Queering Austen, Take Two: Emma

That’s right–I’m finally getting to my Queering the Canon project. As I mentioned some time ago, in the many years since releasing Gay Pride & Prejudice, I’ve often contemplated turning my gay eye on other Western Classics. First on my list has always been Jane Austen’s Emma, due to the homoerotic subtext that’s so obvious that more than one straight white male critic in the 20th century noticed. Feminists in general and lesbian feminists in particular have long celebrated Austen’s exploration of female friendship, and Emma offers so many different meditations on female friendship that shaping a queer variation requires very little work indeed.

Sapphists in Austen’s time

As I wrote on Patreon recently, I’ve received a fair amount of negative reaction to Gay Pride & Prejudice over the years, specifically regarding my choice to edit Austen’s original text to make it gay rather than penning an original variation from scratch. I understand the criticism, but I’ve chosen this approach because I want queer classics, not just queer novels. A few reviews on Goodreads called my approach “lazy” for “switching the words around and nothing else,” which is actually a backhanded compliment–I added 10,000+ new words to the original text of P&P, and apparently these reviewers couldn’t tell the difference between Austen’s writing and mine, heheh. All kidding aside, they are welcome to their opinion. I still want a queer Austen novel, not a Kate-Christie-writing-a-queer-variation-on-Austen novel, so that’s still my approach here as well. Thank goodness Miss Austen’s works are in the public domain.

That said, I am making more changes to her wonderful text this time around. In a Patreon post titled “Queering the Canon: The (Un)likability of Emma,” I wrote at length about my writing conundrum with Emma–how Austen deliberately wrote her titular character as unlikable, and how I’d rather have a version of Emma who is less spoiled and more empathetic, given the dearth of queer classics that feature a positive storyline. (I’m looking at you, The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Well of Loneliness.) No doubt that will annoy more readers, in which case they are welcome to write the book they’d like to read, just as I’m doing.

I had intended to revise Emma several years ago, after I finished the fifth book of Girls of Summer, in fact. But then my mother decided she was ready to die, and the pandemic started within weeks of her passing, and all of my careful plans spun out of control. Instead of a sapphic variation on Emma, I wrote a different form of fan fiction, borrowing elements of Supergirl to create my take on an all-powerful, basically immortal (and immune to all forms of disease) lesbian superhero from another planet, AKA Galaxy Girl. I also wrote book six of Girls of Summer; The VSED Handbook, a mash-up between a practical guide to voluntarily stopping eating and drinking and a memoir of my mother’s choice to VSED rather than die slowly from dementia; and (most recently) a fluffy holiday short, ‘Tis the Off-Season: Book 6.5 of Girls of Summer. Grief took me in different directions than I’d planned, but while I might not have been actively working on Queering the Canon, the project was still there at the back of my mind.

Now, finally, it’s at the forefront of my mind and list of projects. Below is the cover for my upcoming variation, titled Emma: The Nature of a Lady. While I don’t have an exact release date, it should be out in the next couple of months, barring any scheduling changes.

Back in Austen’s England, the categories “heterosexual” and “homosexual” didn’t exist. Instead, pejorative nicknames like “Tommy” and “Molly” were tossed about, and euphemisms about a person’s “nature” abounded. Queer people still existed and acted on their same-sex desires, as Anne Lister and others have proven without a doubt, but in a culture where even a hint of heterosexual impropriety could ruin a gentleman or lady’s reputation, illegal gay acts were punishable by death. Much easier to go along with the status quo than to risk ruin, imprisonment, and even death by revealing your true nature.

That’s why I’ve taken it upon myself to write queer people into historical literary classics. British culture in Austen’s time was so virulently anti-LGBTQ+ that mainstream writers who wanted to sell their books couldn’t even think about penning tales of “unnatural perversion,” let alone stories that featured happy queer people. Actually, even when I was starting out as a writer in the 1990s, nearly two hundred years after Jane Austen began publishing her work, the general consensus was that you didn’t write about queer people if you wanted to sell books. Which, fine. But at this point, I’ve sold more than 40,000 copies of my queer books–including 3,200 copies of Gay Pride & Prejudice–so apparently someone wants to read them.

That’s not why I write, though. I mean, selling books is part of the business, but it’s not a motivating factor for me. I write because I enjoy it and because I would probably, most definitely go a little crazy if I didn’t. If my books find readers who are entertained, I’m happy. If they touch people’s hearts or give them a mental break from the craziness of our current world, even better. Either way, I’ll keep writing, and I’ll keep choosing to write about queer people because doing so is still a political act, even now.

But let’s end on a lighter note, shall we? I know our dear avoidant Emma would certainly prefer that be the case. Speaking of queer Austen takes, Autostraddle, one of my favorite media sites, once reimagined Austen books through a sapphic lens with covers modeled after lesbian pulp fiction books of the 1950s. The hilarious post Every Jane Austen Novel If They Were Gay and Also Historically Inaccurate is accompanied by brief textual descriptions that are absolutely worth reading, especially Mansfield Park in which “[i]nsufferable uptight raw vegan Fanny Price has been raised by her rich aunt and uncle, because her immediate family is poor and does not have the money for the Vitamix and fruit dehydrator she requires.”

At least I’m not making Emma vegan and gluten-free–although I don’t doubt that her father, the narcissistic Mr. Woodhouse, would cut gluten, soy, and other evils from his diet if he were alive now. Still, Emma: The Nature of a Lady takes place in Austen’s time, so Mr. Woodhouse will simply have to suffer through his glutenous cakes and gruel. More’s the pity, according to him.

Posted in #QueeringTheCanon, Austen variations, Lesbian Fiction, Queer books | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Ends of the Earth: New Book Launch

Hi all. I’m back again with a new book. That’s three new releases in six months–whew…

Ends of the Earth is the third and final book of the Galaxy Girl trilogy, my F/F urban fantasy series inspired by Supergirl and, in particular, SuperCorp. If you get a chance to read a copy, I hope you’ll consider adding a rating on Amazon. That’s where I make the majority of my sales, and they tend to boost books that have 50 ratings or more in the first few weeks of publication, so… Yeah. That’s a lot of ratings for an independent author like me!

After a few weeks off–and a road trip with/to family–I’m planning to get back to work on my queer revision of Jane Austen’s Emma and a contemporary romance that takes place in the Girls of Summer fictional universe. Only this time, one of the main characters will be Rachel Ellison, AKA Ellie, and the other–well, that’s still in the works.

The blurb for Ends of the Earth is below. I hope you’ll give the Galaxy Girls trilogy a chance if you haven’t already. Happy almost Summer Solstice, and happy reading!

In the final installment of the Galaxy Girl trilogy, Ava’s terrorist brother has broken out of prison and is on the run. Even worse, their mother is actively helping him elude the authorities. Ava’s concerns about Kenzie’s secret identity are now exacerbated by the fact that her brother and his anti-alien followers are out there somewhere planning the downfall of Earth’s off-worlder community.

Meanwhile, Kenzie is sure that her adopted parents will come to love Ava as much as she does, despite Ava’s scheming family members. She’s happy with Ava, satisfied with her job, and comfortable in her role as Galaxy Girl, Seattle’s local off-worlder superhero. But alien refugees are still disappearing, and when tragedy strikes close to home, no one is sure how to react.

Join Kenzie, Ava, and their cast of friends and family to find out what happens at the ends of the earth in book three of the Galaxy Girl urban fantasy trilogy, where alien refugees live on the fringes of society, Kenzie Shepherd may well be the last daughter of a long-dead planet, and Ava Westbrook wishes everyone could just get along.

Posted in Lesbian Fiction, Queer books, Urban Fantasy | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

The VSED Handbook

Hi all. I’m back with another new book. I’ve actually been in a good writing rhythm the past few months, despite falling while trail running and breaking my wrist at the end of February. Here’s a PSA (public service announcement) that you probably don’t need: Maybe don’t trail run down a rocky mountain trail after a fresh snowfall… It was beautiful–up until the moment I slipped and fell onto my dominant hand. Doh!

Fortunately, my children taught me to use the Dictate function on Word, and here I am: a new book (The VSED Handbook) out and another nearly done (Ends of the Earth, book three of the Galaxy Girl trilogy). If you subscribed to my Patreon (hint, hint), you could read the first chapter of Ends of the Earth right now. Just saying. 😉

Anyway, the organization I work with, VSED Resources Northwest, has a blog post about the new book. Rather than recreate the wheel, I thought I would re-blog it here. Let me know if you have any questions about VSED or the book. I’m happy to pass along any information or help that I can.

Happy spring, and happy reading.


Novelist Kate Christie, whose mother Jane used VSED in early 2020 to escape the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease, has released a new book, The VSED Handbook: A Practical Guide to Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking. A combination instructional manual/personal memoir, The VSED Handbook provides detailed instructions for planning and carrying out VSED while offering glimpses into one family’s experiences with the process. Nancy Simmers, co-founder and current Coordinator of VSED Resources Northwest, wrote the foreword for the book, which she describes as “a worthy guidebook for contemplating your own end-of-life choices.”

Christie’s impulse for writing the book was, as she notes in the introduction, “to provide an actionable model for how to go about planning for and carrying out VSED, with the aim of achieving the type of peaceful passing my mother did.” In just under 85 pages, Christie provides a step-by-step guide to preparing for VSED, an overview of what the process itself entails, and information about the legality of hastening one’s own death. She supplements the process-oriented sections of the book with relevant examples from her family’s experience, highlighting tips that she would have found useful while helping her mother Jane prepare for and carry out VSED. In addition, the book’s appendixes offer a VSED timeline, a sample VSED statement, a medical values worksheet, and a list of additional resources.

While VSED is a widely available end-of-life choice, it remains relatively unknown and can seem daunting for those just learning about the process. This book seeks to change that. Through examples drawn from her family’s experience, Christie seeks to demystify VSED. With an emphasis on the importance of planning, palliative care (including medication to ease the dying process), and a broad support network, Christie describes the stages of VSED in clear, concise language, and highlights the challenges and unexpected gifts of accompanying her dying mother on her final journey.

Written with Jane’s encouragement, The VSED Handbook—available in e-book and paperback—offers a way out for those who are suffering from a terminal condition but do not qualify for medical aid in dying (MAID), either due to geographical location or because their condition doesn’t meet the strict requirements for MAID. As Christie notes, a peaceful death free of suffering like the one her mother achieved with VSED is possible—but only with planning, perseverance, and the support of a trusted team.

To order your copy of The VSED Handbook, visit the VRNW Reading List page or buy directly from Amazon.

Posted in Illness, Nonfiction, VSED | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Happy New Year! Between the Dawn and Day on KU

New book on Kindle Unlimited

Hello, friends. Happy new year! Once again, it’s been a while. Now that I have a Patreon account, I try to update my subscribers over there each month, which means I’ve been visiting this blog less. (If you’d like to keep up with my writing and other parts of my life, you can subscribe to my Patreon feed for as little as $1 per month. Shameless plug now over…)

That said, I am going to try to update my website blog more frequently, even if only to keep track of new releases! My latest is Between the Dawn and Day, the second book in my urban fantasy series where alien refugees live on the fringes of society, Kenzie Shepherd may well be the last daughter of a long-dead planet, and Ava Westbrook wishes everyone could just get along. Inspired by Supergirl in general and SuperCorp in particular, this series covers new territory for me, and has been super (heh, heh) fun to write.

I don’t think I posted at all about Girls of Summer book #6, Under the Lights, in which Emma, Jamie, and their USWNT teammates return for additional adventures set after the 2015 World Cup. That book came out in June 2021, my first book since Drum Up the Dawn in mid-2020. Like many writers and other creative types, I’ve struggled with production during the pandemic. 2020 was also rough due to my mother’s death just before the first lockdown, so yeah. I’m glad to be through that difficult period.

2021 has been a bit better. The kids went back to school with masks and are now fully vaccinated–woot! Last summer, even with the kids and myself unvaccinated (for health reasons, ugh), we managed to drive from Washington State to Minnesota without setting foot in a single building thanks to the awesome camper our families helped us purchase. We were also able to camp throughout Washington State, which lessened our cabin fever immensely. The first trip that took us more than an hour from home last June involved a circumnavigation of the Olympic Peninsula. While camping at Kalaloch on the Pacific Ocean, we met a group of queer families on a group camping adventure, and they kindly invited us to share in their activities, from beach soccer to chatting over campfires. Talk about an amazing welcome back into the world!

My writing mojo has also returned, slowly but steadily. I managed to get two books done in 2021 (Under the Lights and Between the Dawn and Day), and I worked on two others: Galaxy Girl #3, tentatively titled Ends of the Earth, and my queer revisioning of Jane Austen’s Emma. I’m looking forward to completing those in 2022, preferably sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, we’re hunkering down in our house in the woods surrounded by way too much snow, expecting a few more inches this weekend along with high winds, and crossing our fingers that the power doesn’t go out. A bit of an extreme winter this year, but we were due after the past few milder ones. We’re definitely getting in some excellent sledding adventures!

Happy new year again. If you get a chance to pick up the new book(s), thanks for your support. I’m actually releasing Galaxy Girl #2 and #3 first on Kindle Unlimited, which Amazon advertises as Netflix for books. All the “free” books on KU were becoming difficult to compete with, so if you can’t beat ’em… We’ll see how it goes. If you subscribe to KU, you can download Between the Dawn and Day for free. Although if you’d like to buy it, I would appreciate that, too. I earn a larger royalty through purchases. But either way, happy reading!

Stay warm, stay healthy, and here’s wishing you a wonderful start to 2022!

Western Washington Winter Wonderland ~ December 2021
Posted in Fiction, Kindle Unlimited, Second Growth Books | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Like Mothers

Mom’s 75th birthday, July 2019

Today would have been my mother’s 76th birthday. In her honor, we’re going to a beach she loved on Puget Sound to walk, pick up shells, and watch birds–some of her favorite things to do. Also in her honor, I wrote the poem below. Poetry isn’t my main genre (as is probably evident!), but I love how the form can communicate story and emotion.

This one’s for you, mom. And for you, too, my girls.

Like Mothers

In the corners of the couch we found on Craigslist
I often discover books
Wedged between cushions
Pages battered and spines cracked
Covers smudged with sticky fingerprints
Temporarily misplaced but not forgotten
Well-loved and never forgotten.

Like mothers like daughters like daughters like mothers.

Mom, me, and Spot, the 1st incorrigible dog, 1970s

On the pads of paper my mother picked out for my daughters
I often discover pictures of characters
With pony tails and prosthetic limbs
Mothers and sisters and cousins
Girls with names like Amy, Rose, Violet
Marigold, Felicia, and a girl named Bob
With two moms or sometimes only one
Families made up of women and girls
And the occasional incorrigible boy dog.

Like mothers like daughters like daughters like mothers.

Our girls are readers and writers, story lovers and storytellers.
Each night we set sail on the living room couch
The one we found on Craigslist that fits all five of us—
Plus two adorable, incorrigible dogs.
We pull up our anchor and open the family book and read
Transported together into another author’s imagined world
One that feels real enough to us.

Mom and me at my first reading, April 2010

Like mothers like daughters like daughters like mothers.

When I was a child, I read with my mother on our living room couch
Story lovers and storytellers, both of us
Entranced by another author’s imagined world
That felt real enough to us.
Later, I created characters on the page
Girls with ponytails and time travel devices
And the occasional incorrigible dog.
My mother was my first reader
My first editor
My first fan.

Like mothers like daughters like daughters like mothers.

Her computer sits in the girls’ playroom now
Files upon files of written words—
All hers—
That no one else has ever read
Temporarily misplaced but not forgotten.
One day I will read her words with my daughters
And we will remember my mother
Well-loved and not forgotten,
Never forgotten.

Like mothers like daughters like daughters like mothers.

Mom reading to Alex, May 2017
Storytelling, July 2018
Mom reading to the girls, December 2019

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