Tag Archives: queer

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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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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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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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!

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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

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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

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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?

http://www.amazon.com/Man-Enough-ebook/dp/B008GVR7BK/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1341484984&sr=1-1

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