“Man Enough” Page Four

“Transgendered really means anyone who falls outside of the standard binary gender system, in any way at all. Transsexuals are born into the wrong body. So, a person might have been born in a male body, but she knows in her heart that she is female. Whether or not she takes it any further than that is up to her. Some people take hormones or have surgeries, but some don’t want to go through the pain and uncertainty of all of that so they…” I stop myself. “Davey, stop talking,” I whisper.

Ted looks shell shocked. “Excuse me?”

“I’m a babbler. Sorry. I know I’m over-explaining here. The point is that some people have trouble coming to terms with their own orientation, or they might be perfectly accepting, but their parents or their classmates are tormenting them about it. Sometimes a kid just has a question, sometimes he or she needs to know they are not the only one of whatever they are going through. Sometimes it is a kid who has been kicked out of the house and we work to find foster care if they are underage, or help them find jobs and apartments if they are old enough.”

“But, you’re not gay.” He raises his eyebrows.

“No. And?”

“Well, why not work with normal teenagers.”

“Normal?” I choke a bit on the word. This guy can’t be for real. “Who decides the criteria for normal?”

“Oh, please.” Ted is incredulous. “Why would you, if you are actually straight, spend your time giving special help to people who choose to be gay?”

The angel is flat out watching us now. He isn’t even pretending to read. I can feel his stare and for some reason, I feel as if he’s waiting to see what I’m going to say next. I throw a glance at him and he smiles at me.

“Excuse me?”

“It’s unnatural,” Ted is insisting. Unnatural. This from a douche-nozzle who posts pictures of his BMW on his Facebook page. Now, that is unnatural.


Adult Content?

A transsexual character, a couple of lesbians, a gay wedding, and some girl on girl kissing does not make for “adult content.” I was told today by a person who shall remain nameless that my book should have a warning that it is adult content. Given that anyone under the age of about 15 is probably not looking in the adult fiction/lesbian romantic comedy section, I cannot believe that my book should be listed with a warning more explicit than the other chick lit that I have read. This isn’t a 50 Shades of Gray. It isn’t even a Breaking Dawn. This is a romantic comedy about a group of friends, most of whom happen to fall outside of the gender and orientation “norm” of society. So how exactly does that make it “adult content?”

Not the sex scene. The only sex scene in which only one person gets off anyway… no, this person was bothered by the fact that my transsexual character is not tortured. Apparently, a happy, handsome, charming, intelligent trans man is reason for concern.

My response? Fuck off. I want my characters to have happy endings, just as I want my readers to have happy endings. If there is a transgender person reading my book who thinks, “Wow, it does get better,” then I have done exactly what I set out to do when I started this book. If a teenage queer reads about the well-balanced gay people and takes it to heart, that is a good thing. That’s a GREAT THING.

So, adult content, my ass.

Page One of “Man Enough”

Chapter One

I am on the worst date of my life. Okay, it probably isn’t the worst date of my life. I mean, it definitely isn’t worse than the date with the guy who poured ketchup over all of his food and snapped his gum throughout the entire meal. And it can’t compare to the one with the guy who brought his mother on our first date because he was sure we would all be the best of friends. It is definitely up there on the list of worst dates, though. See, I hate blind dates. They are just one more form of torture in an already humiliating activity. Dating just sucks anyway. I really hate dating. In fact, I haven’t dated in almost two years, but I got into this stupid challenge with my friends and I let my friend Steve set me up with this guy. There is no good reason to think that Steve would be good at setting me up. First of all, he’s gay, so he has an entirely different perspective on what makes a quality man. Secondly, I think he just assumes that as long as two people have orientation in common, they will be a perfect match. “Well, he’s straight, she’s straight. They’re made for each other!” I had never fallen for one of his schemes before, but I have seen the awkward short term matches that have come from his romantic meddling. Why do people in long term relationships always insist on setting up their single friends?

So, I am sitting across the table from a good looking man. He picked a good restaurant, I have to give him that. We are at a new place in downtown Cleveland, known for using only fresh, locally grown produce and, apparently, organic, local meat. My date is tall, blond and handsome. He’s pretty buff, too. I mean, let’s be fair, he is gorgeous. I told him that he kind of looks like a male version of my best friend Andy, but for some reason, he didn’t find that amusing. We’ve been trying to make small talk for an hour now and every time we launch into a new subject, I get more irritated with him. And, by default, Steve.

We started badly when we were ordering. I ordered a raw cashew stir fry. I’m a vegetarian, but I am trying hard to go fully vegan. So far, I haven’t quite gotten there, mostly because of the gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches at my favorite restaurant, Polly’s on Clifton. Anyway, when the waitress came to take our order, he ordered a steak.



Self-publishing is easy. You write the novel, hire an editor, convert the files to ebook format, or hire someone to do it for you, upload to Amazon and Barnes and Noble and bam. You’re published.

But then comes the hard part. Marketing. I’ve sold more copies of my book than can be accounted for by friends and family. That’s good. But I haven’t sold nearly as many as I want to sell. The feedback I have been getting has been great. One lady wrote on a friend’s facebook page that the book was a joy to read and she was sad when it was over. Score! I love that. A person on tumblr said that he truly enjoyed it and was going to recommend it to several of his friends.  That is awesome. That is truly awesome, because before I published it, I had only the word of my two sisters and my editor to tell me if it was good or not. They liked it, but they might have a bit of bias.

But where do I go from here? How do I get the message out to other people that my novel is really charming and adorable and that people like it. (They really like it!) How do I get the local newspaper to write a story about the cute, but controversial new novel by local author? How do I get Ellen to read my book? I know she would love it if she read it! I’m floundering a bit and am not sure where to go from here.

In the meantime:


Heartbreak – Short Story

Heartbreak Beat

“I’m a heartbreak beat, yeah, all night long. And nobody don’t dance on the edge of the dark, we got the radio on. And it feels like love, but it don’t mean a lot.” -Psychedelic Furs

I threw up again today. I have to admit, in a weird way, I’m a little relieved. See, I’m a bit overweight. Oh, not hugely overweight, but enough. I always figured if I suffered a terrible heartbreak, I would be the one sitting on the couch in my pajamas, eating ice cream right out of the container in front of old Laverne & Shirley reruns. Why Laverne and Shirley, I have no idea, but somehow it always seemed to fit.

Instead, it turns out that at the end of my ten year relationship, which was gone in the blink of an eye, I can’t actually eat anything at all. Trust me, I’ve tried. I ate a muffin one morning and threw that up. Tried to eat a salad later, that was soon coming up, too. Sandwich, ice cream, some chicken noodle soup. It doesn’t seem to matter what I eat, I just keep throwing it up. For the record, coffee is the worst thing to puke. It burns as it comes back. But this could turn out to be one of those hidden bonuses. You know, on the one hand, my heart has been torn out of my chest and ripped into shreds, but on the plus side, I’ve already lost seven pounds. Hey, look at the silver lining, right?

I don’t know if it has to do with this terrible headache I seem to have developed the day after she left. I can barely move for the pain. It has taken over my entire life. When I wake up in the morning, it’s there to greet me. When I go to sleep in the middle of the afternoon, it lies down with me. It grows in response to the sun. It doesn’t like music. It really hates when I spend several hours at the computer. It seems to pulse. It ebbs and flows like the tide. It has become an entity in it’s own right, it has shifted and taken form. It pounds when I take a step, it moves back and rests when I close my eyes. Sometimes, I can feel it moving into my heart and the headache pounds in the same rhythm as my heartbeats. It’s alive, it has started to question it’s own existence. I’ve named it the Heartbreak Beat after that old Psychedelic Furs song. “I’m a heartbreak beat, yeah, all night long.” It seems appropriate since that song keeps playing in my head over and over. Maybe because that was the song I listened to over and over back in high school when I had my only other real heartbreak. See, I kind of went through life dating people, but not really being into them. I mean, not that I was a jerk or anything. I felt. I know I felt. It’s just I never seemed to feel as much as anyone else. Until T. Somehow she kind of just came into my life and stayed. Our relationship didn’t really start with a sonic boom the way my first, high school love did, but with an Anne Tyler novel kind of comfortableness; we just sort of met and fell in love without a lot of fanfare. Not that there wasn’t some drama, there always is when someone who is single for so long finally finds love. Friends reacted strongly, old alliances broke, new ones were formed. Things just kind of fell into place, though.

I really can’t think through this headache. This heartbreak beat. It’s throbbing in my temples right now, I don’t think it wants me to tell this story. It goes away when I stop thinking about all of this. Well, not exactly, no. It never really goes away. It gets less…. angry, I guess when I block the memories from my mind, when I stop thinking about the time that T watched me put a life jacket on our dog, and when he looked up at her, pleading silently for its removal, she laughingly told him, “Hey Buddy. I choose my battles. I’m sorry to say that this isn’t one of them.” It doesn’t like me to talk about these things. It doesn’t want me to think about them or write about them. It likes it better when I think about the bad times, when I think about the times she would drink until she started shaking, or when she would have road rage, or when she would be so drunk I was afraid she was going to kill us on the way home. It’s perfectly fine with me talking about that. It doesn’t seem to mind when I talk about this last trip to Ohio, how she was so angry, so bitter, how she blamed me for us being here.

It was my fault, though. See, my family kind of needed me in Ohio. And I kind of needed my family. I thought I could live without them, but I really couldn’t. And there we were on a beautiful tropical island, thousands of miles, and an extremely expensive and uncomfortable plane ride away from them. So, I started petitioning to move. I wanted to leave paradise and come back here. I… this hurts so much. The heartbreak beat sometimes moves into my ears. There’s this part of me that knows it isn’t real, that it is just a headache, but it is so persistent. I can hear it in my ears, like a drum, or maybe the pounding of the waves. Maybe the way the waves pounded that night that T took me to the Sunset Grill for my birthday and secretly asked the singer to do a Frank Sinatra song. The way they pounded when she took me out onto the beach and slow danced with me to The Way You Look Tonight. The way they pounded when I was trying to learn how to kayak and I kept flipping over and she kept reaching down and pulling me up before I could breathe in the salt water and start choking. I can’t hear over the pounding. I can see my fingers moving on the keyboard, but I can’t hear the clicking. All I can hear is now is that incessant pounding.

I just threw up again. I threw up in the garbage can under my desk because I didn’t think I would make it to the bathroom. I felt my stomach churning, but I thought I could hold it down. I haven’t eaten anything for several hours, but I took an aspirin a while ago and I’m pretty sure the heartbreak beat doesn’t want me to take any medicine. I think it’s trying to protect itself. Aspirin probably couldn’t hurt it anyway, but it’s not taking any chances. It has to stay alive until it realizes its purpose, whatever that is.

So I moved to Ohio. We were set to come together in March. Maybe if we had done that, everything would have been fine. Or maybe it wouldn’t. Anyway, I came home early, a whole month early. On a side note, did you catch what I said there? I came home. I came home, T left home. There’s a big difference. But anyway, see, my grandmother had died and my mom needed me. My family needed me. And I needed them. I needed to grieve with them. I needed to go to my grandmother’s funeral. I went a month early. And I spent a month without her. I spent a month relearning my old hometown. I spent a month connecting with my family, going out with my mother, looking for work. I was able to truly quit drinking. Oh, the heartbreak beat will let me talk about this. See, T drinks. A lot. And it has been a problem between us for a while. It wasn’t a problem when we got together, which is why this is kind of my fault, too. See, I liked to drink, too. I liked to go out on weekends and get trashed with my friends. But you reach a point when you have gotten too old to party like a college kid and your friends are growing up and having kids and you start to wonder if this is really all there is to life and you start trying to cut back on your drinking, but every time you do, your alcoholic partner gets irritated that you aren’t drinking with her. After a couple of weeks, you give in and have a few weeks and she yells, “Yes! She’s back!” which pisses you off to no end. Then, you quit for a while, and every time she goes to the freezer and takes a shot of vodka, by herself, you get mad, and then she starts calling the neighbor and asking the neighbor to come down and have a shot with her because of course, even the raging alcoholic knows that it isn’t right to drink alone, and then she’s going out several times a week with her friends because you’re no fun anymore since you don’t drink and you no longer enjoy spending your time sitting in a bar for several hours at a time.

The heartbreak beat doesn’t like when I get upset. It’s moving down my throat now. I think it’s trying to wrap around my lungs. I can feel it throbbing in a vein in the side of my neck, pulse, pulse, pulse, and when I put my fingers on it, I can feel it moving around under them, alive, warm, changing. It’s alive and it’s eating me and the best I can do is keep it happy so it doesn’t destroy me completely.

If I could just keep my eyesight for a while longer, I could talk about the rest of it. How she finally got to Ohio and hated everything. How she complained about the kind of food my mother kept in the house, or the people we hung out with, or how I didn’t spend any time with her because I was doing my school work and obsessively applying for jobs. How the one evening I spent working on my novel pissed her off, so I just didn’t write again while she was here. How she was mad at the weather, mad that Ohio is not an island paradise. I could turn it around, though. I could talk about how I didn’t try to ease her into it. I could mention that I was so bothered by her not loving my home that I pulled myself away from her and left her to herself. I ignored her. I turned away from her in bed, I didn’t look at her in the mornings. I didn’t speak to her, or hug her, or kiss her, or tell her that I had missed her. I didn’t touch her. I glared and I nagged and I accused her of being negative. I countered her negativity by being so negative that she broke down in tears, twice, and all I ever said was, “You complain about everything.” And I could say that at the last minute, when she was getting ready to leave, there was a part of me screaming, absolutely screaming that you can’t let a ten year relationship go after one week of not talking to each other. Part of me wanted to reach out and grab her before she left and ask her what the hell she thought she was doing by walking out. Part of me wanted to slap both of us and rail about the idiocy of letting this all go to shit without even giving it a chance to work. Instead, when she looked at me and asked me if this was really the end, I said, “Yes.” I said yes. I still don’t know if it was the right thing to do. In between the beats of the headache, I have moments of clarity and I wonder why I didn’t try to make things easier for her. I wonder if we could have made it if we moved somewhere other than Ohio. I wonder if she would quit drinking if I offered to move somewhere warmer. I argue with myself about calling her or writing a letter. I send resumes to companies in Southern states, in some odd attempt to work things out without any idea of what I’m really doing.

I’m a heartbreak beat. Yeah, all night long. I don’t think I really ever understood that song before now. Despite my obsession with it back in 1989, during the winter of my teenage discontent. I might have listened to it a million times without really understanding the song. I get it now. Yeah, I have become the heartbreak beat. It’s pounding in my ears, it’s making my vision blurry. It’s squeezing my heart and my lungs. It’s getting hard to breathe, to think, to talk. I’m a heartbreak beat… and it feels like love. I guess I should just sleep. Somehow, it always lets me sleep.

Changing Minds

Let’s face it, we all want to change the world in one way or another. I thought my goal for my little book was to sell enough to make it pay for itself. Not for my time, but for the money I had to put into it in order to publish it. Well, it has just about done that.

So it is time to start thinking about my other goals. What do I want out of this book? Well, I want people to read it and say, “Wow, gay people are just like the rest of us?” I want them to say, “Being transsexual really *isn’t* that weird.” I want them to come away from my little book saying, “I wouldn’t mind hanging out with those characters… even if they are (whatever).”

I guess, I want my little book to change people’s minds. I want the people who read it to walk away from it a little more tolerant, a little more accepting. I want people to feel good about what they read. Or I want them to feel bad for having been intolerant before they read it.

Is that really so much to ask?


Man Enough

My novel seems to be taking off a bit. I have already seen two reviews from people I don’t know on Amazon and they were both quite good. I forwarded one to my editor, since it specifically mentions the editing. (Which WAS phenomenal, by the way… wish I could get her to edit all of my blog posts, too!)

My goal is really to sell about a thousand copies which will pay for me to publish it in paperback form. That’s what I want… my novel, in print, sitting on my shelf. Of course, I will be thrilled if I sell a lot more than that and can afford to quit my job and work on my second novel full time, but I am make my goals small and obtainable. I have been working out some marketing strategies and I think I have a few good ideas. I am going to post a flier at the libraries around here, and ask the LGBT community center to post one for me.

I am having the hardest time categorizing my novel, because while it is mostly lesbian, the bulk of the people who have read it and loved it so far as straight women. There is a lovable transsexual in it. There is a long-term, solid, gay male couple. There is some situational bisexuality and a gay wedding.

My tag line should have been “Lesbians, transsexuals, vegetarians, and pot-smoking moms, oh my!” But in truth, the novel really is, as one reviewer put it, “sweet and endearing.” It is a love story. And I do love it. Going back and rereading it after all of these long months of writing, editing, and publishing, I find that I really do love my characters. They are good people. Sometimes they do stupid shit. Just like me. 🙂

I hope you check it out. I would love to hear your opinions.

Available on Amazon right now, and Barnes and Noble soon.