Launching into a Storm

by Renee James

My fifth novel was released a couple weeks ago by Amble Press, an imprint of Bywater Books. Book launches are always tense for authors, but this one was like launching a canoe into storm-tossed waters because BeatNikki’s Café is built around a transgender heroine, Nikki Finch, and I am a transgender author.

As you may be aware, “transgender” is the dirtiest word in the absolutely filthy LGBTQ acronym according to all of the states of the former Confederate States of America, and also in virtually all of the other MAGA states. In these places, heroic politicians are rolling back the rights of minorities and demonizing expressions of gender and sexual orientation that run counter to their far-fetched interpretations of the Christian bible. Transgender people are an especially popular target of these politicians and the mobs they lead.

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Image Source Amble Press
With MAGA’s various fascist elements bullying businesses who dare to welcome all customers into their tents — see especially the uproar over Bud Light’s employment of a trans spokesperson and the violent reaction to Target stocking transgender clothing for Pride month — it’s hard to think of a scarier time to be promoting a book about a transgender woman, especially one like Nikki Finch who opens the book by putting a MAGA hooligan in the hospital.

My publisher, a small, gritty house dedicated to LGBTQ literature, tells me I worry too much. They’ve been fighting these currents for years. Life finds a way.

The other thing is, BeatNikki’s Café enters a marketplace dominated by online retailers, from Amazon to Bywater Books’ own website, and none of them have much exposure to right-wing crazies, so if the book proves to be worthy, readers will be able to buy it.

Ironically, the setting for BeatNikki’s Café mirrors the turbulence in America today. Nikki Finch is a respectable middle-aged business woman living a low-key life until she suddenly becomes the custodial parent of her estranged daughter and the target of fascist thugs who are celebrating the first summer of the Trump presidency by assaulting LGBTQ people. She’s pretty close to the pre-MAGA, traditional Republican ideal: she’s a job creator, a believer in self-reliance and independent living, a law-abiding citizen, a capitalist, and a taxpayer. You’d like her as a neighbor. She’s honest and quiet and doesn’t think you owe her anything.

The irony of Nikki’s story is that, when she’s beset by the thuggery of neo-Nazis, she has to defend herself, and this leads her to consider self-defense options that go beyond the letter of the law. This dilemma parallels the dangerous game our country is playing with human rights today, with MAGA politicians currying favor with fascists and bigots by victimizing minorities. If it becomes necessary for minorities to carry and use weapons to defend themselves, we will no longer have a viable society.

As a transgender author writing about transgender characters, I think we’re closer to that ugly reality than civilized people should be.

Politics aside, I should clarify that BeatNikki’s Café is entertainment, first and foremost: a page-turner with equal parts humor and conflict. I hope you’ll give it a look. It’s written for a general audience, built around a heroine who’s fun, funny, and flawed, like most of us are, and her character arc will get you thinking about your own values and morality, which is always a good thing. Right?

Buying Note:

BeatNikki’s Café is available in paperback and e-book formats. It can be ordered from your favorite bookstore or from any on-line book retailer. For more information:

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section in Kings River Life and in our mystery category here on KRL News & Reviews. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. And check out our new mystery podcast which features mystery short stories and first chapters read by local actors! A new episode featuring an LGBTQIA character went up this week.

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Renee James is a confessed English major and out transgender author who is also a spouse, parent, grandparent, and Vietnam veteran. She took up fiction writing after a long career in magazines. She has published six novels and a biography along with short stories under various bylines. Her novels include the Bobbi Logan trilogy (Coming Out Can Be Murder, A Kind of Justice, and Seven Suspects) which depicts the life and times of a Chicago transwoman after gender transition.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.