My Life

Short Story – As Sad as Rhonda

Malik watched the woman today, as he watched her almost every day.

She moved about the diner, coffee pot in hand, stopping to laugh with just about everyone in the place. Not him, but everyone else. He supposed he was still a newcomer. She swept away from what Malik assumed were a group of farmers and headed toward him with the pot. Five months of breakfast here five times a week, and she knew he would drink at least four cups of coffee before he headed out on the interminable job search.

“Hi, kid,” she said, pouring his coffee and dropping another handful of creamers on his table. She pursed her lips and threw a few extra napkins down as well.

Malik looked down. He had spilled egg yolk on his white shirt. “Guess I’m not job-hunting until I change.”

“You’re having a hard time finding a job,” she said. “There’ll be work once school lets out, but you got time before that happens.”

Malik shrugged. “It’s not urgent. It’s just that I hate looking for work. I feel like I’m going on endless first dates and I’m always coming up short.”

She smiled for the first time. It changed her face. Malik noticed the fine lines around her eyes. He couldn’t guess her age.

“If I had my way, you could have this job.” She walked away to serve another customer.

Malik finished his coffee and left his money on the table.

He went home, stripped off his clothes, and turned on the computer. He’d put in a few more online applications and start fresh tomorrow. He was sick of going door to door.

Later, when dinner was simmering on the stove, Malik was on hangouts, chatting with Johnna and Anthony. He leaned into the screen, wanting to jump through and touch their faces. “I miss you so much,” Johnna said. “It isn’t the same without you.”

Edward came through the front door and put his hands on Malik’s shoulders. He leaned toward the screen. “We’ll try to come for a visit when classes let out this summer.”

They disconnected, and Malik stood, turning to hold Edward. Edward’s hair brushed Malik’s nose for a moment, but he didn’t turn his face to kiss Malik’s mouth.

“How was the job hunt?”

“We’re not going for a visit when classes let out,” Malik said. “Not when you’re teaching summer classes.”

Edward was carefully taking off his suit jacket, and hanging it up on the garment rack in the corner. Malik watched him hang up his button-front shirt, his tie. He carefully aligned the seams of his pants, brushing out the wrinkles before draping it over the hanger. Edward thought he had to look pristine when he taught. Malik had tried to tell him the students would relate to him if he acted a little more natural. He hated that Edward looked so dapper. He wanted him to try to be more rugged, to fit in. He knew it was hard to be a first-year professor, fresh out of grad school. And Malik didn’t want Edward to stand out in this farming community.

He couldn’t fault his husband, though. Edward had tried so hard to get a job at a school in California, leaning on Malik’s salary at the insurance company as the months passed with no calls.

Now Malik was the one without a job. He got up to take dinner off the stove. He had promised to follow Edward anywhere.

In the morning, Malik watched Edward getting dressed. It was the same process as the night before, in reverse. It was Tuesday. Edward would be wearing his gray slacks and the light blue sweater vest. Malik saw the way the other professors dressed on campus, especially now, when it was cold and wet, and everyone was prepping for a long, ugly winter. Malik stared out the window at the gray sky. “I can’t remember what the California sky looks like,” he said.

 

(To be continued on Patreon)

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Fiction Writing

The One About My Publisher

Okay, I officially love my publisher. Seriously. So. As most of you know by now, I have been struggling with the second book. I keep turning it over in my head, trying new stuff, fighting myself about it, wondering about it, writing, erasing, rewriting. I just couldn’t seem to wrap my mind around this story.

Finally, I knew that I needed some professional help. I did two things. I sent a plea for help out to a trusted friend (and there will be more on that in a later blog, I’m sure.) And, I send a message to my publisher telling her that I was having a crisis.

She came back with a request (?) to see what I have so far. I sent it to her. She sent me back several questions asking where I was going with it. I answered the best that I could. Just trying to answer the questions helped give me some clarification. She countered with a reason why I really shouldn’t go with one of the plot points I had been planning. She was right. She gave me several more pointers as a writer. She gave me a couple of pointers as a friend…

And then…

She put on the publisher’s hat and gave me a deadline.

Well, shit.

A deadline.

A deadline. You know, a deadline is actually a REALLY FANTASTIC IDEA! I had a deadline on my last book. I imposed it on myself, but I sat there and worked my butt off every single night to finish it because I told myself that I was going to be done with that book before I left the Virgin Islands. I didn’t want to be trying to work on it while getting rid of most of my stuff, moving overseas with a dog and a cat, extricating myself for a long-term relationship, leaving behind my home, and going back to my old home and family. It was too much. I knew it would be tossed aside. So I finished it *before* I left island and I did set it aside and forget about it for a month. Then I started editing it. And working on figuring out how to publish. And all of that took a long time, mainly because I had no idea what I was doing, but the very important thing… the MAIN thing, the fact that I should not have pushed out of my head is that I wrote the book on a deadline. And it wasn’t a leisurely deadline, either. I pushed myself. *AND* I was working and going to school full time. So now that I am not working and I have all of this free time, I somehow seem to find it easy to tell myself that I will work on it “later.”

Well, no longer. I have a deadline now. I have a job. I have actually written out a schedule. This is my work schedule. I do not get to skip work. From now on, certain hours are devoted to writing and I will be writing during those hours. No Facebook, no phone calls, no errands, not even blogging or marketing for the last novel. That stuff can be done after hours.

As of right now, I am employed again. I am a writer. This is not my hobby, this is not a game. This is my craft. It’s important. And I’m going to do it.

So, thank you Chris at Sapphire Books Publishing who is not only a fantastic person, but a tough, take no shit publisher. I needed that kick in the head. I needed it.

And for the record, I wrote 1500 words today after I got that message. Hey, I’m on a deadline now.

Fiction Writing

An Award-Winning Novelist

Yep. That’s me. An Award-Winning Novelist. I’m pretty sure I speak it in all caps, too. See, I submitted my little novel to the Elisa Rolles LGBT Rainbow Awards and guess what happened? I won three. Yep. Number one in one category, number two in another, and honorable mention in yet a third. Am I stoked? Yeah.

Not that this really changes much. I’m still living below the poverty level. I’m still trying to get my homework done on time. I’m still trying to figure out how to market my book so people will buy it. And I am still fighting tooth and nail with the second book. I swear that for every thousand words I write, I go back and delete eight hundred. Despite my power of positive thinking that I have been trying so desperately to practice, I am still floundering on that one. The editor who worked on Man Enough sent me an email the other day asking how it was going and I told her that it was going badly. She emailed me back that she was sending me good vibes. It helped. I wrote well that day. Maybe it was just the centering from knowing someone was sending me good thoughts. Or maybe she helped me focus my own good thoughts. Either way, it helped. I need to figure out how to do that every single day on my own. So, that’s where I am with that. My goal for the next week is to maybe spend a few minutes of each morning (maybe during morning yoga) just focusing positive thoughts and maybe some visualizations on Andy’s Song.

In the meantime, I am now an  Award-Winning Novelist! Boo-ya! I am kind of coasting on the excitement of that. I did scream (loudly) when I found out, causing Lucretia to come tearing in with her hand over her heart thinking I was dying or that I had seen a snake or something. I then forwarded the email to my mother, my stepmother, and my publisher. (That’s telling, isn’t it?)

Well, being an *A*ward-*W*inning *N*ovelist definitely comes with some responsibility. I have a responsibility now to get the word out there about Man Enough. I have a responsibility to finish Andy’s Song so I can move on to the next novel that is already pushing at my brain. And I have a responsibility to be absolutely fabulous at all times. (That’s the easy part, at least.)

So, keep your eyes open. Who knows? Maybe soon you’ll see me strutting across the stage of the Ellen show or Oprah’s new show. Hey! It could happen!

Fiction Writing

Is This Going to be in Your Book?

I have had an interesting couple of days. Friday, I went to my first Yoga class, and it was delightful. Please understand, my only experience with yoga before this was Tony Horton’s Power Yoga, in which there is no such thing as relaxing, gentle stretching, or becoming one with your breathing… it is a relentless 90 minute pain fest that leaves me wanting to punch Tony in his stupid face, if only I could lift my arms at that point to do it. So, Gentle Yoga. The instructor spoke in a soft voice and told us to do what we can… bend into the stretch but don’t go too far. Feel the moment. Not that it wasn’t a workout, because it was. But it was a gentle and comforting workout that stretched out my entire body and allowed me to focus on my breathing and be completely present in the moment. At the end of the class, we all spent about ten minutes on our mats, with blankets and pillows, listening to the instructor take us through a guided mediation. Afterward, we all relaxed into almost unconsciousness and I probably would have fallen asleep if not for the fact that one lady who was on a mat near me, asked in a loud voice, “So, are we going to be in your next book?”

Fast forward to Sunday. My love and I went to an honest to goodness hootenanny. Yup. A bunch of people, mostly old, mostly men, with fiddles and banjos and harmonicas and guitars picking away at old bluegrass music. It was AWESOME. Those of us who were non-musicians generally hung out in the kitchen, getting the food ready and chatting. I got involved in a pretty deep conversation with a few people. We started talking about gay marriage and how it was legalized in Iowa. I was fortunate to be with a bunch of like minded people, including one very old guy with a pointy beard who was pretty quiet throughout the whole conversation, just listening to all of the back and forth until at one point, he pointed his finger into the middle of the circle of people and said, “Anyone should be allowed to get married.” and then didn’t say another word. Another lesson learned. Don’t judge a book by its cover. I would have assumed this old guy was totally against gay marriage. I like lessons such as that, though. I like it when my assumptions are challenged because I shouldn’t be making assumptions like that in the first place.

Fast forward a bit, the conversation was getting heated (though not argumentative) and we were all having a great time, when someone who had been relatively quiet throughout the whole talk said, “Do you think this is going to go in your next book?”

I am actually asked that question a lot. When people find out that I am a writer, that is usually one of the first things I hear along with “Oh, I’m writing (will write, want to write, did write) a book too!”

The one about the book is the big one, though. People want to see themselves in something, after all. So, will this yoga class/hootenanny/auction/coffee house/whatever be in my next book? Well, yes…in a small way, I think that almost everything I experience goes into what I write in one way or another. The events shape me, which in turn shapes my writing. Big events have big places. After the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, I wrote a couple of paragraphs in which one of the characters tries and fails to explain the essence of the festival to other characters. So, yes, events often show up in my writings.

Of course, that’s not what people really want to know. What they really want to know, specifically, is if they are going to show up as a character. And the only answer to that is… yes and no. Definitive, huh? The thing is that if you have a quirky character trait, or something about you interests me, or I find something strange or likable or unlikable about you, chances are that a future character may show up with that particular trait. But will that character be you? No. It will be the amalgamation of you and me and the guy at the bus stop and that woman I talked to on the internet last week and my sister and my girlfriend and the lady who rides her bike through town collecting bottles to return for deposit. Look, every character I have has bits of me in it. And it’s possible that some of them have bits of you. But with the exception of Andy’s racquetball partner who is named after my sister’s co-worker, Nate, I do not have any characters who are based on any one person, including myself. And this is probably important to note, because my mother was adamant about wanting people to know that she is *not* the pot-smoking, sex class attending, strap-on fan, hippie mom from “Man Enough.”  In fact, the only thing my mother has in common with the mom in my novel is that they are both mothers.

And that’s okay. That’s good. Just like life itself, a novel becomes the sum of its parts. And you, all of you, are, in one way or another, my parts. You have all helped to make me who I am at this very moment and for that, I am extremely grateful. So, make sure to read my next book… and look for yourself. Chances are, you might be able to point to something and turn to your friends and say, “Hey. That’s me.”

http://www.sapphirebooks.com/beth.html

Fiction Writing

Recognizing Each Other

I think there has to come a time in everyone’s life when they stop judging people and start loving them and recognizing their value instead. I’ve seen too many people that I love fall into the old habit of making negative comments about other people. “Would you look at what she is wearing!” or “Man, he has really gained a lot of weight.” In these last few years of making a serious effort to become a more mindful and kind person, I’ve really tried to squash not just comments like that, but thoughts of them as well. It is not my place to judge if someone’s skirt is too short or if they have too many piercings. It is only my place to judge whether or not those things are right for me.

In coming to a place where we learn to stop being unkind to other people, we can move into a place where we recognize and love and promote each other. Instead of making ourselves toxic by being cruel, we can open ourselves up to being loving and helpful. We can turn into the kind of person who lifts and bolsters others, instead of bringing them down. And I think, when we do this, it has the effect of lifting us up as well.

In this case, I am talking specifically about promoting other authors. I don’t think it has a hurtful effect on my book sales if I tell people that they absolutely *must* buy the latest book by Linda Kay Silva. It doesn’t do me any harm to let it be known that I am in the middle of “Flowers from Iraq” by Sunny Alexander. And I don’t see how telling my erotic loving friends that if they want to read something steamy, they should pick up “Always Faithful” by Isabella. The list goes on. When I read a new book that I love, I tell people about it. It doesn’t hurt my book sales. And it may help people who are in the same boat that I am… writing, struggling, living their dream, getting their word out there.

The thing about embracing people and working to help them succeed is that it will come back to you. I don’t give with the expectation of receiving something in return. But I can tell you that the universe recognizes love over hate and it returns the love. One author recently called me to light a fire under me to market more, write more, do more. I needed it and I needed it precisely at that time. Another author just sent me a private message with some ideas for marketing. Another friend has a friend who is a librarian and wants to get us together to talk about getting my book out there. These people aren’t doing these things because they want me to do something for them. They are doing them because, like me, they believe in paying it forward, in helping other people in whatever way you have the power to help. And I believe, I truly do, that things are coming back to them as well, even if I am not the one returning the favor to those particular people.

It’s an amazing circle, isn’t it? The point is that we can create this in all areas of our lives. You can make a conscious decision to be positive. You can make a conscious decision to be kind, loving, and generous. This isn’t necessarily an innate trait… this is something you can cultivate in yourself. You can choose to be happy and you can choose to share your happiness and the more happiness you share, the more will come back to you. I believe this is true of everything. Success, love, happiness… it all comes back to you when you put it out there.

So, yes, I will keep promoting other authors and I will keep taking help when it is offered. And in the meantime, I will get back to working on my second novel before my friend Wen comes through the phone line and hits me in the head with my computer. (Her own fashion of loving help, trust me.)

And in the meantime… buy *my* book… it’s awesome.

http://www.sapphirebooks.com/beth.html

Fiction Writing

Creating Community

I went to a writer’s group a couple of weeks ago. There were eight of us. One was a gamer who is writing a role playing game about the death of the Ice Lord or something like that…. Another is working on a historical fantasy novel. One wants to write a book and is there for guidance. Three have self-published at least one book. One was the daughter of the historical fantasy guy. And there was me.

It turned out that we didn’t do much comparing our notes about writing. We introduced ourselves. I was the only new person, so they asked me a lot of questions about my book, about publishing, about editing, etc. Then we all just kind of basically chatted. It was nice, but it wasn’t really what I was looking for. What I really want in a writer’s group is a place where we are all forced to write something every week, then bring it to the group and critique each other. Still, it was nice to be around other writers, if only for the sense of community.

Don’t get me wrong, Facebook is great. I have a lot of virtual writer friends and belong to a couple of online author’s groups where I can throw out questions and get answers. But there is nothing like the back and forth of actual face to face interaction and I miss that.

It isn’t just the forced accountability. It’s knowing that once a week (or month or whatever) you are going to be with a group of people who understand what you are going through and who are possibly going through the same things. It’s having a place to ask questions and being able to answer others. I don’t know about you, but if someone just randomly throws out to me, “So, do you have any questions about writing?” I draw a blank. The questions come in the discourse, in the give and take, when there is a quick and joyful conversation going on and everyone’s neurons are being stimulated. *Then* the questions lead to more questions and the answers lead to more questions and the conversation becomes a living and breathing thing that grows into one big ball of creativity. Or something like that.

At any rate, *that* is what I am looking for. A round table discussion with a bunch of writers who will help to stimulate my creativity and get me excited about marketing and editing and publishing and all of that icky behind the scenes stuff that isn’t nearly as exciting as writing, but still just as important.

And you know, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a writer’s group. It could be a group of creative individuals. It could be a group of feminists. It could be a group of people who like to drink coffee and talk about Neil Gaiman books. It could be a circle of middle aged college students. It could be anything.

I think this has become important to me lately because I am lonely. I miss being around people. I miss having circles… whether it is a circle of writers, a circle of lesbians, a circle of friends, or a circle of family, I think I am used to being around groups of people who care about me and stimulate me intellectually. I don’t think I am meant to be one of those solitary writers, living alone in the woods, not bathing, growing a long beard, and communing with wolves. (Well, I can’t really grow a beard, but it has been a while since I shaved my legs.) (Not, of course, that it isn’t wonderful to be with my love and my dogs, but I miss people… plural.)

And maybe that is why I am still mourning for Mich fest, though a few months have passed. There was a community to end all communities. Thousands of womyn, working together, eating together, walking in the woods, playing music, writing, shooting arrows, throwing tomahawks, sharing stories around bonfires, dancing, loving, embracing each other in spirit and reality and just generally having an amazing time.

I want to go back to Michigan. I want Michfest to exist every day. But since it doesn’t, maybe it is up to me to create a community wherever I am. Maybe I need to figure out a way to get out there and meet people with common interests and common goals and bring them together to create little circles of inspiration and action.

What do you all think? How do you create community in your lives?

Fiction Writing · Goals

Marketing

I’ve said it before that some writers are just natural personalities. They have a gift for getting up in front of a crowd and getting themselves out there. They tout their novels, they sell themselves, and they just somehow seem to instinctively know what to do to make it work.

Some of us are a little more introverted. Now, let’s be fair, I am a pretty outgoing person. I enjoy meeting new people, I have a good time in small social groups, and once I get the first few minutes behind me, I am actually pretty good at speaking to a crowd.

But I have to admit that selling myself is a little more difficult than I thought it would be. I don’t know where to begin. Do I call random bookstores and ask them if they want me to come in and talk about my book? And if so, and if they say yes, what if no one shows up? Do I find groups that might want to hear me? Since my book has a transgendered character, I think I should seek out trans groups, but I am just not sure how to approach them. “Hi, I wrote a really charming and adorable FTM character. Want me to come sell myself at your group?” It’s a little awkward.

My good friend and mentor has given me some ideas and, armed with the list, I have been attacking some of the online resources. Somehow, tempered in that, is the idea that I don’t want to be *too* pushy, too in-your-face with myself. Is that a societal construct? Is that a latent belief that women should be quiet and unassuming? I think that I am a pretty out and proud feminist woman, but maybe there are some lingering doubts that if I am too pushy, then people won’t like me.

I’m not sure. But for whatever reason, I do seem to have trouble marketing myself, despite the fact that I actually adore my novel and I think it is a charming and funny, yet socially important piece on orientation and gender in today’s world. It’s important. And it should be important to more people than just the groups that are already affected by these issues. I would like to see it read by people who *don’t* know anything about transgender or gay issues. I need to market to them as well, and I am not sure how to make that happen.

So, I am calling on you, my wonderful friends to offer some ideas and help me figure out how to make it happen.

http://www.sapphirebooks.com/beth.html