Back into the swing of things…

It’s been way too long since I last felt this fluttery panicky ugh they’re gonna hate it I know it/woo they’re gonna love it! and ME! and woo! and and and! sensation.

In other news, I just submitted the first story that I’ve finished in I can’t even remember. It had come to the point where I was picking at the littlest thing, so I knew it was time for it to go — otherwise, I’d end up trying to rewrite it and miss the deadline entirely.

The story is a revision of Jack and The Beanstalk for Sassafras Lowrey’s Leather Ever After anthology. It features a smart-alec, an eccentric, and a beanstalk that gives new meaning to the phrase ‘house plant’, which is really par for the course around here.

That’s all the excitement that is exciting around here, for the moment. Now to go look at other deadlines and figure out what’s next.

And The Winners Are…

According to Random.org’s handy-dandy list randomizer, The winner of Model Men is… Gigi! The same randomizer tells me that the winner of Skater Boys is… Trix!

Thank you to everyone who entered, and to everyone who stopped by to read. I had kind of a wild weekend, so I’ll be working through/replying to the comments this week.

And now for a much lighter post!

Hop Against Homophobia logo

I have three prizes up for grabs (one prize = one winner, for a total of three winners). One is a copy of the Skater Boys anthology, edited by Neil Plakcy and featuring my story Totally Choice; one is a copy of the Model Men anthology, also edited by Neil Plakcy and featuring my story Still Life With Philip Delaney; and last but not least a copy of Eat Me, edited by Shanna Germain and featuring my story Awydd.

Instructions:
1) Check out the blurbs and excerpts below — clicking the link will show the info on this page.
2) Choose your desired item…
3) ??? …And leave a comment stating which you’d like. Easy!

I’ll draw the winners via Random.org and have them posted by 1:00 PM Pacific time on May 21. Prizes will be sent ASAP after winners have been contacted.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Skater Boys

Model Men

Eat Me

No Thief Like Fear

Hop Against Homophobia logoToday, I’m participating in the Hop Against Homophobia. A few housekeeping things before we get started: 1) This is a very long post, so I’ve broken it into two parts. This is the Serious Stuff part; the following post is the Fun Stuff part. Be sure to read both! 2) Comment Policy: I’m pretty relaxed about comments. My biggest rules are the most common: no personal attacks, no personal details (i.e. addresses, shoe sizes, phone numbers, etc.), no spreading of hate.

Without further ado, the post:

I’d like to talk about the phobia part of that word in particular. The title for this post comes from a song of the same name by Jason Gray, from his album A Way To See In The Dark.

Fear and I go way back. I have no idea how it happened, but somewhere along the line (when I was 10/11/12), I started developing odd fears. Like, say, my brother disappearing, or myself becoming irrevocably lost. These fears waxed and waned over the years, subsumed by new and different fears (O hai, high school!). By the time I was 20, I had a mass of anxiety that lived in my stomach to the point that it was actually affecting my health. It also affected my mental health—I spent a fair amount of my early twenties avoiding going out except with family.

Most of my fears are irrational—I don’t know where they came from, or why they developed into the abcesses that they are today. There’s a concept in Buddhism called “Small Mind”, which is the little voice that tells you that your [creative endeavor] sucks and they’re all gonna laugh at you! and the like. Most of the time, I do a decent job of keeping Small Mind locked up in its cave, but occasionally it escapes and runs around the meadow outside the cave, Kermit-flailing and screaming at the top of its lungs about whatever the topic of the day is.

Usually, Small Mind is screaming and flailing because I’m doing something big and scary – submitting a story, or waking up on a release day. That at least is something that I can deal with, because it’s expected. When my fears pop up more or less out of the blue, I have a tougher time with them.

I understand having fears that overshadow the positive stuff in one’s life. I understand letting fear win, too. To my everlasting shame and disappointment-in-myself, I let fear win in a BIG way last fall. I was standing in the Seattle-Tacoma airport, in front of a Delta self-check-in kiosk, holding the page with my confirmation barcode/number on it. I was staring at the “Get Started” and “English” buttons on the screen, and I was paralyzed.

I could not make myself lift my hand and tap on the “Get Started” button. If you asked me what I was afraid of (and the person that I called after ten minutes of dithering certainly did ask), I couldn’t tell you. I still can’t, all these months later. All I know was that there was this fear—more than that, it was FEAR, with fangs and claws and probably wicked-looking weapons—that simply blotted out all of my rationality.

Instead of gritting my teeth, pushing through the FEAR, and getting on a plane to Memphis (and from there to New Orleans), I turned around and dropped $600 on a ticket home.

Fear kept me from seeing two cities I’d never been to before. Fear kept me from meeting new friends, from seeing my dad (I had a ticket to go see him before I headed home), from doing live in-person boots-on-the-actual-battlefield research for a story that I’m now stalled on.

Losing to fear has cost me a lot, over the years, not just those opportunities and the $600. Fear cost me at least two chances to have boyfriends, once in high school and once much later; fear has cost me time and peace of mind. So yeah, I can understand fear and I can even understand letting fear run your life for you.

Where I draw the line, however, is letting my fear become a doctrine. I do my damnedest to make sure that my anxiety and my fear basically affect only me. A good number of homophobes, on the other hand, are not only quite happy to embrace the rule of fear but to force it upon others.

Case in point: my city. For the last two years, GLBT-rights people worked hard to get an anti-discrimination initiative on the municipal ballot. They got a sponsor, they got signatures and donations and the April 3rd ballot got Proposition 5.

All Prop 5 would do is add the words “sexual orientation or transgender identity” to the municipal anti-discrimination statute. You know, it’s the bit that’s tacked on at the end of job postings and the like and it says “[Entity] does not discriminate on the basis of age, ethnic background, religion” blah blah blah. It would make it a crime to fire someone, to deny them housing or evict them, simply because they were gay/bi/straight or transgender.

Cue, of course, the hateful and the fearful—and the hateful who prey on the fears of the fearful—crawling out from every snowed-under rock. The opponents of Prop 5 ran commercials that said if Prop 5 passed, then straight people who didn’t like those icky gays would HAVE TO hire them whether they liked it or not! If Prop 5 passed, daycares would HAVE TO hire cross-dressers to work with CHILDREN!

(And, wow: I could NOT find the animated No On 5 ads on YouTube. Not that I really wanted to watch them, but I wanted to link to them for proof that I wasn’t doing much paraphrasing of the opposition’s stance.

Buuuut I did find this particularly hideous gem: a radio ad in which, apparently, ANYONE can become a kindergarten teacher regardless of qualifications if Prop 5 passes! Because if it does, “someone of indeterminate gender” will HAVE TO be hired by the school district or there will be an expensive lawsuit.

And no, pointing out the flawed “logic” of this assertion will not get you anything but a headache, trust me. Neither will pointing out that if that was at all true, all employers would have to hire anyone in a protected class regardless of how many positions were actually available and/or qualifications of said candidates.

Also, if you do choose to visit the “Protect Your Rights” website, all that’s there at the moment is a letter carrying on about how “common sense has prevailed” and that Protect Anchorage wants to “continue to [have] dialogue … in a way that binds, not divides.” Ha ha ha ha wow, I don’t believe that for a femtosecond. And now you know where I live: slightly to the left of Mars!)

I have always wondered precisely what it is that homophobes fear, and there is a question that my mother asks from time to time that I find appropriate at the moment: “What is really going on here?”

Reesa posted a graphic that posits an answer: “Homophobia: the fear that gay men will treat you the way you treat women.”

Is that it? Or is it the fear that being bi/gay will emasculate them? “If I like guys, that must make me a woman!”, or something like that? (And of course being a woman is the worst. thing. ever*.)

Or is it a fear of being vulnerable? “I’m only a man so long as I am strong and mighty and being gay means you talk about feelings and strong men don’t do that.”, maybe?

There was a study released recently (and I hope they didn’t spend much money on it) that suggests some homophobic people are in fact bi/gay themselves. Not really a surprise, that one.

A function of the “lesbians are hot, men are not” trope? I certainly don’t know.

One thing that I find interesting is that the loudest and most obvious homophobes are men. I’m sure there are homophobic women out there, but generally the voices are those of men, and the focus is on gay men—or possibly-gay men. (As I said, I didn’t find the video of the animated ads, but this article from The Huffington Post has a video, a still from the commercial in question, and some “Wow, this is incredibly awful. What is wrong with you people?” text – and it is pretty damn offensive. It’s the “transvestite” ad, which is not only misleading, but it conflates “cross-dressing” with “transgender”, which are two VERY different things. Preaching, choir, I know. Anyway.)

What I do know is that the hateful and the fearful in this city might as well have put on monster costumes and run around yelling BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA! TEH GAYS WILL EAT UR CHILDERN! BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA!

The Yes On 5/One Anchorage campaign had an amazing array of people, from former mayors and governers to faith-community leaders (at least 40 of them!) who all said that it was time to live up to the lip service. Thousands of other people in this city agreed.

But fear apparently won**. Fear and ugliness were preached, fostered, coddled, gift-wrapped, and given a place at the table. There are those among NoP5’s proponents that claim this is a “tolerant city”, which is easily debunked—all you have to do is ask.

Fear has stolen a lot from me, over the years, and now those for whom fear is a lifestyle*** are forcing us to allow their fear to steal from those of us who have a decidedly different worldview.

There is indeed no thief like fear. Fear steals peace, love, joy, creativity. Fear steals reason, logic, rationality. Fear costs money, time, energy; fear costs relationships, jobs, confidence, and in extreme cases, lives. Fear keeps the fearful chained down, out of the sunlight, away from the green growing things of life. I know this, know it intimately, know it as certainly as I know how to breathe.

So I will make you a deal, if you’re willing: the next time we have the opportunity to make a stand against someone else’s fear, let us do so. Even and especially if it means that I have to stand against my own fear in the process.

* Total sarcasm, I promise. I basically view people as, well, people, whatever their preferred personal pronoun.

** The election on the 3rd was, to put it politely, an incredible mess. I put together a really quick timeline-ish collection of the best reporting on it, but the TL;DR version? Ballot shortages, people being turned away, veteran poll workers finding things hinky, deliberate misinformation distributed (but it’s doubtful said misinformation was responsible for the mess), and last but not least an election commissioner who believes the Diebold machines are not only completely accurate but… “Those are amazing machines – utterly amazing. You… they print out everything. It is impossible for them to go haywire.”

*** It’s fun to use their own rhetoric.

Reading, Writing, Reading About Writing, Writing About Reading…

These Are Your Kids On Books

These Are Your Kids On Books campaign poster by Burning Through Pages

About two weeks ago, I sought out a blog I had seen mentioned in passing somewhere else. On this blog was a post that stated that getting kids to read was basically a useless goal and besides basically everything published for kids/young adults was shit so it wasn’t any big loss.

I chose to stay out of the comment section, for various reasons, but the post got lodged sideways in my brain. I’d think about the idea that getting kids to read was stupid/pointless/only made straight white people rich for writing about straight white people and get cranky, then something would distract me and I’d forget about it again.

Then Michelle reposted the graphic above and I knew I couldn’t keep this to myself any longer.

Getting kids to read is really, really, really fucking important. REALLY FUCKING IMPORTANT. Reading opens doors to all kinds of worlds, shows us all kinds of peoples and places and best of all it makes our imaginations work.

I can’t remember the first book that really grabbed me and wouldn’t let go, though I think it might have been Black Beauty — my paternal grandmother sent me a copy of the Illustrated Classics version when I was…Ten? Maybe? I remember that I read it three or four times over the course of a couple of years.

Later, when I was a teenager, I stumbled across Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books and, in ninth grade, I wrote my first fanfiction. (And when I read it for the class, I was suddenly very aware that even in a school FULL of weird kids*, that was considered particularly weird. Didn’t stop me, though, and later I wrote more fanfic based on Clive Cussler books. More on that later, though; I’m getting side tracked.) (In retrospect, I thiiiiiink Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books were the first books I ever read with characters in a same-sex relationship. Huh.)

I sank into every book I read, escaping into worlds where the odd, the left-out, the abandoned and the ostracized were often the hero. Jakkin and his dragon, for instance, from Jane Yolen’s Dragon’s Blood. Jakkin is essentially a slave; the dragon is A) stolen and B) turns out to have an interesting “defect” that would have meant death for him if he hadn’t been stolen.

The Redwall Books were another set that captured my imagination, for a while. I lived and breathed Dirk Pitt’s adventures, too, as I mentioned. As I got older, I branched out and discovered all kinds of other things — I read pretty much all of Rubyfruit Jungle in the library when I was eighteen, half-terrified my mother would catch me and ask me what I was reading because I had no idea how to explain it to her.

I don’t remember how I discovered A Queer Kind Of Love, which was mostly a murder mystery featuring a gay detective and his crabby detective partner. Looking back, that may have been the book to cement (or possibly spark) my appreciation for grouchy guys with a decidedly different interior… As well as my love for epilogues that make me (and, I hope, others) grin and make strange happy sounds.

For a while, I could walk down pretty much any of the shelves at the library and run my fingers along the spines; when I stopped, the likelihood that one or both of the protagonists would be gay was really high. The Man Without A Face; The Salt Point and The Sea Of Tranquility; a book whose title and author escape me but it was about a young man (~16) figuring out that he was gay — it was set in Australia, featured dirt bikes, a lad mag, a crush on his older brother’s friend Peter the confession of which was awkward and horrible and beautiful all at the same time… All of them I found by accident and they showed me that people didn’t just argue about whether gay people were, you know, people, they wrote books where they were…people.

Then there was discovering that I really couldn’t read Datlow and Windling’s Year’s Best Horror compilations, because they freaked me out too much; an anthology of pulp stories that I checked out a couple of times because there was one story in it–the only one I remember outside of a snippet from another one–that exposed me to the idea that gender wasn’t a set-in-stone 1/0 binary (and no, I cannot remember the name of the story, the anthology, or the author/editor, ARGH). There was the day I discovered a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird abandoned in a wooded area, followed by the discovery of just why it is a classic. I discovered that other classics aren’t really all that great, if you ask me — Of Mice And Men, bah.

In the last two years of high school, I was introduced to Langston Hughes, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and a poet who wrote two poems I’ve been looking for ever since (one about falling through thin ice and one about painting a ship). Naomi Wolf’s Writing Down The Bones went everywhere with me for about six months as I read about How To Write/Be A Writer. I kept writing, too — but I branched out into original stories and poetry, only one of those two categories producing anything worth revisiting all these years later. (Hint: NOT POETRY. One benefit of that, however, is that I got THAT phase of my writing life over with early, and am now capable of writing poetry that people might want to read on purpose. Heh.)

Then came the internet and Reesa, who introduced me to fanfiction in general and slash in particular, followed by Lois McMaster Bujold and Diana Wynne Jones, among others. I can’t even begin to list who I discovered via the net, but it’s more than three.

My entire house is full of books. The garage, in this case, is literally FILLED with books — all in boxes, taking up precious room where the car should have been this winter. And in those boxes you will find just about one of everything. From where I am currently located, in my room, I can put out a hand and pick up A Field Guide To Pacific States Flowers, a cookbook illustrated by a local artist, and a paperback from the mystery/suspense/SF category. On the table at the foot of my bed is a stack of books that contains:
Wicked Gentlemen (M/M fantasy/paranormal; it’s a good book, too. It makes me want to write fanfic, which I haven’t wanted to do in years.)
Like Magnets, We Attract (M/M anthology featuring Shea Meiers’s Mauka/Makai)
No Regrets And Other True Cases, Ann Rule’s Crime Files Volume 11 (true crime, surprise)
Learn Latin: A Lively Introduction To Reading The Language
The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks (M/M mystery/suspense)
Pursuit In The French Alps (This is probably best categorized as the kind of boy’s adventure story that Tobias would read. It was originally written in French, then translated; the copyright dates are from 1960 to 1963.)
– Dorothy Sayers’ Strong Poison (One of my favorite mysteries. The PBS Mystery version is really good, too — the casting director did an incredible job of finding just the right actors.)
Fraz ak Mo ki Itil Angle-Kreyol Ayisyen/English-Hatian Creole Phrasebook with Useful Wordlist [for Kreyole speakers] (I love the languages section at library book sales. I always try to get something new, especially if it’s A) Welsh or other Bryonic languages or B) related to a story.)
Writing In General And The Short Story In Particular
– Wise Sayings From The Orient (it was published in 1963, and aside from the horrible title, it is a nice little book of aphorisms and proverbs)
– and last but not least Ecce Romani 1: Meeting The Family (I wish I could find the rest of the series)

I could list all the books on my bookcases, but that would take too much time and I’m distracted again anyway. If I had never been read to, if I had never been encouraged to read, if no one had ever said ‘here, try this, you might like it’; if reading hadn’t been important to anyone else outside of whatever was required by school, I wouldn’t be writing this today. I wouldn’t be writing, period.

Kids absolutely should be encouraged to read. If they want to read crap at first, or if they only want to read what’s popular at first, great. At least they’re starting somewhere. Keep throwing suggestions at them until they stick. Encourage kids to look beyond the VAMPIRE!! aisle, give them Raptor Red and Dragon’s Blood and The Spirit Ring. Nalo Hopkinson’s The Robber Queen might be a little old for some of them, as might The Sharing Knife series.

If there’s a dearth of what you think kids “should” read, then shut the fuck up, sit the fuck down, and fucking write it. All the energy you waste shouting at other people about how horrible they are for not writing X would be better spent in, you know, writing X.

Some of those books I listed above, like The Salt Point and Sea Of Tranquility? Also introduced me to Misery Lit. It didn’t take too many rounds with Misery Lit before I decided that fuck that noise, I don’t need to expose myself to it any more… And when I decided, some fifteen to twenty years later, that I was gonna do this writing thing? My first writerly vow was NO MISERY LIT. There are a lot of M/M authors for whom that is a guiding principle, stemming from the same source: the only basically-mainstream stories they could find when they were growing up with GLBT main characters all ended with either death or unhappiness or both.

To move forward, beyond where we are now as humanity, we need kids who read a LOT. We need kids whose imaginations get stretched, whose perspectives get shifted, whose horizons are ever-expanding because they know there’s more out there than where they are now. If kids don’t read, if we don’t start with “at least they’re reading…” and go on to “…and when they’re done with that, here’s a whole stack of other things!”, we all lose.

And that is why getting kids to read something, anything, is a worthy goal.

* I went to a teeny little private school for dyslexic** kids for most of my academic career. Tiny, in this case, meaning the entirety of 9-12 graders totaled something like 30 kids. If that.

** Yes, I’m dyslexic. My particular issues manifest themselves in the math realm, which is why I’m a writer.

Happy May Day!

Happy Beltane, too.

In less smirk-inducing news, May marks two anniversaries: Dreamspinner Press’s 5th, and my 2nd! I’m not planning on doing anything particularly exciting to mark mine, but Dreamspinner is having quite the party — every week this month, they’re putting a different batch of authors on sale, corresponding to the year they were signed by DSP. (My stories will be on sale during either the 3rd or 4th week.) Keep an eye on the front page of the site to see what else they’re up to.

Tobias’s Own Adventure is also turning 1 this year — on Thursday, May 25th. I’m kind of boggled that it’s been out that long. Maybe I’ll post a little excerpt from somewhere else in the story.