In a Perfect World

I’ve really struggled this week with my feelings about what happened in Orlando. This whole event felt extra personal because I lived in Orlando during my twenties. Pulse, and other gay clubs, were where I came out. My time in Orlando represents my passage to adulthood in many ways.

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Orlando, circa 1989: At a lakeside picnic with a close friend.

Alexander Chee, writing in the New Republic this week said, “We have always known that the protection we feel in a queer club is illusory.”

That statement finally got to the heart of what I’ve been feeling. When I was twenty-six, gay clubs offered a new world order. I spent all week being closeted for work, family and neighbors. But on Saturday night at the club, finally, freedom. It was as if the community in the club was some utopia where everyone was accepted as fully themselves. To anyone who isn’t gay this probably sounds very strange because you get to be yourself all day every day. But I’m sure those of you who are gay can relate to this. Especially if you came out in the era before Ellen and “Modern Family.” And even still, in some parts of the country where it isn’t safe to be out, gay clubs offer the only respite from the rest of life.

To be victimized, killed, in possibly the one place you feel safe is horrific.

And for those who were wounded, whose families didn’t know until they got a call from the hospital, I feel for them. To be forced out before you’re ready or before you’ve come to terms with it yourself is tough to get through. Not just tough, in some states, impossible. In Florida LGBT citizens don’t have even the most basic protections under the law. You can lose your job just for being gay. The lack of protection leaves LGBT individuals vulnerable. And all these mean-spirited laws camouflaged behind some fear of gender-specific restrooms and who gets to use them are basically throwing gasoline on a smoldering fire of hate targeting the LGBT community.

I’m sick of it. And all the stupid memes about bathrooms and Trump and assault weapons… none of it is funny anymore. If it ever was in the first place.

Democrats, Republicans, even conservatives, have offered prayers to the families of the victims and to the victims themselves. Enough. To the people in positions to actually affect policy changes I say spend a little more time reading the book you’re always hiding behind. Prayer without action is useless.

“Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”  — James 2:17

If we as a democratic nation cannot protect those among us who are the most vulnerable minorities, then what does that say about us? We are certainly not the nation we arrogantly profess to be to the rest of the world.

 

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The Case of the Mail Order Bride

Today marks the release of a new novel from my alter ego, Paige Braddock. This book is a novelization of the long-running lesbian comic strip, Jane’s World. This is a humor book, so the tone and voice are quite different from Whiskey Sunrise or The Time Before Now.

I hope you enjoy Jane’s antics as much as I do — or come close! Let me know what you think.

It’s hard to believe that today is June 1st, which means the Jane’s World novel is now available from Bold Strokes Books. There are even advance reviews of the book on their site also. …

Source: Jane’s World, the novel! It’s here!

Feeling Good About Letting Go

“Abundance is a process of letting go; that which is empty can receive.”
— Bryant H. McGill

If any of you follow me on Facebook then you know that I posted earlier in the week about getting stuck on the villain character in my current work in progress. Thanks to everyone who responded and just as an update, in case you were curious, I’m unstuck.

I realized this morning while driving to work that part of getting unstuck was the willingness to let go. The novel that I am currently working on for Bold Strokes Books, Birthright, is a story I first started to think about back in 1997. It’s crazy to think that this concept has been sitting around for that long and I’m just now making it real. Basically, I have this “suitcase of ideas.” And yes, it’s literally a suitcase. In it are story outlines, character drawings, names, imaginary maps and references for all kinds of things. Birthright was in that suitcase. And maybe that’s why I ended up getting stuck.

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My suitcase of ideas.

Sometimes I think if an idea ferments for too long you become too attached to certain aspects of the initial concept. In this case I needed to let some things go. I needed to allow this story to evolve into something new, something better.

Secondary characters are now taking more of a lead role. The villain has a second-in-command. Names have changed and the original intent of the story has expanded. All for the better I think (I hope). I realized that by trying to force the narrative to adhere to my original concept I was holding the story back.

Anyway, I just felt like sharing this. As a writer, and as encouragement for other writers and creators, it feels good to let go. Especially when letting go means allowing the characters to move forward with their story.

Novels, Novellas and The Return to Earth

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One of my blog followers asked about the Return to Earth series. I was unable to respond to the question directly because for some reason the email she left didn’t work, but I’ve gotten this same question a few times, so I thought it might merit a blog post.

The question was about the second title in the series, “The Ground Beneath,” which is only available as an e-book. Since she prefers to read only paperbacks this particular reader wondered if missing this second book would make it impossible to follow the series. The short answer is, no. “The Ground Beneath” is a novella that focuses on one of the secondary characters from the first book. If you read “All Things Rise” and liked Jessica, then you won’t want to miss her story in “The Ground Beneath,” but you won’t be lost reading the rest of the series. “The Time Before Now,” is a prequel to the first book.

And the good news is that the third full installment of the series, “Valley of Fire,” will be out in October. Ava, from the first book gets her chance to find love and she finds it in a very unexpected place.

Valley Of Fire Wallpaper

All books available from Bold Strokes Books!

There’s Something Seriously Wrong in Jackson

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In case you missed it, Mississippi’s legislature passed a so-called religious freedom bill. It was obviously written to allow businesses to deny services to LGBT people. As an article published today by Vox states, Mississippi didn’t even need this bill. The state already offers no protections under the law for LGBT residents.

I’ve been watching from a distance what’s been happening in North Carolina and then Georgia, but yesterday when this thing happened in Mississippi I was so angry. I think this one hit me particularly hard because I spent a large part of my childhood in Mississippi. I’ve also lived in North Carolina and Georgia, but Mississippi is the state I most often find myself defending to individuals who have never been there. And now I’m asking myself why I bother.

Mississippi is a state with so many problems, why are they so focused on this small, already unprotected minority group? There’s something seriously wrong in the Mississippi capitol. I’m not even sure these legislators represent the views of the majority. Maybe they do and maybe I’m just naïve. But I go there all the time. I have childhood friends there, my brother and sister-in-law live there. As an openly gay person, traveling with my wife, I’ve never experienced any abuse by anyone in Mississippi. Ever. I mean, I’ve gotten the sideways look in Walmart, but I think the woman thought I was Ellen and was moments away from asking for my autograph.

But seriously, Mississippi ranks 51st in education, 49th in overall health of its citizens, and it has the highest teen birth rate in the nation. Jackson, the capital, is so unsafe that no one goes downtown. These are big, BIG problems that need to be solved. So I guess we’ll just continue to watch the state spiral into further decline while the legislature focuses on keeping gay couples from ordering a wedding cake, because that really safeguards the quality of life for the citizens of Mississippi.

I was enraged driving home last night. I can’t remember the last time I was so angry. I was thinking, I’m not going to go to Mississippi any more. I’m not going to give the state’s economy my hard-earned travel dollars. My brother can come visit me here in California. My sister-in-law would probably prefer that anyway. We’ve got amazing weather, incredible food, the wine country and good shopping. (Probably because of all the gays.) Sure, California is not immune to stupid government (Proposition 8) and we’ve got our own water crisis to solve. But we don’t seem as stuck as Mississippi. At least we’re moving forward.

As luck would have it, we had tickets last night to see Patty Griffin at the Uptown Theater in Napa, Calif. (Napa, where everyone drinks good wine, is well fed, and happy.) Patty’s performance was stirring and inspiring. And as I rediscovered last night, music is indeed soothing to the soul. Patty Griffin is doing this particular tour in support of a non-profit, non-partisan, group signing people up to vote. So she talked about voting, democracy and our looming election at different moments during the night. She said she’d recently played a show in Alabama and in preparation, read the speech that Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered in Montgomery after the march from Selma. Patty shared this quote from MLK:

“We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.”

I share that same hope. Although, today, I feel we are far from that end.

Here’s the entire speech.