I’ve been writing stories ever since my grandmother gifted me a typewriter when I was six. My first story was a two-page Nancy Drew fanfiction—to my young mind, it made sense for her to find the bad guy hiding under the bed!
As a kid, I loved mysteries. My favorite series was The Three Investigators, which is sadly out of print today. I was especially fascinated by all the secret codes the protagonists used and how Jupiter Jones (what a name!) would use his acting skills to pretend he was stupid when he needed to get information. And of course, there would always be a scene near the end where the bad guys kidnapped one or more of the boys to try to keep their secrets hidden.
Although I read and write stories for teens and adults now, I still love a good kidnapping scene. I also love writing powerful villains who will do anything to keep their secrets hidden, falsely accused people (sometimes framed by their enemies!) who must race against time to clear their names before they end up in jail, and underdog heroes who are determined to find and expose horrifying truths despite the potential consequences.
Many of my darkest stories come from my devastating personal experiences with trauma, drug addiction and abuse. I had a fairly normal childhood. But when I grew up I lived and loved a drug addict and was lucky to escape with my life. He was not—he died of an overdose two days after I moved across the country. It was another five years before I learned I was both autistic and transgender, which shattered my worldview in some ways even though it made everything that came before make sense.
I had many careers while I was trying to figure it all out, most recently as a licensed master social worker. I’ve worked with traumatized people, drug or alcohol addicts, and people impacted by the criminal justice system.
One summer I worked at an alternative court system in New York City. It opened my eyes to the ways racism and homo/transphobia, trauma, and drug use often intersect to create a “justice” system that is stacked against certain groups of people.
For all these reasons, I write mystery/thrillers that not only keep people guessing but also inspire and empower trauma survivors. All of my characters have experienced traumatic violence but don’t let that stop them from fighting for justice.
I love it when readers tell me that my books helped them heal. I also tell the stories I do to advocate for real-world change to the criminal justice system.
Currently, my debut novel, Reinventing Hannah, has been released. While Reinventing Hannah is not a thriller, it has tie-ins to the Cedarwood Campus Mystery series that I’m currently working on, and Hannah will make a cameo appearance in the second book.
Open Secrets, the first novel in the Cedarwood Campus series, will be released on May 5, 2023. This novel features a non-binary college freshman turned amateur sleuth when another student is killed and the police incorrectly focus their investigation on the protagonist’s boyfriend.
I’m currently working on two other novels, including a standalone story that takes place at a local hospital and a dystopian young adult mystery/thriller about a teenager whose quest to help her mother find a missing girl leads her into the heart of a conflict with authorities. Check back soon for more details about these projects!
Surprisingly, Open Secrets is the first novel I’ve written that stars a non-cisgender person.
LGBTQ+ protagonists feature heavily in my mystery/thrillers and are secondary characters in my thriller tie-ins, but not every protagonist is transgender. I strongly believe that transgender and cisgender people have more in common than the media makes us think and enjoy writing about people becoming their authentic selves, whether or not that involves a gender transition.
As a transgender person who wasn’t able to come out until well into adulthood, I understand all too well the traumatic isolation many LGBTQ+ people experience.
There are just as many LGBTQ+ people in high schools, colleges, and the adult world as there are straight people, and they need and deserve books about people like them.
Everyplace! I’ve written Days of Our Lives fanfiction for years as well as reviewed it and several other shows for TV Fanatic, and sometimes those activities give me ideas for original stories. I also read widely—not just novels, but also news stories and those silly anecdote listicles that Facebook loves to advertise. (The idea for Open Secrets came from one of those lists!)
I’d love to be able to do that, but sometimes life gets in the way. During the fall and winter TV seasons, I review eight shows for TV Fanatic, so I don’t always have time.
I also tend to think that the advice to write every day is geared more to neurotypical authors than neurodiverse ones like me. Some days, I think about my characters or do writing-related research instead of writing, and that’s equally fine.
Since my books are about trauma survivors and often involve topics such as domestic violence, sexual harassment and assault, negative interactions with police, and kidnapping and murder, it’s possible that some of my content could be triggering to you.
I always put a note to readers in the front of each book letting you know what potentially triggering topics you will encounter and offering hotlines for support if you need it.
Obviously, I can’t predict every reader’s triggers, but it’s important to me to do my best to ensure you don’t accidentally read something that’ll cause you extreme discomfort.
That’s my dream. I have lots of ideas for books and a plan for what I’m publishing when, but I’m not supporting myself solely via fiction writing yet.
- Write freelance articles about topics that are important to me, such as personal essays about my experiences as a transgender man who came out later in life.
- Ghostwrite non-fiction books on a variety of topics
- Write TV reviews and editorials for TV Fanatic
- Mentor a select number of neurodiverse authors.
A lot of the advice I give mentoring clients boils down to one thing:
You have to find writing methods that work for you. There’s a lot of advice out there, but every writer is different, so what works for one person might not work for another.
A lot of my advice is also geared toward getting your book FINISHED, because you can’t edit and publish something you haven’t written. So don’t be afraid to write bad first drafts.
But DO learn everything you can about the craft and business sides of writing if you want more than a few people to read your books.
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When a child calls into non-binary college freshman CJ Jennings’ live podcast and begs them to find his missing sister, CJ refuses to let his plea fall on deaf ears. But how can they find a missing girl if they have no idea who she is?`
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