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A Little Zombie Excerpt

Here’s a little something from a story I’m working on right now… ...

Bad Dates

UPDATED: SUBMISSIONS DEADLINE EXTENDED to March 15, 2015! Now get those submissions ...

In Honor of the Closing of a Lesbian Bar

Here’s an old short story of mine about another lesbian bar from ...

Latest from the Blog

Author Interview: Audrey Coulthurst

I had an opportunity to speak recently with writer friend and colleague from the Lambda Literary Foundation Emerging Writer’s Workshop, Audrey Coulthurst, about her new two-book deal with HarperCollins. I also wanted to find a way to communicate with the public about how much Audrey likes horses, so hopefully by the end, her potential readers are clear on that.

Audrey wearing a unicorn mask in the foothills of LA

Not exactly a muse, but close.

Congratulations on your publication news with HarperCollins! What was your path to publication?

Thank you! My path to publication was fairly straightforward. After the first draft of A Hidden Affinity was complete I spent a long time finding critique partners and revising. As part of that I participated in the Lambda Literary Foundation Emerging Writers Retreat. Studying with Malinda Lo and having a group of very talented writers discuss my work was a true gift.

Once I felt the manuscript was as strong as it could be, I entered a couple of online contests and got some agent requests through those. Then I began to query in earnest, and then a few months later my fabulous agent pulled my query out of the slush and offered representation. We made some more revisions and then she sold the book.

I should probably note that while this whole process can be summed up in a few paragraphs, it took a very long time. The first draft of A Hidden Affinity was written in 2010. Read More…

A Little Zombie Excerpt

Here’s a little something from a story I’m working on right now…

 

Ezra walks like a drunk sailor, or how I think a drunk sailor would walk, because like I have never seen one but I’ve heard that sailors drink a lot and drinking makes people stagger around the way my little brother does, but whatever, Ezra stumbles around the house all the time. Mostly he clings on to furniture if it’s near enough to cling to, but some of the stuff that Mom Two buys on her antiques shopping sprees is really tippy, so then I have to rush up to Ez and make sure that he doesn’t bonk his head or break some fancy Shaker end table in the process. It gets tiring, but the extra allowance is worth it. Plus he’s cute, and so when we’re out somewhere like the arcade on Folsom or the hipster park where everyone beautiful plays lawn Frisbee or whatever the hell it is, people come up to us all agog and shit because Ezra is teetering around, saying “arararar gagagaga Amuhwee” which is some apparently adorable pronunciation of my name, Emily.

Yes, our parents gave their two children E names. It is so awesome being us, let me tell you. Actually my original name was not Emily, I had to convince my parents that despite what the doctor yelled out as I was born, I was really a girl. It wasn’t easy to get them to believe me, but they’re more or less okay with it now, and I have learned all kinds of ways to be a more patient person. Maybe. The universe gave me my parents so I would learn how to get what I need, and then it gave me Ezra so I would continue to work out my core muscles. Thanks, universe, for looking out for me.

The phone rings, and it’s my friend Iggy who is also trans and who also left out extremely crappy high school because of it. Iggy has been funny as hell lately because he finally started hormones after years on the blockers and now he texts me every time a new chin hair appears. Seriously. I have like 126 texts from him, all about freaking chin hair. Guys are so weird.

“What’s up, Ig?”

“I was going to hang at Gus’s house, you wanna come?”

Gus is one of those kind of asshole, kind of cool dude you can’t ever pin down. But his parents have a pool and it is close to 100 degrees outside. Read More…

Fetal heart beat bills and the babyfication of the embryo

evmaroon:

As always, quality medical opinions from a doctor who knows her stuff.

Originally posted on Dr. Jen Gunter:

The Ohio House just passed a “fetal heart beat” bill, which is the first step on the road to legislation that would ban abortion after embryonic cardiac activity.

The pro-life version of am embryo The pro-life version of am embryo

Embryonic cardiac activity is typically seen by 6 weeks gestation (42 days into the pregnancy or about 2 weeks after a missed period), which is before many women know they are pregnant and certainly before many have really had time to consider what being pregnant means for them. Thus this kind of legislation really has one goal – to eliminate abortion.

This type of bill has been tried elsewhere and while it hasn’t become law anywhere, typically because some politician decides it won’t hold up to in the Supreme Court against Roe. With that in mind, why keep churning these things through State Legislatures wasting tax payer dollars?

Possibly the “pro-life” forces that support this…

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Living with Chronic Fraud Complex

I’ll be honest; I’m quite an average person. Oh I know there’s the whole transsexual thing, and the being from New Jersey thing, but regardless, I’m not especially bright nor talented, I have not accomplished a single push-up since 2004, and I waste a ton of time on the Internet. (I did quit that bad Farmville habit, but that’s another story.) I am middle-class, middle aged, pretty much white, male, college educated, opinionated, obstinate, fat, and okay with a sense of comic timing. I manage to remain partnered, I’ve got two terrific children, a mid-range house, a paid-off car, and dreams of a hot tub installation in my future. There is nothing exceptional in any of that, save the partner and children who are measurably and demonstrably superior in many ways. I on the other hand, am pretty good at cobbling dinner, wiping away poop, and figuring out how to soothe my children. But on any given night I may burn the potatoes and overcook the chicken, get shit on my hands and the wall, and wind up bouncing a screaming baby for twenty minutes in an attempt to suss out the problem. In other words, having some success does not in any way preclude future failure. I try on a frequent, regular basis not to attach my ego to my successes or my failures and to keep outcomes away from my sense of self, should I fall victim to an overinflated vision of myself or reach a state of disquiet desperation at my gross ineptitude.

If one only knew me from my public persona—which I have half-assed crafted at the behest of my publisher and a myriad of publishing industry experts, in an attempt to fashion the proverbial “national platform” necessary for author stardom someday—one would think my life is an exercise in perfection. There are the adorable cherubic children, the very cute home, the published books and essays, the leadership title in my online input field for occupation. All of that is absolutely true, and I am proud of my family and friends and where I find myself at this point in my life. It is, however, a curated list of high points. Not posted (in part because I disdain the whiny FB post on principle) are all of the mistakes I replay in my mind throughout the day, whether they be a driver unhappy with me or an argument I had twenty years ago. Also not presented in most public forums are the mantras from my inner critic, my sadness that I’m not on an upwardly mobile career track, my frustration with my creaky knees, and my nagging sense that I deserve all of the rejection slips I get after applying for a grant or to a literary journal. I often realize, with stunning newness, that nearly every other writer I know is more talented than me and writing something more interesting than I am.

There is no point in entertaining these destructive notions more than I do already, so I corral them off of the Internet for the most part. This means a couple of things, namely:

  • I feel like a fraud to some degree, every day
  • I have lots of coping skills for life while feeling like some degree of a fraud

Read More…

We’re Talking About All of the Wrong Things

cartoon of calvin from calvin and hobbes arguing with a playmateWhen I was a teenager, I was impressed that my father read the newspaper every morning, listened to NPR in his car, and watched the evening news every night. He told me that keeping up on current events wasn’t just an interest but his civic duty. He didn’t use those words, but look, it was a long time ago and I’m left with just the takeaway if not the precise quote. Now my dad was born in 1928, a child through the Great Depression, and one year shy of getting to enlist and fight in World War II (he lied about his age and went to work as a postal carrier instead, and they were willing to take him because they needed people). Duty and attachment to our neighbors has certainly shifted from then until today, and barely anyone reads a newspaper anymore. Our media outlets have grown, merged, super-merged, and drifted from the journalistic standards once popularized by people like Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. For example, Fox News broadcasts verifiably true stories only twenty-two percent of the time. Rachel Maddow is better, but not much, at thirty-eight percent.

But in addition to the truthiness of mainstream news outlets, we have a problem with how subjects and topics are framed. Take the recent letter by forty-seven Republican Senators to Iran’s leadership, suggesting that their ongoing negotiations with the United States (and several other countries) won’t be worth the paper it’s eventually signed on. The debate frame is set up around whether these Senators are traitors or patriots, whether they should be recalled or heralded. Clearly they’re not traitors, as they didn’t call for the overthrow of the United States, didn’t send classified information to a foreign government for same effect, and didn’t attack the United States. (They didn’t even violate the Logan Act, but that’s another issue.) Read More…

The Metaphor Translations: Terrorists

This is an occasional series on metaphors in narrative. Earlier editions focused on doomsday scenarios, androids, and monsters.

They are everywhere, plotting, planning, building in the moldy recesses of basements and garages where apparently they are never discovered until there are mere minutes left on the digital timers, receding separation between life as we know it and cataclysm. If there’s one big difference between narratives about terrorists and narratives about the previous topics in this series, it’s that terrorists really exist in the world (vampires, seriously, vampires do not exist, folks). And while I suppose it’s technically feasible that a volcano could rise up from an unstable fault line, it’s not likely to happen in the middle of Los Angeles, so although some doomsday scenarios (The Day After Tomorrow, asteroid stories, for example) are a remote, remote possibility, they’re not realistic in the same way terrorist and terrorism stories are.

Judging from the scripts, some of these narratives have wrestled with the news reports of terrorist activity and the attacks that occur across the world. The attacks on September 11, 2001, basically ended The West Wing’s idealized portrayal of White House politicking and policy making. These days Homeland articulates a reasonable take on the way in which government analysts sort through data on terrorist cells and actors, even as it occurs within a larger paranoid fantasy (i.e., anyone could be a terrorist, even your Congressman!). NCIS, and Covert Affairs cover plotlines that stretch much further from this approach, including stories with terrorists as more like love-torn stalkers with a political interest.

Whether the narrative at hand is an attempt at realism or further afield, it still presents a threat to our culture, which makes it similar to narratives that feature attacking monsters, zombies, aliens, and the like, but there is a notable difference to the fantastical tale. Typically terrorism narratives include a lot about our response as nation-states, as governments with caring and dedicated employees who are working against all odds to stop the threat (think 24, A Most Wanted Man, Spooks), and in this way they reinforce the idea that the tactics our actual governments use are good, be they waterboarding, phone surveillance, or the near-omnipresent security cameras in our cities. The sheer number of plot lines across terrorist-themed shows and movies that include phone tapping, police stakeouts, computer programming to listen for terrorist plots, face recognition software, partnerships between the CIA, MI-6, and Interpol, and so on become a kind of system of justification for presuming our government is on duty for its citizens. Sure there may be a bad apple here or there (and always the double-crossing agent to watch out for), but the narrative of the fight against terrorism nearly always ends with the agents from the government thwarting evil. Read More…

Humor as Discomfort

A couple of years ago I picked apart Seth MacFarlane’s performance as emcee of the Academy Awards for his blatant and frequent sexist and racist comments. I wondered openly why anyone expected he’d do anything different, given his history as the “offend everyone” writer behind Family Guy and other television shows. Late last year I was somewhat surprised and ultimately disappointed when Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson came to Walla Walla to deliver an uninteresting and Islamaphobic lecture, and I remembered that Seth MacFarlane was the executive producer of the Cosmos: A Space Odyssey series on Fox that featured Tyson. For in the Hollywood universe, there are a few individuals who drive cultural production under the guise of many studios, production companies, agenting firms, and talent. It’s the old boys’ club of popular culture at work.

Last weekend we saw something a little different. I wouldn’t climb up on the soapbox with Maggie Gyllenhaal and proclaim it “revolutionary” (and evolutionary) as she did, but it was a crack in the edifice that Hollywood normally supports. At the Golden Globes, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Margaret Cho, Lily Tomlin, and even Jane Fonda (in a brief turnabout from her foray into conservative political stances) poked fun at this boys’ club and made those boys decidedly uncomfortable. Here is the Fry-Poehler opening monologue:

Tina’s very first line, calling everyone in the audience a bunch of “minimally talented brats” signaled a critique of Hollywood culture and production. The line about Joaquin Phoenix calling award shows a bunch of bullsh*t and then the well timed, “Oh, hi, Joaquin!” was a direct calling out of his hypocrisy (and pointed at a performer who once pretended to not care about Hollywood anymore, all for the publicity). From here they made a segue way into the North Korea threats around The Interview which would form the frame of a running joke in the form of Margaret Cho as a North Korean dictator and culture aficionado. From the mention of North Korea there were more jabs at the film and fellow actors that looked at first like the usual stuff of celebrity roasts: Read More…

Empathy as a Radical Act

I didn’t post much to this blog in 2014, though I’m not much surprised given that it opened with a new baby, in addiction to our rambunctious toddler. I’ve mulled over a lot during the interim of the last ten months, including:

  • Our national inability to ameliorate gun violence through legislation, education, infrastructure, and community
  • Why we’re not having a nationwide conversation about police procedure and the role of police in the twenty-first century
  • How small civil rights strides for trans people could exacerbate an emerging hierarchy of care and support for trans people
  • How to support our queer and trans youth better

None of these issues have gone away, so I will spend quality time thinking and writing about them in 2015. I think my days of burger reviews and snarks against reality television (which is in a death spiral anyway) are over, at least for now. This year I’ve got to tie up my next memoir project and get moving again on two fiction projects. Blogging may continue to be on the sparse side, but I’ll make more than 44 posts this year, I’m sure. In the meantime:

It strikes me that in the context of deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of their respective local police forces, in the state-level pushes against welfare recipients, within the curtailing of reproductive rights that further restrict abortion, and that cut off insurance coverage for contraception, and in the effort to talk about the state of the US economy, we have already dug into our respective positions and are quite unwilling to listen to the perspectives of others. If there is a silent majority center in the US, it is extremely good at staying silent. In the meantime, we hear a lot of noise of folks at the ends of the political spectrum, and while we may believe in our own talking points in earnest, the other side thinks we are paying attention to the wrong message, that our evidence is full of errors, and that we’re too stupid to see the situation realistically.

I’m not asking everyone to go watch FoxNews and msnbc or crossover their favorite media sources to the presumed opposition. Rather, I’m wondering if we can find a way to disengage from the polarization of these hot button political issues, especially as the tug of war approach results in very little movement toward a new or caring society.

For example, in thinking about the very recent suicide of Leela Alcorn who posted her suicide note on her Tumblr account (which has since been taken down by her parents), it is easy to fall into a visceral hate for her family who according to Leelah dismissed her gender identity and were hostilely unsupportive of her to the point of forcing her into a trans conversion therapy program. Let me be clear: I agree with the American Psychological Association’s longtime stance (they passed a resolution against it in 1997) against the practice and stand by the mountain of evidence that shows such attempts at behavior and identity modification are ill-advised, harmful, and wholly ineffective at achieving their stated goals. Clearly, Leelah’s parents weren’t on board with her requests for transition support, socially or medically. But demonizing the parents belies a whole series of issues and ideas that bear some reflection, including:

  • How can an individual (a parent in this case) live with the cognitive dissonance between loving their child “unconditionally” as was stated by Leelah’s mother, and refusing with all of their ability, to fulfill that child’s repeated requests for support?
  • Why has Christianity become so popular as a rationale for explaining the world when it has such a long history of harming the people it is mandated to serve?
  • Why has the idea of “religious freedom” moved toward shutting down dissent and a diversity of opinions and people  in a country supposed founded on the twin freedoms religion and speech?
  • How can we work to liberalize Christian teachings to move communities of faith away from such bereft practices of isolation, shaming, and conversion and toward acceptance of young people, no matter their sexual orientation and gender identity?
  • Why do so many trans-identified people consider suicide early in their transition and what can we do at a personal, community, and infrastructure level to support them and minimize suicide?

Shouting at people, writing in all caps online, trolling religious right web sites—these may be laudable tactics for some, but I don’t see them changing minds. If we’re invested in progressive or radical change, it behooves us to think about what outcomes we want to see, and remember that for the majority of people, they are doing what they think is their best. We may not agree with them, but that’s how they go to sleep at the end of every day. If we are to truly communicate with people who are different from us, we will need to see the world at least a little from their perspective.

The Freaking Binky Fairy

Avent pacifiers, two viewsSomeone suggested I tell Emile about the Binky Fairy as a way to get rid of the pacifiers he uses. So I started to weave this mythology to my 3-year-old, and of course he’s been asking questions. I usually plot out my stories and check that there are no gaps in logic etc., beforehand, not on the fly. Where does he take the binkies? (To BinkyLand) Why does he take them? (Because he thinks you don’t need it anymore.) What does he do with them? (He gives them to other children who are smaller and still need binkies.)

In reality, there’s a huge tear in Emile’s last binky standing, so Susanne and I are concerned about it choking him. (We are great parents, really.) I can’t give it to him, and Emile, with a full child’s complement of teeth now, burns through them in a couple of weeks. So I’d like this to be the last one! He doesn’t ask about them as much, and says he’s ready to not have them around anymore (except of course, when he’s TOTALLY NOT READY, DADDY).

Today I was putting him down for a nap when he asked for it. The ruined pacifier is on the kitchen island, about to head into the garbage bin. I said, “I don’t know where it is, maybe the Binky Fairy came already.”

“When did he come?”

“I don’t know.”

“I want to know. Is my binky gone? It helps me sleep, Daddy.”

*cue Bad Daddy music*

“I think it’s gone. I’ll talk to the Binky Fairy.”

At this news, Emile sits bolt upright in his toddler bed.

“You’ll talk to him? He’s here?”

“No…I mean, I’ll call him. On the telephone.”

“What’s his name?”

“Binky Fairy.” My lord with the questions!

“What’s his real name, Dad?”

I panicked. I wasn’t ready for another lie/layer to the story. I blanked. I said the first name that came to mind that wasn’t Emile or Lucas.

“Schmendrick.”

OMG, EVERETT, SCHMENDRICK? WHAT THE HELL KIND OF WRITER ARE YOU? SCHMENDRICK?

“I knew it,” said Emile, putting his head back on his pillow.

And that, people, is how I proclaimed that the Binky Fairy is really the hapless magician from The Last Unicorn.

Read More…

The Dos and Don’ts of Protesting

I’m not an expert on anything. I used to be a quasi-expert on usability analysis, and then I left the field and in the meantime, it emerged as its own real subject area with doctorate programs and certifications and I’m far enough back now that I’m not even in the dust. I write books, because I’m somewhat good with words, but I don’t consider myself an expert in writing, per se. I tend to take a commonsense approach to most topics, I try to get involved beyond the standard dabble when the issue resonates with me, and I’m no longer surprised that a Catholic girl raised to be a conservative republican has somehow become instead a progressive man who doesn’t attend any church. What I am pretty good at doing—though again, not an expert—is spotting contradictions in culture and rhetoric, and I think I owe my skill to some badass teachers from my youth, and my own tendency to complain.

marchflyerIIwebSo that said, I am not an expert on protesting. I don’t know the intellectual lexicon of the protest theorist, or whatever they call themselves (all due deference to protest theorists). I’ve been involved in organizing protests for twenty-two years, was taught specific protest tactics and de-escalation techniques by some of the women who invented them, and have personally taught three dozen people how to eat fire. I’ve gone to some of the biggest protests ever seen in Washington, DC, and been one of three people holding signs on a street corner when nobody else cared enough to show up. So along the way I’ve heard some things that are a kind of best practices regarding protests, namely: Read More…

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