I am excited to welcome Jax Meyer on Queer Books Unbound today! Please give them a warm welcome!
When I sat down to write this post for Queer Books Unbound, I started to ponder what that meant to me. I’m currently listening to Glennon Doyle’s brilliant book, Untamed, for the second time, so this concept has been on my mind a lot in the past month.
As a queer community, there is one thing that connects us, and that is our need to disconnect from societal expectations. It is impossible to be queer and follow every societal convention for sex and gender, though some try valiantly. Simply by admitting our queerness to ourselves, we have begun the process of becoming unbound.
But, that’s not enough. We spend our lives immersed in societies built on power dynamics which use superficial differences to maintain separation. Racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, ableism, and so much more that we are all tainted by it. Becoming unbound and untamed requires we face these aspects within our society and ourselves to truly become free.
I’ve been on a journey of self discovery for my entire life. I’ve always been different. In my 20s I thought, I’ve almost got me figured out. Just a little more work. One more book to read. One more friend who seems to understand people better than I do. Then I’ll have it.
Spoiler alert. I was COMPLETELY WRONG! I’m 41 at the time of this writing. In the past two years I’ve learned more about myself than in all of my prior years combined. And dare I say, I might almost have me figured out. And yes, I expect to laugh at this statement in another twenty years.
Why did I learn so much in a short time? Books. Not the books I was reading before that were an attempt to fix me. No. In late 2017 I discovered lesbian/woman loving woman romance. I’m going to shorten this genre to lesfic for simplicity, but please note this includes bisexual, pansexual, and trans women. Lesfic was an escape from the insanity that was, and still is, the US political system.
Reading about characters like me allowed me to see myself in a new light. I was confident in my sexuality and gender identity. I was a butch lesbian. And still am. But thanks to books, I’ve discovered that I’m non-binary, comfortable with both she/her and they/them pronouns. I’m also on the asexual spectrum. Useful information for sure, because now I can release more of the binds I had to the sexual and gender expectations of the queer community. I found new language to describe attraction, or the lack thereof. Talk about freeing!
Even more unexpected, I discovered characters on the autism spectrum. At first I couldn’t see enough of myself in them to feel comfortable admitting I was autistic. But then I met autistic readers and began to understand the spectrum for the first time. Did you know that women are grossly under diagnosed as autistic because the traits appear differently, likely due to social conditioning? I didn’t. Did you know that there are some who are very sexual, but also many who are on the asexual spectrum? I didn’t. Not until I met these amazing people who became friends. Between those conversations, my own research (because what autistic doesn’t research everything of interest?), and reading more books with autistic characters, I could finally embrace that I was autistic at 39 years old.
And yet, that wasn’t all, because there were parts of the autism traits that didn’t fit me and confused me. Thanks to my research I finally stumbled on a post that described what it was like to have autism and ADHD. It was like reading my story in a single post. Talk about life changing. I started on medications almost two months ago and it changed my life. In fact I’m a little teary eyed even as I write this, that’s how much it improved my life.
Yet, none of this would have been possible if I hadn’t started reading lesfic.
Even more important for my freedom was becoming a writer. In spring of 2018, I had a brief dream that stuck with me. Within a few days I had a story idea. But I had a problem. How do I write a non-autistic character? I don’t understand people well, and certainly don’t understand their thought processes. That’s when I decided to not force myself too far beyond what I knew.
My debut novel, Dal Segno, is the story of Cam, a butch former Marine, approaching 40, and grieving the loss of her partner of 15 years when she takes a sabbatical to play music. At a community college in Colorado, she runs into her high school band teacher, Laura. Since this is a romance, feelings slowly develop and through this new love Cam is able to come to peace with her loss and make room for Laura in her heart.
Cam was built on my experience with autism. She can fake being normal, also called masking, in many ways so that people wouldn’t notice she’s autistic unless they were familiar with the spectrum or she told them. She’s awkward, struggles with eye contact, and doesn’t often catch subtext. She sees the world differently, blending magic and wonder with science to create beauty. I chose to tell the story from her point of view not only because I didn’t know how to write from Laura’s perspective, but so people could have a taste of what it’s like to walk through the world with an autistic brain.
What I discovered through writing was how my own brain worked. There were moments in the book when I struggled. At one point, I was writing and Laura asked Cam a question. Now, you’d think that, being the author, I could just have Cam answer. But I couldn’t. I struggled with it, worried that all this work would be for nothing because I couldn’t make my character answer a simple question because I couldn’t answer the question for myself. Then it hit me. I didn’t have to. Cam needed to explain what she was experiencing. By writing that, the story progressed. I’d become unbound from the rules I’d imagined existed for writing this story. I’d gained another layer of freedom not only as a writer, but as a person.
Here is the scene in question for context.
(Cam) “That’s one reason I like cats. They’re rarely clingy or needy. Even the friendly ones do it on their terms. You have to earn their trust. Once you do they still have their boundaries.”
“Does that same preference apply to people?” Laura asked.
“People are way more complicated! If I have to compare them, cats are the independent people. They want to be with you, but they don’t need you. Dogs are the needy people who cling to you for everything, demanding you supply their every emotional need. That’s something I’m incapable of. I barely understand my own emotional needs, how can I take care of someone else’s?” Cam’s chest felt tight just thinking about it. The silence was heavy. “That makes me sound like an uncaring asshole.”
Laura touched Cam’s arm gently. “I won’t claim to understand what you mean yet, but I know you aren’t an uncaring asshole. Why don’t you try to explain it differently?”
Cam furrowed her brows and sighed. “I haven’t had a lot of relationships in my life, so it’s possible my perspective is skewed. But…” Cam ran out of words. It felt like a literal brick wall separated her from what she wished to express.
“What is it?” Laura asked.
“I don’t have the words for it.” Cam didn’t want to get frustrated, but this was the first time her brain had fully shut down with Laura. With acquaintances she would change the subject, but here, now, she didn’t want to. It felt important that Laura understand. “This happens sometimes, usually around emotional topics. Right now it feels like my words and emotions are completely disconnected or blocked from each other. It sometimes helps to attack from a different angle.”
My growth as a writer, and a person, continued when I decided to write the prequel to Dal Segno, where Cam met her soulmate Sharon when they were both young Marines serving under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. A Marine Awakening shows us who Cam was when she had no clue she was autistic, and at the early stages of being comfortable with her gender presentation.
Book 3 in the series covers Cam’s experience of discovering she’s on the autism spectrum, with all of the complicated emotions that arose for both of us. Across the series you see Cam go from undiagnosed and thinking she was a little broken, to understanding why she’s different, and finally accepting her unique brain. Writing Cam’s story allowed me to feel comfortable with autism as well.
As a side note, if you’re still young, consider journaling. You are not going to remember a lot of the things you felt when you were in your 20s when you reach your 40s. And if you happen to write a book about that time, it will be a challenge. But, you might also surprise yourself with what remains. Excavating my past brought up emotions I’d suppressed for a long time. Writing Cam and Sharon’s story, through both of their books, allowed me to heal from many of those traumas, large and small, resulting in another layer of freedom.
With two books under my belt, I finally felt comfortable writing my first dual point of view book, Rising from Ash. Just as I used Cam’s story to learn a lot more about autism, I used Phoenix and Ash’s story to learn more about asexuality. In this story, Phoenix and Ash are opposites. Phoenix comes from poverty and addict parents, never went to college, and uses sex as a coping mechanism. Ash is working on her PhD in astrophysics, has an intact family, and is demisexual and not interested in sex except in rare situations. The only reason these two have a chance to get to know each other is because they are at the South Pole for an entire year and have to find a way to coexist.
I learned so much writing their story. About myself, and writing, but it was scary to hit the publish button. To write about autism is one thing, but asexuality really pushes people’s buttons. They make assumptions that are often completely false and won’t even give a character (or person) who is asexual a chance. Luckily, those who read it overwhelmingly loved it and came away with a different perspective on intimacy and sex, as well as compromise that doesn’t involve compromising their own needs.
My hope is that readers find something of value in my stories, something that helps them become unbound in their own life. To be untamed by society and fully honoring of themselves.
This month is Autism Awareness Month, but many in the autism community are calling it Autism Acceptance Month because we want to be accepted for who we are, not as someone to change. The chances are high that you know someone on the autism spectrum and don’t realize it. Multiple readers have expressed this to me, how it helped them understand themselves or their loved one better.
Currently the first two books in Cam’s story, A Marine’s Heart, are available for just $.99, and all of my books are free in Kindle Unlimited. I hope you’ll give them a read and see just how similar, and different, at least one person’s experience with autism can be.
On the verge of turning 40, former Marine Cameron ‘Cam’ Warren didn’t expect to be walking onto a community college campus to spend a year playing music. Instead of enjoying her career, Cam is still mourning the tragic death of her partner and fellow Marine Sharon. Five years have now passed but she is no further forward in dealing with her grief. Cam knows she needs to change so she can heal. Will taking a sabbatical to play the drums allow her to live fully again, connecting her to emotions in ways her autism has always prevented?
Jazz pianist and teacher Laura Clark has had enough of city life on the east coast and yearns for the quiet beauty of Colorado. When a faculty position opens at a small community college in Ft. Collins, she jumps at the chance to start a new life. However, what she couldn’t predict was that one of her star students was about to walk back into her life, 20 years later.
When Cam is introduced to the new jazz ensemble director she is shocked to see her high school music teacher, a thousand miles away from the small town where Ms. Clark first introduced her to jazz. But Cam is no longer a kid and, as their chemistry grows stronger, Cam has to choose which path her life will take – will she choose love or will she choose fear?
Dal Segno is a lesbian romance that shows the power of revisiting the past to create a completely different result. Everything changes the second time around….
Jax Meyer is an autistic lesbian romance author. Their new release, A Marine Discovery, includes Cam realizing she’s autistic while her girlfriend is deployed. You can find the series, A Marine’s Heart, on Amazon. Jax can be reached at jaxmeyerauthor.com, @butchjax on Twitter, and fb.me/jaxmeyerauthor on Facebook.
You’re interested in participating? Great! Just shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org using Authors Unbound in the reference line and we’ll get things set up.
We can’t wait to hear from you!
You can find all previous guest posts in this series >here<.
Genre: Contemporary Genre: Romance Orientation: Asexual (+ace-spec) Orientation: Lesbian Pairing: F/F Self Published Tag: Age-Gap Tag: Guest Post Tag: Military / Uniform Tag: Part of a series Authors Unbound Dal Segno Jax Meyer