Saturday, December 9, 2017

Bigly, Badly Big

The Bigly, the Badly Big, the Few.

We didn't:
                Mix up our facts
to counter attacks,
               Claim sorted details
sordid allusions,
               Stoop to gaslight
even when right,
              Or call out mansplain
to flex our might.

We didn't:             
                Strawman evidence
to get our two cents,
               Gild our grit
to prove we were fit,
               Pimp pride
to improve our own ride,
              Or give in
when first heard
                          was first served.

We kept:
              What tested true
like being kind,
              Trusting time would find,
Karma soon behind,
              Cleaning the mess
we could confess,
             Knowing joyful persistence
a better resistance.

We kept:
              Keeping on
being bigger,
              Working around
to gain common ground,
              Saving all agreed
and disagreed.

We stayed:
                  Sleeping well
through the night,
                  Without losing
our light.

We were:
               Too big,
too bad,
               Too beautifully ugly
to washout,
               In the absurd

Were we,
               too few?
Alone on some big, bad steps in DC.



Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Christmas Romance Teaser

Happy Holidays! Here is a teaser from my story, Peaches for Honey, about one special Christmas in the Marktplatz of Fredericksburg, Texas as featured in Affinity Rainbow Publications' Christmas Medley (Out now in all eBook formats).
Elysia Cisneros was still somewhat shocked, even after nearly twenty years, when her staunchly Catholic father encouraged her lesbian dating life. 
“Elysia Honey, I hardly ever hear of you talk of any romantic potential with much enthusiasm.” He stood with his ranch boots firmly planted in the restaurant’s kitchen, arms crossed, cowboy hat on the counter behind him.
Ely produced a smile for him and gave a small shrug. “I just haven’t found anyone worth that kind of enthusiasm, Dad.” She turned her back to him to finish wrapping up the holiday cakes that Jack and Vanessa had prepped for her to use in welcoming the B&B’s guests next week.
Her dad cleared his throat and harrumphed softly, a nervous habit, and Ely knew she wouldn’t like what he said next. “Are you sure?”
“What do you mean, am I sure?” Her fingers tightened on the plastic wrap.
“I just mean, are you sure that you haven’t dated anyone worth that sort of enthusiasm, or are you just protecting your heart because you can’t forgive Georgia Delaney?”
Ely spun to glare at him, if for no other reason than for speaking the name that should not be mentioned, but he was staring earnestly at the floor with his hat now in hand. 
“I don’t mean to upset you, Honey. I just worry about my only little girl. I want you to be happy.”
“I am happy.” Ely gesticulated at everything around her. “I have all of this. A thriving business that I created with my best friend in my hometown where I’m surrounded by my loving family.” 
He met her eyes, nodded, and smiled. “That’s true, but I wish you the same deep and abiding love your mother and I have as well.”
Ely sighed. “I know you do, Dad, but I don’t think everyone gets that sort of love in a lifetime.” She shrugged. Twenty years ago, with Georgia Delaney, she had believed she would be one of the lucky ones, but now she wasn’t so sure. 
Her father suddenly grinned so widely that his tanned leather face blossomed into a thousand happy lines. “Well, your Abuela feels that you are, and you know how it is when she gets a feeling.”
Ely couldn’t help but laugh, “She is always, always, eerily right somehow.”
“Exactly.” He leaned over and kissed the top of her head. “All I ask is that you keep an open mind, my Honey.” He headed for the back door. “I’ll see you later.”
“I promise I’ll try, Dad. I love you,” she called after him.
He turned toward her before stepping out the door. “I love you, too.”
The door swung shut behind him, leaving the kitchen empty and silent.
Ely took a deep breath and, to get into the holiday spirit, started humming Christmas carols to herself as she worked to finish wrapping and storing the cakes. She wasn’t thinking of anything, just enjoying the certainty of her task and the peace of an empty kitchen after all the administrative hustle and bustle of the week. Then her memories of a love she had once believed was deep and abiding smacked her subconscious silly.
She stopped humming “Deck the Halls” in the middle of the second verse. The smell of baked bread, cinnamon, and candied peaches rising above the holiday cakes in front of her turned cloying. She always avoided that Christmas carol. There was no reason to hum it now. She usually turned off the radio, or walked away from choirs singing it, unwilling to hear it and remember the golden hair and warm kiss of peppermint hot chocolate that had once gone with it. Taking a ragged breath, she tried to sidestep the bittersweet memories, but got lost in them once again anyway. . .

“I’ve always loved this one,” Georgia Delany had said as the radio beside her played a gentle instrumental version of “Deck the Halls.” Her blonde hair was a deep gold in the fading sunlight. They were snuggled up on a fleece blanket, their backs against the wide, bracing trunk of their tree. The old live oak’s limbs were bare and black above them. Stars started to show between the branches in the deeper, velvety blue fingers of twilight spreading overhead.
Elysia was eighteen and her whole world revolved around the beautiful girl beside her. First her best-friend and then, as they discovered together, so much more. They were inseparable.
“I’ve always loved you,” Georgia admitted.
Georgia kissed her, tasting of the peppermint hot chocolate they shared. A feeling of pure joy pierced Ely’s heart. Georgia’s elegant but always lightly calloused hands caressed her face. She leaned into the touch and just the feel of that love seared her vision with a thousand sparkling lights. The falling night brought a chill air that neither of them noticed as they made love beneath their favorite oak on the hill near the old balanced rock site. They had missed Fredericksburg’s tree lighting, but still managed to make it into town to wander the Marktplatz and watch the children harry Santa Claus. 

Ely hadn’t known then, but the sweetness of that day would become even more heavy and golden because it was the last Christmas she would spend loved by Georgia Delaney. Ely’s whole world would turn dark the following Christmas. Cold grief and fear would cleave her heart, as she hid alone, curled up as far under her parent’s Christmas tree as she could get, while everyone else went to town. After the Thanksgiving break of her freshman year at Southern Methodist University, Georgia would never return home to Fredericksburg again.
Ely gave a ragged sigh and shook her head, hoping to clear it of the girl who got away. Or was she herself the girl who got away? It probably didn’t matter, it hurt the same either way, and still so sharply. She rubbed her chest and turned on her heel. Her clogs squeaked against the restaurant’s kitchen floor. She had to pull her step short so she wouldn’t collide with Jack’s sous chef, Vanessa O’Bannon.
Vanessa’s eyebrows drew in to form a vague frown. “What are you still doing here, Ely?”
“Yeah, what are you doing in my kitchen?” Ely’s best-friend, business partner, and executive chef, Jack Waller, boomed from behind Vanessa. He crossed his skinny arms and gave her a mock glare.
Ely wiped her hands on her jeans and gave another long sigh.
“That kind of sigh can only mean one thing,” Jack proclaimed with a smug look born of knowing her too well. “Oh yeah, what’s that?” Ely crossed her arms.
“Either you’re mourning Van’s move again or the untimely death of your dating life.” Despite his baseball hat, a shock of blonde bangs played loose over his forehead, and he gave her a dazzling grin with one blue eye sparking beneath the blonde fringe.
She shook her head and felt a smile overtake her own face. “I will miss Van.”
Jack nodded. “No doubt, but Katy is ready to be a sous chef and we will be fine.”
“I know.” Ely directed her smile at Van. “But I will still miss her.”
Van squeezed her shoulder. “As I will both of you, but Jack is right, tonight is not the time to mourn anything.”
“Exactly. You need to get your ass in gear and go represent our interests with all those lovely, lucrative tourists.” Jack poked one finger in the air and struck a pose she knew was intended to elicit her mirth.
“I know.” And Ely did know that it was important for someone from the Camphouse B&B and the Lavender Restaurant to be seen at these events. She even served on the Chamber of Commerce’s event committees and made sure their businesses were obviously touted as sponsors. Her usual urge to socialize and bask in the communal glow was just uncharacteristically flagging this holiday season.
For one microsecond, a look of concern filled Jack’s features, and then his teasing grin flashed back. “Good.  Now get your fine Latina rear out of that ratty flannel and into something better looking, and get down to the parade.”
“What?  I can’t go like this?”  Ely looked down at the frayed jeans she’d coopted from her older brother and cut to size a decade ago, and the nearly sage instead of olive plaid of her favorite flannel shirt.
Van mimed a look of horror and visibly cringed. “Funny. Ha. No.  I know the odds are small, but there is at least a one-percent chance you might run into some spectacularly beautiful lesbian you would like to seduce.”
“At Fredericksburg’s light parade? Really?” Ely’s skepticism coated her voice in disbelief.
“Hey, you never know,” Van replied.
“And if this miracle does occur, then she’ll be here for all of thirty-six or so hours—which means I can basically ask her if she’d be interested in a five-minute fling,” Ely reasoned.
“Of flaming hot lesbian love,” Jack interjected.
“I don’t see a problem with that approach,” Van added.
Jack pointed one finger in the air. “It has definite possibilities.” Ely shook her head. “Or not, you nut-balls.” “You love us.” Jack chucked her chin.
“I do.”
“And we’re right,” Van sang.
“Go flirt already. You have to make the magic happen,” Jack pushed her toward the door.

Determined to give a joyful evening its best shot, Ely slid on her tightest, black, skinny jeans and a fitted, red, cashmere sweater. She plucked the black cowboy boots with the red and green Christmas cactus embroidered on the sides from her closet. Jack had gifted them to her last
Christmas, claiming, “Kitsch is the next great fashion fad.” They still made her smile. There was a definite upside to being the old fag hag to a sweet shopping Mary.  She slipped them on, the leather still shiny, but supple enough to glide smoothly over her bamboo, reindeer socks.
A pair of dangling, silver-star earrings, and a little frizz-control mousse to soften her dark curls into more enticing ringlets, completed her primping. She surveyed the total effect in the mirror and gave herself a half-shrug and a grin. 
“Not too bad, Ely. Maybe Jack is right and forty is the new thirty.”
She walked up the long pink-granite gravel drive from her cabin, past the rental cottages, and back up to the old limestone millhouse housing the Camphouse Bed and Breakfast’s single rooms, lobby, and office. The smell of cedar was sharp in the crisp cool air, and the winter sun angled low and lit Triebs Creek in flashes of silver and gold. The creek burbled over rocks and wandered on behind the millhouse and the large cedar and limestone barn that Jack had converted into their restaurant, The Lavender. As she walked, Ely felt a surge of pride at all they had accomplished over the last twelve years. When she had first bought the old Triebs Creek mill, eleven miles north of Fredericksburg, it was a gamble whether she could convert it into any place guests would call a haven, and seek it out beyond the township’s borders. The Vista Ranch, next door sold off five-hundred acres that became a professional golf course, and Ely had become more certain guests would appear. Once the course opened, Jack added the five-star dinning, a shuttle service to the lavender farms and vineyards, and on-call masseuses. Suddenly, the Camphouse B&B and Jack’s Lavender Restaurant were in high demand among golfers and the less athletically inclined spouses of avid golfers. Now they were almost always fully booked. 
Ely went around to the backside of the restaurant, pleased to find her Ford F-150 loaded up and ready to go. Jack or Van had already packed the back full of boxes. She was supposed to take the salted-caramel pecan sandies to the booth they shared with the Historical Society in the Christmas Marktplatz. Ely pulled the cover over the boxes and tied it down. She opened the door and found her keys on the seat along with a post-it note. Jack’s handwriting scrawled in purple ink, his favorite color: Bring me fruit cake. He was a massive fan of the Eberle Bakery’s cupcake-sized fruit cakes, probably because they were soaked in Bourbon for six weeks before serving at the Marktplatz.

By the time she made her way to the center of town, the sun was definitely eyeing the horizon. She quickly found an empty vendor-parking spot in the guarded lot behind Fredericksburg’s old, octagonal, Vereins Kirche, or Society Church building. She spared a loving glance to the old white building with its sage-colored shutters and roof. It was a replica, built for the 1936 Texas Centennial celebrations. The original 1847 building had once served the residents of town as an all-in-one church, school, fortress, meeting hall, and polling place.  Now it housed the Vereins Kirche Museum and preserved their town’s history, and it still served as a focal point to many social gatherings. A abundance of bright red and peppermint poinsettias, dappled in Christmas lights, corseted the building. Boughs of juniper and pine, tied together with red velvet bows, graced the top of each window, and plump globs of mistletoe hung suggestively above the doors, giving the building a festive dress for the evening. Ely smiled at it and then hustled out of the truck. She decided to check in with the folks at the booth before hauling more than one armload of boxed cookies into their midst, so she made her way around the growing crowd toward the Marktplatz.
 Children darted in front of her, laughing. A harried mom trailed behind them, offering her
an apologetic smile. Ely smiled back. Smells of cinnamon and roasted nuts wafted towards her.
She found herself humming again, but the song was “We Three Kings” this time.
She found she was finally enjoying herself and then a blonde head, in a French braid, bobbed within the crowd ahead. The languid pattern of the walk was so like the step of Georgia
Delaney that Ely froze in place. Her heart thumped erratically, and she shook her head. It couldn’t be. ..

Check out the book for the rest of the story, and 11 other fabulous tales of merry magic and romance. Cheers!
For more Merry Magic, check out the stories in Affinity Rainbow Publications' Christmas Medley

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Scene that Playing with Matches lost to Hurricane Harvey

The good often comes with the bad and vice versa. My newest novel was published on November 14th and we were flooded out of our house on August 28th. Writing and editing the novel mostly occurred before Hurricane Harvey impacted Houston...but not all of it.
I was traveling for work and fun in the weeks prior to Harvey and trading rewrites with #AffinityRainbowPublications' editors (and my amazing mentor Erin O'Reilly) so I e-mailed myself a scene intending to slip it in before the final edits. Harvey had other plans. I spent my first full night home after those travels putting pets, furniture, important paperwork, and survival rations upstairs instead. Things get lost in such circumstances.
So now we're back in our house, putting our lives back to normal, and I finally found the lost scene. I think it would have added something special to the book, but maybe not. Maybe fate stepped in for a reason. What do you think?

Gus flopped over in bed and picked up the phone on its fifth ring. "Hello."
Her sister's voice rang a little too joyously, "Happy, Happy Birthday, Sissy."
"Thanks, June. What time is is anyway?"
"I'm surprised you even have to ask."
Gus groaned. Of course her sister called to tell her happy birthday at
the same time every year, the exact minute she was born six forty
five in the morning, Eastern Standard Time.
June laughed. "So how goes the dating?"
Gus grumbled and shifted in bed, trying to clear her head enough to
speak with some articulation, but June rushed into the silence, "Oh, I,
uh, oh, I didn't wake you up when you had a guest. Did I?"
That set Gus laughing. "No. No. Fat chance."
"Well, given your tone of defeat young lady, I'd almost rather I had.
So the dating is going that well, huh?"
Gus grumbled, her tongue still thick with sleep and fatigue.
"Well, I know the right woman is out there for you," June said with a
pregnant pause at the end of her sentence.
"But?" Gus prompted.
"But nothing. I didn't say but," June protested, her voice hitting
false echoes of merriness.
"It was implied in your tone."
"So what being a psychologist makes you a mind reader or something."
"Sometimes I can predict behavior before it occurs, yes, but in this
case I think it is being your sister that does it. I can hear you
thinking it almost."
"But," June started and then they both laughed before she could continue,"but maybe you're being too
"I don't want someone who has never had baggage. Just someone mature
enough to have dealt with it already. Someone without any deep, dark
secrets or unsettled regrets or haunting ambitions."
"Hmm." The sceptism was clear in June's murmaration. "Honey, we all
have baggage still even if we dealt with some of it before. Even you
have baggage still."
Gus felt it too, she had to admit, but she couldn't name her own.
Maybe it was something too small to see for herself, so she challenged
June,"Like what?"
"You're scrappy."
"I'm scrappy? How on earth is that baggage?"
June sighed. "It's in everything you do. You were stuck in the middle
in our family and you had to fight for time and attention. You're
small and pert and pretty and you still have to fight to get people to
take you seriously even though you're a doctor. I don't think you can
help it. It's just a chip on your shoulder. You think you have to
fight for almost everything still."
"I don't think I have to fight for my family's love and attention."
"Granted, but you had a few decades to deal with that particular
aspect of your baggage already. What about romantic love? If someone
showed interest in you my dear sister, can you honestly say that you
would take that interest seriously if you didn't have to fight for it
first? Or would you just assume they gave it because they wanted some
thing from you?"
"What do I have that anyone would want?" Gus looked around the tiny
bedroom of her rented apartment. The hundred year old walls flaked
flat paint that probably had lead in it.
"What you have always had in spades, baby girl, lots of truly
compassionate, beautiful empathy. I'm no psychologist, but I'm sure
you feel like it is a limited and tested commodity. I know I do for
Gus shrugged even though June couldn't see her. "Maybe."
"Maybe." June echoed before adding, "I understand why you might guard
your heart, why you'd want someone already beyond their baggage. I
just think that might be a little too much to hold out for and one of
these days I'd really like my call to interrupt some sexy morning
They broke into laughter again, and as June bid her a happy birthday
one more time before hanging up, Gus made a wish closely mirroring her
sister's corny sentiment. Sexy morning gymnastics would be a great birthday present.

I'm a little sad the scene didn't make it in, but the two 5-star reviews the book has since garnered on Amazon make me think all is well that ends well. I feel extremely lucky just to be at home again and blessed that my entire family is safe, even our pet fish. Our neighborhood is rebuilding, and the reason I wrote Playing With Matches in the first place seems more true than ever: continuously challenging our own preconceptions helps us build many resilient and worthwhile relationships, including a lasting love.

Harvey arrives on our doorstep, enters the house an hour after this photo, and we spend 24 hours sheltering upstairs in the dark with the Coast Guard circling.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Life and Other Full Contact Sports

As an I-O psychologist specializing in teamwork and leadership in extreme environments (e.g. outer space, healthcare), I've spent an insanely large portion of my time reading about, debating, and defining grit, determination, perseverance, and resilience. My wife would say I've expounded ad nauseam on the minute variations in these near-synonyms with a less-than-entertaining obssesive scientific curiosity. (Note: I can also use words like they're going out of style soon.)

My professional preoccupations and my amateur athletic forays into team sports like Rugby have taught me that it is easiest to maintain confidence and sportsmanship when you're winning. It's even still pretty easy when your losing epic battles but believe you'll win the war. The real grit comes in when there is no doubt you're going to lose, when you have to politely keep trying despite the 11th straw that broke the camel's back being heaped on your head, when you have to sing and dance in the freezing cold to keep your soul alive in a Nazi concentration camp of unfairness (ala Viktor Frankl or Primo Levi or Dietrich Bonhoeffer). And even if you manage that kind of grit, then the brutal need for resilience to survive the survivor-guilt and emotional fall-out post-events might still kill you or your kindness (e.g. see the perils of returning from a year on the International Space Station).

This all isn't to say that my challenges and extenuating circumstances have been especially awful or particularly unusual. They are the stuff that all of our lives are made up of: living out of our home while our house is repaired after flooding during Harvey, the death of a good friend, the death of my sweet mother-in-law, unexpected work contracts, hiring new employees, having a novel published, a car recall, an infection, a sprained ankle, a lost wallet know what I mean. We all have excuses, even good ones; but it's like my grandfather used to say, "Excuses are like assholes. We all have them and they all stink." 

I failed Nanowrimo 2017 because I chose to let my challenges and extenuating circumstances take priority. The point here is why. Why did I do that? Why does it matter?

Grit and resilience, those animals of perseverance are extremely complex and unbelievably messy. Taming them requires a lot of quality self-care be done and be done first. First, I must be kind to myself, so that I can be kind to others or there is no point in perseverance. Rude perseverance is dishonorable in that it does too much harm for too little return. 
As a respectable statesman and third-rate poet, once wrote, “Life is mostly froth and bubble, Two things stand like stone. Kindness in another's trouble, Courage in your own.” (― Adam Lindsay Gordon)
I will lose Nanowrimo 2017, but I make great stone per Gordon's advice. There is nothing wrong with writing in December. I chose to let other things take priority so that I, and my support network, can live to try again. 
As Cherry-Gerrard concluded at the end of The Worst Journey in the World, "And I tell you, if you have the desire for knowledge and the power to give it physical expression, go out and explore.... If you march your Winter Journeys you will have your reward, so long as all you want is a penguin's egg. " 
Mostly what matters, is that I just don't quit exploring. I keep writing. All I want are those penguin eggs, the knowledge of how to write these stories well. I will do whatever I have to do to make another, the next, one more author-expedition into writing fiction possible.

My Nanowrimo 2017 failure is ultimately just a weather delay.
The Penguins are Out There, just like the Truth.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Hard to Edit

A grammatically twitty poem about being a writer from Texas.

Treacle comes in black,
Molasses in gold,
in my grandmother's larder,
somewhat like England,
but harder
and probably already
as twice-borrowed-over
as the language I leak.
I used to could
and I'm fixing to,
in a bit,
go proper on you,
but in the mean time,
I'm hard to edit like that.

Dinner is lunch,
because supper is light,
back at the ranch.
We used to could
speak German, Spanish, Greek,
two hundred years back,
when we were immigrants
gone pioneer,
but now we speak
Texgerm, Spanglish, Greex,
and we're hard to edit like that.

My mamma raised an urban cowgirl,
thinks Caribbean cowboys are suave,
and esteems all Luckenbach Buddhas.
I never could 
see the oxymoron others' saw in all that,
so I'm fixing to
sing along to Lighten' Hopkins
while reading Shakespeare,
and I'll probably borrow a spot,
inspired and dripping contradiction.
I've heard it said before,
I'm hard to edit like that.

The whole state
went from a hundred years
staunchly blue democrat,
to almost thirty-long
adamant red republican.
We never could
do anything half-ass,
and we're always fixing to
pull ourselves up
by our own bootstraps,
in every verb tense
under the Texas sun.
We're difficult to know
and hard to edit like that.

I used to could worry
about sounding like a hick,
but now I've got too much education
to fall for that self-conscious trick,
so I'm fixing to just accept
I ain't never gonna be a grammar delight,
and bless those sweet little hearts
forced to help the world read
all us Texas scribblers
even though
we're hard to edit like that.

Like me, snow-bright sand, makes some photos of Texas hard to edit.

Friday, October 6, 2017

40 Albums that Make the Writer

The music I write to has been heavy on my mind lately. My 3rd novel, Playing with Matches, releases on November 14th. So I've been doing edits of course, and since it's also October now, I am preoccupied with outlining my 4th novel to get ready for this November (National Write a Novel Month).

In preparation for #NANOWRIMO, I implore you to get ready to #BeMightyWrite along with me by spotting your 40 most inspirational writing-along-to-the-music albums. These are the albums that makes us bleed onto the page and shape our writing zietgeist.

The rules are: 1) only one album per artist, 2) whole albums (and not just songs), 3) any genre, and 4) help make you the writer you are today. For bonus, try not to rely on many/ any greatest hits albums and let us know what songs help you write the most and why.

Below are mine, in no certain order.

WARNING: This is not a greatest albums list of any sort. In fact, I don't really like some of these, but yet they are influential and I write to them blaring on the stereo headphones.

1. The Cure - Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me
The clever lyrics, complex symbolism, double entendres, and catchy hooks make me itch to write something, anything, now. The whole bloody thing is Just Like Heaven. Dive in.

2. Everything But The Girl - Temperamental
It's hard to make time to write. My sweet spot is often late, in the Low Tide of the Night, and this one keeps me in the groove, even when the words get Temperamental and there is no one to Blame.

3. Stone Roses - The Stone Roses
I honestly can't say why this one is so damn right for writing. I haven't been able to stop playing it since I first discovered it my freshman year of college. The first track, I Wanna Be Adored whispers into my ear like many of my characters do begging for voices in print. Going Down is exactly what new love looks like in most romance novels, and Elephant Stone is deliciously open to interpretation like any good poetic description.

4. Waylon Jennings - Nashville Rebel
No record company would cut a four hour plus album like this today, and even if they did, I don't think any other artist could give you the heart of a story in each and every song on it like Waylon did here. Stop the World (And Let Me Off) is a bedrock writing anthem.

5. Fall Out Boy - From Under the Cork Tree
Each song on this album is an excellent chapter title. I give a listen to any one of them and 2,000 words come around faster than a Sophomore Slump.

6. George Strait - Troubadour
It is extremely hard to pick only one influential George album, but in terms of being a writer this one takes the prize. The title track reminds me what it's all about and that I will go out the way I came in --just aching to tell a story. (If Heartaches were Horses and House with No Doors are also writing highlights, as they remind me that the best stories require conflict.)

7. Ella Fitzgerald - Let No Man Write My Epitaph
As a writer, I think even this album title is cool. Every single song on this album describes quintessential experiences that belong in many stories. Haven't you felt like Black Coffee, thought I Can't Give You Anything But Love, and wondered Who's Sorry Now? You can bet readers do.

8. Billie Holiday - All or Nothing At All
Listening to this album is like smoking a really great cigarette and drinking a very expensive bourbon in a private library while listening to the band play on the lawn outside as the woman you love dances with some millionaire. By the way, it's his bourbon your drinking and if that doesn't make you feel like writing your soul out then you'll "never do nothing."

9. Sarah McLachlan - Remixed
Crunchy cello, jarring synths, and hardcore drum and bass accompany some of Sarah's most piercing songs like Fear and Possession. If I need to write a thriller or a killer, then this album helps.

10. Blue October - The Answers
Totally unsophisticated and definitely not their best album (Foiled probably is), but this one is raw and pure the way that good writing should be, like Breakfast After Ten--and also ready to show the best of the worst like the Darkest Side of Houston's Finest Day. Plus it's good to take a break from writing and jump up and down shouting the lyrics to Italian Radio, "I ended the book that I'm writing."

11. New Order - Total
Almost a best of album, but not. It's a glimpse into that feeling I hope to have one day looking back over my total body of written works and it is a reminder that some of the works I value the most won't always be the most popular--but if I am lucky, then they might still be meaningful to enough people to matter like Bizarre Love Triangle, Regret, and Blue Monday.

12. The Smiths - Hatful of Hollow
This one sums up the sad relief I feel after finishing any story. It's so much fun to play in another world that I almost hate to say I'm done. I can usually already hear them singing Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now in my head as I try to pick which story I should try writing next, and then anytime I'm looking at sales statistics for the finished product I'm singing Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want.

13. Patsy Cline - Gold
This is a best of as it includes every song that went gold so to speak. As a writer, I find these songs still have a lot of gold to mine too. Walking After Midnight, Crazy, I Fall to Pieces, Faded Love, and Sweet Dreams aren't new sentiments but they're true sentiments and listening to them helps me remember to stick with the good stuff.

14. Modest Mouse - Good News for the People Who Love Bad News
Because listening dares you to name your character children "after towns that we've never been to" and have metaphors like "Black Cadillacs circling around outside a funeral." It keeps me from being pleased with my own verbosity and reminds me to look for the blunt, brilliant words instead.

15. Giuseppe Verdi, La Traviata
The epitome of a baroque and beautiful soap opera. I don't think anyone else takes me to the treacle edges of drama and tragedy without falling over into sappy-land like Verdi. This is how a master writes all the highs and lows without going cliche.

16. Beastie Boys - Ill Communication
Sometimes I just have to dance it out to find the muse and this always does the trick. Plus all writing does feel like Ill Communication anyway -- we love playing with words but they're not really perfect at holding our meaning no matter how well we wield them. It's like Sabotage. But we don't stop trying to get the Root Down and that's the Sure Shot.

17. The Chieftans - Santiago
Their best known work is playing traditional Celtic tunes, but for this album they were immigrants and something amazing happened in each song. It reminds me as I write that they best stories come from taking our skills and stretching them, from being a refuge determined to build a new world--even if it is only in my imagination twining old emotions into monuments as they do in Tears of Stone. A guest appearance form Linda Ronstadt and Los Lobos in Guadalupe also says a lot for inviting your talented friends to play with your plot bunnies with you.

18. U2 - Joshua Tree
Before I knew I wanted to be a writer for sure, I rode around in the back seat of parents cars listening to this album, making mini-music video stories in my head for each track. We didn't have cable, so no MTV for me. Ironically, I have now been to that place Where the Streets Have No Name and the dreams loom like ghosts there and tell wonderful stories.

19. Gypsy Kings - Compas
When I need to remember what it is like to be on a hot dusty road in a beautiful foreign land with time on my side or what it's like to have a broken nose in a country where I don't speak the language, this helps with tracks like Ami Wa Wa and Lo Mal y Lo Bien. And late nights writing are made for Salsa De Noche.

20. Neon Trees - Habits
Good stories come from having more fun than I should and not giving a flying shit what others think about my adventures, and this album makes me feel the truth of that philosophy with songs like Sins of My Youth, Love and Adventure, Animal, In the Next Room, and Our War.

21. Violent Femmes - Violent Femmes
The soundtrack of every anti-hero I want to create starts with this album. I would french kiss these songs way before I would even shake hands with Hans Solo. They're worthless and they know it in the sneakiest most endearing way possible. Go ahead and Add It Up.

22. Eric Church - The Outsiders
It isn't my favorite Eric Church album, but it is the best one to write to. All writers are outsiders, and it's (not coincidentally) the name of one of my favorite books too. These songs got your back when the writing gets tough. Cold One helps you find your funny bone for writing that giving up the no-good ex scene. If Like a Wrecking Ball doesn't inspire you to write a better sex scene, then you're hopeless. Roller Coaster Ride is a memory aid for good plot structure.

23. Gary Allen - Get Off On the Pain
Writer's must get off on the pain, or why would we spend so much time making pain feel real to us in our stories? Gary Allen's voice always carries me to that place where I remember desperation well enough to write it, but this album also pulls some bonus punches like Kiss Me When I'm Down, and When You Give Yourself Away (like Hemingway to his critics) before reminding me how We Fly By Night.

24. Rodney Crowell - The Houston Kid
This one probably helps me more than most writers because I am a Houston kid and the imagery in songs like Telephone Road, Highway 17, and I Wish It Would Rain really make sense to me. I aspire to write descriptions and characterizations with this kind of power and efficiency.

25. Incubus - Morning View
My main characters like to sing Have You Ever and Are You In to me late at night in the dark and Echo in my head until I heed their Warning to tell their stories in ways that help people "see through sickness" and spark a few hearts. When I have to write an angry fight scene, little helps as much as listening to Blood on the Ground and Nice to Know You.

26. Cake - Fashion Nugget
This album reminds me that very dark moments and emotions can make for playful, even perky, stories. Contrasting silly tone with terrifying vulnerability is one of the keys to plucking a genuine note sometimes--not taking ourselves so seriously that we can caught up in our own story lest we forget how to read others as described in Open Book. I'm also certain I'm not the only writer who feels exactly as alone and driven as the driver in The Distance. Plus, when those editors' comments get a little too snarky, its fun to sing along to this particular cover of I Will Survive.

27. OneRepublic - Waking Up
Writing really is the Good Life, and many of these songs tell me why in ways that I can hear well.

28. Ani DiFranco - Little Plastic Castles
I write because I want to Loom, and this album understands all about Swan Dives and how I want to be read As Is.

29. Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
Inspiring imagery haunts every track and reminds me to use words like a poet even when telling a story. Also, I think Metal Fire Cracker is an open letter to my readers, "Promise not to tell anyone the things that I told you."

30. The Bellamy Brothers - Sons of the Sun
Because Lovers Live Longer and that is definitely true in fiction-- love stories are more memorable and all readers really want to know about my books is Do You Love As Good As You Look. Also worth mentioning is It's Hard to Be a Cowboy These Days, Classic Case of the Blues, and We Don't Know No One in Nashville when you need to write like you're down and out with a grin.

31. David Gray - White Ladder
Many famous writers have said that all stories are ultimately about love and redemption. On days I believe that then nothing sums up the premise of so many stories so well as three songs on this album, Babylon, Please Forgive Me, and Sail Away. All the great things my characters want to say to beg for love and understanding find their tone here.

32. Randy Travis - Storms of Life
Writing good fiction is all about Digging Up Bones and watching the Storms of Life mix and swirl into threads you can tug enough to unravel and reweave. Sometimes the stories don't work out and then Send My Body Home perks me back up.

33. Imogene Heap - Speak for Yourself
Much like EBTG's Temperemental album, this one is a go-to for late-night-writes. Imogene Heap often plays a dozen instruments herself and then loops them over one another as she sings, which is just amazing, and resembles the cast of characters playing in my head. Headlock, Just For Now, Closing In, and I Am in Love with You mirror the flow of better romances.

34. Alison Krauss and Robert Plant - Raising Sand
This one is haunting. Plus every writer ever will understand songs like Please Read the Letter, and Killing the Blues all too well. We all burn to write something meaningful before we're Gone, Gone, Gone.

35. Harvey Danger - Where have all the merrymakers gone?
Carlotta Valdez, Wooly Muffler, Jack the Lion, and Old Hat illustrate brilliant characterization when I'm flummoxed on how to turn a two-bit character into someone real in just a few words. And writing is a love-hate relationship, so when I'm in that aphasic hate stage I love to bellow Flagpole Sitta.

36. Black Lab - Your Body Above Me
A heady emotional mixture rolled into one palatable pill. Take one listen and call your publisher in the morning because likely side effects are binge writing whole novels. Especially be aware of songs like Wash It Away, Ten Million Years, Time Ago and Can't Keep the Rain.

37. R.E.M. - Monster
This album knows that sexy villains and seemingly charming but apathetic people are the real monsters. The kind we need to write and read about. You can hear your darker dopelganger chanting along to Let Me In, pushing you to be a King of Comedy, and dance along with the Bang And Blame victimization.

38. The Nationals - Trouble Will Find Me
This album is the answer to writer's block. Eventually every writer feels Graceless, and singing Don't Swallow the Cap cures it.

39. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz
These songs have no shame in being the characters with the most gloriously gorgeous angst and attractive imperfections. Highlights include the desperation of Soft Shock, the abandon of dancing to low-self esteem like it's a party in Zero, and giving in to that inner disco anger in Heads Will Roll.

40. Twenty-One Pilots - Vessel
There are more hits on the newer album, but for a writer it's hard to top the perfect description of how stories take over your head described in the song Car Radio. Writing gives you a clarity that is as wonderful as a House of Gold and as dangerous and annoying as Guns For Hands.

And 5 Honorable Mentions to grow on:
Brandi Carlile - The Story
Bastille - Haunt EP
fun. - Some Nights
Third Eye Blind - Third Eye Blind
The xx - Coexist

Happy bleeding...I mean creating. #BeMightyWrite

It matters what you put in your ear.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

With Your Stereo On - for Trey Garcia

I hope you went out with your stereo on,
all speakers blaring,
maybe Just Like Heaven,
or How Soon is Now?

Dancing in the Dark,
to a Driving Song,
Like Jerry, Was a Race Car Driver
that gave you one real last moment
of Radar Love.

I hope you went out Lost in Emotion,
singing the Soundtrack 2 My Life,
maybe halfway through crooning
the Morrissey chorus, "Oh, Sing your life,
The things that you love."

Getting some Blue Peterschnitzel,
Under Your Skin,
or putting on your Winking Shoes,
with a bootleg copy of De Schmog
somehow streaming to your dash.

I hope you went out to some Bedrock Anthem,
as you were one of mine,
in Guyliner,
mutually crushing on Flannery O' Connor with me,
because A Good Man is Hard to Find,
but you were One,
and since Everything that Rises Must Converge,
I know We'll Meet Again.

Til then,
I Sold My Bed, But Not My Stereo,
And just like Tricky,
We Don't Die,
I'll  just go out,
with my stereo on.
Trey Garcia, and I. Photographed by Carrie. Unorganized Asshole Punks for life.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Reader Appeal?

I tell stories in my head. Since I was old enough to talk. It's how I entertain myself on boring rides or trapped in isolated and confined environments (ICE)--which has come in handy for work many times over and so is justification enough for telling tall tales and strange stories, in my head.
But now as a published author, there are only so many of these stories that I have time to get on paper and that publishers have the time and money to take chances on (no matter how kind and helpful my publisher, Affinity Rainbow Publications). So the deciding factor is reader appeal. 
Will a story appeal enough to enough readers to justify it's opportunity cost?
I'm a reader too, so I do get double the votes...but it's still hard to make that call sometimes. Plus, I like to take chances sometimes and play with the laws of grammar, plot, and genre and this desire to innovate can bias my estimates of reader appeal.
Which brings me to today. I have four novels outlined and ready to start, and no clue which one to try first. All four are lesbian romances. The main differences between them are in tone, point-of-views, and sub-genres. I appeal to those of you who read. I provide snippets of all four novels below. 
Please send feedback regarding which one appeals more to you. You're vote counts--maybe more than my own (depending on how much bourbon I've imbibed) toward which novel gets written up first.
1. A Badge Washed Up - Janey, a middle-aged Black lesbian cook at a beach-side retirement resort finds the honorary police badge of a missing forensic scientist washed up on the shore, but no one will take her questions seriously, so she searches for the scientist on her own. She finds a lot more than she bargains for during the search.

My hands were shaking even though the August heat beating down on the sand was so hot that my eyes felt scorched.  I felt sorry for all the little elders of the Shore Acres Seaside Retirement Resort, with their fair skin, pale eyes, and soft smiles.  But most of all, I felt sorry for the whole world.  I felt sorry for my beautiful dead baby. The injustice of his promising life cut short in his prime burned so rough in my chest that my hands still shook, two years later, whenever I thought about it.
I was walking down the beach on my day off, letting the green Gulf of Mexico wash in and out over my toes.  I kept playing back the last time I saw my son, Saul, alive. 
 “Come on, Momma, I'm just walking one mile up the road.  Julie's house is right on the edge of Orange Grove.  The first house on the left as you turn into the neighborhood.”
“I know you can walk the mile, Saul.”
“Julie is a good kid.  We're really going to work on our project for the science fair.  I promise.” Saul spread his large hands open in front of his body and stuck out his lower lip.
“I know Julie is a good kid, and you know I trust you anyways.”
“So, what's the hold up?” Saul rubbed the palm of his hand over his tight brown curly hair and bugged his eyes out at me.
I watched him shift from foot to foot, one ratty Converse over the other, as he waited for me to answer him.  He was sixteen years of earnest adolescent energy.
I wasn't sure what the problem was, but for some reason, I didn't want him to go out that evening.  I should have listened to my mother's intuition that night, even though I didn't have any good logic to support it.
“It's winter, Saul.”
“It's Gainesville, Florida, Momma.  Low of sixty-two degrees.”
“Dark by six 'o-clock, Saul.”
“There is a sidewalk the whole way.  I have to cross one street and there is a stop light there.”  Saul gave me a smile and wrapped one arm around my shoulders.
I said nothing.
“I'll take my hoodie in case it gets cold, and I'll be home by seven for dinner.”
I shook my head and smiled back at him.
“I'll also leave Julie's phone number on fridge for you.”
He was a good kid, an honors student.  He never sassed me and he never complained that we couldn't buy him a car or a phone, or that all of his clothes came from second-hand shops.  He smiled every day and he did his best to make others smile with him.  He tried to take care of me.  He promised to be home by seven for dinner that night because we both knew his dad would probably wander in drunk and smelling like some other woman well after our bedtimes.  Only the good die young.
I don't know when I heard the first siren for sure, but it was fifteen minutes after seven when I sat at the kitchen table in front of our ready dinner plates and got really worried.  Saul was never more than a few minutes late to anything in his life.  He was two days early for his own birth.  He rolled out of bed every morning before his alarm clock went off.  I was staring at our plates of mashed potatoes, green beans, and thin fried pork cutlets as I listened to the sirens outside explode into a symphony.
I thought I would call Julie to see what time Saul left her house, but when I got up from the table my feet took me past the phone and through the front door. 
I found myself running in my socks across the black-top parking outside our apartment, toward the front gates and the sound of sirens. Outside the gate I remember seeing ambulances and squad cars.  I remember tasting my heart in my mouth as I called out for Saul. I remember seeing one of Saul's Converse on its side on the pavement, covered in so much blood that it looked red rather than its usual washed-out gray all over.  

2. Inherent Risks (co-written with Ali Spooner) - DEA Agents Victoria Alvarez and Justine Adrijan want to bust the biggest drug-fueled sex-trafficking ring in history. Will their newly discovered passion for one another help or hinder their quest for justice and revenge?

Justine clutched Tori’s battered Kevlar vest in her white-knuckled hands and inspected the blemish and nick just to the left of the 9mm slug embedded in it. Noises swam around her in the waiting room of Ben Taub Hospital’s ER. Sweat trickled down between her breasts and prickled cold on the back of her neck under her hair. For the thousandth time in the last five minutes, she wished that she was in jeans and a t-shirt with a badge slung around her neck instead of rattling her nerves in the skimpy dress and high-heels of her undercover alter-ego, Sofia Galina.
Dumb-founded she touched the 9mm slug with a fingertip. It shouldn’t have penetrated that well or stuck there that deep. What the hell was the blemish just to the left of it? Almost like a bullet had already nicked it, but she knew the DEA would never issue Tori a previously damaged vest. As realization dawned on her, she murmured a harsh invective. In the raid three weeks ago, she could have sworn Tori had taken a bullet, but Tori had promised them all the shot fired from the crackhead’s .357 had missed wide and gotten lost in the already riddled sheetrock above. “Damn it, Tori. You are a fucking, hot-headed, hero-complexed, asshole.” Justine sneered at the nick in the Kevlar, “You got shot, and rather than take the six weeks of desk duty like someone with any sanity, you hid it and kept this worthless Kevlar.” Justine bit her lip and her eyes watered as she thought about Tori still lying unconscious amidst a swarm of trauma doctors and nurses down the hall. Her caramel skin was so abnormally pale that her dark hair looked like liquid ink in comparison when they pulled off her tactical helmet. Tears pricked at Justine’s eyes.
“Agent Adrijan,” a no-nonsense voice calling her name jerked her back to the present. She looked up and straight into the eyes of Special Agent in Charge of the Houston Division, Vincent Curial. She tucked Tori’s tattered Kevlar under her right arm with the nick safely behind her back and greeted him simply, “Sir.”
“What do you know about Agent Alvarez's condition?” Despite the late hour and unforgiving humidity, Curial looked impeccably professional and comfortable in navy slacks and a pale blue oxford shirt. There was never a sag or wrinkle on him. Rumor had it that the boss had been an undercover bad-ass not too long ago, responsible for bringing down the biggest Venezuelan cocaine cartel in the nineteen-eighties.

3. Beyond Deep Waters - Leigh Rigby's Mama was diagnosed with Altzheimer's last year and the disease is starting to accelerate. Leigh wants to be in town to be with her mother, but she also loves the open ocean and her life as a merchant marine captain the last ten years. She decides to get certified as a Houston ship channel pilot so she can work on the water everyday, but still be home for dinner with her mother every night. The problem is getting certified is proving harder than she thought. There is a lot of difference between piloting in blue water versus brown. To pass the test and get the board's approval she'll need some mentoring; and the board has chosen her mentor.
Thanks to a maritime accident that cost her both of her legs below the knee, ex-pilot, Reyna Guitierrez is building herself a new life (that accommodates her disability) as a maritime instructor and pilot mentor. Leigh Rigby isn't ready for a mentor, she's embarrassed. Reyna isn't sure she is ready to mentor anyone-it just reminds her she has to teach because she can no longer do. Together they learn how to make the most out of the cards fate dealt them and in doing so discover that there is a lot to love about life and each other.

Leigh shook the saltwater out of her hair. Just beyond the last jetty, to her east, over twenty vessels waited to enter Galveston Bay and eventually the Houston Ship Channel. She squeezed the soft brown sand between her toes and sighed. Tomorrow would probably change everything about her life, but for one more Sunday, she was still just an off-duty merchant marine with the sun starting to set on her shoulders and a cold beer waiting in her Mother's refrigerator.
After a quick rinse in the outdoor shower, she slipped on a dry pair of board shorts and settled her long board into the back of her old GMC truck. The ride home to La Porte from Galveston could be any where from half an hour to two hours depending on summer tourist traffic, but she hoped to make good enough time to swing by Shawpee's for a pound of fresh shrimp. Her mother's memories might be fading fast, but she still knew she liked grilled shrimp slathered in TexJoy seasoning for her Sunday dinner.

4. Once Before Again - Miss Dura Waley Inez Craig is the belle of the post-war ball, the cat's meow, thanks to land she inherited from her father that just happened to have several million gallons of oil underneath. While Dura is used to wealth and social standing, she finds herself shocked by the magnitude of her influence now, but still oddly confined by a woman's rightful role in society, and determined to do something meaningful with her life. It's a lot of angst for a young woman, and so she finds no harm in consulting the mysterious new Swami in town touting wisdom--until she is seemingly thrown one hundred years into the future with no clothes and no way home.   Is this just a drug-induced vision that will give her the guidance she seeks or something altogether more? 

Kate Lane thought that April in Houston must have been the poster child for the rhyme, "April showers bring May flowers." She huddled farther under her umbrella, tilting it slightly sideways in hopes of fending off the hell-bent deluge as she trudged home to her apartment from the corner pharmacy. Rainwater sluiced down the deserted sidewalk, flooding her tennis shoes and she gave up the umbrella entirely before the wind could shred it from her grasp. Right about the time she thought at least there wasn't lightening to worry over, a thunderous crack and streak of light hit the street beside her with so much force that it knocked her to her butt.
She bounced. Her umbrella skittered beneath some bushes. Concrete scuffed the palms of her hands and left her right wrist tingling. At least her prescriptions were safe in her backpack she reasoned, as she took stock of herself.
"Hello," a woman's voice meekly queried her from behind.
Expecting to be offered assistance, Kate held up a hand. "I think I'm okay."
"Oh, uh." The woman replied.
Kate shook her head, but the rain still blurred her vision. She sighed, slowly stood up and turned towards the voice.
"I must be dead." Kate intoned as she came face to face with the palest and most thoroughly naked woman she had ever seen. Even in the dim evening rain her eyes were luminous blue and even wet, her long hair piled and braided into an old elaborate style was obviously a glorious shade of amber. "And you must be Aphrodite."
The woman blanched and puked at Kate's feet.
"Or maybe not." Kate whispered.

It is up to you, kind reader. What next?
Lesbian Fiction Books

Friday, June 30, 2017


  1. regarding humankind as the central or most important element of existence, especially as opposed to God or animals.

I believed humans were kindest,
able to put others lives before our own.
Until I saw a Mocking Bird attack
a Rattle Snake 
to save a Blue Jay's baby.

I believed humans were most playful,
socially animating objects to share laughs.
Until I saw a Lamb and a Blue Healer 
play Soccer
with a volleyball.

I believed humans were most eloquent,
creating new language to represent ideas.
Until I saw a Gorilla
signing "water-bird"
to explain a Swan.

I believed humans were most creative,
fashioning art and tools that solve problems.
Until I saw an Elephant
use rocks to build a step-stool
for an undersized calf.

I believed humans were wisest,
mindful of goals and masters of plans.
Until I saw Gibbons 
sort cards in patterns
to obtain a prize
and Magpies adapt 
for contingency hints.

I believed humans were most complex,
synthesizing sciences to birth robotics.
Until I saw ancient Aspens
cloning colonies
via Rhizomatic roots and nodes.

I suspect
my Grandparents were correct,
in that all creatures,
great and small,
live of central importance,
if not singular intelligence.

I believe
all molecules matter.
All beings created to function,
qualities always evolving
into more beautiful forms
the universe requires. 
Maybe reptiles write poetry too and we'll learn how to hear it one day.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Baggage Wall

Build your walls of baggage.

Try to keep me at bay 
but still
secretly hoping 
I'll save your day.

There isn't enough drama 
in your closet 
to fence out my heart, 
not enough skeleton clubs 
to cleave us apart.

Stack up your baggage, Baby.

That wall will make great fuel
for the flame we're gonna burn.
Bring me all the hopes 
you thought you'd have to urn.

Stack up all the things
you thought better left
in the dark,
because we're still
gonna make a great embark.
I'm your two by two,
and this is our story's arc.

We're plenty slick enough 
to slip these customs agents. 
Our good intentions 
are sly enough to slide those gates.
We can afford the waits.

Stack up you baggage, Baby.
It won't wall off our world.

In or out,
I want to know what you're all about.

We'll establish an ancient trade route.

Go ahead,
stack up your baggage, Baby.
Throw in the kitchen sink.

I've got a torch and a wink.
This is how we step 
                            over the brink.
Cat's have no boundaries. They're good at love like that.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Things we've lost

We've lost
Another sunset lost.
all kinds
of things...

Your keys,
in another state.
My ring,
in another country.
Our way home
at night
and once,
in broad day light.
But never
one another.

Our tempers,
in another fight.
Our patience,
in another minute.
Lots of sight
of the whole
But never
our love.

My will power.
Your courage.
Our fortitude
in a storm
of grief.
Our place
among the flames
of too many
But never
our hope.

Plenty of time.
and occasionally,
even tomorrow.
Maybe some
But never
this chance,
to find

We've lost
far fewer
we've gained.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Active listening

I scoured every word you uttered.
I scaled carefully in between lines, staking out each possible path toward discerning
all of your hidden meanings.
I chalked the hands of my focus, ensuring I could catch and grip
each of your non-verbal hints long enough to climb the mountain of our misunderstanding
until we could reach some shared summit.
I avoided all unsteady crevasses, hasty assumptions, and crumbling interruptions so that I might hear better the toe-holds to your thoughts.
I was so careful, that you laughed and said that I creeped like a creep,
I treated the plain planes of your intentions as if they were an Everest.
and that left you wondering
if it was you that I feared such a moron or if I was the dullard
to require such safety measures in active listening.
You couldn't decide if you should be offended,
but you were any way
out of principle
unwilling to be metaphorically scoured and scaled.
It occurs to me that I do not need to attend every word.
Even in the dark I could find your heart,
just by stilling my mind,
and closing my eyes,
to find the steady drip, drip
of what you want and why
letting the rest dip away unheard
like stone wearing way under water
at sea level.
No climbing required to actively listen
and echo you back
until we know we're understood.
This act of active listening
is less action
and more
than implied.
The peak of Mt. Wheeler in Great Basin National Park, where climbers frequently stack stones while listening to the wind together.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Let Our Pride of Love Save Us, Please

I am a voracious reader. Books, stories, tales. They really matter to me. Genre and type do not.

I even love reading the cereal box and highway signs on road trips (just ask my wife, she loves it).

Debating whether I was first a writer or reader is too much like the great chicken and egg debate—just pointless mental masturbation; but I believe I was first a reader inspired to write.

At first I didn’t care what I wrote.
Anything was fine so long as I was telling a story that gets at the heart of what it means to be human: an endless journey of growth, punctuated by amazing adventures in learning.

I actually didn’t care about fame or visibility of any kind, but especially as a lesbian.

In my little heart of hearts, I don’t want who I am to matter to potential readers as much as I want the story I am telling to matter to readers.

But then I realized something very important, for myself as a reader, and in my profession as a writer . . . something I already knew from my work in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, but just failed to translate to other domains of my life . . . stories matter the most to us when we identify and empathize with the people involved.

For some readers, like me, that probably means identifying with the characters; but for other readers, maybe many other readers, that could mean identifying with the author.

While this doesn’t have to happen on any demographic level, including sexuality, it does have to happen on a genuine level. Even if I don’t necessarily view my sexuality as all that important to my personal identity or career, society does. The world does. And that great external force of perception means my sexuality shapes my experience on a genuinely visible level.

As such, my lesbian voice as an author and in the representation of my characters, is much more than a matter of my pride. Visibly living that pride is the only way I can create a story genuine and artful enough to inspire empathy and spread compassion.

Being visibly proud of my sexuality and telling stories involving characters like me may help others connect to my stories and find what they need. I have so many LGBTQ friends who need evidence that someone accepts them, that someone is proud to know them.

Some of my friends were disowned by their embarrassed families and left homeless as teenagers. Some gave their lives with honor to serve their country and were buried without their still-embarrassed -family at their gravesides. Some were passed over for promotions because their organizations were embarrassed by their identity, and one was shot because she looked a little too butch.

I now realize that when I claim with pride my LGBTQ status, when I use my lesbian identity to proudly create art, I actively help put an end to these horrors. I change the salient story to one of a happy lesbian author, writing about LGBTQ characters who grow beyond hate to find health and happiness.

I hope you will join me in being proud of your identities and above all, in being proud of our ability to accept and love many identities. I hope you will help me change our salient stories.

Please, be proud enough to share who you are, because someone else out there (a reader, another writer, a musician, a mother, a sister) needs to know you too, if we are all ever going to discover how love saves the world.
Rehearsing our first dance for our Texas wedding, proudly supported by friends and family. Credit to AzulOx Photography.

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