Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day!

This post has nothing to do with my books, it’s political in nature. It’s also tl;dr.

I’m old. I grew up in the 1970s and 80s, and even though I lived in a diverse area I can’t deny that casual bigotry was a part of everyday life, of popular culture. People made racist, sexist, homophobic─and every other offensive category you can think of─comments and didn’t think anything of it. They were rarely, if ever, called out.

This past Saturday I had a long conversation with my kiddo (who informed me that pushing 30 isn’t really a kid, but whatever) and we covered, among other things, that kind of casual bigotry. That particular thread was prompted by a search I ran on the Merriam Webster site while editing. I don’t even remember what I went there to look up because at the bottom of the page was a question: Do you know the racist origins of the phrase “tipping point”? After admitting that I did not, I clicked. (If you’d like to read for yourself, click here.)

The gist: white families moved out of neighborhoods when the percentage of black families reached 10-15%, which was their “tipping point” in an exodus nicknamed “white flight”. Just typing that sentence felt awful. That was in 1959 and sometimes it feels like as a nation, as a planet, we haven’t made much progress.

I realize for some people “tipping point” has moved into popular culture with a more generic meaning. But maybe not for everyone. I don’t remember ever using it casually before, but my intent is to stay away from it from now on.

I’m not trying to say I understand how hearing this (or similar words/phrases) feels from anywhere other than my own perspective, which is as a white woman who grew up queer in public housing. I’m not saying I’ve never made a remark or used an idiom with racist undertones─most of us have at one time or another, especially folks my age or older. Whenever I come across one, though, like I did on Saturday, I do the work to unpack it and educate myself so I can strike it from my lexicon. Without asking someone in the affected group to explain it to me. As someone who doesn’t really get the value of small talk (in a socially awkward kind of way), I would welcome the chance to make a new friend or chat with someone I already know by discussing a word or phrase, but educating me on how not to hurt them is not anyone’s job.

My contribution to Indigenous Peoples’ Day—as a descendant of immigrants—is to ask my friends to do the same. If you see a statement or word or phrase that had seemed innocuous but turns out to be otherwise, research it (using reputable sources); if it turns out to be offensive, let it fade from use.

I’ve turned off comments for this post because I don’t want any cookies for saying this publicly. If you agree with me please don’t share this post, instead please raise the voice of someone who’s talking about this from a closer perspective, someone who’s been personally affected by the casual racism and intolerance that so many seem not to hear or see.

 

 

 

Picture courtesy of BogdanaLS at pixabay.com

About comfort zones…

j91-121013-bkst-1404I’ve been thinking a lot lately about comfort zones, so I thought I’d ponder out loud. I’ve been so busy in the past year that it feels like I’m stepping out of a comfort zone to do that publicly. This blog has mainly been used to promote my fellow authors, and to be honest I’m much more comfortable promoting someone else’s book than one of mine. Same goes for discussing my thoughts, which risks boring the hell out of everyone brave enough to read them.

So, comfort zones. If you’re anything like me, you have a bunch of them in different areas of your life. Some overlap, and others are so far removed they’re like an island where you take your vacations. I’m working on bursting out of two of my writing-related comfort zones within the next few months. Not sure if i’m more excited or more afraid…

The WIP I’m working on is the most intimidating story I’ve started in at least the last fifteen years, which is really saying something. My first LGBTQ+ Romance will be released in February by Samhain and the WIP, which i’ll call SB, is for my editor there. Christa is amazing—she’s a crackerjack developmental editor whose idea of “fringe romance” lines up well with my own. But SB is farther afield from Male-Male Romance than Torque, the Bisexual/Ace/Trans ménage I just finished edits on. SB deals with some gender issues that hit close to home, and believe me, I never thought I’d go there. One of the reasons I started writing Male-Male Romance in the first place was to get a little more distance from my writing, in the (however vain) hope that every story wouldn’t smash my heart into little tiny pieces. A minor reason, yes, but it was still a consideration. My new MC, however, has thrown all that out the window. Apparently, a part of me still believes an artist has to suffer and bleed occasionally.

The second comfort zone i’ll be leaving behind will be over in an hour at the end of the month. I’ll be moderating a panel at the Gay Romance Northwest (GRNW) Conference. It’s a departure for me because I’ve intentionally signed on to speak in front of people. I’m not shy but am introverted, so that’s not something I usually do outside of a work environment. The panel is about kink, which is one of my favorite subjects that I don’t really write much about. No spoilers here—if you’re interested and will be at GRNW, we’d love to have you attend and bring your questions. The panelists are authors who do write kink, and do it very well: Morticia Knight (click to go to her blog on the subject :)), Amelia Gormley, Grace R. Duncan, Joseph Lance Tonlet, and Viktor Alexander.

If you do attend, please bear with me. I’ll be nervous, but only mostly because I’m so excited. I’ve never been on an author panel before, so being asked to moderate was a huge deal. If you see me wandering around GRNW or pass my table at the Book Fair, stop and say hello. I might not say it first, but that’s not because I don’t want to chat with everyone at GRNW, it’s because starting a conversation with someone I don’t know well is also outside my comfort zone. I might look like I’m suffering but will be enjoying the hell out of the con. It’s just all that self-promotion that will be scaring and exciting me. 🙂

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Surprise!

shutterstock_112860445I just surprised the hell out of myself, so I thought I’d share. In case someone else out there is working up to the same epiphany, maybe a little unexpected support will push them over the edge.

I don’t want to delay my plans to edit the witch story until tomorrow just because today will be partly sunny and tomorrow it’s supposed to rain all day.

Back up a little: I’m in Day Two of a four-day weekend. My first stretch of more than three days off since last June (I think so anyway—it sure feels like it!), and part of my birthday present to myself. Yesterday was for errands & etc., and today was supposed to be for going to Saturday Market and Powell’s and anywhere else I felt like going—just for fun.

But I’m going to crawl into the editing cave and finish. And while I’m at it, I’m going to write a couple of blog posts about this cool story. I’m still not quite sure where it came from, because it’s not like anything I’ve ever written—hey, there’s a post! 🙂

This is huge for me. I grew up being told I was lazy because I spent every free moment reading. You know, just sitting around doing nothing. So I grew up thinking I was lazy.

My home life was scary and violent when I was a child, so whenever I could I’d retreat to my room or the library or to school…anywhere but home. So another message I heard all the time was that I never finish anything, that I’m a quitter. While obviously not true, that voice is still there insisting it knows me better than I know myself, telling me—you won’t finish that, you’ll bail the moment it’s not easy.

But I’m not bailing. I’m editing. And I honestly don’t care whether it’s sunny or rainy or what’s in my bank account or how much fun I could have bopping around Portland today. Because I have a deadline, and I will meet it or beat it, but I won’t ask for an extension. Because that’s who I am. I’m a writer. Writers write. Readers read. Reading isn’t lazy, it’s amazing and wonderful, and reading just might save your life or your sanity. Maybe both.

A line from Fight Club just popped into my head: “You’re not your fucking khakis.”

I’m not the messages I heard as a child.

I’m not lazy.

If you’ve overcome a negative message from your childhood (or young adulthood, or anytime), I’d love to hear about it in the comments. We can all appreciate our current selves together! 🙂

Happy Caturday everyone!

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Just the facts, man.

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Lately I’ve seen a lot of classist, shaming statements on the internet. I’m not usually one to call people out online—at least while I’m wearing my author hat (which, I’m told, is all the time now). IRL is different because conversations don’t tend to degenerate quite so quickly there, and though I haven’t been compared to Hitler IRL, I have been called a devil.

 

In addition to not calling anyone out personally, I’m not going to talk about the statements that prompted this post. I really just want to talk a little about my own holiday experiences, whether direct or observed.

  1. Some people can’t afford to buy all the ingredients to make a “traditional holiday dinner.”
  2. Some people have one or more of these attitudes toward cooking: I can’t; I won’t; I don’t give a fuck about it. All of these are okay.
  3. Some people don’t have families to gather with—either blood or made—and they’re fine with it.
  4. Some people don’t have families to gather with—either blood or made—and they’re not fine with it.
  5. Neither #3 nor #4 is “better” or a more valid way to feel than the other.
  6. Some people are grateful for the chance to work a holiday because they need the money to survive.
  7. Some people have to choose between food and holiday gifts, or between food and heat, or between heat and internet. Some of those choices are easier than others.
  8. Almost all of these people were born into a socio-economic class which precluded their participation in The American Dream (or, as it’s known to us, The American Myth).
  9. It doesn’t matter how smart they are or how hard they work, most of these people will be lucky to rise from the class into which they were born. Very few people are that lucky.

If you’re still with me, thanks for reading.

I won’t tell you what I hope you’ll take away from this post. That’s not my job. These are facts. I hope you’ll take a moment and think about them, even if you don’t see yourself in any of them. Especially if you don’t see yourself in any of them.

As always, I welcome kind, thoughtful comments. Any comments that are not kind will be deleted without acknowledgement or remorse. I love comments, please don’t make me delete yours.

Happy Holidays!

Writing, one stitch at a time…

I thought I had committed to a tour today, but probably forgot to hit Send. That’s how this year has gone for me. 🙂

511001645One thing I don’t forget to do is ponder. Don’t worry, this isn’t a charged ponder… that one is saved in drafts for a day when I’m feeling especially brave. This one is about knitting, and how it helps my writing.

When you knit a hat—even if it doesn’t look exactly like the pattern you used—it is a hat. It doesn’t matter if it’s a pretty hat, or better than someone else’s hat. Nothing can take away its innate hatness. Sometimes it’s hard to keep from comparing my stories to everyone else’s, to appreciate them for what they are. When that happens, I try to remember the hat.

Opening a new word doc with the intent to replace the blankness with a story—whether a novel or novella or a 12K short for an anthology call—it’s daunting. What if I can’t finish it? What if the characters just bug-out after the first third? What if… (I have about a fuckton of these, I shit you not, but you get the drift.)

I try to think of the hat.

The hat begins as a ball or a hank of yarn. It takes shape one row, one stitch, at a time. All I can do is one stitch at a time—except when I KFB or K2Tog, but that’s neither here nor there. What’s important is, if I keep working on it, it will eventually become a hat.

Or a story.

When I need a break from bleeding onto the page, that’s what I do. I knit. (I really should exercise, but nobody’s perfect.) Sometimes when I knit it’s for charity, and sometimes it’s for me. But sometimes it’s for you!

Not every-last-one of you—I’d like that, but it’s just not realistic—but at least one of you. More details will follow soon. For now, I’ll just say I’m not yanking your chain. The holidays are coming up, you know. As is my deadline, so that’s all for now.

Have a lovely Tuesday—stay safe and warm out there! 🙂

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Who’s allowed to write, and what are they allowed to say?

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I seek out good news. News about an athlete who, after many attempts, finally accomplishes their epic goal or about a scientist who makes a discovery that will change lives. Good news gives me hope, makes me feel like this planet just might be an okay place to live.

Sometimes, though, this kind of news carries undertones that hurt and belittle and erase people—or portions of people. If the accomplishment is made by someone who identifies QUILTBAG, it’s impossible to escape the attempt to straightwash or gaywash them. (Since I’m an author, my examples will use authors.) If the news is about a gay author someone will say—but why do they have to say they’re gay? Can’t they just be Accomplished Author? If the author is bisexual, someone will say that but also, why don’t they just say they’re queer?—or—but being pansexual is so much more inclusive—or even—I don’t go around saying I’m straight so it doesn’t really matter if you’re bi { or  asexual, gay, lesbian, trans, fluid, etc.}.

I’m sure most people don’t say these things meaning to hurt and bully, but if you’re straight and telling someone of another orientation that “orientation doesn’t matter”, then that’s what you’re doing. Almost nobody has to say they’re straight, because straight is the default for our society. Everyone is presumed straight until proven otherwise—and sometimes you are expected to prove it, even inside the QUILTBAG community. When someone says “orientation doesn’t matter”, what an LGBTQ person hears is a variation of “you don’t matter” or “don’t remind me that you’re different”.

Everyone should write the stories they feel inside and everyone should identify the way they choose, without worrying about backlash. Most people would probably agree it’s not right to censor another person’s fiction, to tell them (for example) that authors should only write characters who are of the same gender and orientation as themselves. I hope everyone will think about it before trying to censor another person’s identifier.

I am a bisexual woman who’s been out since the early 1980s and writing fiction about LGBTQ and straight characters since the early 1990s. I didn’t get published in more than small literary journals until I started writing about two men falling in love. Are my stories less valid because I’m not a gay man or a straight woman?* Ultimately, that’s not for me to decide, but I think I have as much right as anyone else to tell the stories of the people who live in my head, regardless of gender/orientation/etc..

My orientation, my right to identify as bisexual, is as important to me as being treated like a human being. Because they’re the same thing.

Erasure = discrimination = dehumanizing = wrong.

Please think before you speak.

tilted rose*This post wasn’t inspired by anyone attacking me personally, or any single post/comment, but by a mindset that I’ve been trying to change for decades. I’ll keep trying until it goes away.

My Second Genre Dilemma

It’s been over a year now since my first MM Erotic Romance was published.

That looks so cool it gets its own paragraph.  🙂

During my holiday break I gave serious thought to what I wanted to write in 2014, and thought my “second genre” would be YA. I love YA—especially paranormal and sci fi and just about anything that’s really out there. Some of my favorite authors write YA—many write it exclusively (as far as I know)—and sometimes I just get a cool YA story. Well, I think they’re cool; so far I’m not of the majority opinion, which is fine.

Today I learned I won’t be a Harmony Ink author—at least not with the manuscript I sent them a few weeks ago. And instead of pulling on my shoes and heading for the Ben & Jerry’s aisle at Safeway, I started thinking about what I want 2014 to look like writing-wise. (Probably didn’t hurt that I finished drafting Joe & Kai’s story right before I saw that rejection email.)

Do I want to work on that novel and try to sub it elsewhere? What about the short I’ve been working on for the H.I. antho? Do I want to work on one of the many other YA story nuggets I have stewing in my brain & languishing on my hard drive in the hopes H.I. will like one of those?

I think maybe I don’t.

I’m enjoying writing ERom, and just might write one with different pairings, but I don’t think I want to worry about maintaining another online presence. I know many authors write YA and ERom under the same name, but I didn’t feel comfortable doing that. I dig hanging out with all the cool kids online but it’s not the easiest thing for me to do as one person, let alone two.

Luckily, I don’t have to commit to anything right now. I have a story to polish before February 1st, and the paranormal is one pivotal scene away from being fully drafted (finally!!). After those are finished, who knows? In keeping with my 2014 resolution to Have More Fun—that’s my criteria for stories as well. Whatever will be the most fun (and yes, I consider writing angst fun—you’ve been warned!), that’s what I’ll be writing.

Since I am so close to finishing all my current WIPS, though, I thought I’d open the floor to ideas. What would you like to read late this year or early next?

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A slow ponder…

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2014 has been a busy year so far! Mostly it’s a good-busy, and I hope you can say the same. In addition to being a year when I have more fun, 2014 looks like a year for unpacking and re-examining expectations—because growing sometimes means outgrowing the labels we stick on our own chests.

So far this year I’ve gone to my first M/M Romance Meet-up (which was nerve-wracking and more fun than I dared hope), gone on two interviews for internships (one at a fancy litigation firm on the 18th floor of a swaaaaaaaaaaaanky downtown building), and written over 13K words! There may’ve been classes and football games and charity knitting in there too.

A conversation I shamelessly listened-in on at the meet-up (which for some reason my brain refuses to call a party because I just don’t go to many parties) inspired me to shoot for the February 1st deadline to submit to Dreamspinner’s Daily Dose anthology even though I didn’t start writing until January 1st. I’m only about 7K in, but I can see most (if not all) of the rest and the guys are helping more than I expected. Not that that’s usually a problem, but getting to know someone well enough to write from inside their head can take a while.

I’ve always thought of myself as a slow writer. Not a big deal, everyone lives at their own pace. But why did I slap that label on my forehead and treat it like something permanent? Because it took me a year to write a mainstream novel? Never mind that I worked full-time+, went to school part-time, and was a single parent while I tried to go the whole NY Agent/Big Six route—a whole year felt like a long time to work on a single piece of fiction. And never mind that writers I love sometimes take five times that long to complete a novel. I felt slow, like I wasn’t measuring up to…something…

Maybe it’s time to re-examine the idea that I’m a slow writer. Sure, I’m a full-time student in a demanding program, but Kiddo’s (basically) grown up, and right now I don’t have a day job. I wrote “Toy Run” in about a month and that turned out pretty well. Maybe it depends on the characters—I’ve heard novelists say that every time they start a new story they have to learn how to write that particular book. Maybe there’s something to that.

At any rate, I’ve already managed to cut my time in half—The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds only took about six months to write, after I saw a picture and was (figuratively) struck by lightning. It’s under consideration right now, but even if it’s not accepted for publication it’s still a novel. And I will submit the short story (which I just realized has no title because the working title I’ve been using doesn’t fit at all) by the February 1st deadline. Because I really do love deadlines—they keep goals clear and quantifiable so when you meet one you know you’ve accomplished something (and can celebrate appropriately).

So this is what I’ve been pondering so far this year—how we limit ourselves by forgetting to re-examine our own expectations of what we can do. It feels pretty good! To let a good change sink in, I mean, not the forgetting part.

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A different take on Black Friday!

Sorry if you’re hoping for another Kink Month post. As far as I know there’s nothing kinky about Black Friday, although it has been getting a little twisted lately.

I can’t lie; I’ve pulled myself out of bed the day after Thanksgiving and stood in line outside a store at 3 a.m.—but not this year. In fact, the only thing I’m buying on Black Friday this year will be a loaf of bread so I can make a turkey sandwich (and I may wait on that too)!

Small Business Saturday, though, that’s different. I’ve been pouring through patterns this evening because one of my holiday rituals is to visit a local yarn shop on Shop Small Saturday and buy anything I want. This year, since I’m hoping to start a legal internship in January, I’ll be looking for something luxurious yet tasteful. I have a few ideas, but this post isn’t about yarn.

My hero in Curious Sustenance, Ross, has an agenda. He has more than one, but only one was relevant for the story. I have agendas too—one of them involves calling bullshit on classism which really does relate to Black Friday, honest.

I refuse to support retailers who won’t even give their employees one full day off for Thanksgiving—so that means I’ll have to visit the little indie bakery in my neighborhood for a $5 loaf of bread, because all the chains are doing it. I worked retail for many years to barely eek out a living, and I know every one of those folks have earned their day off. My contribution to Black Friday wouldn’t have been large but that’s not the point. I won’t put things ahead of people.

To further my agenda, the entry for my giveaway is to talk about a small business you can support on Saturday.

I planned to have a bunch of colorful pictures of the giveaway presents, but my daughter and her girlfriend borrowed my camera this afternoon—and of course I forgot to take some of the pix I need first! Until I get my camera back, here’s a list of the goodies up for grabs. All prizes are International, although I can’t guarantee the ones relying on the US Postal Service will arrive before Christmas.

Two collections of M/M erotic shorts from Thianna D: Volume IV and Volume VII

An ebook from the lovely Dianne Hartsock’s backlist—winner’s choice!

A beautiful tabletop picture frame from Japan—wood covered in kimono fabric.

Six sexy dishcloths that look like this—one for each color of the rainbow (six separate prizes):

Every comment talking about a way to support Small Business Saturday is a chance to win.

I’ll choose the winners early on Cyber Monday (PST) with the help of Random.org and post them here, so don’t forget to check back!

Photo credits:

Wanted: Santa Claus by kevin dooley, on Flickr

Lady Marmalade Dishcloth, designed by Shirley MacDonald

Pondering Conventions

love-tree-banner.jpgNo, not like RWA or GRL, the kind you can fiddle around with in your jammies—genre conventions.

Warning: for communication’s sake this post contains some gross over-generalizations but absolutely no judgments.

We’ve all heard the conflicting advice to write with a reader in mind and to write the stories we want to read—like all things artistic, those aren’t always in conflict! Sometimes the stories we want to write adhere to all the standard genre conventions. But what about when they don’t?

And what does an HEA for two men look like anyway?

Does it have to include a proposal/wedding? Do they have to move in together? Share the cost of stamps?

With the number of states and countries recognizing marriage equality on the rise, is the expectation for a proposal/wedding keeping pace?

My 2012 release included a proposal, the couple had been together over a decade and it just worked for them, but none of my 2013 releases—or my current WIPs—do. Will. Do. Whatever. I’m all for marriage equality (I worked my butt off to get it on Oregon’s 2012 ballot, which didn’t happen, but …). Marriage isn’t for everyone, either in real or fictional worlds. But will readers see endings without the promise of a wedding as “HFNs”? Are they less satisfying?

When I read, the story just has to fit the characters. Beyond the love, anything goes. So, a story without a proposal or wedding would be fine, as long as one/both of the MCs didn’t spend their page-time shopping ring catalogs or hunting down their “something blue” (nope, not going into male-male wedding rituals, that’s just an example :)).

For instance, in the ending of one of my stories, one of the guys says they’ll need a bigger bed. To me, that implies a willingness to commit—and since we’ve already seen the other one change vehicles for the relationship, that says HEA to me. Not to everyone, though.

So, in my never-ending quest to write more satisfying endings, I’m trying to see the line. You know, the line between the kind of HEA we’ve seen since Shakespeare’s comedies and the HFN for couples who don’t get married (for whatever reason, and regardless of the pairing).

What say you, friends? How important are the nuptials to that HEA feeling?

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