The Bargain by Jess Mahler is Now Available!

When I started writing The Bargain, I wanted a story with polyamory and kink (especially kink!) that I could relate to. All the femdom fiction I could find at the time was either straight pron or man-hating bitches or just flat out unrealistic and icky.

A lot has changed since then, and while femdom* still isn’t widely written, there’s a decent amount of it that I can read and enjoy.

The funny thing is that while I was actively trying to create a story with polyamory and kink, I unintentionally built my story around much more universal themes.

The kink is there, don’t get me wrong, and I think I did a good job with it. But the story… the story is about family. About what it means to be family. It’s about love and the different forms love can take. It’s about life after trauma, when you think the past is behind you but somehow it still manages to dog you around years after it’s “over.”

Most of all, I think it’s about choice. The most pivotal moments in the story all hinge on someone making a choice. Some of those choices are good ones. Some… not so good. But they all have consequences that ripple through the story. Including, of course, the choice to make a bargain…

The Bargain by Jess Mahler

It was supposed to be a straightforward sacrifice. After their mother was killed by Lord Oeloff, Mattin swore to do anything to protect his sister. When the fae lord came for her, Mattin traded his life and freedom to Oeloff’s enemy for the promise of his sister’s safety. He thought he was prepared for anything. Anything except what he actually
found…

It was supposed to be a political gambit. Struggling against Oeloff’s latest ploy, Jahlene found an unforeseen opening in the arrival of the bitter Mattin. Bringing the stranger into her household was a risk. Trusting him was a bigger one. To protect her family, Jahlene bargained with him. She never guessed how it would end…

Sometimes, what starts as a bargain, becomes something more.

The Bargain is a fantasy thriller exploring themes of family, betrayal, trauma, and sacrifice. It is an “own voices” book for polyamory, kink, and PTSD.

The Bargain by Jess Mahler

The Bargain is now available on Amazon

*Check back tomorrow for more on why my writing this for more femdom rep turned out to be somewhat ironic…

Nalbinding: #Yarnuary Week 3 1/2

Last week I was sick and got fuck-all done for #yarnuary. But the last couple of days I’ve been feeling better and buckled down to work on nalbinding.

Nalbinding is type of yarncrafting that even many crafters aren’t familiar with. It’d done with a single needle which looks rather like an over-sized sewing need. And you pretty much literally “sew” the yarn around itself to make the knots that form the fabric. The result looks a lot like knitting to someone who isn’t familiar with the difference.

Like knitting (and unlike crochet) nalbinding leaves a stretchy fabric that works well for clothing, hats, mittens, socks, etc. In fact, it may work better for socks than knitting because nalbinding stitches are flatter than knitting.

I’m in the early days of learning nalbinding and one of the main reasons I’m learning it is it is going to feature in the novel I’m currently working on (working title: Building Family). If you’re interested, you can learn more about the connection between nalbinding and Building Family here.

Anyway, one of my projects for #yarnuary was a bracelet made with nalbinding. Mainly because I made one kind-of by accident the first time I practiced nalbinding, and my partner liked it so much he wanted me to make one for him.

I don’t think he expected it to be purple though…

nalbinding(It’s a much darker purple IRL, not sure why it came out looking so bright. But you get the idea.)

That’s two yarnuary projects done. I’ll honestly be a bit surprised if I manage to finish any of the others, but I’m gonna try!

Jess Mahler’s Unified Theory of Rape and Sexual Assault Allegations

Okay, I want to tackle some hard stuff today, so pull up a chair and grab your thing. Like the title says, this is my unified theory of rape and sexual assault allegations. If I don’t piss at least half the people reading this off at least once, I’m doing it wrong. But stick it out, I don’t think you’ll be expecting where I take this.

Before I get into this, let me note that I’m writing this for private individuals. I am NOT advocating that anything I say here replace real investigation of accusations or that anyone is not entitled to legal presumption of innocence. But individuals are confronted every day with a need to decide who to believe when accusations come to light. This is my take.

There is No Single, Usable Theory of Rape and Sexual Assault Allegations

Remember #MeToo that was going around a while back? Well, a lot of people got kinda worked up about false accusations when it was going. And while by and large those concerns were dismissed by folks trying to bring light to the problem of sexual assault and harassment, I kept remembering Emmett Till. I know someone who has lived all his life knowing that he could be the next Emmett Till. He was understandably reluctant to offer a blanket #Ibelieveher to allegations from white women. And because of that, I saw him hounded and harassed by a feminist we both knew until he was nearly driven out of our mutual social group.

Full disclosure? When it comes to sexual assault and harassment, I’m generally on the “believe the victim” bandwagon. (Accusations of ongoing abuse within a romantic relationship are a lot more complicated and we’ll be examining that another day.)

But while I (generally) believe the victim I am well aware that other people may have legit reasons to withhold judgment. So as long as other people aren’t attacking the victim I don’t take issue with their stance.

If you start attacking the victim, instead of just suspending judgment pending more information, we’re gonna have issues you and I. (You can defend the accused, if you so wish, without attacking the victim.)

He Was the Boss

I read an article last month about the many news-making accusations which brought down a number of high profile men over the summer. It made a point that I hadn’t seen made anywhere else at the time:

All of the accusations that were making waves in the media weren’t JUST accusations of sexual assault. They were allegations of workplace harassment and specifically situations where the accused had power over the accuser’s career.

The old saying about rape being about power is not only cliché but generally pretty well disproven. However power is definitely a factor in rape. You can’t rape someone you don’t have power over, whether that power is physical, emotional, financial, or otherwise.

So Let’s Talk Power

Now, power dynamics are a hobby horse of mine. If you follow this blog, you’ll hear more about them. But for our purposes today you need to know two things:

Power dynamics are always in play. There is never a situation where two people (much less a group of people) are completely equal in relative power.

Power dynamics are complex shit. My nesting partner is both physically and financially more powerful than I am, but I am the driving force in our family because I hold more social power. I have societal power (different from social power) over many people who are physically stronger than me. Yet I have less financial power than almost anyone who isn’t living on the street. And that’s just looking at part of one person’s relative power. I didn’t even touch on political power, career power, power in a specific hierarchy, etc. Get a group together? Fuck that shit.

So when someone starts talking about how all the high profile cases of sexual assault and harassment are also cases of workplace harassment, that grabs my attention. Now, we are talking about a pattern in the power dynamics between accused and accuser.

Powerless? #MeToo

At the time of the assaults, the accused had power over their accusers. And that power dynamic is critical to how this plays out. It is the power that the accused had that let them get away with their harassment. If they didn’t have that power the accusers would have told them to fuck off as soon as the assaults started. If they didn’t have that power their victims would have come forward a lot fucking sooner.

Take those same people, and flipped the power dynamic in their work relationships, those assaults would never have happened. At worst the accused would have tried something, been slapped down, and never tried it again.

However I’ve gotten a bit of afield of where I started didn’t I?

I started with #metoo, false accusations and Emmett Till.

There’s a connection. Bear with me a bit longer, okay?

But False Rape Accusations!

In the wake of all the highly publicized accusations, many men discussed how to prevent rape allegations. Apparently a lot of men are really worried 1) about being next to be accused and 2) about being accused when they were acting with good intentions. For some reason, none of the various articles, blog posts, and forum discussions by people who had these concerns advised that the way to not be accused of rape is to, ya know, not rape. Cause while false accusations are 100% a thing, I promise that will work for well over 95% of folks.

But false accusations are a thing, and as Emmett Till’s story graphically demonstrates, they aren’t harmless. The harm they can do varies.

In aggregate the harm to the many, many, many people sexually assaulted every day is far worse than the harm to the relatively few people false accused. But harm doesn’t happen in aggregate, it happens individually. And in some cases the harm of false accusations is life destroying.

The usual response to worries about false accusations is to point out that false accusations are really rare. Very few people are going to make false accusations. Why? Because the accuser in cases of sexual assault almost always gets put through a gauntlet. An accuser needs to prove not just the validity of the accusation but that they are righteous enough for their accusation to be worth paying attention to.

I agree 100% that those responses are accurate most of the time.

When the Gauntlet is a Cakewalk…

Just how much of that gauntlet did Bryant get dragged through when she accused Emmett Till of making lewd advances? None. (Oh, after Till was dead she may have gotten dragged quite a bit. But when she made the accusation no one even stopped to question her.)

A rape victim on the witness stand may have their sexual habits and style of dress dissected. But Do you really think the school board–who are elected by the parents of the students–is going to sit through the same being done to a student who accuses a teacher? Yeah, I didn’t think so either.

Why do you think that is?

Because power dynamics.

A young white woman had enormous societal power over a black boy 50 years ago. And while the power differential isn’t as bad today, it still exists.

In schools, power looks like it is in the hands of the teachers. And in the classroom it is. Beyond the classroom, the parents hold power over the teacher’s careers. Which means the students, through their parents, can have power over their teachers.

These aren’t universals. Bill Cosby reached a level of financial, career, and social power that is extremely rare for a black man in America. So the power imbalance between Cosby and the average white woman was in Cosby’s favor. A very rare situation for a black man in America. Though it is perhaps notable that the accusations against Cosby started coming out years before the accusations against white men with similar career positions.

And the Sandusky case definitely proved that not all teachers are created equal.

So let’s pull it all together:

Rape and sexual assault can only happen when there is at least one power imbalance favoring the assailant.

People making rape allegations go through a harrowing gauntlet both medically, legally, and socially, when they come forward–unless they have significantly more power than the person they are accusing.

Certain situations are more likely to be generate false rape and assault allegations. These are situations where on average the accuser has significant power over the accused. White women accusing black men, teachers being accused by students are two examples of these situations.

Jess Mahler’s Unified Theory of Rape and Sexual Assault Allegations

Believe the person the power imbalance doesn’t favor. Believe the person who is fighting an uphill battle to get their side of the story heard, never mind believed. Usually, that’s going to be the accuser. Because usually the accuser is going to get put through that gauntlet. Usually people are going to rally around the accused. But not always.

People talking about how the accused’s life shouldn’t be ruined because of one mistake is a clear sign of where the power lies. So are public dissection of the accuser’s sexual habits. Similarly, publishing mugshots of the accused instead of school photos, dissecting their past mistakes and wrong doings, while everyone paints the accuser as a shining innocent victim are also clear tipoffs as to who has more power.

And of course, if the accused can literally make or break the accusers career, cost them their job, or otherwise has direct power over the accusers well being… it’s pretty obvious who has more power, right?

And if none of this is happening? If there is no clear power imbalance or the power dynamic is a mixed bag where each has some power over the other and neither has a clear advantage? That’s when you hope the folks investigating the accusations and allegations are actually capable of doing their goddamn jobs. Something I personally have little faith in, but we can always hope.

A Few Last Thoughts

So here it is. My unified theory of rape and assault allegations, in 2000 words of less. It isn’t perfect. Even if the theory is 100% accurate, we’ll still make mistakes applying it because there will be things you don’t know. For instance, it may be that the secretary is blackmailing the exec over some indiscretion. Then the secretary holds the power even though as far as all of us can tell, the power is with the exec.

But I think this is a step in the right direction. A theory that both has solid utility and can give folks on both sides of this issue a way to recognize and address the legitimate concerns of both sides.

Comments are open, but ban hammer will be wielded liberally. Keep it clean, people.

(Did you learn something? Please help support my work.)

A Week in Crochet — #Yarnuary

For the rest of January I’m going to be using Monday blog posts to share my #yarnuary updates.

If you missed it last week, #yarnuary is a community-building thing for yarn crafters on Mastodon.

I’ve got several projects I’m working on for #yarnuary and this week I’ve made progress on three of them.

First off, the snood.

I made this for my partner, Michael and have actually been working on it since last Spring. Well, theoretically working on it. This past summer was not a good time for me crafting wise and I got pretty much nothing done from May through November. Then I lost my elastic so i couldn’t finish the snood until I got to the store to pick some up.

Anyway, it’s done now. And it will be a damn long time before I do another project that uses elastic. (The snood I usually wear ties with string, thank-you-very-much. 😉 )

Here’s a pick of Michael wearing it.

week in crochet

I haven’t had the spoons to get pics of the projects (and this blog post was supposed to go up Monday), but here’s updates anyway:

Next up is my blue-striped cowl. Progress has been made, about 3 more rows. I don’t know if I’m going to finish this during #yarnuary. I definitely would if it was my only project, but as it is I’m not sure. Either way, progress is good.

Of course, whether I finish in #yarnuary or not, the worst of the cold weather will be over by the time I’m done. But I’ll still have it for next year, so I guess that works, right?

Last bit of progress this week was a few rows on the surprise amigurumi. In fact, I finished the head.

Like the cowl, if this was the only project, it would be done by the end of the month easily, but I think I have a decent chance of finishing both of these if I just keep working on them.

The two projects I didn’t work on this week are the nalbinding bracelet and the parrot amigurumi. Having seen the pace I’m able to manage currently, I actually doubt I’ll get much, if anything, done on the parrot this month. It’s lowest priority for me which means it’ll only be worked on if everything else is done.

The nalbinding bracelet I should be able to finish in one sitting (I finished the first on in a single sitting and it was my first time nalbinding.) I’m still tempted to try a new stitch for the second bracelet, but common sense is asserting itself and I’m going to keep going with the Oslo stitch until I can stitch-while-watching something the way I can with basic crochet stuff. That way I’ll KNOW what I’m doing in my fingers. Then I’ll pick up another stitch.

My fantasy thriller novel The Bargain is now available for pre-order on Amazon. It doesn’t have anything to do with #yarnuary, but check it out anyway!

His Innocent Victim: A Free Fantasy Short Story

I have a small treat to share today.

As you may know, my fantasy thriller novel The Bargain is coming out on January 18th. To celebrate (and in hopes of wetting your interest), I’m making my short story His Innocent Victim available for free for the next two weeks.

His Innocent Victim is set 500 years before The Bargain and starts the story of Falthro and Dannel. Falthro is also a character in The Bargain. However, like some characters, he didn’t like his relatively small role and insisted on having his own story.

In theory, His Innocent Victim is the first in a series of short stories about Falthro and his household. I’ve got the second part written and will hopefully be publishing it sometime in February.

Enjoy!

His Innocent Victim

When the town of Oak Grove captures a child-killer, they petition the fae lord Falthro to find his missing victims. But before the council will release him to Falthro, they insist he swear by the Goddess to punish the prisoner for the deaths of the town’s children.

Falthro is oathbound, but his magic tells him the prisoner is innocent…

His Innocent Victim is a complete short story, the first in a series about Falthro and his victim, Dannel.​

his innocent victimDownload as ePub

Download as PDF

Minimal Bullet Journal–The REAL Thing

I love my bullet journal, and I’m always looking for new ideas for spreads and monthly set ups and stuff. BUT, I can’t draw for shit, my handwriting has been described as “chicken scratch” and I really am not interested in watching someone spend 10 minutes adding pictures of daises to their bullet journal.

I tried doing a search for “minimal bullet journal” and even the people describing themselves as “minimalist” are using fancy calligraphy and stickers and talking about which pens they use to get their drop shadows on their page titles…

That’s not what “minimal” means. It’s certainly not what I’m looking for when I checking out minimal bullet journals. So for anyone else feeling lost and alone in a wasteland of bullet journals that double as art journals and scrap books, here’s a real minimal bullet journal.

My Minimal Bullet Journal

Click on images to view full size.

Standard Bullet Journal Spreads

This is the stuff that’s kinda integral to bullet journals. If you want a bare minimum bullet journal, you use just these spreads (and the index) and you’re done.minimal bullet journal 2
Future log–nice and simple.

 

minimal bullet journal 5
This is your basic monthly spread, right out of the original “How to Bullet Journal” video. I don’t need a full page for monthly tasks, but I haven’t found another monthly layout I like better, so I’ve stuck with this so far.

 


It’s a new year, so I don’t have much in the way of daily logs yet. Right page is a last minute new collection that would be under the custom spreads heading if I had thought to take two different pictures. Anyway, it’s meant to be all the books I’ve read half of and always “meant to finish”. I’m going to try to finish them this year, instead of getting new books. Wish me luck.

Custom Bullet Journal Spreads

minimal bullet journal 1
This is the first two spreads after the index. As you can see, just simple text, nothing fancy. Left page is life goals, which I re-write every year. Right page is “Week in Theory”–all the activities and appointments that repeat every week, done in pencil so I can edit easily.

 

minimal bullet journal 3
Left page is my 10 year future log. I really don’t need a full page for it, but some stuff that I want to remember is happening more than a year out. So I record it here. Right page is goal progress tracker. Lot of bullet journals have trackers. This one lets me record my progress on some long term goals each month. My goal trackers are the one area where I don’t do bare minimum and actual spend some time on layout and shit.

 

minimal bullet journal 4
I have a lot of problems with executive dysfunction, so the left page has a list of things I try to do routinely–morning routine, evening routine, weekly routine, and monthly routine. Weekly is Sunday stuff, Monthly is first Sunday stuff. Right page is kind of a backwards birthday day. I don’t know when anyone’s birthday is anymore, but FB and Skype keep sending me notices about people’s birthdays. So as they happen I’ll write them here so I know them for the future.

 

bullet journal tracker
Left page is my other tracker. This is a more standard bullet journal tracker, writ large, just tracks what I’ve done each day. Yes, that’s a lot of goals. Which is why this is where my commitment to a minimal bullet journal breaks down a bit. I just can’t track all this stuff any more minimal than this. Right page is music wishlist. For a couple years now, since I actually had a bit of disposable income, I’ve been saying that I need to start buying all the music I keep listening to on youtube. Well, here’s where I’m building the list of stuff I want to buy.

Take What Works, Discard What Doesn’t

The basic premise of a bullet journal is that you can use what works for you, and if something doesn’t work, do something different.

If you like all the fancy stuff, go for it! But if, like me, you alternately intimidated and annoyed by all the “how to bullet journal” videos that make itl ook like you need an art degree to bujo, this is for you. Minimal bullet journal.

Tools

It’s apparently become a thing to talk about the tools you use to make your bullet journal? Part of minimal bullet journal for me is not worrying about ” do I have my bullet journal pen with me” when I sit down to write a log.

I use a pen. Usually a black on, sometimes a blue one. Sometimes a pencil because they are handy.

My notebook is a big spiral bound thing I picked up at Walmart. It’s sturdy enough that I’m confident it will last a year, I like spiral bound more than traditional binding, and if you ask me who made it I have no clue. It’s teal, which isn’t my fave color but was better than black.

(That said, when I was drawing in my trackers I really understood the appeal of the dotted German-name-sounding journal a lot of bujo folks rave about. The dots would really make the complicated layouts easier.)

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Planning for Yarnuary: Crochet and Nalbinding

One of my Mastodon peeps started Yarnuary as way for yarn-crafting folks to connect and shit. There are some optional challenges each week to learn something new. So for the first week, the challenge is to learn a new technique using colors, second week is a texture-based technique, etc.

Anyone can jump in on this and have some fun connecting with other stitch-witches. Follow the discussion on #Yarnuary.

After thinking about it for a bit, I decided not to follow the challenges, but instead have two goals for Yarnuary

My Yarnuary Unfinished Projects

I’ve got four projects I’m going to try to finish during Yarnuary

yarnuary snood
I’ve been working on this snood on and off since last spring. I’ve got about 2/3rds of the last row left, so this should be an easy finish.

yarnuary cowl
The cowl is one of my newer projects. Also the biggest project I’ve tried in a while. It could work as a scarf now, but I want a proper, headcovering cowl, so at least three times it’s current size. Finishing this in the month would be easy if I didn’t have anything else I was working on.

yarnuary amigurumi
This amigurumi is actually supposed to be a belated holiday present for a friend. Which means it’s the most urgent project to finish. Luckily it’s a small plushie, and I should finish it this month pretty easily, as long as the instructions don’t contain any problems.

yarnuary parrot
This is actually the project I’ve been working on the “longest”, in teh sense that I started it over a year ago. Obviously, I didn’t spend much actually time working on it. This is meant to be a life-sized parrot and I started making it as a thank you gift to one of the biggest supporters of my old blog. This is the one I’ll be the most surprised if I actually finish this month. The cowl is mindless, I work on it anytime. The surprise is small. This is both large and requires me to actually pay attention to what I’m doing. But I’m going to try.

My Yarnuary Learning

I’m (slowly) working on learning nalbinding. Last month I made a practice piece that ended up being a neat little bracelet.

nalbinding practice

I originally gave it to kidling, but she didn’t want to wear it and it stretches just enough to it me pretty well.

My partner asked me to make one for them. So I’m going to try to do that as well this month. It’ll be a small project, but a good way to slip in a bit of nalbinding practice.

Weird Connections

I actually started learning nalbinding as research for a book. Characters in my WIP “Building Family” will be inventing nalbinding on their world. I figured if I was going to write it being invented, I should probably know how to do it. And I’m probably going to keep doing it because it’s a yarn craft that is good for making clothing (unlike crochet) which doesn’t leave my fingers in knots (like knitting).

Find more world building and WIP excerpts on Jess’ Pack