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msknight

Michelle's corner

Michelle Knight. Writer, photographer, programmer, truck driver and general, all round nut case. Life is a journey and that's what this blog will probably end up being. Let's see where we go, eh? ;-)

Currently reading

The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter
Greg Toppo
Progress: 114/256 pages

The LibraryThing post

Ok - So here's the piece from LibraryThing that caused the very minor skirmish. For the record. Just in case :-)

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I have a history of laying myself open for questions. As a bondage loving, transsexual submissive who is also a mildly dyslexic author, I've had to handle a few things in life which give me an outlook that some don't get the chance to reliably probe.

In the mid 90's I was part of a transsexual self-help group, and I also started my BDSM resource site in 2002 ... so there's plenty of information up there already; I'm known for being as open as I can.

So ... got any questions? My motivations? My hopes? My dreams? Drop them here and I'll answer what I can.

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Ok ... buckle up 'cause...

(puts on best Max Bygraves voice) ... "I'm gonna tell you a story..."

Over the coming weeks, I'm going to detail here something like thirty years of my life. Not like a book, but bits and pieces of how I came to be who I am, how I smashed through a number of societies barriers; you know the ones, the striped pieces of wood with flashing lights and the notice, "Road Closed."

But most importantly I'm going to show you the journey "WHY" I smashed those barriers and what made me do it.

I'm also carry dual Mars/Venus citizenship, so I know things that only a relatively small number of people have experienced; what it is like to have an excess of oestrogen AND testosterone floating around your body. Also, to live with only background levels inside me.

We start with a fifteen minute talk by Professor Daphne Joel who is currently the head of the Psychobiology graduate program at the School of Psychological Sciences at Tel-Aviv University - http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/TEDxJaffa-Daphna-Joel-Are-brain - it starts to come together at the end, but the conclusion is that there is no such thing as, "brain sex." We are not born with male and female brains.

Instead, we are born as unique people with a collection of, "traits," which are not fixed; some of them can change at the dendrite level (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dendrite) after fifteen minutes of stress. Hence we have periods where we can not seem ourselves; indeed be the opposite in some cases.

It is down to society as to how it interprets these traits.

At one point in society, men wore make up, showey clothes and high heels. They were very much the peacocks. Now it is the other way around, and the pendulum is not done yet; it is swinging back towards the middle and might, indeed, overshoot in to the male territory once more. Cooking was thought of as women's work, but now we have top chefs; who were exclusively men and now women are top celebrity chefs as well (http://www.ranker.com/list/famous-female-celebrity-chefs/reference).

Even knitting was once a male preserve and then became a woman's job, but there are still men's knitting clubs - http://haumoana.com/pages/hmkc.html - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/10552983/Mens-knitting-is-it-the-new...

So at the end of part one of this back water story, you should be left with one of the most foundational pieces of information that shapes us as people ... our brains are not tied to what we have between our legs. We are individuals, first and foremost.

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If there is no such thing as brain sex, then we do we act so differently?

Two important things are at work. Hormones and self-identity.

Hormones are easy.

If a woman is injected with doses of testosterone, then her voice will break and extra hair will grow from previously dormant follicles. If a man takes oestrogens then some hair spots will thin out and breast tissue will start to grow; just look at a heavy beer drinker! Oestrogen treatments are also used with some sexually aggressive prisoners.

There are a fair amount of emotions that are tied up with hormones.

But what of self identity?

When I changed over, one of the things that played a strong part was my discomfort with my current position. When my body reacted, I wasn't comfortable with the WAY it reacted. It may seem odd to those who are in tune with their bodies, but some of this hard wiring is just wrong.

What do I mean by hard wiring? Well, many of us are phobic; like arachnophobic. Totally, irrational, but out of control of the conscious mind. Other emotions like anger, rage ... I hated them; it was like being The Hulk ... except without the tendency to turn green and split my clothing!

Now that the testosterone is gone, when I get angry, it's ME that gets angry, not my body.

After surgery, a couple of people said, "You seem more ... You."

So there is a degree of sex in the brain, but it is more of a personality thing than a physical construct thing; related to how the various traits in our brains develop through the nine months in the womb, rather than physical construction.

There was concern about my memory a few years ago, so they took a look inside with an MRI. Physically, it looks mostly like a standard male brain ... and that's the final nail in the coffin of the male/female brain theory!

I haven't been checked for various other intersex conditions but consider this... there is a considerable physical variation between people and what is considered, "normal." But did you know that ... "Total number of people whose bodies differ from standard male or female - one in 100 births" - http://www.isna.org/faq/frequency

What you should take away from this part, is that you can't judge a person simply by whether they appear male or female. We are more different than we like to think.

It is unfortunate that we feel more comfortable with people who we think are like us; but that is an illusion.

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Actually, the next post is how this comes in to the writing. It'll come in a day or two. - To expand ... it is understanding my shoes that enables you to understand what I have written, why I write it, and the mechanisms and desires to write everything. It's a long journey, and I'm not expecting anyone to take me up on anything until they have more of the picture.

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OK, so I'm going to jump in to my thread here a few days early, as some people are not quite getting where this is going.

Although I've only been reviewed a few times, there is consistent feedback. One of those things is that my characters are well developed.

I didn't quite understand this at first, and I had to go back over what I'd written to work it out.

My characters weren't very well described at all. I had mostly given characters a sex, but very rarely described their personal attributes; the colour of their skin, their height, weight, whether they had a square jaw, the colour of their hair, their eyes; very, very little of that ... but I was conveying the emotions. Injecting mannerisms and speech patterns.

One of the reviews that I didn't carry over to this site was, "Zombie Fallout," by Mark Tufo. I slated it. Well, by my standards I slated it. I gave it three stars but the way he wrote the female characters turned my stomach. Stereotypical, weak willed, sort of... well. It was the most extreme example of what I have come to recognise.

Apparently, my having lived on both Mars and Venus ... that dual nationality ... has given me an insight and allows me to bridge a gap. Also, I know where the person is; and what drives someone. The effect of the chemical rush.

How many people have experienced orgasm from both sides of the fence?

And that is where I think there is a solid bonus in writing.

Although I'm still bottoming this out, the enjoyable books have been those that have elicited emotional responses in the reader. And it seems to me that one way to write words that deliver those feelings, is to do the reverse. To know and have experienced, and then put that experience in to words.

It did sort of make sense; a reader will imagine their own character. After all, how many of us can deal with someone over the telephone and form a mental picture of them in our heads, only when seeing a picture of someone in reality, to then experience that they actually look markedly different to how we had imagined them.

But that turned out to be the point. I didn't HAVE to describe the characters. The readers aren't connecting with the physical descriptions. They are connecting with the character themselves. And to paint an accurate picture in that dimension, does benefit from a different insight and ability to empathise, if that makes sense.

I really think that for any author, there is much to be learned from spending time with, and understanding the opposite sex. Not only that, but also understanding the mechanisms that make us human; the bits and pieces that separate the physical, from the chemical and the mental. And also knowing how the mental works, and how it is driven socially.

Of course, in my position I've been forced to, "people watch," in a specific way for nearly thirty years now; from the purely selfish point of view that I needed to understand this in order to be able to get a grip on myself ... but there has been a side effect which I think has paid off for me, in my writing, from an early stage.

And yes, this is a good deal more rushed than I had planned. I'm not totally sure how this will come over, either, because it's late at night and I haven't re-read it properly. But I'm trying to give you the mechanisms that appear to have led to the positive compliments about my characters ... among other things.

Part of me doesn't want to hit the post button, because when i write fast, I stand a chance of coming over as arrogant, which is definitely something I have no intention of being. Everyone encounters advice, and the experiences of others ... and takes what works for them, and leaves what doesn't. That's the nature of things like this.

And if what I'm doing here finally makes sense, then let me know and I'll carry on.

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I had lain down a nice plan, to open a door to my world for you ... through which you could have wandered through, taken a peek and prodded at things seen from my side of the fence, a fresh angle on things, a different pair of eyes, walk a mile in my shoes (so that you were a mile away, and had my shoes, you sneaky people!) so that you could then start asking questions ... but that's all bollocksed now.

I do remain somewhat perplexed as to why people who spent hours reading a story, couldn't have let this evolve ... and that hacked me off ... but lets see what I can salvage from this.

My advice...

Take other peoples advice and treat it like a suit of clothes. The shirt might fit, but the trousers may be a bit tight in the crotch; the socks look cool but that paisley smoking jacket is so yesteryear ... so be ready to wear what works and donate the rest to the charity shop. Not all advice, including what I've penned here, will work for you.

My main piece of advice is to keep a balance between reality and fiction. For more reasons than one.

Firstly, from the practical point of view, the reader has to be engaged with the story. That means that whatever they read has to be believable. Some of the more complex things have to be set up, but if done properly you can give the reader the ability to leap massive chasms in one bound. Just remember to give them the boots to do it, first. I was watching a film this very evening, where it was all perfectly believable until a ship went in to the core of the black hole and the main protagonist ended up in a library of time. After that point, it got a little nuts; not full on walnuts, but maybe a little pistachio, if you know what I mean.

Secondly, there is a responsibility to society. There is a problem that some people can read fiction and take it as being real; trying out what they read in the pages, in real life. This is most telling when opening those dark doors to realms of the human race where the majority of society has not yet feared to tread. And if the book is wildly off, then not only are people going to be confused, then the people who live the parallel world here in real life, are going to suffer. I was going to take you in to more detail here, specifically with the world of BDSM; that's where some of this was leading. Long story short; influential people are making laws that govern the BDSM lifestyle, but are doing so on the basis of knowlege they gained from ficiton; which is completely wrong. Net result, real people end up suffering. So, just be a little careful on that one ... please!

I sometimes stand by and watch things happen in reality and think, "You know; if I wrote that in to a fiction story, I'd get slated for being unrealistic." You honestly can't make some of this stuff up! And it's true. Stuff happens in real life that I've actually had to tone down in order to make it believable. You'll encounter the same yourself; that is, if you already haven't! You probably already have.

Be ready to toss your first few books away. I know that I don't exactly follow any set pattern; my first stories and then book, happened in the mid nineties. However, I continued to write; in order to communicate. Web sites, manuals, even a couple of fan fictions! Even through my twenty year exile from publishing, I was still writing. But even when I did, it has taken me around 250,000 published words, (five books at 50,000 each) crafted to the stage where the worst I have been rated is one rating at three stars; the others are in the four and five star realm ... and only now do I think I'm at the point where I can tackle a single 100,000 work and do a half-decent job of it.

I know that the most common piece of advice handed out is to read lots, but you have to write lots too. The first step in finding your voice, is to speak.

My writing developed just like my photography. I had to train my eye. To explain, when you start off composing a picture, you learn things like the rule of thirds. Don't ask why that rule works, it just does. But after a while of practicing it, you start to learn how to break the rules. Somehow, a picture will just, "look," right. And I have found that its the same thing with writing. Learn and practice the rules ... then you'll break them when you're ready.

F-bombs. The one thing I do find is that I have to go through the script at the end, and replace the F-bombs with something else; a damn, or bugger, or an oh hell, just to get the numbers down. You see, I keep a lower level of diction. I've read works by people who, quite frankly, write as if they've eaten a dictionary and then vomited all over the page. There are a considerable number of emotive words in the English language. Single words which sum up states, emotions and entire scenarios. However, while the English dictionary contains something in the realm of 200,000+ words, a number of those will be obsolete, but the average reader will know about 15,000 or thereabouts. Thus it means that there are less words available with which to express a rich pallet of emotion, and I work hard to avoid repeating words too often (my thesaurus comes out every now and then when I need help to avoid this problem) so it does sometimes necessarily lead to using a stronger, more grating range of words to get a meaning across.

Frustration and disapointment are critical elements, so much so that various TV shows have created their own curses, like, "frak," "by the gods," "dren," and my personal favourite, "smeggin' hell." Lets face it, sometimes you've just got to get down and dirty. A well placed F-bomb is critical, in my opinion, but variety is certainly the spice of life, and any spice if used inappropriately can completley wreck a beautiful recipe.

Don't be scared to leave things on the back burner. If a good story idea comes to me, then I'll write the back jacket text. If I can do that, then the idea is generally worth pursuing. Hoever, I'll probably have a few more projects on the go anyway, but somehow things still end up burbling away in the back of my mind. I keep a little book that has sections for each book that I'm actively working on, and as ideas, dialogue, funny situations and the like, come to me; they get jotted down. I even carry a dictaphone so I can record thoughts when I'm in the car, and get them out of my head. My commute is roughly two hours drive each day, so having an efficient way of getting stuff out of my head helps me concentrate on the driving.

"Check Mate," was a text book example of this. I was actually writing, "From The Cradle," with my sights on, "To The Grave," with some background notion of a robot with a swapped program, gone haywire, running around in my head for months. Out of nowhere the whole thing for, "Check Mate," just slotted together and jumped at me, and I diverted my plan and wrote the whole thing in about a month.

I'd say, don't be scared of a little light relief even in a dark book. It's another reflection of life, and makes something more real; also the converse, a little rain in to every life must fall. I also find these little diversions also give a little practice in to build up, which can help with learning how to build longer suspense routines. It's the small things, how small things gently snowball in to a larger, comedic event; like the doughnuts in, "Check Mate."

Don't get wound up and enthusiastic like I did. I thought, "Great! If people really want to know about BDSM, then I've got just the book! This is going to cause an explosion!" ... of course, it didn't! Hoever, what did happen was that my unrealistic expectations crashed down with considerable force, and I turned to Quora with my heartfelt question...

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Why do people say they want "better" works but then ignore them and slobber all over the "car crash" material?
People seem to go hell bent for car crash works that earn millions in the box office and say, "Oh, that was awful. I wish there was something better to watch/read" and then when people DO put the effort behind works which people are critically applauding ... they go nowhere. Why is this?
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It was answered by Martijn Sjoorda, a Systemic Therapist

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Because real art is scary: it touches you, moves you, causes you to pause and the scariest part: makes you reflect on yourself. Most people experience that as opening a can of worms, best stayed away from.
So they opt for the fast food in cinematography, those films that just touch superficial emotions and are by design not a lot more than a well-paced sequence of adrenaline and endorfin triggering moments.
Keeps life "simple".
In a further confirmation of that sentiment, and to show some cultured-ness it's en vogue to say you long for deeper experiences and rationalize away that you just lowered the bar substantially for yourself by watching Lure of the Zombies.
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You can have a blockbuster on your hands, but like the diamonds that are created deep underground from compressed coal, they've got to sit there and wait for the right person to come digging. As of yet, the current state of the book market means that unless you've got oodles of money to put behind making your voice heard then Edvard Munch's, "The Scream," comes to my minds eye. So when you've finished, be ready for the hardest part of writing a book ... telling people about it, because they usually don't want to listen.

It is another reason why you should toss those early stories one side, as if you do manage to get someone to read your book, it had better be a damn good one.

This is where I fucked up, of course. "The Companion," started life in 2005. Sat with Ben, I wrote a chapter in book form and he translated it to film script. We then worked on this; even getting script checking services involved. But again, no one would listen. By the time I converted it back to book in 2014, the characters and plot had been gestating in my head for a decade. The next book, "The Reluctant Leader," was written extremely fast and I wasn't ready to write works that quickly; It was like walking up a steep hill when unfit; my creative heart was pounding in my ears, "You ain't got the power, Captn'!" The next books helped my circulation; got me the practice I needed to turn out work quickly, but focus my thoughts so I could maintain a reasonable quality ... however, with, "The Reluctant Leader," being part of a set, I can't easily throw it away and I do know that should anyone pick up the whole story, that this is going to be a stone in their shoe.

Also, don't let disability hold you back. Don't let it dent your confidence. I'm mildly dyslexic (don't ask me how I can always spell dyslexia right first time, while getting other, more simple, words completely wrong.) The words you're reading now have not had a spell check run over them. I've done that deliberately for you. While spell checks and editing are needed, I am capable of getting words like this out, without having any fear. So don't expect perfection from what flies from your fingers. The most important thing is to get the scenes, the dialogue, the action, out of you and on to the paper. Spelling and grammer can come later. Ideas, once gone, are usually lost forever.

So whatever you do ... try not to repeat my mistakes.

Lastly, you are going to be compared. Be ready for it. No matter what you can write, someone has already been there before you and their fans will come after you, howling like banshees, screaming blue murder, torches and pitchforks in hand, wanting your blood for defiling their literary god, godess, idol, exhaulted one, whatever.

All the stories have already been told. From space travel, to time differences on different planets, to alien invasion, you name it, if you can find something that hasn't been done before; you're sitting on a gold mine, so BE DAMN SURE YOU EXECUTE IT PROPERLY. What will set you apart from everyone else with your story, is execution.

My comparator is the mighty Pratchett. I have the dark sense of humour that can only come from working in I.T.; a sense of irony that is the only way to survive years worth of situations when logical machines behave in the oddest, dumbest, illogical ways possible. You can get a call to a faulty machine that won't turn on, only to walk there, arive at the customers side, press the power button and the machine sparks in to life. Sometimes it is an overheated component that had just needed time to cool down, but the casual desk side tech has no way of measuring these things ... but to the customer, it's like the computer is sitting there, sticking its tongue out at them and blowing a raspberry, while bowing to the superior skill of the technician. It's magic I tell yah!

However, I came up with a fantasy world; consisting of a mass which had been sneezed out of a celestial beings nose and got caught between galaxies. It has thus taken on the shape of putty that was jammed between a load of soft balls. A piece of matter which had four sides, each of which was heavily dented and the edges were so sharp that no one had dared go over them, so the people that had formed from the bacteria on each side, had no knowledge of each others existance ... until they started mining for resources! And then, four different societies collided...

But what started comming out of my fingers concerned me to the degree that I contacted Pratchett with my feelings. What came back was effectively write what you will write, and we deal with what happens, when or if it happens. I thought on this for some time and eventually dropped the idea. The results were too close to Discworld for me to contemplete taking it forward.

And so I leave you with my notes from another world that I didn't progress either for exactly that reason; the humour was too close to Pratchetts. I've tidied the basic notes up a little, but it was to be another fantasy world full of comic mishap and wrong steps that eventually become right. A further nail was delivered to my idea when, some years later the cartoon film, "The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!" came out. It probably survived the comparison because it was delivered in film rather than book.

Still ... onward and deeper ... in to the mists of obscurity I go ...

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On a planet, far, far away. If people swearching for e.t.'s had known this planet existed, they'd have stopped searching. Not for want of having found another race, but at having discovered that not all intelligence out there, was an improvement on the human race.

This world has barely evolved beyond piracy

The ship, "the lucky pig," made of Cantah wood found on remote islands. Pirates forced the young, inexperienced designer to make them the fastest ship around. inadvertentyly designed the keel not knowing much about ships and speed in the water, however it made the lucky pig the most stable ship on the waters; it was likely the only pirate crew that actually prayed for foul weather.

As the supreme official vessel closed in - had tracked the pirates to their island, the lucky pig was deserted, meaning the ship didn't open fire on her, which meant she definitely was lucky once more as otherwise she would have been matchsticks, as a sitting duck.

on the shore, all was chaos. the captain in ropes facing yet another mutiny from the crew; this time for the way he divied up the spoils. The official crew launched boats and went for the pirate crew who were in disaray and din't see them coming. massive sword fight ensued. Comic scenes as the captain dodges the blades but never managed to cut his own ropes. As the supreme ship came in to the harbour and fired cannon, the game was up and the pirates gave in.

"So this is the notorious captain H. Bound in ropes? You mean you're own captain is tied?"

The pirate's reaction was a confused "ArrrR?" which ended in an upper inflection as if to say, how dare you accuse us of having no code of honour and respect for our own captain, while being unable to deny that their captain was, indeed, bound and it was their hands that did it.

sailors sentence captain k to death and send him over the side of the jetty "it takes no more than six foot of water to kill a man." so he doesn't even walk the plank off a vessel. The captain's parrot; an old, wise bird, goes nuts at the death of the captain. Causes minor chaos and more comic scenes.

The captain, however, swims up under the planks and stands on a small bank of sand; his head has air. He stays there while the whole thing above him sorts itself out and people disperse. The old crew of the lucky pig are taken away for gaol (should I use the old spellings for effect?) and a skeleton official crew is left to look after the lucky pig while a larger crew is sent back to sail her away.

So the captain has to gather himself another crew (scenes in taverns, etc.) and has to steal the lucky pig back, before he can take to the waters once more and continue his own, slightly comedic and unique brand of piracy.

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So the conclusion here is ...

This is a place for readers to connect with authors.

But in order to connect with my work, you have to connect and understand me.

For those posters earlier on who don't get this, I can only quote some words from Schelly's song...

"So love me love my dog
We've lived the road too long to break up
Love me live my life and travel through this land"

If you want to talk about my books, my writing .... you're talking about me, the life I've lead, and the life I'm striving to lead.

You can't separate the two, and to do a proper job ... you have to make the effort to understand both.

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One question came from Cecrow
Similar to >4 rybie2:, the only relevant question I can think of to ask you here is, have you read any books that you feel accurately reflect and capture the experience of living in your shoes?

My answer was...

>5 Cecrow: Cecrow Apologies for the delay. Had to wait until I was back home and had access to my bookshelf.

Looking at things, there are only two books which stand out, being Jan Morris, "Conundrum," (she still works as a travel author, I believe) and Caroline Cossey's, "I am a woman."

However, although we walked something of the same walk, our shoes are different.

Morris changed life in a society more hostile to transsexual people and with very much more starkly defined social roles than we have today. Cossey did also, but time had moved on and there were the sparklings of medical research happening; she was analysed XXY; Klinefelter syndrome. By the time I transitioned things had progressed further and for people who transition these days, society in general is opening up still further. Even when I transitioned, they had stopped analysing the chromosomes; the more important thing being to make progress with the social transition. Possibly due to the numbers of people presenting even at that stage; and now the numbers reporting are outstripping the surgical resource.

So although there are more up to date and recent books around, I gravitate more towards Cossey and Morris' accounts, due simply to the state of society at the time, than anything else. Of course, there is still a long way to go and pockets of society are still tough.

In addition to that, you then have the BDSM side, which has been a positive for me. For that, very few works exist that capture the realities; by that I mean, all of the realities of BDSM life, after the play sessions are over. The closest that comes to fact is the book, "The History & Arts of the Dominatrix" which I reviewed here. And that simply opens the door to the history from 2,000BC to the present day.

I know that I am, by far, not the only person who straddles these two worlds, however even my own works don't connect the two and I don't ever envisage doing so. So there isn't a work that I'm aware of that captures the experience of living in my shoes, nor do I expect there ever to be one.