Green's Hill-Amy Lane's Home - News

Monday, November 23, 2020

All the... small things...

 I've got small things at the moment--every time I try to write a big thing on the blog it comes out super long and super personal and I'm just not ready to do that, so small and perky it shall be!


*  Speaking of small things... I saw a teeny-tiny Maltese/Shih Tzu in the store today. I was shameless. We were all wearing masks (and Citrus Heights mask/distance protocol is pretty sound) and I just wanted to stare at the dog. I stayed in the middle of the end-cap as the person was passing my by:

"Don't mind me. I'm going to stare besottedly at your dog until you pass. She's adorable!"

"Thank you!"

And then we talked dogs for a moment--but I did have a moment of pause.

This was a small dog--this dog would be, at biggest, eight pounds. She was two months old and maybe two pounds total and an absolute doll, which is pretty much where Geoffie was.

But Geoffie was always such a little scrapper. Even as a baby she never would have let us carry her into a store--she was sure she had a giant voice, even then. I remember introducing her to Johnnie, setting her in front of him and thinking, "Oh God! He's huge! He's almost fourteen pounds! He'll destroy her!"

And Johnnie looked at her for a couple of days like he was afraid of just that.

And then, on like the third day, she did her Geoffie thing--it's terribly rude, but we can't seem to break her of it. She feinted--not passed out, but fake-lunged. It's the most terrible body language for a dog. It says, "I'm gonna get you!" and Goddess forbid a 200 lb. St. Bernard take her up on that, right?

But she did it to Johnnie, and Johnnie retreated, and it was like somebody had run a bell in our living room.

Let's get rrrrrrrready to RRRRRRRRRUMMMMBLLLLLEEE!!!!!

And ladies and gentlemen, it was ON!

And, at around ten o'clock at night, it has BEEN on ever since. 

Let's hear it for rumbling and tumbling, and small dogs who would never, ever stay in a purse.

* Speaking of small things... the kids are forever asking me about when they were little. And I forget sometimes that I've written this blog partially as a way to keep track of my observations about being a mother and about how much fun (or sometimes not fun)  they are.

So I was looking for a ficlet I'd written a long time ago and of course couldn't find it (I use tags pretty consistently on the Patreon, which makes things easier, but oi! Took me long enough!) Anyway--I did encounter a story of Squish, who had recently discovered MAD-LIBS.

"Mom, want to play a game of MAD-LIBS?"

"Sure, but, uh, maybe wait until I'm out of the bathroom first?"

"No, no--we can do it now. Name a noun!"

So I retold Squish--and the entire family--about this, and we all had a good giggle, and it was reassuring. My kids have gone through some shit times this year--everything from coming out (both as gay and NB in Squish's case)--to having the entire blanket ripped out from under his feet for ZoomBoy, they've been sad and upset and generally worrying for the last few months. And to find out that hey, thanks to the maskless wonders out there, they might not get to attend school in January? Oh my God--fuck us all sideways with a chainsaw, because I don't think we're gonna make it anyway.

So it was good to remember, there was a time when laughter was super easy, and we did it all the time.

*  And speaking of laughter--

We shotgunned the entire first season of the Animaniacs reboot. I was going to recapture the television but, A. I loved it, and B. My kids and I were watching the same thing, and oh my God we had a good day even if none of us frickin moved. At this point I'd sell my soul to know my kids weren't in their rooms obsessing over the darkness within.

So the new Animaniacs--very funny. Highly recommend. 

Also, Dot apparently has a crush on Chris Pine, and so do I.

* In completely unrelated news, tonight I made Mate watch Unstoppable for the one-hundred-and-fiftieth time.

Goodnight everybody!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

There's this thing... from the sky!

 Cat: Mom!

Me: Yeah?

Cat: Mom!

Me: What?

Cat: Mom!

Me: Oh my God--

Cat: It's wet outside!

Me: Cat, you're wet!

Cat: I'm wet!

Me: Stop touching me!

Cat: Get it off! Get it off! Get it off!

Me: Here--if you would just stand sti--

Cat: LET ME USE YOUR ANKLES AS A TOWEL!

Me: You're sopping!

Cat: Oh, that's much better! Wet food!

Me: No, you just had some--

Cat:  Don't make me slime you again.

Me:  Fine! Just--

Cat:  That was delicious. You know what would chase that down just right?

Me: God no--

Cat: Birds. I'm gonna go outside and see if there's any birds in the rain.

Me *weakly*:  Fine, you do that.

Dogs: Mom!

Me: I don't want to hear--

Dogs: Mom!

Me: Fine, what?

Dogs: It's WET outside!

Me: We've established that.

Dogs: It's wet outside and we have to PEE!

Me: Well, you know. Go outside and do your thing. No one will ever know.

Dogs: But it's WET outside! What do we look like, the CAT?

Cat: Hey boys.

Dogs: AUGH! IT'S WET! *runs away*

Cat:  Don't mind me... I'm just gonna sit on Mom's chest like this--

Me: AUGH! LET ME MOVE MY KNITTING!

Cat: And now I'm gonna lick my butthole. 

Me: So this is my life now.

Cat: Don't think of picking up your knitting. 

Me: Wouldn't dream of it.

Cat: Could you scratch a little harder? Right there... on my shoulder...

Me: As you wish.

Cat: Purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.....

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Four Boys in the Park with Masks

 Back before I realized that sci-fi usually ended badly--Star Trek and Star Wars being the exceptions at the time--I thought that was the kind of writing I wanted to do. I was reading a story in a sci-fi magazine about a prison guard in the future.

He was responsible for giving prisoners experimental drugs in the form of candy, and the prisoners signed on for it, but he was resentful: they were in a time of famine and his own children were stuck eating sugar bread, which they hated, and he'd worked hard his whole life so they wouldn't have to do that.

As the narrative progressed, we realized there was something wrong with his youngest, his youngest was bleeding through the nose, and our hero was stuck in a paralysis of guilt and fear. He'd snuck four jellybeans to his youngest--just four--because his youngest was his baby, and he just wanted to give him something good.

Of course I was younger then, and the young live in a world of absolutes, so I believed that this was tragic karma--the man had believed himself better than the prisoners, and he hadn't realized he was inflicting terrible things on them, and what he'd inflicted on his son was a punishment.

Now, I know better. I know that the terrible pressures of a scary world and perceived injustices--and an almost desperate need for our children to have better than we did--can drive good people to do tragic deeds.

Which leads me to tonight.

ZoomBoy... isn't doing so well in the Covid  semi-isolation. His sibling has managed to plan days out with friends, with masks, going shopping, or drive-by giftings, so that the lack of social interaction is not quite so pressing, but there is still safe behavior.

ZoomBoy--not so much. And the pain of hearing my son say he has nothing to look forward to, and he doesn't see a way out of being a perpetual teenager, and he feels like he's disappearing...

Is acute.

So tomorrow is his birthday, and in a fit of rash hope, I told him he could meet friends at the park to play games. Video games, board games, whatever. They could wear masks and eat takeout and we'd bring cookies and they could... just be... you know. Boys. 

He asked three kids and they all showed up, and they talked and played games, occupying their own isolated picnic table while Squish and Mate and I took up another one. And for two hours, as the cold sun set in the autumn cobalt sky, I watched my son be happy.

Four boys, wearing masks, playing games--it shouldn't feel like the equivalent of a free-X rave, with heroin in every corner and chugging a beer as a token of admission, should it?

Four boys, wearing masks, giving each other quiet shit about being, well, boys. About how one guy didn't answer his text so he didn't get takeout, and another guy gave ZoomBoy a "Happy 5th birthday" card and that was hilarious. Who was listening to Viking metal? Who wanted to play Among Us? Who was passing English? (Not ZoomBoy!)

His grandparents aren't coming to his birthday dinner tomorrow, and we all know Thanksgiving is my house. Again. Where even the newer floors have grooves from our shuffling feet from this last year of doing so very, very little that makes our hearts brighten.

I miss my parents. I miss my friends. I miss the days when I could talk to my children on the way home from school and their deepest darkest sadness could usually be resolved in the time it took to get home.

Four boys in the park with masks. 

Was the risk worth it? 

I'm sure people will read this post and say, "God no, you selfish dumbass!" And some will read it and go, "I get it, but...Amy." 

And some will think I'm overreacting and it will all be fine.

And all I can tell you is I'd reached the point of sadness in my own heart that if I did not see some joy in my children, I would have broken. I'm the family's emotional support animal. I do patrol-dog checks on the family. 

"How you doing? Doing okay? Can I get you anything? How's the grades? What can I do to help? Going shopping--can I get you anything?" 

I am the human equivalent of a cold nose thrust under the covers to check for breathing and healthy smells.

If my people do not smell healthy, I am besides myself with anxiety--and my people are getting a little ripe.

So my breaking point was this: Four boys, in the park, with masks. 

And my son, smiling all yesterday and today, to know he is not alone.

May we all stay healthy. May we make only the mistakes we can live with. May we hunker down and make it safely to the spring.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

One or Two Things


* So, back when we were first in quarantine, and toilet paper was scarce, we bought this ultra green toilet paper, made with bamboo and quilted ad infinitum.

Ladies and gentleman, I regret to inform you, it is not Charmin.  

Enough said.


* I made a decent stroganoff tonight. In related news the smoke should be cleared in another hour or so. No, I didn't set the food on fire. 

The stove on the other hand...


* Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are going to be our next President and MVP and I am profoundly grateful. If we can just make it until the 20th of January, we might not have to wake up every morning and worry about what "that shithead" did now.

Which we have been doing for the last thirty, forty years since 2016.


* It's really cold. This is both super exciting and super unfortunate.

My feet are freezing and the smoke might take another hour or so to clear.


* I start writing again tonight after a mini-break of taking care of all my admin stuff. Tonight, my Patreon. Tomorrow, Jordan's story.

Sorry, NANOWRIMO, I may come up short this year.


* I also finished the technicolor dream-jumper and sent it out to the poor soul I made it for. 

Hopefully we'll still be friends when it arrives.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

And we will continue...

 To wake up in the morning, and do as much good as we can.

And teach our children love, and to love those around them.

And that EQUALITY and JUSTICE should be for all people. All. And so should love.

And that bigotry is a sin and should be a crime.

And racism is a sin and should be a crime.

And that our systems are important and there for a reason and we need to make sure they treat all people well. All. People. And if they can't do that, they need to be repaired or replaced.

And that education is important.

That violence is rarely the answer. 

That integrity matters.

That choosing friends over greed is a choice they can live with.

That the opinion of "the internet" means less than nothing.

But the opinion of people who know us and are touched by our kindness is to be valued.

And to live our lives as close to our ideals as we can muster. And forgive ourselves our flaws. And strive to educate before we alienate. 

And believe in goodness, even if it's such a small voice in the maelstrom.

Because there is no choice.

If there is to be a tomorrow. 

Blessed Goddess, holy God, 

In the future's name we pray.

So may it be.


Kermit Flail--Escape from November Style!

 


*looks furtively around* Yay?

*looks around again* *sees the coast is clear* 

YAYAYAYAAYYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYYAYAYAY!

Okay folks--hang onto your shorts, we all know what's happening on Tuesday, and I'll be honest. I WISH it was just that I have a new book out. (Well, I do, but that's not the thing on Tuesday!)

Anyway--if you need to ESCAPE from what's happening Tuesday--and what promises to be a VERY tense week for us all, well, you can't get better than books, and I've got some good ones here! 

Liz Faraim--a new les-fic writer--is out with Canopy, and I've heard Liz read parts of this one, and omg--if you want suspense and action and tenderness and humor? THIS is the book you've been waiting for. Also, it's set in Sacramento about 20 years ago, and I am down for that. Seriously--Liz's writing style is stunning and you will enjoy this so much.

If you want some healthy athletic escapes, well, Kate McMurray has the final book in her Olympic series coming out, and I don't know about you, but nicely muscled men with stunning athletic skills have always done it for me, and Kate's a fun writer with a dry sense of humor and love of sports--this should definitely deliver!

And what if you just wish Halloween had lingered a little longer? Well, I've got a treat for you! Besides my offering, All the Rules of Heaven, which features a gender-transcendent being and a reluctant empath, we've also got the Mary Janice Davison of m/m paranormal romance visiting! E.J. Russell, who is lovely and gracious and writes adorable charming books has two releases to share with us this month, and that really IS a treat with no tricks!

And my adorable faithful wonderful PA Barbie has some suggestions as well!

So, yes--the week is going to be tense, and I might be eating myself into a sugar coma in sheer stress and terror, but if I do? At least I'll have something to read when I need a break from it all. Here's to new beginnings and the start of a newer, better leadership--and here's to books that'll get us through in the interim!





Witch Under Wraps (A Mythmatched Novel)

by E.J. Russell



When supernatural secrets collide, it’ll take more than coffee to brew the perfect love.

When Ky Hern├índez bonded with his familiar, Zuri, his life changed forever. Their connection turned him into a practicing witch and led him to his calling as a medimagical professional. However, it totally tanked his love life—what guy would settle for eternal second place behind a parrot? So Ky keeps his witchy nature under wraps and sticks to hookups with humans, which can never go anywhere. But the mouthwatering barista at the coffee shop next door makes him thirst for more than a caffeine fix.

The charms Ewan Jones uses to appear human are inconvenient, disorienting, and . . . necessary. Ewan and his siblings are achubyddion, metaphysical healers whose powers are coveted by unscrupulous supernatural beings. And let’s face it: all supes are unscrupulous, given the right incentive. He’s grateful for the protections that hide his little family, and for the barista job that keeps them housed and fed. He’s just so lonely. And his regular, Ky, the super-hot, commitment-averse EMT, seems like the perfect candidate for a one-night shot at intimacy. After all, humans are no threat.

It takes a clumsy coffee shop intern, a mysterious werewolf epidemic, and one snarky parrot to unravel their pasts—and give them a chance at a future.

 

Buy Here

 

 




Duke the Hall (Royal Powers Book 9)

by E.J. Russell



A yuletide wedding brings tidings of comfort, joy… and peril.

Eighteen months ago, Tarik Jaso, Duke of Arles, would have been thrilled if Sander Fiala, Duke of Roses, sank beneath the waves along with his stupid boat.

That was then.

Now, Tarik can’t wait to head out on a private sail with Sander—a sail that will culminate in a highly public, politically significant wedding. Their union will be the first one between North and South Abarran royalty in centuries. If all goes to plan, it will usher in a new era of peace and cooperation between their countries.

But as the big day approaches, their meticulous arrangements begin to fall apart. Can Sander and Tarik weather the storm of political opposition, familial objection, and outright betrayal to reach the altar at last?

Duke the Hall is a 40,000 word M/M superhero rom-com featuring two dukes determined to tie the knot, relatives both helpful and annoying, spiteful thunderstorms, superhero sabotage, and hints that things are not all they seem.

Note: Duke the Hall is not a stand-alone story. It’s the sequel to Duking It Out and as such contains spoilers for the earlier book.

 

Releasing November 17, 2020

Amazon/KU





Race for Redemption


by Kate McMurray



Sprinter Jason Jones Jr., known around the world as JJ, is America’s hope to take the title of Fastest Man in the World, the champion of the Olympic 100-meter sprint. Two years before, a doping scandal brought his winning streak to a crashing end, and even though he’s been cleared of wrongdoing, he’s finding it hard to escape the damage to his reputation. At the Games in Madrid, no one believes he’s innocent, and officials from the doping agency follow him everywhere. It just fuels JJ’s determination to show them he’s clean and still the fastest man on earth.

If only he wasn’t tempted by foxy hurdler Brandon Stanton, an engineering student and math prodigy who views each race like a complicated equation. His analytical approach helps him win races, and he wants to help JJ do the same. But JJ’s been burned too many times before and doesn’t trust anyone who has all the answers. No matter how sexy and charming JJ finds Brandon, the Olympics is no place for romance. Or is it?






Canopy

by Liz Faraim


Vivian Chastain is an adrenaline addicted veteran transitioning to civilian life in Sacramento, California. She settles into a new routine while she finishes up college and works as a bartender, covering up her intense anxiety with fake bravado and swagger. All Vivian wants is peace and quiet, but her whole trajectory changes when she stumbles upon a heinous crime in progress, and has to fight for her life to get away.

While recovering from the fight, she falls in love with someone who is tall in stature but short on emotional intelligence, and this toxic union provides Vivian the relationship that she thinks she needs. Given Vivian’s insecurities and traumatic past, she clings to the relationship even while it destroys her.

Prone to fits of rage, the spiraling of Vivian’s temper creates a turning point for her as she looks within to find the peace she seeks.

Together, Vivian’s alcoholic brother and emotionally devoid mother serve as frequent thorns in her side, prompting her turbulent history to often bubble up to the surface. The bubbling turns to a rolling boil when Vivian’s brother lands himself in jail for drunken indiscretions, and not long afterward her partner is arrested for something so atrocious Vivian cannot even fathom it. She is left pondering whether or not to believe that the person she loves could have committed such an inexcusable crime.

Vivian’s relationships are strained to their breaking points as she continues to seek balance. She turns to her best friend for support, only to be left empty handed and alone until she finds comradery and care from the last person she would have thought.


Barbie's Corner--

Elves After Dark

Various Authors!

So, Barbie's offering this month is a multi-author Christmas Bundle, and the entries look sooper sexy and sooper adorable to boot!

Take a look! Some years people want to linger over Halloween, and some years people need Christmas to start early, and some years, we need them BOTH!





All the Rules of Heaven

by Amy Lane 

When Tucker Henderson inherits Daisy Place, he’s pretty sure it’s not a windfall—everything in his life has come with strings attached. He’s prepared to do his bit to satisfy the supernatural forces in the old house, but he refuses to be all sweetness and light about it.

Angel was sort of hoping for sweetness and light.

Trapped at Daisy Place for over fifty years, Angel hasn’t always been kind to the humans who have helped him in his duty of guiding spirits to the beyond. When Tucker shows up, Angel vows to be more accommodating, but Tucker’s layers of cynicism and apparent selfishness don’t make it easy.

Can Tucker work with a gender-bending, shape-shifting irritant, and can Angel retain his divine intentions when his heart proves all too human?

Thursday, October 29, 2020

A word about television

I am not sure who needs to know this, but Mate and I get into our TV.

I mean, REALLY into our TV. 

To the extent that I cried like a baby during the last two episodes of LoveCraft Country--like, I couldn't breathe kind of crying, and Mate and I took turns looking at our phones so we could calm ourselves down because dayum.

That hurt.

And then, when that was done, we were watching Call the Midwife, and, well--there was a moment when a woman found out she was pregnant in the middle of labor, and she panicked.

And Mate was pretty shaken. And I thought I was all cried out but I wasn't.

So the thing is, sometimes we will step off TV not because its bad, and not because it bores us--but because we are not emotionally equipped to deal with it.

I know we did that particularly at the beginning of the pandemic. Anything too scary, anything too emotional, and we were like, "See ya! Come to me you British crime drama that underplays emotion but remains gritty and authentic! YOU are our salvation!"

And it pretty much has been for the last few months.

So when people tell me, "Oh, I love your light stuff, but I just can't handle Beneath the Stain or Johnnies!" --I get it. I mean, that's why I write it. Because for me, there's two kinds of hard writing. 

There's the hard plotty stuff-- Fish Out of Water being one of the prime examples, and All the Rules of Heaven being another. Anything with intricate plots in which details build upon one another and I have to keep the details consistent AND give my characters reasons for reacting the way they do is a challenge. I know some writers do things episodically. Episode, episode, episode, grand realization, FINIS! And people love that kind of writing and sometimes, I'm all for it myself. But for me specifically when I'm writing, the things they do and say in the course of the book have to be building toward something--there must be a full circle and a character advancement or I've failed my job. So that's challenging.

The other hard writing is the emotional writing. String Boys was a pretty basic plot. The Locker Room was too. But what the characters were going through--that was hard, and it hurt, and don't get me started on Chase in Shadow because I had to take a few deep breaths after that one, believe you me!

The shorter, happier books are easier. Not technically--technically there are always challenges. For example, in Warm Heart, I had to figure out how to get those guys down the hill in a way that wasn't, "We survived in tepid temperatures with a little snow. Hooray?" at the same time nobody threw the book across the room because they thought everybody was going to die. The Virgin Manny was tough because we had to believe--totally and completely--in Tino's agency. In fact, all the Manny books had an age gap/agency conflict, and I had to make those believable, or they would have been sort of icky, and that's a bad way to write a romance. Candy Man had to be all about second chances--and sweetness. And sometimes the technical aspects gave me fits--I mean, I can't remember military protocol for shit--it doesn't matter how often I open that damned browser, I'm a complete lunatic and I owe veterans an apology just for existing. 

But they're easier on my soul. They don't make me afraid to open my computer. And just like with movies or television, sometimes that's the kind of story you need--whether you're writing it or consuming it. So for those who love one kind and can't read the other? I get it. No worries. Read what makes you happy--I understand.

And this is completely and totally unrelated, but I should throw it in here anyway.

While I've been writing this blog post, my teenagers, both of them have come out to tell me something about their day. Now, I have a big cup of water--fizzy water, but iced--sitting next to my keyboard on my desk at all times. And both of them have come out and taken a sip.

They do this every night.

Sometimes we talk for twenty minutes or so, and sometimes they just take a drink of my water and give me a hug. 

We tend to think of teenagers needing us less. It's always important to remember that they need us different. Not less. Just different. I know that makes me feel better, anyway.

Tomorrow night? I'm watching moody Celtic murder mystery, because after tonight's sob fest? That's my jam.

Night everybody!


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

90. Wow.

 


Two short moments-- but funny ones.

So, I'm walking the dogs around the park today (stunned. Simply stunned. Don't lie. I can tell you're all shocked.) Geoffie sees an older gentleman--I'm thinking seventy, maybe? My dad's age? And she goes up and starts to bark and sniff and bark. He bends down creakily to offer his hand and suddenly, he starts to talk.

Now, ages ago when I was locked up on a farm with only tiny children for company, I talked like this--just an info dump of my life to complete strangers with no give and take for conversation. And after a little big of chatting, I understood why he was talking like this--and it was pretty cool.

See, he'd recovered from two hernia operations. He'd spent six months of the last year in a hospital--and hadn't gotten COVID, although he understood it was serious and although neither of us were wearing masks (because the paths are super empty in the morning and people will swing a good fifty yards out of their way to avoid each other) we were both very careful to stand about 15 feet away from each other and stand sideways--not shout in each other's faces by any means. But he wanted to talk. He wanted to talk face to face with someone so bad. He told me that the doctors had told him to walk and that he usually walked this path before he'd had his hernia and that his hernia surgeon was built like a linebacker and apparently he had to be because he'd really put his shoulder into pushing this guy's intestines back into place. He told me he was retired Navy like the hat said and he'd gone into the medical field as a tech and his wife had been a teacher and his kids had been teachers and nurses. 

And he told me he was ninety years old.

And I was like, "Congratulations, sir, on being ninety and recovering and walking around on a nice cool fall day."

He was all, "Thank you, young lady. You have a nice one."

And because he was so awesome, I sort of did.

Now the other thing was... well, Steve's fault.

I was knitting during nighttime television and she decided fuck that, and jumped on my chest. I had ZoomBoy bring me a brush and I started brushing her and brushing her and brushing her until she was ecstatic and I was wearing more Steve than Steve.

And then she left and I was still wearing more Steve than Steve, so, just as Mate went to stand up, I shucked off my T-shirt and started to shake. 

"Stop!" he barked, waving his hands in front of his face. "Think about this! What is your endgame?"

"Well originally it was to get rid of some of the Steve but--"

"You weren't getting rid of the Steve, you were sharing the Steve. I don't want anymore Steve!"

"Okay, fine," I grumbled, standing up in my bra and shorts. "I'll go drop my shirt in the dirty clothes."

He was like, "Fine," but as we were both walking to the bedroom (it was his bed time, and I needed a new shirt!) he glared at the cat. "You got her into trouble," he said.

The cat appeared unbothered. 

And that shirt will never be the same.

Oh! And ZoomBoy went back to dance class today. They were all six feet apart with masks and they were all out of shape and hot and pissed off.

And, I'm pretty sure, deliriously happy.


Monday, October 19, 2020

What Time is It Again?

 It's weird. After nearly 28 years of motherhood, I've developed a sort of litany, chapter and verse, to the problems of the other denizens of my household. 

"Have you slept? Do you need a nap? Have you eaten? When was the last time you drank water? Did you poop? How long ago? Consistency? Were there cramps with that? Is your period coming on? How's your homework? Are you being bullied at school? Online? Is something wrong at work? How's your bedding, has it been cleaned? Did you take a Tums? An Advil? A CBD gummi? Do you have a dentist appointment coming soon? Wait--did you watch a scary movie when you know they give you nightmares?"

"But Mom! I stubbed my toe!"

"Right--Advil. Sorry--forgot to ask. Did you put a bandaid on it."

"No."

"Then do that, don't forget the Advil, and maybe don't put shoes on for a bit. We good? Did I make it better?"

"Yes!"

"Good. Now give me a hug. Because I need one, that's why. I'm traumatized now."

And so on.

So, about last night.

I was up late writing... witness the time stamp here.

And there I was, up late, alone, the only sound the steady breathing of the small dogs at my feet and the clacking of my keyboard. Just me and my characters, alone... alone...

Except for the adolescent angsting coming from Squish's room!

"Squish? Are you okay?"

*sobs* "I'm fine! Go away!"

"If you're sure..."

"I'm FINE Mom!"

"Yeah, okay..."

And I resume my clacking. 

My characters are a riot, and I'm so excited to be working on Spencer's book, and I am sucked down, down, down--

"OHMYGODI'MDYING!"

This is from Mate's room--and before anyone panics, truly, this happens every other night. When I'm asleep next to him, I've gotten very adept at just throwing an arm out to pin him to the bed, otherwise he goes lurching about our overfilled room in an attempt to maim himself on the furniture.

But I'm not in bed, I'm at my desk, so I get up and hurry to the bedroom and sure enough, he's sprawled across the bed, face down, going, "I can't breathe!"

I drape myself across him--because usually this works--and he shouts, "GET OFF OF ME AND GO AWAY!"

Well, fine. It's not like I wasn't doing anything in the first place, right?

So, I'm at my computer again, and ten minutes later, he pads in, sheepish and apologetic. "I'm sorry."

"I know."

"I was in the middle of a bad dream."

"I know."

"I thought I couldn't breathe."

"I know."

He hugs me, and there is come canoodling. And then he looks at the time. "It's almost two!"

"Yeah. I won't be long."

More canoodling, and then he goes back to bed.

And ten minutes later, ZoomBoy comes out. "I'm going to throw up. And I"m anxious. And it's freaking me out."

"Okay." And before I can run through my litany, he goes, "I just want some air. I think that will help.'

Sure. He slides open the door, sits down on the porch and goes, "Can you come comfort me?"

"Of course."

And me and ZoomBoy do the dance for the next hour. I repeat the litany, and he's answering all the questions--including the water one and the did you poop one--with familiarity, and then, about an hour in, he gets dodgy. 

"Well," I say. "Did you take Tums?"

"No?"

"Here, let's go take them."

"Mom... the red ones taste awful."

"Well that's only the new ones. I bought some of the old chalky ones because you all seem to like those better."

He perks up. "I could do that."

And ten minutes later he goes to bed, feeling better.

Which means the time I'm sliding into bed is... well, nearly four a.m.

And I'm wound like a clock by now, so it takes me an hour to get to sleep.

Sometime in there, Nebula slinks in and insists he needs to be fed wet food now or he shall waste away and DAEEEEEEEE, and I feed him about eight, and go back to bed until nine-thirty, when I drag myself out of bed with the fuzzy conviction that if I don't get out of bed, go walking, do my regular daytime routine, and take my nap at two like I usually do, I shall destroy my sleep patterns for the next two months.

Sure.

The result is, I am smucking fuseless for the rest of the day.

I literally become one with the couch--and I had plans, things like laundry and answering e-mail and other things like that--but Mate turns on SNL and I am toast. (btw, Issa Rae is luminous. Needed to be said.) But at 2:30 pm I call uncle and head to the bathroom before taking my nap.

On my way out of the bathroom, I stub my toe, hard.

"Are you okay?" ZoomBoy asks.

"No," I tell him shortly.

I limp into the kitchen, toe ACHING, and ask Mate if there's any bandaids. "Only the big ones," he replies.

Still half-asleep, I take out a pair of scissors, split a bandaid in half lengthwise while still in the wrapper, and present my toe and the bandaid to Mate.

"I can't look," I tell him.

"Ulll..."

"Great."

"Your nail is loose."

"Fantastic. Can you wrap it?"

"Yeah, are you ok--"

"I'm gonna take some Advil," I tell him. "And go to bed."

"Sure."

"I'm going to drink lots of water."

"Of course."

"And eat lunch when I wake up."

"Good idea."

It is not, of course, a good idea--I'm ravenous when I wake up two hours later, but you know what? It doesn't matter.

Because it turns out, I can Mom myself just as competently as I can Mom everybody else. And I guess my defects in that department will always come to roost back on my own damned head.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

An Odd Anniversary

 Many of you know this story.

Ten years ago I was teaching high school and I was also helping to lead the Gay/Straight alliance during lunches. I'd put out a couple of books by this time--a lot of them self-pubbed but some through Dreamspinner Press, and I'd gotten some notice. Truth in the Dark was one of the books, and so was Litha's Constant Whim.

For those of you who remember, kids were throwing themselves off bridges in Michigan (I think--ugh--ten years, and politics fades!) around this time because Michelle something-better-forgotten and her husband-who-had-prayed-the-gay-away were in politics and Michelle Bachman (THAT'S her name!) had literally made it illegal for teachers to stop bullying based on sexual orientation. Teachers were watching kids get bullied to death, and they were afraid to say something because of their jobs.

National Coming Out Day was new then--maybe it was the first one? Maybe it was the second? But I told my students that in honor of National Coming Out Day I was giving my proceeds for sales on that day for the two books I had that dealt (tangentially) with self-harm-- Truth in the Dark and Litha's Constant Whim. 

The kids were super excited and one of them--17 YO at the time--wanted to read the books.

I'd been giving my books to kids to read for years. From Vulnerable on, really. I hadn't started out that way--but I'd told them that I'd written books because hey! Teachers got a lot of the "Those who can't do, teach!" bullshit, and I wanted to prove to them that I was constantly trying to improve my skills in my craft. The kids loved it--even if they didn't want to read the books. A couple of kids found out my pen name and bought their own copies and the books made the rounds and I'd figured the world hadn't come to an end so I kept a little lending library of my own books on my desk.

For the record? My colleagues wouldn't accept MY books for book reports because really, how good could they be? Also for the record? I loved the guys, really I did, but it's possible to love the guys you work with like pain in the ass brothers while simultaneously admitting that they are also misogynistic pricks. And they were.

Anyway--on this day, a kid asked to read my books. I said "Let me think about it," because this kid wasn't in my class. I asked his friend--who was on the straight side of the alliance, but who had a reputation as somewhat of a player--or at least someone who was not shocked, not in the least, about the sexual content found in romance books--if his friend would be up to reading books that, while not super erotic, also didn't fade to black and end scene. 

His response (curiously enough, it echoed my own thought in these matters) was, "Geez--the girls get romance books from the library that are so much more explicit than your books. I don't see the problem." He was right, by the way. Does anybody remember Ellora's Cave and Samhain publishing houses? I do. I probably couldn't make it into Ellora's Cave, not even now. Just not enough raw penis in my writing, I'm telling you. Anyway, the librarians at the time had taken one look at the books and thought, "Oh, romance, like Harlequin," so I was getting book reports on Ellora's Cave, which was awesome, and my books couldn't get reported on because why? Nevermind. I'm not that bitter about it now.

But just in case, we agreed that he should print out the stories and take the sex out, giving his friend the abridged version.

Sadly, the sex, just the sex, and ONLY THE SEX was what his parents found in the printer, and when he told them, "It's cool, my teacher gave it to me," well, you can see how I ended up talking my administration with my union rep for company.

The head of HR at the time had the last name of Embree, and I only remember this because his brother worked at our school and they both had the same last name, and they were both Mormon, and this guy had an anti-gay agenda that radiated out his pores. 

He read a prepared statement that promised to bring the wrath of the police down on my head, and I said, "What?"

"There is a folder  on my desk about two inches thick with what I can only call pornography on my desk!"

To which I replied, "Jesus, Mister, whose books did you read?"

I called my union lawyer and he called another lawyer (my credential lawyer) and while both lawyers loved me and wanted to do their best for me...

I was done.

I was so hurt. 

I had actually helped to build that school. Their creative writing curriculum had been written BY ME, but the department head didn't want to give me the class because, well, I was a girl. The one place they were doing decent in testing was in vocabulary--particularly the juniors. Why? Because I'd written a vocabulary curriculum that could be used through all the grades, so in the mad scramble for classes that happened in the first six weeks, the kids could have one goddamned consistent thing. The men refused to use it. The reason it was working for the junior classes? Because the three teachers were women and we basically told the men to fuck off. Senior project, a program I created that basically saved our fucking bacon during the certification? Yes, I designed it, I put it forward and made it stick, and when the fucking cowardly administration didn't want to pay me to do all the work it entailed, I told the rest of the school they needed to help me ON THE ADMINISTRATION'S SAY SO and I had to face the consequences. And then, just when it started to work, two men pulled me off of it, because I was a girl and I couldn't possibly be doing it right.

I had helped build this school, and time and time again, it had crapped all over me.

The year before, during graduation, I was standing at the gate, trying to keep parents from going back to their cars and getting too high (I'm not kidding here) and we realized that the stadium was too packed. Someone had gotten the bright idea to forge the tickets we gave to students that they could give to their family--it was dangerously crowded. 

Security closed the gate, and left me on the side with all the screaming parents. 

Who were all high and drunk and screaming at me.

They opened it just a tad to let me get on the other side, but it was an ugly and terrifying ten minutes, and it told me exactly how much I was valued by my school system.

And now, in October of 2010, they were letting me know all over again.

I told my lawyers all I wanted was a settlement. They said, "We can get your job back!" They had both read the stories and had gotten to the end and asked me where exactly the porn started. I was like, "THAT'S what I wanted to know!" 

A settlement wasn't good enough for the school school. They hired a big time lawyer and paid her probably three times what my settlement was at the end (I was part time after all--I had four kids, one of them still in pre-school, and I was needed for transportation if nothing else!) to try to fire me instead. 

She went through my blogs and tried to find a place where I'd confessed to doing something worth firing me for--because giving a kid a book that wasn't porn was obviously not enough.

No dice. A year and some months after I'd gotten pulled out of my classroom, I got to go back and collect my things.

My colleagues had raped my bookshelves for books that had been given to me. That was nice. Patrick Crean, if you're out there? Fuck off. 

And the pictures and notes I'd kept from kids who'd graduated had to be rescued from under a pile of pencil shavings. The room I'd been so proud of--had decorated every year with a different theme--had been turned into a warehouse for old desks.

I remember playing Linkin' Park and Foo Fighters and Beastie Boys at top volume while I went through my stuff. I'd brought a friend with me who wanted me to try to milk everything in the room for it's monetary value and she didn't understand when I told her that this wasn't why we were there.

And then I filled my car with stuff--some of which is still in the garage--and walked away.

I miss it. I miss teaching. I've done a bit of it in the last couple weeks and I want to get to a point where I teach a class a week. That would be lovely. There is a joy and an energy I get from sharing what I know and love with others--it's part of why I write, but teaching is so much more animated. 

But I'm still glad I walked away. 

Ten days after I'd gotten pulled from my classroom, I got to meet my publisher for the first time. I was a mess--I was a breath away from tears in any sentence, jumpy--ADHD at its finest, 24/7. I was practically psychotic for lack of sleep and generally a complete mess. She sat me down and held my hand and said, "What do we have to do to make it so you never have to go back there and teach again."

And then she did her best to make it so. 

That moment of having someone believe in me when I was almost hysterical with self-doubt has never left me. I hope I've given back what I received in that moment, but I don't think its possible. I'll keep giving, because it's a debt of love I can never repay.

And I've learned so much since then--so much about the difference between what people say about you and who you really are. So much about perception on the internet and reality with actual people you talk to and care about. So much about the slanderous vagaries of popular opinion and the things that really matter. 

Some of my children have come out, in one way or another, since that day ten years ago. I don't mention it a lot on the internet because it's personal to me--but also because I don't trust the internet community the way I used to--and boy, those were some hard lessons to learn.

But the things that started me on this path--the immersing myself in different worlds, in the lives of different people, in my craft and in my genre and subgenre-- these things remain as magical to me as the day I first opened up a spiral notebook in high school and wrote a 24 page epic poem in my shitty handwriting.

Writing is still my lodestar and my true north. Creating imaginary playmates is still a thing I believe is important, because even when the world and social media is a cesspool, imaginary playmates are still so pure.

So, here's to an odd anniversary. One that changed my life. Ten years ago, I thought it was ending my life--I'll be honest. I couldn't drop the kids off at school without crying as soon as they got out of the car.  I used to lose my keys constantly and forget I had shoes and sometimes even forget where I was going when I was taking kids to school or home because I was so preoccupied with the complete change of everything I'd expected my life to be.

And now that the world is a completely different place, it's hard to look back on that anniversary see myself so defeated. 

If we only know that we can survive, the pain and uncertainty seems bearable. It's the not knowing that may kill us.

It's the hope that sees us through.