I remember as I became an adult, beginning to adopt responsibility for the actions of my country. I was a voter and, even though my candidates frequently lost, I accepted that I was a participant in the imperialist and capitalist society that was visiting harms on the rest of the world. And I started using the language of “we” when talking about my own culpability in these harms. Today, regarding the failure of the UN to achieve the sustainability goals, Ross Douhat says:

Lofty goals could be forgiven if they inspired progress, but I worry that they were sometimes less a spur to action than a substitute for it. Yes, the pandemic created setbacks, but let’s be honest: We dropped the ball.

That’s bullshit. I didn’t drop the ball. I’m being disenfranchised by fascists that are gerrymandering the shit out of the country. My voice and agency are being drowned out by a firehose of money coming from oligarchs that can hire whole stables of unscrupulous lobbyists that make sure that their voices are heard and not mine. I’m being overwhelmed by a flood of disinformation that rises like a tide from a stockyard waste pond over the civilized discourse of the country.

It’s not my fault. And I don’t have to accept responsibility for it.

We need to stop saying “we” and start saying “they.” It’s the billionaires and the unscrupulous greedy people that accept their money who are to blame. Not us. And don’t let them make you forget it.

Steven D. Brewer at BayCon2023.

I had an exciting summer! I drove cross-country to attend BayCon in July and then visited the tropical island of St. Croix where I did a lot of writing. But soon the fall classes begin and I will be swamped with academic work.

In December, the Better Angels anthology will come out. We’re still nailing down the title, but you can expect sixteen alternately sweet and sanguinary stories featuring everyone’s favorite non-human biological-android magical-girl singing-and-dancing idols.

In January, the compiled Revin’s Heart anthology will come out. It will include revised and extended versions of the novelettes plus three special side-stories, that provide histories for some of the key events leading up to Revin’s Heart. You won’t want to miss it!

I have a whole series of conventions coming up. I have registered to attend WorldCon2024 in Glasgow! I am super excited! I have been hoping to attend LOSCon in November, but with the appearance of new COVID variants, I may not be able to make it. My pulmonologist has given me orders not to attend public events that are not double masked and it is not currently listed as a “masks required” event. I’m hoping to attend both Arisia and Boskone this year. I didn’t make Boskone last year due to my hospitalization. I have my fingers crossed for this year.

I’m starting a new program for Straw Dog Writers’ Guild members: Straw Dog Writes. Members will be able to join a Zoom meeting Wednesday evenings at 7pm to write together. In a survey last year, a number of members were interested in ways to meet other members and write together. And were looking for events that didn’t require driving in the dark. I’m hopeful this will find an audience.

On November 18, I will attending the Mill District Holiday Market to sell books. I will have my own books plus a selection of other books people might want to purchase as gifts. In February, I’m hoping to arrange readings at local bookstores.

As I was writing Revin’s Heart, I had created a map (in Inkscape) to show the relative positions of the islands where the stories are set — mainly for my own use, to keep track of directions and orientations. But I rather liked the map and wondered how I might share it with readers. On the advice of my publisher, as part of the run-up to the release of Rewriting the Rules, I did a series of social media posts with the map and brief descriptions of the islands. Then I had an even better idea…

I made a little ‘zine to hand out at BayCon2023! I created it using Scribus, which is the Right Tool for such things. It turned out really well and was a nice giveaway. My publisher printed 50 copies for me and, whenever I had a few minutes, I would fold them up to hand out. I kept some in a little brochure holder on the dealer table and also tucked one in each bundle of Revin’s Heart that I sold. When it became clear I’d have a few left, I took a few out and tucked them in Filthy Pierre’s rack of freebies. And I came home with 3 or 4.

If you would like one, you can download the PDF, print it out, and fold it up (here’s a guide).

Note that you don’t have to print out the ‘zine to read the content as I posted it as a blog post as well.

BayCon was a thing! My younger son Daniel and I drove about 5000 miles through 14 states over 14 days to get there. It was an amazing road trip. And, at the end, we spent four glorious days at the Santa Clara Marriot enjoying BayCon.

As I’ve written, I’m rather introverted and I find attending conventions exhausting, so I prefer just sitting off in the corner and watching. And that’s what I did here: I spent most of my time in the Dealer Room selling Revin’s Heart. It was great! I got to meet hundreds of people, tell them about my books, and sell a goodly number — I sold all the ones I had anyway. I also sold books by other Water Dragon authors too.

And I finally got to meet a bunch of Water Dragon folks I had only interacted with online! What a nice bunch of people! Everyone was friendly and gracious. And lots of fun. I’m so grateful to have found this little community of charming, delightful, and eccentric people where I feel like I fit in and am accepted.

Daniel appeared to have a great time. He hooked up with Magic the Gathering folks, bid on several items in the art show (one of which he gifted to me!), and attended a bunch of panels. He would stop in to visit me in the dealer room periodically, but seemed to having a lot of fun. He did take one day off to drive down to Monterey to see the aquarium and, on my recommendation, to visit Point Lobos.

After I sold out of Revin’s Heart, I steeled myself and spent a day attending panels and presentations. They were all pretty good. I got to get to know some people I had previously only known by reputation, so it was all positive. And I just did some fun stuff too, like visiting the Art Show and watching the Lux Saber Corp put on a light saber demonstration.

When the convention finally came to an end, and we’d packed everything up, Daniel and I got a good night’s sleep and then headed home. Rather than driving, we abandoned the rental car at the airport and flew home in two legs. (Not very aerodynamic, legs. hur hur hur) We finally got home around 1am. But far better than another 5000 miles of driving.

As the conference wrapped up, someone told our publisher than his authors were conspiring to attend LOSCon. That sounds like a conspiracy I would interested in joining.

At BayCon, I spent a fair amount of time in the Dealer Room selling copies of Revin’s Heart. And sales were brisk. I sold all of the bundles of printed copies I had and could probably have sold twice as many. I am not certain, but it may have been the most popular item at the Water Dragon Publishing table.

I’ve got my pitch down. I had a great spot to sell from: right at the entrance when people come into the room. If someone pauses coming in — or if I can see that they don’t already have a ribbon, I ask, “Would you like to be an airship pirate?” and point at the ribbons. Nine times out of ten, they’ll say, “Ooh! Yeah!” and take a ribbon. (Tho there are always a few weirdos who say, “No.”) While they’re putting on the ribbon, I say, “It’s for my steampunky fantasy adventure Revin’s Heart with pirates and airships and a trans protagonist.” After they digest that, I say, “It’s a series of 7 little novelettes that are five dollars each. But right now you can buy a bundle of all seven for twenty-five dollars. [pause] It’s like you get two free.” Then, I hold up the bundles and say, ‘And you get a choice! Do you want it tied up with a white ribbon, a red ribbon, or a GREEN ribbon?”

The hook and ribbon draw people to the table. They sell themselves on the story. And the choice of ribbon gets them invested in the decision. It’s a one-two-three punch that knocks it out of the park. I’ve been rather surprised at my own ability to sell.

Even after the physical bundles were gone, I had good luck also selling the digital bundle. There is a QR code I can have people scan. People are surprisingly willing to fight with their phone to navigate the complex interface to buy something.

To be honest, it’s not an a economic winner for me: in monetary terms, I don’t really make any money doing this. All of the royalties I’ll earn don’t equal one meal in the hotel, let alone the cost of the travel to get here. But every fan is precious because they talk. And have friends. And it contributes to building a following.

And it’s super fun and rewarding to see people enjoying your creative work, which is worth a lot more than any amount of money.

Mount Shasta

I was extremely gratified to receive a positive review for all of Revin’s Heart by The Faerie Review. She said:

I was not expecting to come to love Revin, Grip, and Will as much as I did over the course of the series. […] Brewer has done a masterful job of bringing this world and it’s inhabitants to life, and while there have been some dark moments, they’ve been balanced by the light-hearted and heart-warming ones.

Liliyana Shadowlyn in the Faerie Review

As Sssindy would say, “Now you’re makin’ me blush!

When I was hospitalized in February, it threw my BayCon plans into doubt. Finally, I decided to travel by throwing caution to the winds and making a cross-country road trip with my son to sight-see along the way. We rented a car drove from Massachusetts, through Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, finally arriving in California. We saw the Dells, the Badlands, Yellowstone, Portland, Crater Lake, and drove the Coastal Highway — about 5000 miles in total. And, after BayCon, we will surrender the car at the airport and fly home. It’s been an incredible odyssey.

I’m looking forward to BayCon. I mostly intend to be at the Water Dragon Publishing dealer table to sell books. It looks to be a great weekend. Drop by to say hello!

Map of the Islands of Revin's Heart

Revin’s Heart takes place on island nations — or on airships traveling between the islands. The first book, The Third Time’s the Charm begins with Revin traveling to Havelock on the Madeline, a large passenger airship that is attacked by pirates. Read on for a tour of the islands of Revin’s Heart.

Havelock is ruled by a Duke who seemingly has absolute control of the island. We see a little of the island in The Third Time’s the Charm and see a lot more when Revin and the Professor go undercover in Crossing the Streams, visiting the capital and then the Hermitage, a research institute; Sendia Springs, a hot spring resort; and Beskin Harbor, a quaint seaside village.

Belleriand appears for the first time in For the Favor of a Lady. Revin and Grip walk for two days to the capital and visiting Ravensbelth, the sprawling palace of the so-called Butcher Baron of Belleriand. It has many luxurious chambers and salons (the Blue Room, the Tapestry Room, the Porcelain Room, the Portrait Gallery), and an immense library. Although the Baron is the most powerful noble on Belleriand, his power is not so absolute as the Duke of Havelock and he must use deft political action to be effective.

Harway is the home of King Reginald the Arbiter. All of the nobles in Revin’s Heart supposedly owe fealty to him. Revin travels there in The End of His Rope and is there for basically all of Then They Fight You (with several notable exceptions). Harway is the largest and most powerful of the islands. Harway is also home to the Royal Academy, the premier research institute among the islands. The Professor was famous at the Royal Academy before he joined the pirates as their chief engineer.

Candlemain, a smaller, less-developed island, is neutral in the war, but the intelligence agencies of both Havelock and Belleriand operate here. There’s no aerodrome, and airships simply land in an open field just out of town. There’s a colorful farmer’s market on Thursdays where locals sell produce, fish, and meat. The pirates resupply here and Grip receives their mail. The pirates often stay at a boarding house, run by Mama Kane, that offers nice views of the pier so they can watch for the arrival of The Little WormMaid.

Kapper Island — a small, steep rocky island — ­­is introduced in For the Favor of a Lady. It has no harbor and only a few small strips of beach. The pirates have their base here with a berth for an airship under camouflage. They have a number of semi-permanent tents that the pirates stay in. And they have a small sailboat, The Little WormMaid that they use to travel to Candlemain a couple of hours away to resupply. There is a steep trail up the mountain with switchbacks that they run up daily for exercise.

Devishire is the island Revin is originally from. Born female, he grew up in a small town where his family were coal miners. In his town, women were oppressed: girls were not educated, and were expected to be married at a young age to keep house and bear children. Revin escaped by cross-dressing and going to the capital where he met a law professor and became his student and research assistant. This story, Riva’s Escape, is a side-story that will be included when Revin’s Heart comes out in January 2024.

We don’t visit Ironton or Woodseer during Revin’s Heart. But Ironton is the island that Will is from. And we learn that there was a war between Ironton and Woodseer in the past (when Will was Revin’s age) for which Hannah (Revin’s adjutant in Then They Fight You) was involved in negotiating the peace. A side-story, Curtain’s Rise, is set on Ironton during this time and tells how Will met Grip’s father. This story will be included when the Revin’s Heart collection comes out in January 2024.

So-called “Storm Island” features in The End of His Rope where Prince Stewart, using his nom-de-guerre “Words” was participating in an archeological study. He and his colleagues were looking for clues to locate the island with the Eternite Mine. Although it’s referred to several times in the story, Revin never visits the Eternite Mine, but I wouldn’t count on it not appearing in some subsequent adventure with Revin.

This map only lists the things that were talked about in Revin’s Heart. That’s not to say there aren’t many other tiny islands that were never mentioned. There may well be other things beyond the borders of the map, as well. Perhaps we may get to find out more about some of these places someday.

Rewriting the RulesRewriting the Rules is the final novelette of Revin’s Heart, my steampunky fantasy adventure with pirates and airships and a trans protagonist, available on June 23 from Water Dragon Publishing.

People often ask me why I wrote Revin’s Heart. To be honest, I mostly wrote it to have fun. I like friendly adventure stories. I loved those kinds of stories when I was a kid and I don’t seem to see them as much as I used to. But I also wanted to tell a story about a trans character that I thought might appeal to both queer and straight audiences.

I came to understand that I was bisexual when I was still in puberty, in the 1970s. But I grew up in an extremely oppressive environment where admitting something like that would have resulted in constant bullying and threats of physical violence. I concealed my bisexuality and it’s only been in the last couple of years that I came out of the closet. I did so, in part, after reading an article that called on queer elders to help young people understand how oppressive conditions were back then. And also in response to the growing oppression happening now. I was too fearful to come out of the closet then. But I know where I want to stand today.

In Revin’s Heart, we learn within the first couple of pages that Revin is trans.

Before they headed to dinner, Revin made his excuses to stop in the lavatory. After using the facilities, he checked his chest bindings to make sure they were tight and didn’t show through the shirt. And the pad, which was still spotting, but thankfully the worst of the flow was done. Thankfully, the Professor wasn’t very observant. Revin didn’t like to imagine the consequences if his secret was discovered. (from The Third Time’s the Charm, part one of Revin’s Heart).

One of my goals was that the reader might forget for long stretches that Revin is trans at all. But only to have the fact brought home when circumstances or language draws a contrast that has special significance to Revin (and the reader).

“You told me he was a man, Griphon!” he said. Revin quailed inside, but stood firm and the Baron continued, laughing. “But this is a youth. A boy! And yet you tell me he saved your life?”
“Without doubt, sir,” Grip said to his father. “I would not be here today were it not for the quick thinking and bold action of this young man. And I took him for my squire with no further recommendation.”
“Darling,” the older woman said. “Don’t keep the boy from his breakfast.”
“That’s right,” the Baron said. “A boy like you is always hungry, like as not. Eat your fill!” (from For the Favor of Lady, part two of Revin’s Heart)

Revin’s world is divided among the common people, the nobles, and the pirates. The common people largely reject queer people. The nobles tend to privately tolerate queerness. But it’s only among the pirates that queerness is accepted and celebrated.

Revin grew up as a commoner and discovered early on the danger of being different. We see, through the books, as he learns the shape of the world and the communities it is divided into. Rewriting the Rules is about his realization for how he can undermine the divisions that separate commoner from noble and begin to create a more equitable world.

But, as I said up front, this is mostly just a fun adventure story. It has a trans protagonist who is trying to find his way in the world, but finding support, acceptance, and allies along the way who care about him and accept him. I hope you too will care about him and accept him. And join him for his on-going adventures!

BayCon, here I come!

In October, 2022, I registered for BayCon and was super excited to look forward to attending since my publisher, Water Dragon Publishing, and many of the authors I interact with, are from the Bay area. Unfortunately, when the time to put yourself forward as a participant happened, I was hospitalized and it was not at all clear I would actually be able to attend.

Since then, I have made great strides in terms of my recovery and recently made the decision to attend after all. I will not on the program, but will attend and be available to spent as much time as I want at the Dealer Table selling and signing my books.

This is especially exciting because the Revin’s Heart series is finally complete! The seventh and final chapter, Rewriting the Rules, has gone to the printer and is now available for pre-order. At BayCon, we’ll be able to sell complete bundles of all seven parts together for the first time!

So I invite you to come find me at BayCon so I can sell you my books and sign them for you. It should be a lot of fun!

BayCon is July 1-4 at the Santa Clara Marriot.