Liebster Awards – Part 1

First, a big thank you to Androgendernaut for nominating me for a Liebster Award. I’m happy you like my blog.  🙂

I’m now supposed to nominate five other blogs with less than 200 followers as well as pick one favourite blog. I want to think through some more who I’m going to choose so in the meantime I’m writing this post to answer Androgendernaut’s ten questions.

 

– What inspired you to write?

I’ve been writing since I learned how to. In my case, it feels more like a need than anything else. If I don’t write, it feels like I’m going to explode.

Books, I started to write and share with others because I felt I was relatively good and it. Also: why not try to make a buck from doing something I was going to do anyway?

My blog was originally supposed to be an author blog but I’ve been writing a variety of posts not related to my writing, such as book reviews and opinion posts about the political climate in my country and the rest of the world.

– What keeps you writing and creating new content?

It’s a variety of things. Sometimes there’s an issue I feel I need to address. Other times I like to share things about my life to connect with people who might be going through something similar.

When I write about books, it’s simply because I’m so passionate about literature that I can’t keep it to myself. Especially when I come across a really good book.

– What keeps you motivated in your daily life?

Knowing that I’ll never reach my goals if I don’t at least try. That and caffeine.

– What life lessons have you learned that you´d like to share?

Kindness and compassion are not signs of weakness. Rather, they are qualities difficult to retain in a world filled with so much apathy and suffering. It takes strength to continue giving a crap.

– What is your favourite thing in the world?

Vegan ice cream, especially the kind made from cashew milk.

– What music do you use to write, if any?

I tried to write some music in my early teens but I just wasn’t that good at it. The best I did was write song lyrics, typical angsty teenage stuff about depression and unhappy love.

– What´s the most awesome book you ever read?

My favourite book: “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac. Not because of the style of writing (Truman Capote said of Kerouac’s work: “That’s not writing, that’s typing.”) Rather, it’s the spirit of the book. It’s that yearning for life, to embrace it fully and with your whole heart. To truly, madly grab it and howl at the moon when you feel like it.

“On the Road” is the first book that made me dream of freedom, of liberating myself from the shackles of my own mind. It’s one of few works I can say in all honesty changed my life.

– What other passions do you have besides writing?

Reading is my biggest passion besides writing. I’m always reading books and looking for new ones I haven’t read before.

Apart from reading, I’m obsessed with philosophy. After losing my faith in God, I started to question what the meaning of life is and if it even has any. And I wanted to learn about different ways to look at life and how to best live it. The two philosophies which have inspired me the most are existentialism and stoicism.

– What event has changed the way you view life?

When I was in my early twenties I got terrible chest pains. Turned out I had an inflammation in a muscle located close to the heart but I didn’t know that so I thought I was having a heart attack. I was afraid I might die and it got me questioning so much. I had had doubts about the faith I had been raised in for years but tried not to think about it. Being reminded of my own mortality got me questioning everything I’d ever known. It eventually led me to leave the Christian cult I had been raised in and finally becoming my own person. To this day, I consider that muscular inflammation to be one of the best things that ever happened to me.

– What are some changes you made in your life?

What I consider to be the biggest life changes I made are the following: leaving the cult I was raised in, starting my transition from female to male and getting proper medication for my ADD. The last one is a very controversial topic, although it shouldn’t be. For those of us with attention deficit problems, getting the right meds can be a total game-changer in the best sense of the word.

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Am I writing it or is it writing itself?

I remember a school trip I went on when I was around 14. It was at a renown art museum in my birth town Gothenburg. A tour guide showed us around and before telling us more about the different artworks she would ask what we thought about it. What did we think it meant? Did it have a message and if so, what was it? 

There was one painting in particular that intrigued me. In it was a man working on the statue of a woman. But the statue seemed to have come to life and was touching the sculptor’s arm.

The tour guide asked if we thought there was some sort of symbolism in that. Since opening my mouth back then was often an excuse for the other kids to mock my accent and speech impediment, I didn’t say anything. I also assumed someone would say what I thought was obvious. But no one said anything like it. Their interpretations varied from “it hurts and she’s telling him to stop” to “she’s in love with her creator and she’s flirting with him.”

I don’t know why I wanted so to point out what I believed the painting meant but I did it anyway. I raised my hand and said something like: “I think it’s symbolic of the creative process. With her hand, the statue guides him. When you make art sometimes it feels like that. Like it wants to exist and shows you how to bring it into existence.”

The other kids looked at me like I was insane and I immediately regretted not keeping my mouth shut. But the image on that painting really stuck with me. In the last week or so I have thought about it a lot.

I am now almost done writing the second part of my Sorcerer’s Sword series. I have the ending of the story laid out and just have to write it down. For now I’m mostly writing by hand because it helps my thoughts flow and also because my laptop is still in repairs. But when I get it back it will not be too long before I’ll be able to publish my new book.

In a sense it feels like the story has already revealed itself to me and I just need to make it come to life. It has been an interesting journey and often it felt like I was walking through a labyrinth, trying to map it all out with nothing but a faintly glowing light guiding me.

Of course I know rationally that the story was never something outside of myself. It was never a conscious, mystical thing whispering itself into my ear. It just feels that way. 

Whenever I write fiction it seems after a while that it takes on a life on its on. Most often than not it turns out into something quite different from what I originally thought it would. When I was younger that used to annoy me. I wanted to have more control over my own creations. But whenever I tried to it made the resulting story less genuine, almost mechanical. So eventually I stopped fighting it and I let the art become what it becomes. 

In a way it makes things more interesting. Now writing a piece of work feels more like going on a journey and I can never be entirely sure where it will take me. Hopefully my readers will find reading my book as exciting as it was for me to write it.

Back at work 

I went back to work last week after my 6 weeks sick leave. It’s the same company and kind of work as before but it’s at a new location, an industrial area on the edge of town. A really boring place that looks like it was designed to reflect the mindset of someone with severe depression. 

It could put me in a shitty mood but mostly it’s just compels me to continue on working towards a better life for myself. One day I’ll get out of this drudgery. Just fucking watch me.

At least this boring fucking place inspired a poem I wrote the other day (based on real events):


Drowned in the grey 


Winter snow has turned to spring rain 

The black of the sky has faded to grey 

My soul is an animal trapped in a concrete cage

All around me are walls of stone and sand 

Metal bars holding it all upp, holding our hope out 

Beneath here is a river 

Its water as grey as the sky above and the gravel beneath 

My friend once found a body on its shore 

A woman tired of the drudge had thrown herself away

And drowned in the grey 

Revealing my secret blogging project: A Word Tour of Books

In my post about my goals for 2017 I wrote that I had a secret blogging project in the making and now the time has come to reveal it.

Last year I came across this TED-Talk about a woman who spent a year reading a book from every country. It inspired me so much I decided to do the same thing.

Although I haven’t set a deadline because I’m kind of slow reader and don’t think I could pull off reading 197 books in one year, even if I will listen to many books on audio to save time.

There is some controversy as to what exactly constitutes a country but for simplicity’s sake I will go by nations that have been internationally recognized as independent states. I have printed out a list of all these countries from this website and will check them off as I go along. Depending on what happens in the world in the coming years I might have to update that list.

The books I will read will be both fiction and non-fiction and I will try to focus on books that have a strong connection to that country’s culture.

The first post of this Word Tour of Book series will be published either later today or tomorrow. So stay tuned and don’t hesitate to subscribe!

And of course I will still blog about other things like politics, writing and my transition.

Joining the Resistance and writing as rebellion

I have begun to fear the return of something I had thought was history: theocratic Christianity  influencing the politics of the US at the highest level. With Christian fanatics such as, just to name a few, Mike Pence (who believes creationism should be taught in schools), Rick Perry (a climate science denier and overall enemy of women’s and LGBTQ-rights) and Betsy DeVos (who has donated millions to religious groups who promote torture-like “treatments” against homosexuality) in Trump’s cabinet one thing is clear: The next four years will see major setbacks when it comes to secularism and human rights in the US.

To be completely honest I did not see this coming. Both Trump and Hillary were awful options in their own ways and even as it became increasingly clear that Hillary was the obvious lesser of two evils and that a Trump cabinet would be filled with ignorant bigots, I did not think Christian extremists would be given so much power by Trump.

Part of it was that, let’s be honest here, Trump is by GOP standard probably one of the most gay-friendly candidates to ever run for president. The guy even held up a rainbow flag at one of his rallies once, something most Republican candidates would not have been caught dead doing.

But it seems the promise he made after the Pulse massacre to protect LGBTQ-people was just a load of hot air as he is now building up a cabinet made up largely of people who have done everything they can to take away their rights.

Then there was the whole “pussygate” scandal. One would assume conservative Christians would not want to work with a man who brags about adultery and molesting women. But it seems like some can see through the fingers with such behaviour if it gives them a chance to force their religion on the American people.

Being very familiar with Christian fundamentalists as I myself grew up as one, I know that LGBTQ-people are not their only enemies. Women, HIV-positive people, atheist and many other groups are now in even greater risk of having rights stripped away from them. Not that a Trump presidency would have been great for humans rights either way.

And now the Electoral College, the very last hope against the coming Trumpocalyps, has officially voted him in. There is no turning back: Donald Trump will be the next president of the world’s most powerful country.

In this situation it’s easy to feel despair. I myself have felt quite depressed in the last couple of days. I fear for what’s going to happen in the US and how it’s going to affect what happens in the rest of the world. I fear for the people who will be directly oppressed by the bigots who will now run the US and I fear for what it means for me as a transsexual, gay atheist that people who despise everything I am now have control of the most powerful country of the world I live in.

Everything can seem so hopeless also when you’re a regular Joe with no much power. I mean, how much can I do? I’m just a broke janitor who writes fiction in his spare time and has a very small audience.

But then I’ve been thinking: maybe it’s not about how much but about WHAT you do and the fact that you do it at all. Because if there’s something the oppressors in Trump cabinet want is for us to go silently, to shut the fuck up while they put us down. So let’s give them a fight for their money.

Do what you can no matter how small and insignificant it seems at the time. Donate to organisations dedicated to help the groups Trump and his minions want to oppress (I’ll put a list of links in the end of this post). Make your voice heard through social media or write to your local newspaper or express yourself through art. Write under the hashtag #TheResistance and help us tell the orange fascist Cheeto that the rebellion has only just begun.

Whatever you do: do not walk silently and without protest into the dark years coming.

As for me, I will participate in the Resistance doing what I do best: writing. I will write about the L and the G and the B and the T and the Q and about women who don’t submit to men like the bible says they should and about the poor and the weirdos and the outcasts and generally about the people the Christian Right wish would disappear from the earth. I will write stuff so queer it would give Mike Pence an aneurysm if he ever read it. I will write because I refuse to stay silent.

Here are organisations that will need financial help under the coming four years:

The Human Rights Campaign

The Trevor Project

American Atheists

Aids United

Planned Parenthood

National Network for Immigrant and refugee rights

A Poem – My Brother the Cypress

Recently I was on vacation in Majorca and on one particular evening when I was sitting on the balcony of the hotell room, looking at the shore and the sea, words came to me:

Warm Mediterranean night 
Soft Tempo of the waves
A billion stars hiding overhead
I gaze over the shore and see
The majestic cypress tree
He reaches for the heavens always
And like me he is the son of cosmic dust,
An orphan of long-gone nebulas
I see his solitude against the sky
And feel in me a longing
To breathe in the breath of life
To breathe in the passing days fleeing before me
Before I no longer can and fall again to dust
And always to remember with a smile
That the stars died so the trees could live

Book finally out + I’m on Twitter

I’ve finally released the first part of my book series! You can find it at my Smashwords page here.

Another good news is that I’m on Twitter now. I’m going to be a bit more political and less about books there than here on WordPress but I’ll try to update whenever something interesting happens with my writing, like when I release new material.

I’m also going to set up my Patreon page again soon so lots of interesting stuff happening right now!

On worldbuilding and sexism/racism/homophobia etc

The other day I stumbled upon a blog post where someone expressed frustration over the facf that so many fantasy writers incorporate institutionalised sexism in the fictive worlds they create. Why bother putting energi into creating a whole hypothetical world and in the end incorporate in it the same oppressive structures that exist in the real world? I can’t remember the name of the post or of the blog but it got me thinking.

I recently finished writing the first part of my first fantasy series and in the world of this story there is sexism. And homophobia. And racism. And many other oppressive structures such as slavery and religiously based oppression. Why did I incorporate this things when I didn’t have to?

The beautiful things with speculative fiction is that you can make up almost anything and this allows you to experiment with concepts and ideas that you might not be able to in other genres. Want to make your hero ride on a dragon while battling orcs? That’s fine. Want to make alien robots fight each other in outer space? Nothing’s stopping you. Want to theorise about what a world without racism/sexism/transphobia etc could look like? That’s sound like a plan.

I think that trying to imagine a world without certain institutionalised forms of oppression sounds like a really interesting idea and a great way to show that maybe such things don’t actually have to exist. It’s definitely one way to go about it and I’m personally quite interested in exploring this in future projects.

But back to why I didn’t in the particular series I’m working on right now. One of the beautiful things about literature is that it can shed a light on the struggles people face in real life. None of us will ever face the challenge of having to slay a fire-breathing dragon or fighting off invading alien forces. But many now all to well the challenges of discrimination and oppression. And sometimes this things can feel as unsormontable as fighting monsters.

Having your own struggles mirrored in those of a fictional character can be, oddly enough, empowering as it reminds us that whatever we are going through is rarely unique.  Many others know them all too well and we aren’t alone in this battle.

I was reminded of this recently when I was reading a fantasy novel with a gay male protagonist. The animosity from people who know of his sexuality, the not even concealed homophobic disappointment from his family and the violence he had faced growing up just because he was who is was felt all too real; because it actually happens to so many every single day.

Art can help us for a moment escape the evil in the world and it can show us how the world could or ought to be. It can also point us to the real monsters in the world, the ones all or many of us actually face, and remind us that we are not alone in the struggle. It can give us the strength to, like the valiant warrior who picks up their shield and sword to face the dragon, grow in our determination to never give up and to continhe fighting for those we love and for what we believe in.

Or in the wise words of G.K. Chesterton:

“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

Five things I learned writing my latest book

This week I finally finished writing the first part of the fantasy series I’m working on. It actually isn’t the first time I write a book. I have written several manuscripts in the past and even tried to get a few published but failed. Which I’m now grateful for since, in retrospect, I wasn’t that satisfied with them.

But even though I’ve been writing since I was a child I still learn things in the process. Here are five lessons I learned writing my latest book:

It always takes longer than you think.

Those who have been following me for a while might know that I expected to have this book finished literally months ago. But, as I should have learned by now, writing often takes way more time than you’d expect. Work-related stress, bouts of writer’s block and other unexpected obstacles stopped me from being as productive in my writing as I wanted to. But I think I’ve learned my lesson and will probably be not as overly positive as I’ve previously been when it comes to setting up deadlines and release dates.

Doing research for a book can lead to some pretty strange Google-searches.

“Decapitation Wikipedia”, “death due to bloodlose” and “dismemberment how to” are some of the kinda disturbing things I’ve googled while doing research for this book, which you probably can tell will have some violence in it…

Thank goodness for writing apps.

As I can’t carry my laptop with me everywhere, I’ve previously had to write a lot by hand and then rewrite everything again on the computer once I get home. But then I discovered writing apps. Now I can work on my book while I’m on the train, during a coffee break at work or while waiting for the bus without having to rewrite everything again. I can just email myself what I’ve written and copy paste it directly in a Word document when I’m home again. A lot of smartphones also have speech-to-text functions, which save time and can be a great tool for anyone who has difficulty typing for whatever reason. 

Flow is great but routine is better.

On my previous projects I’ve mostly waited for inspiration to hit before I wrote anything. I really enjoying being in that “flow” state when it feels like time stands still and nothing exists but me and my writing.  Not so surprisingly I wasn’t that productive.
But lately I’ve worked on writing every day, whether or not I’m having flow or even feel like writing at all. I’ve gone to writing like you go to work and treated it like a duty more than a fun thing to do. And, not surprisingly, I’ve never been so productive. Best of all: the quality of my writing has not deteriorated in the least (if I may say so myself).

I can wait to write the rest of this series.

Writing a book can be at times incredibly frustrating. Doing my daily writing sometimes felt like a chore more than anything. But I still kept going and I’m glad I did. I was afraid that once I was done I would be sick of the whole thing and not feel like writing the rest of the series. I am glad to report that it is most definitely not the case. I’m still as passionate about writing as ever and can’t wait to write more! I’ve even experienced some “flow” lately and have tones of idea that are just waiting to get put to paper.

If you are wondering when the book will be published: in at least a week and a half as I have some proofreading to do and other stuff to take care of before.

I’m really looking forward to sharing my work with you all!

Tiny victory!

This weekend I finished chapter 9 of my book. I’m still way behind my writing schedule but I still thought I would celebrate having only one chapter left to write with a nice piece of cake.

image

Those who write know that writing is a struggle. So don’t forget to celebrate the small victories!