Whilst there is no official notice on a Torquere blog or website, Torquere have announced to their authors that they are winding up trading. I’m saddened to see Torquere closing. The earlier version of the press gave me my first publishing break, in 2006, and I have been happily publishing with them for the decade since then.
With the re-release of Circle of Change, and my increasing willingness to link my ‘real name’ publications with my pen name online presence, I am faced with a quandary. Three years ago, I changed my real world name, and I now use male pronouns. (I’ve also published speculative fiction under that name.) More and more, I’m talking and posting publicly about the experience of transitioning.
When I began the process of changing my life, I decided to not change my pen name, and to continue writing queer romance as Laney Cairo, with a feminine/androgynous persona. At the time, I had seven novels published under that name (I’ve since added Fountain of the Worlds), and maintaining connection with my existing readers was an excellent decision. This still makes sense to me! If my readers know who I am, of course I’m not going to change my pen name. And if you run into me in person, it’s fine to call me Laney, if that’s how you know me.
The only problem I’ve found so far? I look less and less like my publicity photo as time passes 🙂
During the intervening years, I’ve made substantial changes in my life (as some of you will know, if you have read any of the social media posts from my Real Name writer pages). I’ve changed to using male pronouns, changed my name, and have explored some of the more technical options for altering my body.
Going back to Circle as a trans person has been emotionally unsettling. It’s reminded me of how much I wanted this process to happen. And I’ve had the eerie experience of re-reading a scene I wrote a decade ago that has since happened in my life. It’s one of the key emotional points of Circle, to do with acceptance and rejection of identity, and it played out exactly as I had written. How much does my subconscious know, if it puts scenes like that in my stories? How universal are these experiences? It took me some time to process the experience of re-reading the scene. Sometimes writing is hard.
If you were wondering, I would write some of the details differently now I’m transitioning in my own life, but I wouldn’t alter the core of the novel.
Today is a joyous day, Circle of Change is now available in print! This book has made quite an impact in its ten years, until now it’s only been available as an ebook. Thanks to you my lovely readers, it’s got a brand new shiny cover and is available in hard copy. I hope that it means just as much to people over the next ten years.
Over the next couple of days I’ll be sharing some personal thoughts around Circle of Change and I’d love to invite you to do the same in the comments. I’d love to hear what this book has meant to you since you first read it, or what you think if you’re coming to it for the very first time.
I felt so honoured for “Blood and Ink” just to be short-listed alongside stories by Sean Monaghan and Garth Nix.
Thank you, to the Aurealis Awards committee and judges, for all the work that makes the awards happen. And to Joanna and Kristi, at Prizm Books [now closed], for publishing “Blood and Ink”. when it was outside of their usual genre range.
I’m going to be at Swancon over Easter, and am on several panels, as well as giving an academic presentation. You can see my schedule below:
Friday 7.30pm – Fans and substance (ab)use:
Where’s the line between our right to hack our bodies to meet our needs, and everyone else’s right to not have a messed up person to deal with? How much can we optimise our body chemistry, with the available tech? These, and other exciting questions will be tackled. Ask us about hangover management, too.
Friday 8.30pm – Romance Panel: It’s Going to Get Weird Edition:
John, Lulu and I get stuck into the odder end of erotica. Are you sure that’s anatomically possible?
Saturday noon – Visualising Gender Fluidity:
Will Knox and I demonstrate the visual tool we built for our work on the Murdoch Uni Ally program, and talk about how we built it.
Monday noon: Is Spy-fic Speculative fic?:
In which I reveal I know a lot about Modesty Blaise.
Monday 2pm: Big Weather:
Predicting a Future Climate: How do SF authors write about climate change?
“Blood and Ink”, published by Prizm Books [now closed] and written under my ‘other’ name of Jack Bridges, has been short-listed for an Aurealis Award for Best Science Fiction Novella.
The Aurealis Awards are judged by a panel, and it is wonderful to think that the panel have chosen “Blood and Ink” for the short list, alongside Sean Monaghan’s “The Molenstraat Music Festival” and Garth Nix’s “By Frogsled and Lizardback to Outcast Venusian Lepers”. Such excellent company! I’m so pleased!
This is my first Aurealis nomination as well. “Blood and Ink” started off as a short, short story, written standing up at the bookstore counter during work hours, and has grown up into a novella in a world of its own.
“Blood and Ink” is clearly Young Adult, with a teenage girl as protagonist, and still holds its own as a science fiction story, which says good things about the genre too.
Circle of Change, my trans* coming-of-age novel, isn’t my best known, most popular title. It is, interestingly, the story that readers care the most about, though, based on the emails I receive. This gives me warm, happy feelings, knowing so many people have responded to a story that I wrote primarily for myself. This was my book of longing, when even openly identifying as gender queer seemed impossible.
One recent email about Circle of Change asked if Circle was ever going to be released in print, after only being available in e-book form for the better part of a decade. I forwarded the email on to lovely Kristi at Torquere Press [now closed], who replied immediately with the arrangements for a print release.
For those of you interested in my new book Fountain of the Worlds, you may be like to know that the book features a recipe that is a vegan take on Butter Chicken called ‘Not Butter Not Chicken’.
In Fountain of the Worlds, the dish Not-butter Not-chicken, as prepared by Maggie the bar chef, appears in several scenes. Not-butter Not-chicken is a dish I created after realizing that the flavors that made Butter Chicken what is it are neither butter nor chicken. Since the dish is dependent on spices and tomato for its characteristic taste, making a vegan version was an option. Cashew paste replaces the yoghurt or cream usually added before serving. This recipe scales up well.
Makes at least six large serves. Freezes well. Approximate preparation and cooking times for the full recipe is 80 minutes.
- Garlic (enough to give three heaped teaspoons when minced)
- Ginger (a piece about 4 cms/2 inches in length, to give three heaped teaspoons when grated)
- Cumin 2 teaspoons
- Coriander seeds 2 teaspoons
- Fenugreek ½ teaspoon
- Cardamom 1 teaspoon
- Cloves 4
- Cinnamon stick 1
- OR a commercial Butter Chicken spice paste
- Olive oil 65 mls/ ¼ cup (note, if you use a commercial Butter chicken spice paste, you will need less oil)
- Two large onions
- Two kilograms/ five pounds of ripe tomatoes OR two 800-gram/ 2 pound cans of crushed tomatoes
- Two cups of red lentils (any color will do, adjust your cooking time to allow for the differences between the types of lentils)
- Tomato concentrate 250 mls/1 cup
- Coconut cream 400 mls/ 3/4 pint
- Cashews unsalted 2 cups
Grind together cumin, coriander, cardamom and fenugreek with a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. Set aside.
Peel and grate fresh ginger. (I had about 3 heaped teaspoons when done). Peel and dice garlic to give you about 3 teaspoons (I had two cloves of elephant garlic for this).
Heat olive oil in a large heavy-based pan. Gently fry garlic and ginger in olive oil. Add ground spices and heat.
Gently heat commercial Butter Chicken spice paste in olive oil in a large heavy-based pan.
Add sliced onions and brown gently.
Add chopped tomatoes, cloves and cinnamon stick and cook on medium heat until tomatoes have released their liquid and softened.
OR Add tinned tomatoes, cloves and cinnamon stick and cook on medium heat until heated through.
Add the red lentils, coconut cream, and 400 mls of water. Add tomato concentrate. Cook on low heat for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are soft, stirring occasionally.
While the Not-butter Not-chicken is cooking, put the cashews in a heatproof container and cover with boiling water. Leave to soak and soften. When water has cooled and cashews are softer, blend into a creamy paste with a stick blender or a conventional blender.
Serve the Not-butter Not-chicken with the cashew cream stirred through, on rice.
If you want a taste of my new book Fountain of the Worlds featuring polyamorous elves on motorbikes who go off to save the world, take a look:
Some houses were in darkness, closed and boarded up, with grass growing out of cracks in their walls and ivy falling down off their roofs. Others were insubstantial, nothing more than woven mats of reeds held together with string and good luck, giving their occupants only cursory privacy and no protection from the weather. Some were solid stone, untouched by moss or weed, with iron-barred windows and padlocked doors.
All of them opened directly onto the street so that Island, Faith and Trouble were stepping around their doorsteps each time a cart or motorbike veered too close on the dusty road.
Faith hung onto Island more tightly because the road they were on was becoming crowded, with pedestrians pushing past them and street vendors sitting in front of mats on the ground, in front of the houses.
The vendor’s mats were loaded with odd things that Faith had trouble identifying.
Marbles, only larger and prettier, and moving by themselves? Pincushions? Blocks of something dark and pungent, smelling of fire smoke and orange peel?
Faith paused, in front of a squat table laden with fragments of glass that twinkled in the lamp the vendor held out.
“What are they?” Faith asked Island. “Jewellery? They’re beautiful.”
“Candy,” Trouble said, shaking his hand at the vendor and nudging Faith along, away from the young woman behind the table, who held out a sample in impossibly long fingers.
“You thought the cake was good,” Island said, pushing Faith along as well. “The cake is nothing compared to the candy here. Don’t eat the candy.”
“I didn’t want to eat it,” Faith complained, looking back longingly at the table, at the woman still holding out a piece of turquoise toward Faith. “I want to wear it.”
“Sure, that’s what they all say,” Trouble said. “Just want to wear the candy, won’t even lick it, then before you know it you’ve got a full-blown corn syrup habit and no teeth. The alcohol-containing candy is the worst.” Trouble waved away a man who held out a gown of lace for Faith to admire. “Anything that gives you a sugar rush and gets you smashed is evil.”
“Only way they could make it worse is if they put caffeine in it,” Trouble said. “And I’m sure that has occurred to someone somewhere.”
Island waved away someone holding out a pink-furred kitten to them.
“Please, no,” Island told the vendor with the kitten. “We have enough cat problems already.”
“Around this corner,” Trouble said, raising his voice over the steadily increasing hum of sound in the background.
They pushed their way around the corner, past a child selling balloons that smelled of bananas, and a stray troll, and Faith said, “Oh!” at the sight of the markets that opened up, stretching several blocks and completely filling the street surface in a delirious display of color and sound and smell.
These were the same markets as in the other city, only the traders were selling different wares.
“Let’s be conspicuous,” Trouble said, pushing his shoulders back under his chain mail and resting his hand on the hilt of his sword. “We’ve got gossip to find, and the easiest way is to let it find us.”
They settled into a pattern, where they snaked slowly through the crowd, and either Island or Trouble would say, “No, you can’t have it,” to Faith every few seconds, whether she was admiring something for sale or not. The lamps were close together in the market, making the area better lit than anywhere else she’d been. Sometimes she wasn’t admiring a crown or a platter of fruit, sometimes she was being amazed at people with wings, or tiny shining lights embedded in their hair.
People called out to Island or Trouble, shouting greetings, or possibly abuse, and Island and Trouble waved back, and leaned across tables to shake hands with people.
It was at one of these tables, while Island and Trouble exchanged pleasantries with a young man with a shaved head, that Faith picked up what looking like a curved horn, curious and a little fed up at having so much to look at and not being allowed to touch anything.
“Ah, don’t,” Island said, taking the horn out of her hand and putting it back on the table. “Wash your hands before eating anything, as well.”
When they walked away from the table, Faith looked down at her hands, which still looked the same, and asked, “What was it? Poison? It looked like a cow horn.”
“It was a cow horn,” Trouble said. “From biodynamic farming. The horns are packed full of cow shit and buried with the crops, then something odd happens to the cow shit, and it makes awesome fertilizer.”
“And the horns are sold afterward, as fertility charms,” Island added. “Something that possibly alarms Trouble and myself.”
“Do they work?” Faith asked.
“What? As fertilizer makers? Or as fertility charms?” Island asked.
“Um, either? Both?” Faith said.
Island shrugged and guided Faith around a rack of clothes that she itched to try on.
The itching was literal, and she had to stop herself from checking for hives.
“In here,” Island said, pushing open a door and gesturing for Faith to enter. “You’ll have to ask Trouble or Honey about the effectiveness of the magic.”
In the doorway of what was obviously a bar, Faith looked back at Trouble.
“Well?” she asked. “Do they work?”
Trouble nodded. “Sure,” he said. “I vote we don’t have sex for a while, just in case.”
Island was waiting beside a booth. Faith slid into the booth and said, “You’re teasing me, aren’t you?”
The candle on the table guttered, spilling wax down onto the pocked and stained wood, and Trouble grinned and slid in beside Faith.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Even if the spell had stuck to you, I could always remove it.”
Patrons sat at the tables, or up at the bar, mostly hidden by the shadows, so their identities could only be guessed at. A server glided up to their table, and slid three glasses across the oiled wood without asking for an order.
“Is this safe?” Faith asked in a whisper, gesturing at her glass, where beads of moisture slid down the outside and gathered in a ring around the base of the glass.
“It’s water,” Trouble said. “We’re in a water bar.”
Faith leaned her head closer to Trouble and whispered, “So what are they really selling?”
Trouble leaned close enough to brush his lips against her cheek in a quick kiss.
“Talk, babe, talk,” Trouble whispered. “Listen…”
Faith sipped her glass, which really did just contain water, and listened.
She could hear the people at the table behind her, murmuring among themselves. And the muted roar of the market outside the bar. Water dripped somewhere nearby, which made sense in a water bar… A dog barked, and people outside the window seemed to be talking, about selling food…
Sounds separated out gradually, fragments of words became sentences, then conversations, all pouring into the room.
After an extended break from being online due to family commitments, I was finding it hard to return to regular online posting. The routine was just not there, and I wasn’t finding the oomph inside myself. The answer was to look for outside motivation. I remembered reading a post and watching a vid by Niall Doherty, an adventurer who is travelling the world without flying, and Niall’s suggestion for sticking to long term small increment plans seemed particularly appropriate.
Niall suggests three steps in his Holy Trinity of Productivity blog post: setting a small daily target, making sure you are accountable to someone else, and establishing a harsh penalty for not meeting the daily target.
So, I have now bet Ju Landéesse, who is my manager and web person, that I will produce a tweet and a Facebook post every single day. If I don’t send Ju this content daily, then I have to pay Ju $1000. That’s a ridiculously large amount of money.
The rationale is that, no matter how distracted or busy I am, I am always going to prefer to write the content for my Facebook and Twitter than I am to lose the bet.
The irony of having to find a way to maneuver myself into writing a couple of hundred words of text a day, when I willingly write several thousand words of fiction in a sitting, is not lost on me!
I recommend having a look around Niall Doherty’s site, Disrupting the Rabblement. I stumbled on to Niall’s writing when looking for material on minimalist travel a couple of years ago, and have kept on reading his mix of travelogue, entrepreneurial experimentation and introspection.
Every book has a beginning…
In 2010, I attended Aussiecon Four, the 68th World Science Fiction Convention, in Melbourne, Australia. I had a kaffeeklatsch (a small group discussion, with coffee) with other attendees who read my books, and got the chance to ask the group ‘what do you want to read next?’ The answer, which surprised me, was ‘dirty, polyamorous elves on motorbikes.’
I admit, asking Worldcon attendees was always going to skew the answer towards speculative fiction. I had not anticipated elves, or polyamory, and perhaps I should have?
That was a kernel of Fountain of the Worlds, at Worldcon. More of the story came from my day job. I worked then (and still do) as an academic at a small university, teaching an assortment of units across several faculties. At the time, I was teaching a unit on the history of scientific thought and method, shared between the Physics department and the Philosophy department.
Hanging out with physicists is excellent, and I recommend it. I spent a lot of time asking my physicist boss questions, once I started working on the novel.
“Hi! If I had a wormhole, and put a singularity into it, what would happen?”
Physicist stares at me. “Physics says no. Also, don’t do that.”
“What if I needed to? For plot reasons?”
“Please don’t do it on campus.”
“If I called you in the middle of the night and said was an emergency, and I
needed a magnetic bottle, could you get me one?”
“No. What are you going to put in the magnetic bottle?”
“Okay. What are you keeping it in while I find you a magnetic bottle?”
A long pause. “This university doesn’t have a magnetic bottle I could use, but if I worked at X university, I’d be able to help.”
My physicist boss is the best. All outrageous crimes against science, common sense and logic in the novel are my own fault.
Fountain of the Worlds is set in Melbourne, both the ‘real’ version of the city, and an alternate universe version. The ‘real’ version of Melbourne is magical in its own right, and I visit it often. The city is covered in a spider web of tramlines. The bars and cafes are fabulous. The city’s gardens and parks are glorious. It has been no hardship to spend extra time exploring Melbourne, under the pretence of research.
Hope you enjoy reading the book as much as I have enjoyed writing it!
Torquere Press [now closed] are giving away books as their Christmas present to their readers. My novel, Running the Nullarbor, was free on December 23rd and ended December 24th. Thanks to Torquere for making Running the Nullarbor available as a Christmas present in 2014.
I’m very fond of Running the Nullarbor, and the entire Australis Liminus series. The series of adventures are set in a near future, dystopic Australia, full or magic and mayhem. Taken in its entirety, the Australis Liminus series is pretty much what happens when I sweep the contents of my brain onto the keyboard and stir vigorously. Dinosaurs. Lots of dinosaurs and megafauna later in the series. I wrote the series out of order, with the third book, Walking to the Stars, happening first, then the first and second titles written later to explain how the world became that way, and where the megafauna came from.
Running the Nullarbor:
Times are tough in Western Australia. There’s a war on, though nobody will call it that yet. Dan, injured in the line of duty, now takes in orphaned children until the Red Cross can find a place for them. He’s become an old hand at looking after the kids, running his little hand crank radio, and just surviving.
That is until Sid rolls up to his house on a motorcycle, claiming to be the uncle of the baby girl Dan is currently looking after. It isn’t that Dan doesn’t believe Sid, it’s just that the man knows nothing about taking care of babies and Dan doesn’t see how Sid is going to manage taking the child across the outback on his bike.
Heavy bombing in the area prompts Dan to flee eastward with Sid and the baby, but neither Sid nor the baby are your ordinary humans and the so-called police action is becoming more and more of a war every day. Will Dan and his companions survive the army, the war, the outback, and worst of all Sid’s relatives to become something more than they are?
You’ve found your way to my fabulous new blog and website.
After an hiatus from writing, in which I had many excellent adventures, I have returned to writing and publishing with a new novel, Fountain of the Worlds. Fountain of the Worlds will be released on New Year’s Eve, 2014, and will be published by Torquere Press [now closed]. Take a peek at the cover for the new book below.
My new website has a Free Reads section. I hope you enjoy exploring that tab, revisiting some of my established universes and maybe making some new friends. My back catalogue is divided into Long Reads and Short Reads, so have a look through those tabs as well.
I’m delighted to be jumping back into writing again.