Tag Archives: publish

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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Guest Blog on Women and Words

What happens when the illustrious, if slightly strange Andi Marquette invites me to guest blog on Women and Words? I say yes, of course. Check it out. It’s about my very soon to be released newest novel, “The Love Sucks Club.”

 

the love sucks club

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March 28, 2014 · 2:00 pm

Love and Healing – Michfest 2013

It has been just about a month since the end of this year’s Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and I am finally sitting down to blog about it. The fact that I haven’t written about it doesn’t mean that I haven’t been thinking about it. In fact, I think about fest every day. I send messages to, text with, and talk to other festies every day. But every time I have sat down to start writing about it, I’ve been overwhelmed by the barrage of memories that I want to somehow get down. beth and jes the line

Last year was my first fest. Yes, I was a virgin. I went in with no expectations and experienced a world beyond my dreams. I found a place where womyn of every size, color, age, shape, etc can find acceptance and safety. I found a place where I could be myself, where I could find laughter when I wanted it, tears when I needed it, music when I wanted to dance, hugs when I needed contact. I reconnected with my BFF and soul sister, Kim. I met new soul sisters. I experienced what was, for me, a complete validation of everything I had been working on for myself since the end of my last long term relationship. That is, I am a loved and lovable woman and I am strong enough to live my own life on my own terms. Pretty powerful lessons. My life changed after last year’s fest. I had a magical year. I think I can say that the year between fest 2012 and fest 2013 was the best year I have ever had in my life.
Fast forward to fest 2013. I’m an old pro at this point. I totally know what I’m in for, and I am ready! Of course, I know my fest experience is going to be made a bit easier this year by the fact that my dear friend Jenny is bringing a tent, air mattresses, all of the stuff needed to cook and make tea, chairs, tables, food, etc. All I had to do was show up with my sleeping bag and my clothes and help her set this stuff up. Easy peasy.

ImageLast year, I set out to do *EVERYTHING* I could possibly do. Yes, I want to see that band, and I want to go to that workshop and I want to learn how to throw a tomahawk and I want to go go go until I can barely stand to keep my eyes open another minute. This year, I decided to just relax and go with the flow. I went to a couple of workshops and I went to a couple of concerts. Jenny and I went to the dildo olympics where I was proud of myself for throwing the dildo javelin thirty-five feet until the next person threw hers sixty feet and the record holder walloped hers a full eight-five feet. That’s a hell of a dildo throw. I went to a meditation and journaling workshop. I lounged in the grass at day stage listening to music. I did my workshifts, both of them, in the main kitchen. There is something soothing about helping to feed thousands of womyn…. the nurturer in me cherished the idea of helping to set out meals for all of my sisters. The camaraderie of sitting around hot, soapy water with other womyn as we told our stories and listened to each other was the embodiment of what I love about fest.

I relaxed at the camp site with Jenny. Sometimes we were alone, sometimes we got visitors. Sometimes we were invited to go off to see some music or visit someone’s camp…. sometimes we went. Sometimes only I did.

Most nights, after a day of workshops or concerts or meeting new womyn, I got on my then girlfriend’s shuttle and sat on the engine block and rode with her for her last couple of rounds of the night. After, we would lay a blanket out on the ground in a field and watch the stars or talk or kiss or just quietly enjoy each other’s company.

Last year, fest was an education for me. This year, it was about relaxing and enjoying the fruits of those lessons. Last year, I was introduced to the radical concept that womyn are amazingly powerful. This year, I affectionately watched that concept in action. Last year, I was starry eyed and awed and dumbfounded and a little overwhelmed. This year, I was proud…. Proud of myself for how far I have come in a year. Proud of the womyn who put together this incredible festival. Proud of Lisa Vogel who had a vision and made it come true. Proud of the girls who have been raised in an environment where they can see the future of who they can be, combating the ideas that are often forced upon them by the media and school and other outside influences that womyn have to be a certain way and smell a certain way and act a certain way in order to fit in to the societally proscribed paradigm of a woman. Proud of my friends for being part of making this space where womyn are safe, where we can walk in the woods alone after dark and not be afraid of anything. (Except, if you are me, spiders.) Proud of all of us for understanding that in this world, it is still important for womyn to have a place where we can go and be womyn without expectations, womyn on our own, womyn who have been raised in different environments, with different socio-economic backgrounds, different family structures, but with one common denominator… we were born girls and we were raised into womyn and sometimes the lessons that came with that development were painful, but we are in it together and no matter what else the world throws at us, at least we know we have this last bastion of safety and love and healing.

I don’t know what this year will bring. It’s hard to imagine anything being better than the growth and healing I experienced after last fest. But I am coming into this year as a new woman, as a woman who loves herself and believes in herself and who knows that whatever I decide to do in life will be the right thing for me because I am worth that kind of self-love and consideration. Fest gave that to me.

See you in August.

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Authors helping authors. The Golden Crown Literary Society 2013 Conference.

My favorite author.

My favorite author.

I crawled into bed with Linda Kay Silva. Sure, there were other takeaways from the Golden Crown Literary Society conference in Dallas this year, but let’s face it, there isn’t much that can top crawling into bed with Linda Kay. Sure,I flirted with Georgia Beers, traded quips with Andi Marquette, and almost knocked Lynn Ames over in the hallway, but those things were just icing on the cake.

I participated in a incredible panel that I, unfortunately, had to leave ten minutes early because of a migraine. The panel was fantastic, though. I remember people laughing and I think it was when I was actually saying something funny.

I danced ceaselessly. You have got to love a gathering of lesbians… even of woman of size doesn’t have to sit out a dance, not one. I slow danced. I fast danced. I danced in the dining room. I danced in my room. I had one short, but memorable dance in the elevator with a woman who prefers to remain nameless. I danced at the awards banquet. I dragged one woman onto the dance floor though she insisted she felt self-conscious and next thing I knew, she was out there doing the electric slide. I danced with everyone who wanted to dance. I even danced at karaoke.

And speaking of karaoke. I road tripped and roomed with Dutch, a woman who is so far beyond crazy, it will take the light from crazy seven point three billion years to reach her. On Karaoke night, Dutch came back to our room about an hour after I did. Thinking I would be interested in hearing every single little thing that had happened in that hour, she decided to recap. She was so enthusiastically reenacting her karaoke debut that she slid across the room on her knees singing, “You’re the one that I want.” Moments later, we got a call from the front desk telling us very politely to shut the hell up. Dutch made history, though, when she wore her Army dress uniform to the awards ceremony. It’s a reminder that gays and lesbians have made major leaps forward in the fight for equality, and the fact that an out lesbian can now wear her uniform to a gathering of lesbian literary people is huge.

I finally met my publisher in person and learned that I truly like her as a person. She is kind of like the Godfather…. “My loyalty is to the family.” (Picture Marlon Brando, only tall, slender, and sexy.) It feels good to be part of the Sapphire Books Publishing family; like I can point out someone who was mean to me and they’ll end up with a horse head in their bed. In all seriousness, though, when I broke my glasses on Liz McMullen’s breasts, the first thing I did was turn to Isabella with the two pieces and a pout and she took them and tried to fix them. When my migraine made me sick to my stomach, she showed up with a cool rag and a glass of water. After that, I kept referring to her as a nurturer… perhaps because of that, I felt comfortable enough to talk about personal subjects with her. And one of my favorite memories of Isabella was sitting in her room, telling her all about my love life (or lack thereof.) She gestured to herself, sitting cross-legged on the bed with her arms wrapped around her knees and said, “What about my body language says, ‘please share this with me?’”

I made contacts and I made friends. I networked, I laughed, I shared meals, I hugged most everyone. Some more than once. I signed autographs… lots of autographs, actually. Some of them were even requested. I met so many wonderful people that I can’t possibly begin to list them all. Schileen who kept coming out with zingers that made me spit out my drink. Aschleigh who for the first time got to see what it’s like to hang out with a bunch of lesbians. Jaynes who gave me a neck rub and cured my migraine… And yet…

My takeaway from this conference is that I crawled into bed with Linda Kay Silva. I’m not going to tell the story. First of all, the actual story is way more mundane than the first sentence. Second, I want to leave it to the readers’ imaginations. Perhaps they’ll write fan fiction about it. (If so, could you make me a tall, buff blond with large but perky breasts? And make sure to write a whole scene in which LK pursues me with panting ardor. Thanks.) Suffice to say, there I was, in bed with Linda Kay Silva, my hero, my mentor, my former professor, and now my dear friend. Linda has the distinction of being the reason I even wrote my first novel in the first place. She forced me to work and rework every line of every chapter. I spent several long days cursing her out as I labored over my (ALREADY) edited manuscript. She helped me put out a better product. Her online persona is that of a powerhouse who is larger than life. Her real world persona is exactly the same.

The reason I’m gushing over LK (I mean, besides the obvious fact that I have had a huge crush on her for many years) is that she said something in the acceptance speech she made for her award that I feel needs to be readdressed. She said that older and established authors should mentor someone. I can’t stress enough how much her mentoring did for my writing career. I can’t begin to imagine where I would be without that support, that teaching, that love. And I am going to carry that forward and mentor someone else. When a young writer asked me to read her manuscript recently, I thought about it for a second. I thought about working full-time, going to school full-time, trying to cram in time to write, and the sheer volume of time it takes to nurse my new and borderline unhealthy fascination with author Yvonne Heidt… I almost said no. I almost said, in the politest way possible, that I don’t have time to read someone else’s manuscript right now. And then I thought about Linda. She’s a full-time professor, a full-time writer, a friend to many, a turtle rescuer, a chronicler of the adventures of Alan, and a fastidious perfectionist in regards to  her own work. Yet, she still found time to offer me some really valid criticism of my first novel. She made time before we were even friends to encourage me to write and to keep encouraging me when the self-doubt started kicking in. She spent many hours on the phone, walking me through the ins and outs of being an author and putting out a great product. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I don’t believe I would be here, writing this blog, if it wasn’t for her.

So, I called my young friend back and I said that I would absolutely love to read her manuscript. In the course of the conversation, I was able to tell her some advice that I’ve now embraced since becoming an author. I spent a great deal of time offering suggestions and tips and yes, friendship. And I realized that my takeaway from Linda Kay is that as lesfic authors, it is our duty to care about and be willing to help other authors. And maybe someday, my young friend will be a published author and she’ll turn around and help someone else who wants to be a part of all of this magic.

Or maybe someday, she’ll be writing a blog about crawling into bed with me. A girl can dream, right?

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Well, here we go again.

So, I’m back at the day job. I have to admit, when I left last fall, I didn’t think I would be back. I think I kind of halfway expected that I would be a famous novelist, living in a quaint and cozy (but fully insulated and close to cool things like meditation groups, thrift stores, and Trader Joe’s) log cabin in the woods, working on my third or fourth novel, living in a completely satisfying, but not too ostentatious manner on the regularly rolling in royalties.

Well, that didn’t work out. Things happened…. like my van dying in Illinois while on a road trip and needing to buy a new car. Little things like bills. And the fact that I was kind of floundering about how to even market my charming and engaging first novel. Don’t get me wrong, I love “Man Enough.” The reviews were fantastic. Old, churchy straight people loved it. Young, transsexual twenty somethings loved it. Middle aged moms of gay people loved it. My friend’s grandmother loved it. It won an award. I was invited to speak to a couple of groups. I even did an interview. But… Well, it just didn’t hit a wider audience. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m proud of how well “Man Enough” sold for a first novel. Very proud. And I’m proud of the fact that I even wrote a novel and got it published. And I am proud of the fact that my second novel is coming out in a week. And I am proud of the fact that I am midway through my third novel and already making notes for the fourth. I’m proud. I’m happy.

But then, dammit. I’m working at a grocery store again.

Still, I feel as if I’m moving forward. Small steps, day by day. My publisher has gotten our books into a couple of bookstores and is working on more. We are looking at setting up a couple of signings. I’m going to Dallas for the GCLS literary conference in June. I have a radio interview in a couple of weeks for a lesbian radio show in Madison, Wisconsin. I just hired a wonderful daughter of a friend who sent out press releases to one hundred sources in hopes of getting reviews or interviews.

One step at a time, one book at a time. One interview at a time. One conference at a time. And in the meantime, I need a steady paycheck to help pay the bills and buy dog food. (For Brutus, not me.)

Is it a failure? Not at all. Is it a step backward? Well, maybe. But it is a necessary step that will lead to more steps forward. I am on a journey to follow my dreams and sometimes journeys involve turns and forks in the road, and sometimes, you have to make a u-turn and drive back the way you came for a while, and that’s okay, because the main thing is not how long it takes me to get to my destination, but the fact that I even started the journey at all.

If there is one thing I have learned in the past couple of years is that the best way to get what you want in life is to be grateful for what you already have. I am grateful. I’m more than grateful…. I’m blessed. I’m blessed with a love of writing. I’m blessed with loving and beautiful friends who are my soul mates. I’m blessed with an amazing mom who not only let me move back in with her, but who constantly watches (and spoils) my dog when I make my frequent trips out of town. I’m blessed that I am not afraid to try.

Don’t be afraid to try. I guess that’s the biggest thing I’ve taken from this whole adventure. If you want to do something, just do it. If it doesn’t work out, you’ve done so much more than you would have done if you had never tried. So, I am keeping my heart and mind open. I’m setting my intention to the universe. I want to be a writer who lives off of her writing for the rest of my life. And I want to put out progressively better books and articles. A movie deal wouldn’t come amiss, either.

No matter what happens, though, I am going to keep my heart filled with gratitude for what I already have and for what I have already accomplished. I am going to keep moving forward without trivializing what I have in the present. I am going to live mindfully, while allowing for reaching for my dreams.

Seems as if I have finally achieved a beautiful balance between living in the moment and preparing for the future. That, my friends, is a lovely lesson indeed.

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The Art of Not Taking it Personally

Don Miguel Ruiz, in one of his Four Agreements, wrote, “Don’t take it personally.”  This is a variation on a standard theme within spirituality circles and frankly, I’ve had quite a problem with it. When you get into a situation where someone is abusing you, or calling you names, or bullying a child, how do you not take it personally?

Or, to bring it closer to home, when your partner is being an ass, how do you not take it personally? If you have a hubby who decides he would rather watch baseball than go to dinner with you? What about a sister who tells you that you look fat in that outfit? Your best friend doesn’t return your phone call for a week? Your boss is just plain being a dick?

This is where I have been struggling. It’s all very well and good to say to not take things personally, but how do you reconcile trying to live that without letting someone treat you like a doormat?

And then today, while walking the dog (and I really do seem to always get these periods of illumination during the dog’s elimination), it became clear to me why I can’t take it personally.

See, I have spent a great deal of time over the past couple of years moving into a place on non-judgment. I think it is a process, and it takes practice. For example, when someone comes into the room wearing a strange outfit, and the people I am with make fun of it, I do not. I don’t think anything about it. In fact, I understand that the judgment speaks way more about the person making fun than it does about the person wearing the original outfit. And I have been pretty fond of trying to help others come to a place of non-judgment. For example, in a friend’s recent Facebook thread, there was a heated discussion about people being bothered by seeing adults out in public in pajama pants. Well, I countered that we could never know the whole story as to why they are wearing pajama pants, so we can’t judge. Maybe they have a deathly ill child and had to run to the pharmacy for medicine. Maybe they’ve recently had surgery and can’t wear regular pants. *MAYBE* it’s none of our damn business why they are wearing pajama pants and we should be better people and not judge them. (But see what I am doing there? I’m judging the people who judge.) As I said, it is an on-going process and I think only completely evolved religious masters can ever get to a place of complete non-judgment… after all, as long as there are still rapists and child abusers and people who torment animals, I will still have judgment in my heart.

-But- I think I have come a long way in my non-judgment and I think it has helped me to be a better friend. I don’t care what my friends wear or what they do for a living or how much money they make or whether or not their houses are clean.

So how does this on-going practice relate to not taking things personally? Well, it finally hit me today. It really isn’t about me. If someone tells me I look ugly in my outfit, that says absolutely nothing about me. I haven’t changed one bit from the moment before they said it to the moment after. *THEY* are the ones who have changed, by speaking in unnecessary cruelty. And I don’t know why they are like that… perhaps they’ve had a bad day. Perhaps they feel as if they look terrible today. Perhaps they are just nasty. The point is, I don’t know. I can’t know. None of us can ever truly know the entire depth of another person’s mind and heart. Heck, some days, I don’t know why *I* do everything I do… let alone anyone else. So, in the spirit of non-judgment, I must also put myself into the mind frame of not judging someone when their behavior goes against my own comfort.

Now, does that mean that you should just put up with someone who acts like an asshole to you? No, definitely not. Just because you are trying to be non-judgmental doesn’t mean you have to live with someone who treats you like crap or remain friends with someone who is always trying to drag you down. You make a choice. Are the good parts of the friendship worth the bad parts? I have gotten rid of friends who seem to do nothing but complain. I’m not going to judge them… perhaps they have valid reason for always being unhappy. But I prefer to choose my happiness and being around negative people makes it more difficult.

You can make your own decisions based on other people’s actions, but you can’t control their actions. I was just having this conversation with my bestie the other day. I do not like to talk on the phone, so unless it is an emergency, I am probably not going to call you back, maybe not for weeks. Text me, Facebook me, email me, whatever. I just really don’t like to spend much time on the phone. You can take it personally, or you can practice non-judgment and understand that that is just the way that I am. You can then choose to accept it and stay in my life in a NON telephoney kind of way, or choose NOT to accept it and cut me out of your life. Either way, we are each being responsible for our own decisions and we are not taking it personally! Just understand that no matter what, you cannot fully understand the reasons for a persons actions.

You can carry this over into your job, too. If a customer is being irritable, remind yourself not to take it personally. Practice the art of non-judgment. Remove yourself from the situation and remind yourself, in a non-judging sort of way, that their behavior has really nothing to do with you, and everything to do with them.

You really do get out of life what you put into it. But you must be doing it for yourself. You cannot change someone else’s life, you can only change your own.

Non-judgment, personal responsibility, and not allowing others to dictate your life all fall in the same space. Removing your ego from the equation allows for better life decisions. Of course, I’ve read all of this stuff and I have tried to absorb it. But I don’t think it really means anything until it sinks in all of a sudden while walking the dog…. BAM! Lightning strike. I don’t know why it took me so long to figure it out.

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My Inner Calling

I saw this on Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s facebook page today. “Where does the energy want to go? Feel it in your body, heart, and spirit. Follow where it leads. It will be easiest to face whatever challenges arise if you are honouring your inner calling.”

Well, that seems like really great advice, doesn’t it? I mean, honor your inner calling. Who can argue with that? Be true to yourself, follow your dreams, take the road less traveled (if that is your way) and live a joyful life.

The thing is, how do I really know what my inner calling is? I mean, I think I live a pretty good life. I’ve published one novel. My second novel is finished and off to the editors to be red-lined and sent back for edits. My third novel is outlined and the characters are starting to come alive for me. I have a lover who celebrates me for who I am. I have some amazing family members. I have friends who are more than friends, more than family, more than anything that can be described using currently existing words.

I try to wake up happy and grateful and I try to stay happy and grateful throughout the day. I have a car that I love, I have a fantastic and extremely patient dog, I have the books that I want to read and access to more when I want them. I eat well, I exercise, I take a yoga class, and I am taking a full time class load. I like my life.

Then why is there always this pesky little voice in the back of my head saying, “Yeah, but what’s next? What else is there? Where do you want to go? What do you want to do?” Even worse than that is the voice of “wait and see.” Wait until you finish this novel. Wait until you lose fifty pounds. Wait until you have more money in the bank. Wait until… whatever. It’s as if I am caught in an eddy between thinking I am not doing what I should be doing and telling myself that I can’t do those things right now anyway.

I read Oriah’s post today and I thought that it was so timely. Honor your inner calling. I’m going to do that. But first, I need to figure out what my inner calling is.

So I put on some Crosby, Stills & Nash (because if old hippies can’t help you meditate, who can?) and sat down, closed my eyes and started to meditate/pray/ask for guidance/look into my own soul/whatever. And I asked the universe/God/myself/The Creator/the great network of positive energy in the world “What is my inner calling?”

What is my inner calling? Well, duh. My inner calling is to be at peace with myself. That’s what I want. I want to be at peace within myself and I want to help to bring peace to others. And that voice, that pesky voice, the one that likes to throw all of my doubts and insecurities into a pot and stir them around, likes to tell me that I can find peace if only I (insert your own if only here.) If only I went to Sedona. If only I went to India. If only I took that meditation class. If only I went to that drum circle. If only I would make myself meditate every day. If only I could be perfectly centered all of the time. If only I never made stupid mistakes. If only I was never judgmental, if I never said an unkind word, if I never got mad at my partner, if I never snapped at the dog, if, if, if.

If only.

Well, this morning with the help of CS&N, I silenced that little voice for a little while and I thought about what I really need to do to find inner peace. And I realized that there is no such thing as “finding” inner peace. I don’t find it, I create it. I create it within myself. And I don’t create it by jetting off to the spiritual places of the world, I create it by realizing that what I have, right now, is exactly what I chose for myself. I made everything in my life. I am currently making everything in my life. Everything that is happening is happening because of me. And when I come to truly embrace that, I’ll learn that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Peace isn’t in some far off place, and it isn’t in some meditation classes. Those places and activities may be good for me and they may help bring me in line with others who are searching for the same things, but they are not mandatory for my inner peace. My inner peace is right where I am, right now.

Inner peace. Inner. It’s inside of me. It seems pretty self-explanatory when I get right down to it. My peace. My self. My happiness. My gratitude. Peace and joy come not from going out and searching for the secret to inner peace, but from truly having gratitude for what I do have in my life.

Inner peace. How about that?

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Strange Days Indeed

Well, I brought in the new year with a bang. More like a loud knocking. A clang? Seems while driving from Ohio to Iowa, with a stop in Michigan, I blew an engine rod. For those of you not in the know, that is not a good thing. In fact, it’s very bad. And it was very bad in a “I’m stuck in Illinois with a dead van and a bunch of stuff and a banjo and a dog” kind of way.

Still, as usual, the universe conspired to make life magical. My friend with whom I was travelling got us off of the turnpike and into the parking lot of a hotel. The hotel clerk called around until she found a mechanic who would look at the van that day. (A Sunday… the day before New Year’s Eve.) The mechanic called a couple of hotels to see who would take dogs, though we ended up taking the advice of the original hotel clerk and going to the La Quinta across the street. The mechanic’s dad drove us back to the hotel.

Meanwhile, once it was determined that the van was unfixable, I junked it and we started working on how to get ourselves out of Illinois. Friends from Iowa offered to come pick us up and drive us back. Friends from Michigan (who happen to be soul sisters from the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival) offered to drive to Illinois and take us to Iowa. Hell of a long road trip for anyone, no matter how you look at it. In the end, we went with the friends from Michigan because we had to check out of the hotel by noon on Monday and we didn’t want to have to sit in the lobby waiting for our Iowa friends to have to make the long drive from there.

So, Michigan friends drove several hours to get us in the early morning of Monday, then helped put all of my stuff into their truck. We then all crammed into cab of the pick up and drove back Iowa.

For the record, Brutus was a champ throughout.

Fast forward. I am carless and in Iowa. I have three thousand dollars to spend on a vehicle. Sadly, that was going to be my “I don’t have to get a day job for several months, which will hopefully be long enough for me to start making some money on my writing” cushion.

Still, I have some time and I have my writing and my second novel is almost done and I know what the third novel is going to be about and I already have the outline. And oddly, I am halfway done with what is going to be my fourth book, but have put it aside because it is a dual work with my spiritual adviser, Jenny and she is *extremely* busy right now. Soooo… that one i going to have wait for a while.

I have to admit that I have been having some moments of doubt. I *try* to always be positive and I *try* to remind myself that I really do believe that everything will work out. But there are those moments when I think, I’m stuck. I’m in between residences and I am not ready to make a commitment to either one. And I have to get a job at some point in the near future and I am going to have to make a decision as to where that job is going to be.

But I’m not despairing. To the contrary, I am going full force. I am writing my fool ass off. I am learning new marketing tricks. I am connecting with more people every day. I need to get to California and soon. Need to meet my publisher and meet my mentor and see my sister and my nieces. (And hopefully have a book signing while I am there.)

I have a possible writer’s retreat to go to in Georgia in May. I have the GCLS literary conference in June in Dallas. I have Jenny’s ordination, also in June, in Michigan. I am still taking a full time class load. And somewhere in there, I need to take some time to make a little money.

So I am putting it out to the universe. Here are my intentions. I want to go to California for a visit… maybe three weeks or a month. I want Ellen to read my book and decide to have me on her show. I want to make enough money in the next three months that I do not have to look for work. I want an inexpensive car that is reliable for long distances and is big enough to hold a banjo, a drum, a dog, me, a couple duffel bags worth of clothes, a laptop computer, and maybe, a mini-trampoline. (Don’t ask.) And I want to master the banjo, learn sign language, become fluent in Italian, and get super fit.

It sounds ambitious, but you know, stranger things have happened. I once manifested a cheap car and a rolling nightstand for my friend, Aj. Seriously. And there have been several instances when I have thought about a person I haven’t spoken to in a while and they call me. Also, I proclaimed that I was going to manifest a banjo in December and my mother bought me one for Christmas. We can make things happen through the power of positive thinking and I am going to make things happen. Here it is in writing. This is what I want.

What do you want to do this year?

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My Personal Year in Review

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts lately on Facebook that offer to show me my “2012 year in review.” Well, I have to admit that I tend to keep the Facebook world pretty well-informed as to what is going on in my life, so there’s probably a pretty thorough accounting there of my 2012. Yet, I have hesitated to click on the link.

The question is whether or not I really want to go back over everything that has happened this year. My grandmother died. My long-term relationship ended. I finished writing my novel. I found deep wells of strength and love within myself. I worked on throwing all of the truly negative people out of my world and embracing the positive and loving ones. I made the Dean’s list in school every semester. I self-published my book as a ebook. I got a job, then quit it a few months later when my novel’s royalties started coming in. I got a publisher and now, a printed book.

I went to an amazing womyn’s music festival. (There is another blog about that on this page.) After many years with a partner who didn’t like people, I was pretty used to being solitary. I was definitely anxious about spending a week in the woods with thousands of womyn. But it was one of the best things I have ever done in my life. The consequences of that festival are still guiding me every day. I went deeper into my own spiritual quest. I met several womyn who helped me to solidify what I was really searching for in my life. I started questioning God and managed to reconcile my own beliefs about spirituality with my own previous misconceptions about the term. I went to church. I wrote a blog about Christianity and Homosexuality that went viral and was actually read aloud in at least two different churches.

I absolutely embraced being single. I made a loud and very public announcement to all of my friends and family that I was not even going to consider dating until I had at least finished my degree. (Another couple of years.) Two months later, I realized that I had fallen in love. That figures. My love is a woman whose spiritual journey is a lot like mine in a lot of ways and very different in many ways. But we converge in several key areas and we are able to respectfully and lovingly disagree in others.

I drove with my friend Kim to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. I drove by myself to visit a friend in Michigan. I drove by myself to visit (visit? It was a six week stay) my love in Iowa. I drove back to Ohio in the snow. Oh, and snow! After ten years in Phoenix and seven in the Virgin Islands, I got to relearn about snow. Driving back to Ohio from Iowa in a small snow storm, I called my sister and said, “I just slid when I was changing lanes.” She said, “The rule of lane changing in the snow is to take your foot off of the gas and casually drift over. And at no time should you put your foot on the brake during the maneuver.” It’s important to note here that before this, I had always had driving anxiety. Or at least, I think I have had driving anxiety for the past several years. But I haven’t had a moment of anxiety behind the wheel this year, not even during that snow storm.

Is there more? There is so much more. I lost 45 pounds between May 29th and the present. I found several pairs of jeans in a drawer at my mom’s house that had been shoved away because I couldn’t fit into them. They now all fit and some of them are too big. I became a vegetarian, then started eating meat again and now I am going back to the veggie lifestyle again.

I started taking yoga while living in/visiting Iowa. I found the library. I quickly discovered which stores I preferred. I made some friends. I learned that six weeks is either way too long or way too short of a visit. I started building a life there and I miss it. Now I have been home for three weeks and I am rebuilding my life here again. In a few days, I am going back to Iowa. And I will miss Ohio again when I leave. I’m learning that it is okay to miss people and that I still carry their love when we are far away.

I learned that everything is within me. Everything. Success, failure, fear, love, sadness, happiness, disappointment. Everything that I feel is my choice. Everything that I do is my choice. I knew this, but I think I had suppressed it. I relearned that I can only do something because it is what I must do, not because other people expect it of me. I’ve embraced my own power. I’ve moved more into myself. Self-knowing. Not that I am perfect at it… at any of it. I just know its importance and I am mindful of it almost all of the time.

Is there more? Yes. I reveled in the joy of being around some of my biological family again. It was extremely expensive and very difficult to get back to Ohio from St. Croix, so I didn’t get to see them very often. I expressed my joy and gratitude for their presence often and unreservedly. I thanked the universe for the chance to live with my mother again as a grown up and realize how very much I love her. (And how much alike we are.)

What else? I entered a couple of short story contests and lost. (But at least I entered, which I had never done before.) I won a big LGBT literary award for my novel. Actually, I won two… and got an honorable mention in another. I went through the whole editing process.I made it to number 8 on the Amazon list of bestsellers in lesbian fiction. I went to speak to a transgendered support group about my book and they loved me!  I made the terrible realization *after* the novel had gone to print that the “about the author” was completely wrong. At the time that we were gathering the information, I was on my way to California… my epic road trip. So, the about the author has me living in California. However, stopping in Iowa became more than a stopover and other things converged that suddenly made the California trip seem better postponed. Of course, I didn’t think to change the “about the author page.” But that’s all right. I figure it will make an interesting topic of conversation when I go on Ellen.

Is there more? Yes.

But I’m done now. It was an amazing year of joy, love, self-discovery, and peace. There was some turmoil, but I found I recovered quickly. I do believe that we choose our own attitudes and I choose to be happy as often as possible.

And what’s next? I don’t really want to make New Year’s resolutions. I believe I should be striving for betterment throughout the year. But here is what is on my plate for 2013.

I want to learn to meditate. Confession: It makes me nervous when my heart rate starts changing while meditating. I want to learn to stop worrying about that and find a way into my own soul. I want to continue my yoga classes. I want to branch out into other yoga classes. I love the gentle yoga that I take, but I am ready to take a class that challenges me. My yoga teacher teaches other, more difficult classes, so I am going to check out one of those. I want to finish my second novel so I can move onto the third one that is consuming my brain. I want to collaborate with my friend Jenny on our idea of a book that reconciles and merges her God and my Creator. (We aren’t as far apart as you would think.) I want to continue with my weight loss journey. I want to complete P90X again. I want to take a zumba class. I want to get back to being fully vegetarian. I want to be a kind and mindful person as often as possible. I want to be a friend my friends can count on. I want to be a loving and respectful partner to my girlfriend. I want to continue to be the world’s most awesome dog mom.

I want to work at, or continue to work at, being healthy in my body, my mind, and my soul. I want to fuel my body with vitamin rich, natural foods. I want to fuel my mind with learning new things. I want to fuel my soul with love and empowerment and gratitude.

I want to learn sign language. I would like to learn to speak Italian. I want to become better at playing my banjo and when I have gotten more proficient at that, I want to learn to play the guitar.

I want to (and I will) go back to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. In my heart, I believe that it is one of the best ways in the world to reaffirm my desire to keep moving toward who I want to be. It is possible to find like minded womyn there, no matter which aspect of myself I am hoping to share. Banjo players, sure. Spiritual questers? Absolutely. Writers…. you know it. Fest is what you make of it, and what I made of it last year was a desire to meet soul sisters. I did. Next year, I want to do more workshops, meet more incredible womyn. I’ll do it.

I want to go to Arizona. I want to go to California. I want to go to Asheville, NC. I want to tour bookstores and sign books. I want to sign your book.

Is there more? Yes. But that’s enough for now. It seems ambitious. But it all boils down to one resolution after all. I want to live my life truly alive.

Or as Mr. Thoreau once said:   I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.

This year, I want to suck out all of the marrow of life.

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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.

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