intervention, but from the myths and legends of yore. Thor and Wonder Woman are probably the popular heroes closest to what I mean, though my own ideas are a unique take on things — at least, I like to think so. It’s a concept that has slowly consumed a lot of ideas over the years, not to mention a lot of my personal views on the world. The resultant story is so much bigger than I ever expected it to be. It’s daunting to think about telling it all.

There’s plenty to tell about the world of the Touched, but for now I’m just going to sit back and let readers discover it as it comes. The first serial, The Trials of Tara Titan, is already started on Wattpad, which will be my de facto platform for now. By the time this post publishes there will be four parts of Tara Titan’s story online with more to follow soon. Tara’s story is a long one that will probably continue the way comic serials continue, for a long time to come.

A second short serial, tentatively titled Under a Violent Moon, will probably begin just after the new year. That story has a definite end (think like a comic book miniseries). You’ll meet the hero, Leila, along with Tara before UaVM starts.

Suffice to say that any success in this venture boosts my ability to write as a professional. Wattpad books have become published books; Wattpad writers have become bestselling writers. So please, if you like what I do here, click through and read what I’ve written so far. And if you like what you read please follow the story on Wattpad [one more account isn’t going to kill you] and please vote for my story so that it gets more visibility and hopefully readers. Wattpad can be a big boost for the right stories. I think mine can be one of them.

Categories: Ali Finds Her Self

I am scattered this week. I can’t focus on writing, or really on anything. This post was supposed to go up yesterday, but I just didn’t get to it.

I am feeling the crush of becoming a statistic. In 2009, the NCTE found that transgender people suffer twice the rate of unemployment as cisgender people. A follow-up study in 2011 confirmed that number and also reported that 41% of transgender people are underemployed (i.e. have a job but it doesn’t pay a living wage).

I had hoped to avoid falling into this category. When I lost my job in June I knew I had six months of safety net before things got bad. In the meantime I have picked up some part-time work and sent out a ton of resumes; but my safety net is basically gone and I have very little to show for it. I did not make enough money last month to cover my mortgage, let alone all my other expenses. This month will be worse, as the last of my reserve cash runs out. I am underemployed and I am struggling to change that fact.

Dozens of resumes have led to three contacts back, two face-to-face interviews, and one (so far) rejection letter. I have a job prospect that I am hopeful for, but I am also nervous as Hell because this is about the best bet I’ve had come up in the past three months. I need a job. Ideally, I need this job, ideally, so that I can maintain my professional credentials and not break an 18-year career employment streak. The silence is deafening, though.

I’ve had to return to my anxiety meds to sleep at night the last few days.

I’m not in a truly awful place … yet. I have some classes lined up for next semester and I’m trying to add more. But this is not going to be a fun Christmas, and I’m only going to hold off the collection calls for so long once all the cash runs out.

Sorry that this is just random bitching. Sometimes I need this blog to just say things out loud. Please, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t bother to comment. It’s my blog, I can cry if I want to. I will return to more valuable content later this week.

Categories: Writing

In keeping with the theme of “not doing my usual thing” this week, I’m not covering one album in this post. Instead, I’m going to introduce you to an artist I just discovered recently: Zella Day.

I first heard Day’s music when Spotify dropped her song “Sweet Ophilia” into a random mix I was listening to. The song stuck in my head, literally — I was humming it for the rest of the day. I am not good with modern music, so I can’t say for sure what she sounds “like”, but I’ve seen her described as “indie pop” and “bohemian pop.” Whatever; it’s good music.

She hasn’t released a lot of music — just an EP and a couple singles — but it’s all worth a listen. I’ve linked to the EP on the right (it’s a Spotify player, but you shouldn’t need an account to listen).

I don’t know how much she’ll make her way into my regular writing mixes, but so far I enjoy her sound. I think you will, too.

Categories: Writing

I’m playing with story samples again this week, both to test things out on a technical level and to drum up at least a little interest in my fiction on the reader level. Plus, I have a job interview today that I’m a little stressed about and I’m not in the most focused frame of mind for blogging.

The story below is very short–it’s more of a vignette, really–and I know I posted a version of it on a blog before (not this one though). It’s actually based on a real incident I experienced while tutoring once, though I’ve fictionalized everything of course. I swear to you, the final line in the story is an exact quote.

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Categories: Writing

Something a little different today. I’m trying to motivate myself to finish a collection of short fiction, most likely to be sold via Amazon, and I have been doing a lot of story polishing lately. I have also been trying to play around with PDF formats and ePub and such, and I wanted to see how hard it was to embed a PDF viewer into WordPress (answer: not hard).

So, this post is a technology test. Below is a one of the stories I’m using in the collection. I might have posted it or a link to it here somewhere before, but whatever. Can you see the file below? If so, what do you think of the story? I’d love to hear comments.

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Categories: Writing

Happy holidays all! I hope you had a good Thursday, whether or not you celebrate.

For this Friday’s Writing Music, I couldn’t resist choosing a Christmas album. This time of year, I listen to Christmas music almost constantly. It’s a part of all my writing music mixes because it just makes me feel good and because it’s the kind of music I can safely fade into the background when I find the zone.

I could have chosen a dozen albums here, but I decided to choose A Very She & Him Christmas because it’s a little bit different from the common popular Christmas albums.

She and Him is a musical duo made up of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward. They had released some albums before this 2011 Christmas album, but I honestly had not heard of them prior to this. I only encountered this album because Starbucks gave away one of the tracks that year. I liked that track enough to buy the whole thing, and I’m glad I did.

Like a lot of people, my first impulse for listening to She and Him was “Zooey Deschanel is the vocalist?!” Why yes she is, and a damn fine vocalist at that. Besides the vocals, though, the whole retro vibe to this album is great. I suspect it could be described as “a little bit hipster,” but whatever. It’s good music.

Really, though,  it’s the retro thing that hooks me. We all know that the classic Christmas recordings are the best; who wants to listen to Taylor Swift sing “Santa Baby” when you could listen to Eartha Kitt? Or suffer through Swift trying to out-Wham! “Last Christmas”? Or heck, listen to Swift sing anything at all? It’s rare to find a modern recording that stands up to the oldies. She and Him manage to pull off some excellent renditions, however, with a fair bit of flair.

One interesting song is their recording of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” where they’ve actually reversed the singing roles. The song still holds up, though it takes on a different feel. Musically it’s a bit oddly paced, but still listenable.

I don’t have a lot to say here. Like I said, I listen to a lot of Christmas music. With Thanksgiving past and the season upon us, this one will certainly end up in my playlist between now and December 25th. You should give it a listen (you can hear it on Spotify for free before you buy).

[Incidentally, this holiday season She and Him have a new non-holiday album out. I look forward to picking it up as soon as I have the spare cash.]

Now that my social transition is well and truly complete, I have begun to think about the next step in my new life: gender-confirming surgeries.

Surgery is a big, expensive, disruptive step, but it’s also an important one. Some sort of surgery is absolutely required in most states before one is allowed to change their legal gender marker; my home state, Michigan, is such a state. Surgery of some kind is also an accepted and generally practiced therapeutic step for gender dysphoria, and my own mental well-being would be improved for having them. For these reasons, surgery is a must for me.

There are generally five surgeries trans women consider (there are a few more uncommon ones, too, but these are the biggies):

Of these, GRS is the not only the most expensive, but also most important from a mental health standpoint (for me at least — some women feel differently). I consider FFS and BA to be more important to daily social acceptance than GRS (unless I plan on going around showing everyone my genitals, which I don’t). VFS can also be important socially, but it’s sketchy and unreliable surgery even in the best of circumstances. An orchi is usually undertaken by women as a half-measure before GRS, especially if one lives (as I do) in a state where orchi is acceptable as a condition of changing one’s gender marker; it’s also the cheapest procedure on the list.

Not all trans women choose to undergo GRS, but for me it’s a must at some point. Given the cost, however, it’s probably several years in my future. Also, any surgery I get is predicated on two things: (1) getting a job again so I can save money, and (2) relying on the tide of social change to open up the possibility of insurance covering some or all of the cost.

I think that it’s not unrealistic to set an orchi as a 2015 goal (again, assuming I find a job). I also think that GRS is a realistic five-year goal. Between the orchi and the GRS, I would like to have either FFS or BA, maybe two or three years out. Both would not be out of the question, as long as I could allow a full year between procedures.

Wait, did I just plan on going under the knife four times in the next five years? Yeah, I guess I did. It sounds intimidating when I lay it all out, but I hate the idea of putting any of them off for more than five years. I wasn’t kidding before when I said that these procedures are an important part of my mental health. The worst thing I could think of right now is going the next five years without having any sort of surgery. If that were to happen, I would probably find myself in a very dark place in 2020.

Categories: Writing

Soundtracks are incredible writing music. As music crafted around stories and meant to evoke the narrative itself, a movie soundtrack can evoke emotions, pacing, atmosphere, and climax. I have a lot of movie soundtracks in my collection and some of them frequently make it into my writing music mixes.

In the realm of soundtracks as amazing writing music, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is an amazing soundtrack. It’s great movie music scored by John Williams. When Williams was hired to score Sorcerer’s Stone, had been in the business for 30 years and scored everything from Star Wars to Jurassic Park. You can hear some hints of that earlier work in this score, but it’s definitely got a distinct sound as well.All of the HP soundtracks are good, but Williams’ original is the best. It established a lot of the memorable musical themes that wended their way through all eight films.

The key track here is “Hedwig’s Theme.” You probably think of this one as “The Harry Potter Theme”. It’s the leitmotif most familiar to anyone who’s seen the film. On this album, “Hedwig’s Theme” is also the name for the “credits scene” music track, which dips and soars through all the film’s key music moments. There’s energy in the track, and whimsy, and magic. That track has more plays in my iTunes list than any other.

I suppose there’s some need to be invested in the Harry Potter series to really enjoy this soundtrack. I have read the books, I have watched the films, and I have enjoyed them all. For me, this is not just music that suggests a story; it reminds me of a story I love. And when I’m thinking of stories I love, I want to tell stories of my own. That’s what writing music is supposed to do, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone does it in spades.

In general, I definitely recommend that any writer looking for some inspirational brain candy consider snagging the soundtracks to their favorite movies. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone may not be your particular speed; if not, then find the soundtrack for any story that you enjoyed. It doesn’t even have to be a great soundtrack by a top composer; it just needs to reach into your brain and flip that writing switch.