Excerpt from Conference Call

This is the excerpt from my short story in the Bella Books anthology “Conference Call.” All of the proceeds from this anthology go to benefit the Golden Crown Literary Society. If you want the rest of the story, buy the book – available July 20th here.

It was an affair. It was a tawdry affair between two women who should have known better. That’s what we all thought. We watched it happen at the Golden Crown Literary Society conference in DC. There was a palpable energy between them that the most sensitive of us noticed immediately. We sat in the lobby with our coffee, water, and breakfast sandwiches and watched as Maddie walked past the registration desk. Her eyes scanned the room and we held our breath, wanting her gaze to fall on us, to pick us out of the crowd. Maddie moved through the conference with the grace and confidence of someone who felt at home at the con and we all watched her. But Justine sat up like a prairie dog and Maddie’s eyes landed on her. Time froze, or we did, as the electricity between the two of them exploded into a million pieces in front of us.

Justine stood and crossed the room, her eyes locked on Maddie as she walked. They hugged and somehow, we all felt the press of their bodies, felt the way their arms wove around each other, their hips pressed together. From that second on, we were invisible. We sat in on their author readings and we went to their panels, but we were invisible. Oh, Maddie still smiled and laughed with us, and she answered our questions, but her mind was always somewhere else. When Justine walked in the room, a lightning bolt of energy sizzled between them and the rest of us disappeared. Though Maddie would turn back to talk to us, a secret smile remained, and we knew Justine had somehow touched a part of her that no one else ever had.

We stood next to them at the lunch buffet, watching as they carefully didn’t touch. Their bodies craned toward each other until they caught themselves and rearranged the space between them to an appropriate distance. We could feel the pull as they found seats next to each other at a table. They made conversation with people nearby but their arms somehow kept touching or they bumped hands as they ate.

We whispered words like adultery and cheating and homewrecker. It was an affair and we didn’t approve. We heard whispers that Justine was emotionally abused at home and we nodded righteously. Justine was married and we didn’t care how unhappily. She should leave first. There’s no excuse for adultery.

Maddie was partnered and we didn’t know if there were long, lonely nights crying in bed. It didn’t matter. It was an affair. That’s what we all thought. But we watched them laugh together at shared jokes no one else found funny. We felt the emotion underneath the attraction. It was starting to look like something more.

We saw them standing close, heads bent together, having a quiet, intense conversation. Justine blinked out a tear and Maddie brushed it away softly, her fingers lingering on the smooth skin of Justine’s cheek. They didn’t see us, though we passed quite close.  Love of my life, we thought we heard one of them mutter. We overheard them talking several times, and we marveled at the conversations. I’ve never felt so accepted in my life. I can’t remember ever being so heard.
We sat behind them at the movie and watched the way their shoulders touched as they leaned together. We nudged each other knowingly when Maddie put her arm around Justine, secure perhaps, in the invisibility of the darkened room. We ended up at the same table during karaoke and we watched the ways their eyes flicked toward each other whenever someone butchered a particularly sappy love song. We heard the sighs, we saw the longing, and we felt the pain and ecstasy. We started to smile at them during master classes and some of us were whispering the word love.

One day we walked behind them through the garden path of the hotel, and we saw their hands come together. Their fingers entwined and they looked at each other. For a second our hearts stopped. We questioned our own lives. We wondered if it could happen to us. We thought about our own long lonely nights and bitter tears. We remembered the deep love we felt for the friends and partners we’d met at the conference. We touched the hands of our lovers and smiled, wondering if Maddie and Justine felt what we felt. We wondered if they had experienced that jolt, that moment of recognition. We remembered the instant we had looked into each other’s eyes and knew that somehow, after all of the years of feeling out of sorts, we finally felt the last piece of the puzzle slipping naturally into place. We looked at their faces and thought, if only for a minute, that just maybe they were feeling the same thing we felt when we knew we had finally found the one.

It was an affair. That’s what we all thought.

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My Year in Review: The Good AND the Bad.

I did one of the Facebook “year in review” apps… you know the one. They take your most liked pictures or something and paste them all together and call it your year in review. I have to admit, looking at my gathered pictures from the past year, it looked as if I had had a pretty amazing year. And let’s face it. I *did* have a pretty amazing year.

I juggled grad school, writing, sitting on the board of the Golden Crown Literary Society, and teaching online self-love classes with my own self care, taking care of my beloved pets, being present as a friend, and still sometimes remembering to call my mother. I took over co-managing the Writing Academy and have spent a great deal of time and energy working to ensure it all runs smoothly and the students get the most out of it they can.

I started the New Year with a New Year’s Eve dance. I snow shoed. I biked. I went to farmer’s markets. I hiked. I went to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and felt all of the feelings, good and bad. I traveled to New Orleans. I ate a beignet for the first time in my life. I drank only the best coffee. I hugged. I touched. I kissed. I loved.

I came to the rescue of a friend in trouble. I gave my winter hat to a person in the cold. I paid for a senior citizen’s groceries. I donated money I didn’t have to a friend’s breast cancer campaign.

I experienced the joy, repeatedly, of having someone tell me that I had changed their life through my self-love classes and workshops. The ripple effect. They will go on to change other lives. My heart swells at the very thought.

I got straight As in every single class I took this year.

I did squat challenges and wall sits and stair step and plank.

I made the most amazing, colorful, veggie-filled meals and I made the leap from being a vegetarian to being vegan.

I spent a weekend in Traverse City.

I went to Chicago for a party with several hundred amazing women. I won a ticket to fest there and got to go up on stage and say a few words about what fest meant to me.

I danced. Oh, did I dance. I danced and danced. I abandoned all care of what the world may think of me and I danced. I danced because I love the way my body and soul feel when I’m dancing. I danced because it feels good to move my body to music. I danced.

I found some deeper connections and I found some connections aren’t meant to be that deep.

I explored my new community.

I was recently being interviewed about my writing on a lesbian fiction group and the host said, “I tried to find a picture of you that I could post on the page, but it is rare to find a picture of you alone. You’re always hugging someone.” That’s my year in review. I loved.

If you look at my Facebook, you’ll see the statuses and the pictures of a happy life.

But my friends, I want to talk to you about the stuff that doesn’t go on Facebook. Because for the most part, I only put the happy stuff on Facebook. And if you’re out there looking at my page and feeling depressed because your life isn’t a constant string of fun adventures… well, my lovers, neither is mine. And that goes for anyone’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, whatever. People are posting the good stuff because it’s fun to remember the good stuff. Those year in review posts are a great story but they are only part of the story.

Truly most of my stuff was good. Most of it was very, very good. But there were nights when I felt so wrapped in anxiety that my stomach hurt. There were days of feeling as if I had so much to do, I couldn’t do anything. A night when I woke up in a panic because I couldn’t feel anything and I called my friend and then my partner in the middle of the night because every time I tried to go back to sleep I felt as if waves of panic were washing over me. There were times when my house got so messy, I was embarrassed when people came over. I cried. I grieved. I sometimes ate my feelings and felt sick after.  I asked my partner to be there for me for something and she wasn’t and we argued.

I yelled at my dog. I stepped in cat puke. I had a migraine so bad that I thought I was dying and texted two of my closest friends to come check on me to see if I needed to go to the hospital.

One of the things I often hear in the self love classes is that women feel they aren’t measuring up. They feel that they’re somehow doing this whole “life” thing a whole lot worse than everyone else.

First of all, remember this. Comparison is a form of self harm. Don’t compare yourself to your sister, your neighbor, your best friend, that woman from the gym. You are your own unique individual and only you know what you are capable of. What they do doesn’t matter. It only matters what YOU do, what YOU want, what YOU dream. Your self care is important. Your heart is important.

Secondly, it helps to know that we never know what is really going on in a person’s life. We don’t know if that person who just posted the meme about positive thinking is doing so because she’s trying to lift herself out of depression. We don’t know if someone has just lost a partner, a child, a pet, a friend. We don’t know if her boss screamed at her that day at work, and she bled through her favorite pants, and she got a ticket because the meter expired, and she came home and ate macaroni and cheese straight out of the pot. We don’t know it because most likely, she posted a picture of herself on a boat in St. Maartens and you’re looking at it from your home thinking that you wish you were her.

This, then, is the upshot of my year in review. Focus on yourself. Work on what you can do to make your own life closer to what you want it to be. Enjoy your friends’ posts but remember, they have struggles, too. We all do. You aren’t alone.

 

Happy New Year.

 

Something Lost

By Beth Burnett

The Queen’s Guard glares at me again
As I cross the street in front of him.
Back and forth
My hands clasped against my rib cage
I’m well aware that I look a fool
In my house dress
And Doc Martin boots.
A fat, flowered widow who can’t let go.
Every chime from Big Ben seems to ring in my throat
around the lump I can’t quite swallow.
I went to Stonehenge last week,
perhaps I thought I’d sense something there –
A spirit, a guide, energy.
Instead, I saw a lot of tourists and
a man in purple robes
who held out his hand to me and implored me
to take this crystal
for the one I seek.
Remembering, I stare into the guard’s face
and imagine asking him to hold me.

Erotica, my newest venture

So, I’ve started an erotica series. I’m working on the third chapter in the series. The first two are selling pretty well. I’ve been in bit of a writing slump lately… opening my manuscript, staring at it for half an hour, rereading it for an hour, trying to write on it, and coming up with nothing. A friend suggested writing something new which is how I came up with the erotica. I think it just fires different pistons in the same creative engine and gets me moving again. I’m still having trouble coming back to my work in progress, but at least I’m writing again, which means ideas are flowing again. I think writing is a lot like sex. The more sex you have, the more you want. Your brain spends time thinking about the awesome sex you just had and it bombards you with ideas about new and better sex ideas. When I have a great writing session, my brain keeps remembering how great it felt to write and it bombards me with ideas to keep me writing.

I haven’t gotten back to my manuscript yet, but I can feel the rumbles of the ideas starting to fly at me again and I’m getting excited. Writer’s block doesn’t happen to every writer, but it happened to me… and hard. Perhaps stepping out on my manuscript will be just the thing to bring the fire back into our relationship.

Oh. If you want to check out my erotica, here’s a link. Free for Kindle Unlimited readers and only 99 cents for the rest of the world.

The Fest of Love

Four womyn meet on a path in Michigan.
Four womyn meet on a path in Michigan.

This year was my third year (in a row) of attending the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. You can find my virgin year blog here. My first year, I spent the whole time wandering around in wide-eyed awe, barely able to wrap my mind around the fact that I was in this incredible place with all of these WOMYN…. womyn who were building things and talking about ideas and taking care of each other and cooking food and supporting the dreams of other womyn.

Last year was even better. I had spent the entire magical year after my first fest building on the love and acceptance I found there. I became more involved in women’s causes and I became a big proponent of self-love. I had started meditating and abolishing negative self-talk and taking care of myself. At my second fest, I spent the entire time smiling and hugging. I did my workshifts in the kitchen because there is something so earth-motheresque about being part of nourishing hundreds, or thousands, or women with soul-feeding, healthy food. Made with love…. every time.  My second fest was just beautiful from start to finish.

I went into my third year bit of trepidation. The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival has been under attack in the media and an awful lot of online bullying has been aimed toward the womyn who perform and attend. Facebook was blowing up with heated arguments that culminated in some pretty violent and angry threats against the womyn who support fest. I had to keep reminding myself that the internet is not fest. People get behind their computers and say anything that comes to mind, regardless of civility or manners. There was never a question in my mind that I was going to fest – I will not let negative, angry people ruin something I love. Some people don’t want to understand why Michfest is so important and no matter how we try to explain, they will refuse to listen.

There’s a feeling I get when I first walk on the land… it’s almost a heaviness and as I set up my camp and greet old and new friends and head down to the meet and greet, I realize the heaviness is gravity. It’s the lowering of my shoulders, and the settling in of my hips to a slower, more relaxed walk. It’s the way my arms swing more naturally and my chin tilts up. It’s the weight of myself sinking into the land and allowing me to walk openly, without fear, without wondering if someone is going to make a comment at me when I walk down the street. It’s the safety, it’s the way I don’t have to keep my eyes constantly moving to see if there might be a threat approaching.

My plan for this year was to create my fest. I love what fest has given me, but this year, I wanted to give something back. I stated out loud that this was going to be the best fest of all time.

Thanks to a new friend, People Called Women Bookstore, the bookseller in the crafts tent at fest agreed to sell my books. It was the first time having my books sold at fest and I was elated. I must have told everyone I met because they ended up selling out of my books! (It might have had something to do with the fact that I offered to write wildly inappropriate sexual things in the covers.)

I submitted a workshop proposal to do my self-love seminar at fest. This is such an important mission in my life – helping to empower women to love themselves. 62 womyn showed up at the workshop and we had an amazing hour together. The energy exchange was incredible. We talked about ways to open yourself to self-love and ways to learn to recognize and abolish negative self-talk. We touched on bringing joy into your life even when life kind of sucks. After the workshop, many womyn approached me to talk about their own personal stories of self-doubt and perceived failures and lots of tears were shed. I got a barrage of friend requests on Facebook after that, and have even had several message exchanges from womyn who are continuing their self-love work and want to be able to touch base with questions or to share small victories or setbacks.

As my friend Mable said, “I OWNED this fest.” It was a spectacular fest in every way that it is possible to categorize. Love, sex, career, friendship, healing, health, fun, relaxation, work, new adventures…. Every aspect of this fest was beautiful to me. I made a new lifetime friend and I got closer to a woman who is becoming very important in my life. I opened myself up to any woman who wanted to talk or needed a hug. I tried to project nothing but love and acceptance to every woman in every way. It didn’t always work. I’m human. I sometimes disagreed with things that were said. I didn’t like every single woman I met. But I honored all of them. I loved all of them. I respected and valued all of the womyn who come to fest to see for themselves what it is like to escape the patriarchy once a year in one of the only safe spaces left to womyn in the world. I gave love. I gave all of the love I had as unconditionally as I could to every womyn I could.

Beautiful Saturday night stage date.
Beautiful Saturday night stage date.

And that was it. Again, no matter what the bullies say, no matter what anyone else thinks, no matter what organizations blacklist fest performers, at the end of the week, they can’t take away that important truth. Fest is about love. Fest is about womyn learning to love themselves and therefore, each other. Fest is about womyn remembering that women are worthy of that self-love.

Some womyn come to fest for the fun. Some for the music. Some for the friends. Some for sex. Some for sitting around a fire talking about ideas. Some come to work and some come to play. Some come to spend a week in quiet contemplation and some come to party and yell and do ALL OF THE THINGS. We all come to fest for different reasons, but ultimately, we all come to realize that whatever reasons brought us to fest,, we are all coming away with the same lesson – that is, whatever you have been told about your place in this society is wrong. You are good enough. You are amazing. You are worth your own self-love.

Womyn are often raised without that understanding. We are raised to keep our voices down. We’re told that behavior is inappropriate for a girl. We’re told we aren’t pretty enough or thin enough or happy enough. We’re told to smile so that we don’t make people uncomfortable. We’re taught that we aren’t as valuable in the workplace as men. We’re taught that we need to learn all of the ways to change ourselves in order to avoid being raped or assaulted or beat up, as if it’s our fault that male violence isn’t controlled by the perpetrators. Womyn are in danger every day in every way and the Michigan Womyn’s music festival wraps a protective arm around us when we walk onto the land. Fest embraces us with love and lets us cast off the danger, the doubt, and the fear. Fest gives us that week of freedom from the oppression so that we can build our strength to go back into the world and try to use it to offer ourselves a shield from the aggression and violence. Fest SAVES womyn. It saved me. I need fest. And more than that, I need for girls who are growing up right now to come to fest and realize that there is a place where they are valued and honored and lifted and free.

Self-Love is the Root of All Happiness.

I am one of the world’s biggest proponents of self-love. No, not masturbation… Though, I am a proponent of that, too. I’m talking about pure, unconditional, oh-my-goddess-I-am-a-miracle-of-creation self love. The kind of love that allows you to wake up smiling every day because you are so happy to be alive with yourself. The kind of love that gives you a full body shield against people who are mean to you. The kind of love that bolsters you so completely that you are your own best friend.

I’ve spent a lot of years working on my own self-love, with an incredible leap forward in the past two. I have done tons of research on the subject. I’ve read books and scoured the internet and talked to shamans and meditation coaches and an acupuncturist and even my old MD. I’ve even taught workshops and online classes on self-love. I’m (joyfully) serious about this subject.

Some of the time, I didn’t even realize I was working on self-love. I have done a lot of working at being less judgmental of myself and others. I have worked very hard to rid myself of jealousy, which is a toxic feeling. I have gone through an incredible journey from regular panic attacks and sometimes crippling anxiety to being a (mostly) in control power woman in charge of her own life from top to bottom. That is to say, I make my own decisions and I own them, right or wrong.

Thinking about it recently made me realize that every single one of the qualities that makes my life joyful and blessed comes from self-love. Being able to absorb the sometimes harsh realities of life is easier because I love myself so much. When a woman told me recently, scathingly, that she wouldn’t date me because she could tell by looking at me that I was unhealthy and had self-esteem issues, I was able to completely brush it off because while I may not be as healthy as I want yet, I am pretty damn healthy. And I have GREAT self-esteem.

So all of the things that lead to joy come from self-love.

I had a date recently that turned out to be pretty spectacular. There was no thought to whether or not I was “in her league” as I might have once thought, years ago. Simply, we’re both single and I find her attractive. I think I got that date with an amazing, gorgeous, and hysterically funny woman because it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t. That’s self-love. It isn’t just that I know that I am a person of value, that she would really enjoy being around, but that I also recognize that if she didn’t want to go out with me, it would NOT CHANGE MY VALUE. Not at all! That ease and relaxation makes flirting so much easier. I can express interest in a woman and if she responds, it is lovely. And if she doesn’t, it’s perfectly okay. It just means that right now, we don’t want the same things. Self-love makes dating low-pressure because I enjoy my own company so much, I don’t need someone to swoop in and make my life a better place. It’s already a fine place as it is.

It makes for a very relaxed life. I’ve revamped my entire outlook on life. Loving myself doesn’t mean thinking I’m perfect. But it does mean reevaluating what I have long thought of as flaws because of societal convention or other people’s opinions. It doesn’t mean completely ignoring ethical and moral values… it simply means digging deep into my heart to figure out what mine are and trying the best I can to live under that standard. I’m not perfect. I’m still working on myself. Sometimes I get judgy. Sometimes I get hyper angry and swear. I have moments of self-doubt. (Is this story really good enough to send to someone?) I’m just continually working to become exactly who *I* want myself to be.

I’ve been able to cultivate radical honesty into all of my relationships. That comes from valuing myself enough to have trust that if I speak my truth, the people I’ve drawn into my life will respond with love and compassion. And if someone decides they want to be out of my life because I’ve been open and honest with them, isn’t that better than having someone in my life under a false pretense?

Loving myself so deeply allows me to attract other loving people into my life. Living an authentic life means I only draw in those people who love the true, deep down Beth. The ones who really see me and get me and love me all the way down. Loving myself means I can offer them that same kind of love in return.

Loving myself means being less reactive. It means offering my loved ones a safe space where they can tell me anything and know within their hearts that whatever they told me will not lose them my love. It doesn’t mean I never feel hurt or disappointed or slighted… it simply means I am always trying to remind myself that I am very blessed to have these people in my life and I am not surrounded with the kind of people who would hurt me on purpose. Because of that, there is a great deal of communication. None of this, “Hey, Beth, what’s wrong?” and me replying, “Oh nothing.”

Self-love means exposing myself (Stop it!). If someone wants to get to know me, they’ll find out that here, at this point in my journey, I am a funny, passionate, creative, often impatient, non-monogamous, fiercely loyal bad banjo player who cries at pictures of abused animals, finds the idea of being trapped in one place to be suffocating, and who still takes her clothes to Mama to have a button sewn on.  Also, I sometimes listen to the Bee Gees. I’m good and bad and I’m a work in progress and I own that. It’s allowing yourself to be vulnerable. It’s saying, out loud, hey, this is me, and I might not feel one hundred percent comfortable sharing this, but if one other person sees who I am and decides to use it to bolster her own self-love and value, it’s worth it.

Self-love means getting to know yourself pretty deeply. And I’m still learning. I change. I once believed there was one soul mate for me out there. Now I know that I have several soul mates. I once believed that being in a toxic relationship was better than being alone. Now I believe that being single is actually a blessing. I used to be so sure of all of my rigid rules and opinions. Now I can sit down with one of my friends and say, “I have this theory about life” and we can talk it out for hours and I am open to changing my mind after we discuss and dissect it.

In essence, in my opinion, self-love leads to deep and abiding relationships with people who are also loving and accepting of themselves. It’s a self feeding cycle and it feels fantastic. Loving my soul friends with acceptance and compassion allows them even greater acceptance and love of themselves…. and vice versa.

So, if self-love is such an amazing cure-all, why don’t we all practice it on a daily basis? I think, we are not really encouraged to be vocally and ridiculously self-promoting. I’ve been accused of being conceited or arrogant for being so outspoken. Even someone who is really blown away by self-confidence recently told me that something I said sounded really arrogant. I was trying to explain that in my opinion, an arrogant person, a conceited person, thinks they are so great, they are above everyone else. I don’t think I’m above anyone… not at all. I think we all walk our own paths and we make our way through the world the best we can and sometimes, we can get really lucky to get a wake up call that allows us to start digging deep into ourselves and becoming the best selves we can be. I don’t think that’s arrogance. I think that’s just love.

If self-love is so important, how do you get it? First, I highly recommend making a list of 50 things you love about yourself. If you can’t come up with fifty, write as many as you can and refer to it often. Ask your friends for help if you need to do so… tell them it is an assignment. You might be amazed at what they come up with. As you start to absorb those compliments, you’ll discover more awesome things about you. When you have fifty, work on adding more.

Every morning, when you open your eyes, say, “I’m awesome!” (Or amazing. Wonderful. Beautiful. Miraculous. Whatever works for you.) Say it out loud, though. It has two benefits. One, you hear it and believe it. Two, it’s kind of hilarious to wake up and say something like that out loud, so you start laughing. At least I do… every morning. The added bonus for me is that when I start laughing, Brutus gets excited and runs over to try to lick my face, which makes me laugh even more. This will work even if you have a partner/spouse/someone else sleeping in your bed. Just get them to do it, too.

Practice self-care in whatever form that takes for you. My hardest form of self-care is regular exercise. A friend told me to “make it fun.” So, every afternoon, I tag a few of my friends, make a video playlist, and have a dance party. We all post to each other at the end talking about our dances. We all give suggestions on what songs to play tomorrow. We move, we breathe, we have fun. It’s self-care. It’s finding joy in moving my body. Listen to music. Sing. Laugh. Eat as well as you can, but enjoy a nice treat every once in a while. Relish whatever you eat. Sit down and enjoy the sensation of eating. Buy exotic, juicy fruits if you can. Meditate. (I sound like a broken record with that one… it’s important!) Just practice self-care however that looks to you. I know I tout this all of the time, but self-care leads to self-love.

Remind yourself of your value. Remind yourself that you are an amazing person. If you don’t get that job interview or that date, it isn’t because you aren’t valuable. It’s simply because it wasn’t the right fit. And if someone is mean to you, it is all on them, not you. That woman who was scathing to me? That had nothing to do with my character, because I wouldn’t do something like that, even if I wasn’t interested.

And lastly, try to be naked as often as you can. Come to terms with your body if that is something that is difficult for you. Get naked. Or at least, go braless. Run around in a tank top and panties. Be barefoot. Enjoy the feeling of your own skin. Sleep naked. Dance in your underwear. Shake that booty. Touch yourself. (No, again, we’re not going there.) I mean, massage your own feet. Rub your shoulders. Touch your arms or your belly. Scratch your head. It feels good. Grin while you’re doing it and it feels even better. Cherish how it feels to be sweet to yourself. Become comfortable with the way your body looks and moves and feels.

Self-love, self-confidence, being comfortable with you… it’s a process and it can be an on-going process. Sometimes it’s hard. When it isn’t working, fake it. Smile, act with confidence, get yourself out there. Be fabulous. Love who you are, because who you are is pretty damn amazing.

 

Excerpt from The Love Sucks Club

 

A car pulls up next to me and I look in the window. Esmé. Nodding to her, I keep walking. She pulls abreast of me again and sticks her head out the window.

“Where are you going?”

“Not far enough to need a ride.”

“Come on.” She laughs. “Don’t be scared. I don’t bite.”

“I’m not scared,” I mutter. Coming around to the passenger side, I let myself in and slide down in the seat. It’s a decent enough car, but small. What is it with these women driving these tiny cars? “You’re going to have to be careful on these roads,” I say. “The potholes have been known to swallow buffalo whole.”

“I didn’t realize there were buffalo on the island,” she grins.

“There aren’t. They were eaten by the potholes.”

I direct her to The Sands and fall silent, staring out the window. I can feel her glancing at me from time to time, but I pretend not to notice. Finally, she breaks the silence.

“So, do you want to talk about your dreams?”

“Nope.”

“About Fran?”

“Not a chance.”

“The price of tea in China?”

“I know nothing of economics.”

“What made you become a novelist?”

“I sat down and wrote.”

“Wow, you would make a fascinating subject for a talk show.”

“I’m a fascinating woman,” I say, dryly.

She chuckles a bit and stares out the windshield for a couple of minutes. “You know, I loved Fran, too.”

“I don’t know you.” This woman is presuming a lot. “I don’t know anything about you. How do I know you even know Fran?”

“I know she used to laugh in her sleep. I know she had a tattoo of a butterfly on her left breast. I know that she thought orange cats were the best animal in the world.”

“You could have gotten that from my book,” I grumble.

“I know she used to stare at the stars and talk about whether or not her family was ever going to come back for her.”

Pausing, I stare out the window. That part wasn’t in the book, and as far as I know, no one except me knew that Fran thought she was from another planet. I can feel my ears start to buzz and I’m sure an attack is imminent. Blinking hard, I try to talk myself out of it.

“So, Esmé,” I say loudly to combat the buzz. “What made you move to the Caribbean from Chicago?”

“There wasn’t anything left for me there. My lover left me for another woman. We’d been together for seven years. I think she was my rebound from Fran.”

“How long were you and Fran together?” I ask, though I’m not sure I want the answer.

“Ten years.”

I look at her, not sure I can believe that she’s old enough to have had at least seventeen years worth of relationships. “How old are you?”

“Thirty-eight.”

“So you and Fran were pretty young.”

“We were pretty young.”

She pulls up in front of The Sands and stops the car. “Are you going in for lunch?”

“No, I’m just going to get a ride home from Sam.”

“I can take you home.”

“Not in this car, you can’t.”

Standing outside of the front door of the hotel, I watch her drive away. She glances back once and I slowly raise my hand. My ears are still buzzing, so I sit down in the lobby and ask the front desk clerk to page Sam. The tunnel comes down over my sight and I can see Esmé and Fran, young and troubled, clinging to each other, both of them with tears in their eyes. I don’t know whether it’s a vision or my imagination, but I’m drawn to Fran’s young face, her light brown eyes and her pale skin. The shock of red hair, curly and full, was just as beautiful in this vision as it was years later when she came into my life. The vision darkens and for a second, all I can see is Esmé. I’m standing on the edge of a cliff, looking back at her. Her face is deathly white and there is a trickle of blood coming out of her mouth. As I slowly become aware that Sam is holding my shoulders and shaking me gently, the tunnel lifts from my sight. Sam’s face, full of love and concern is inches from mine.

 

 

 

I did this video reading….

I did a video of one of my favorite scenes from my first novel. Davey and her mother, Leah are having a rather public exchange about Leah’s sex life.

 

It was fun to record, though not as fun as reading to a crowd where I can see facial expressions and get feedback. Still, I like the video a lot. This is not pornographic… it’s funny. But some of the subject matter may be a twee unsafe for work listening.

 

Check it out. 

 

 

Taking a Leap

inner peaceI logged on to write a blog today and was notified that it is my two year anniversary with Word Press. This has been a roller coaster of a two years for me. In February of 2012, I moved back to the states from the Virgin Islands and ended an almost ten year long relationship that had become quite toxic toward the end. I published my first novel. I started a journey toward becoming the best me I could be and, concurrently, loving myself exactly as I am. I published two more novels. I had two short term, but quite healing and lovely in many ways, love relationships. I went to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival twice. (See my blog on that if you are interested in learning about this amazing festival for women.) This one.

I wrote a blog about Christians and gays that pretty much went viral and was read in church by at least three preachers of varying sorts. (Edited for language, I believe. I’m pretty sure I used the word “asshole” too many times for most parishioners to be comfortable.) I lived off of my royalties. I lived in a camper in the woods. I lived in a lake house. I lived in a farm town in Iowa. I moved wherever and whenever I wanted. I traveled to Memphis and Phoenix and Palm Springs and Dallas. I went to literary conferences. I met a few soul mate friends. I set up learning about this Beth person without artifice. I made a pact to live an authentic life. I danced, I flirted, I made love, I fought, I got angry. I tried to take every chance I had at learning more about myself, why I react the way I do, and how to react differently if necessary. I put a “Namaste” sticker on the back of my car and then laughed at the irony of flipping someone off through the sunroof because they were tailing me on the freeway. I became a vegetarian. I stopped being a vegetarian. I became a vegetarian again. I went on a spiritual retreat. I grew confident.. I laughed at myself. I laughed at life. I laughed with joy. I laughed until tears ran down my face and I couldn’t breathe. I learned to love me.Truly love me.

The end result of this is that I am now the kind of person who believes that if something is calling to my soul, I should make every effort to do it.

The other day, a friend of mine suggested making a grocery list of things that call to my soul and see how that panned out as far as making a living. Well, really, what I want to do is write, talk to readers, meet other authors, do book readings, and go to literary conferences. Oh, and I want to just spread joy and love and happiness to everyone I can. I mean, why *can’t*  make a living spreading joy and happiness and love to people? To that end, I am leaving my day job and focusing on marketing my books, writing more, teaching classes on writing, and giving workshops that help women come to the same self-love that I now possess. I want them to learn to value themselves.

It’s authentic. It’s what calls to my soul. It brings me joy. I may not be able to make a living at it yet, but I don’t care. I don’t belong in  a cubicle wearing business casual, punching someone else’s time clock. I belong out in the world, spreading love and happiness. That’s why my books are happy… and it’s why I’m happy. Now, I am going to work at bringing that happiness and peace to others.

It’s a leap, but then, I like to live on the edge. I’d rather fail at something a million times than to not have tried it because I was afraid.

In the meantime, you can help by buying my awesome new book, “The Love Sucks Club” which isn’t really about love sucking after all.

Sometimes Things Suck – And That’s Okay.

love sucks club coverIn honor of my new release, “The Love Sucks Club,” I’m writing today about things that suck. As any of my friends and blog readers can tell you, I am a proponent of living in joy and making life something to be loved. That said, sometimes things just suck. Sometimes, you’re in a sucky relationship or your job sucks or your financial situation sucks. That morning you slept late, stepped full on into cat puke, got a flat tire, and then got to work late only to get yelled at by your boss? That sucked. When you discovered your ex was cheating on you? That sucked? When your kid hit puberty and started yelling about how much she hates you and everything you stand for? Yeah, that really sucked.

For me, right now, my job sucks. I mean, it just sucks. I’m not even going to list the myriad ways in which it sucks. Just take my word for it. It sucks.

Sometimes things just suck. And sometimes, that’s okay. When things suck, we can wallow in the suckiness for only so long before we start to realize that we are going to have to make a change. I’ve been guilty of staying in a relationship for too long because I was afraid of the change. In hindsight, though, it was the best thing I ever did for myself. Leaving that relationship prompted me to sprout my own wings and challenge myself to live my own life.

I once smoked. I smoked for 22 years and at the end of it, I was smoking almost two packs a day. I couldn’t breathe. Really. I woke up every single night, several times a night with my hand pressed against my chest, trying desperately to take in some air. It sucked. It sucked so bad that one day I decided that not breathing was worse than the pain and difficulty of quitting and I stopped.

So my job sucks. And that’s okay. I’ve been kind of drifting along complacently, writing, and playing on Facebook, and half-heartedly marketing my books. I’m not very good at marketing, is what I kept telling myself. (That takes us right back into negative self-talk and self doubt, which are other demons to conquer, but that’s another story.) So I drifted and I lived an amazing life of travelling and hanging out with my friends and moving around and doing whatever I wanted to do whenever I wanted to do it. And then, the royalties started to dwindle and it came time for me to get a “job.” Which leads me to where I am now… in a job that sucks.

Here’s the part where I can reframe my perspective and find gratitude for the suckiness. You see, being in a cubicle in a job I hate is so far removed from who I am that I can’t stay there any longer than is absolutely necessary. And here’s where it gets kind of fun. Hating my job has led me to being way more active in self-promotion and working toward my dreams. I’ve recently written an eight week class on Creative Journaling for Inner Peace and Self-love that I intend to teach at the local Unitarian Church. I have made contact with several local news sources, one of which actually responded with a request for book copies for reviews, and an interview for a story. Through that contact, I met a screenwriter who wants to read my first novel and talk about the movie options. And for the first time, I ordered books myself from my publisher with the intention of getting them out there to be read and reviewed. I ordered a video promo of “The Love Sucks Club” that I will put on YouTube. And I am making a video recording of me reading a funny scene from “Man Enough.” Some of this stuff may lead somewhere and some of it may not, but the important thing is that I am getting out there and working for myself.

Would I have done all of this if I wasn’t wanting so desperately to get out of my job? I doubt it. I had plenty of opportunity before, and I didn’t. So, sometimes suckiness really is awesomeness in disguise.

My friend Yvonne is fond of telling me that I should do just one thing every single day that is a step toward my goals. One thing. Her thought is that as long as you do that one thing, no matter what it is, you have made positive progress toward living your dreams. She’s right. One little step every single day still means I am moving forward. And moving forward means moving out of suckiness and into awesomeness, which quite frankly, is where I belong.

To commemorate the birth of my newest novel and the embracing of suckiness in all of our lives, I am giving away a copy of “The Love Sucks Club” to one random person who leaves a comment on this blog.

 

EDITED: The winner of the book giveaway was Lisa Hurt. Thank you everyone who stopped by to play. And Lisa, let’s chat so I can get your information to send you a book.