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

Thursday, March 31, 2016

It's the SpongeBob backpack all over again

Ouch!

Okay-- so I missed my postal deadline, I almost forgot to order Squish's cake, the house is a mess, little girls are arriving Saturday, and I have a week after that before the car needs to be packed, my hair, face, and nails need to be done, and I'm driving to Vegas.

OH fuck.

I need to get the car checked out so the AC doesn't die in the middle of the desert.

ZOMG--AND I NEED GAS TOMORROW!

And this fucking edit is ginormous.  Like, four different voices chiming in on my work. I think in the end it will be worth it but atm, it's consuming my life, and my consciousness.

And I need to get Squish's birthday present.

And remember to get Zoomboy a copy of The Force Awakens because he's such a good sport.

And... oh God.

There's something.

I know there is.

A vet appointment, the dog's flea treatment, a pile of cat crap somewhere, piles of laundry, do I need nylons again?

I remember last year at this point Mate yelled at me for spending money and I was like, "Do you have any idea what I'm DOING in the span of three weeks?"

Ditto.

And I don't even have an answer because he's been predictably busy and I haven't been able to bounce anything off of him.

Anyway--Squish's birthday party is on Saturday--and the last thing she said to me was, "You know, Mommy? I still like Monster High."

So, I need to make this one good. I need to make it count. Because she's ten, and she's heading for her teen years at warp speed, and right now she's so happy--God, I don't want to let her down.

Anyway, so tonight I remembered to order the cake tomorrow and had a panic attack because I almost forgot it entirely.

I'm still panicking. Can you tell?

Back-- WAY back--nine or ten years ago-- I wrote this freaked out, panicky post about how I forgot the kids' SpongeBob backpack when I dropped them off at daycare. I didn't realize that it was during the sixth week of school (yes--that sixth week, during which a hangnail becomes armageddon and armageddon becomes an excuse to flunk English, the fifth grade, or Kindergarten) and how dropping that one ball was the lynchpin of the entire Rupe Goldberg Machine that was my life at the time.

A lot of people were really reassuring, and then I realized, "Oh. This is the sixth week."

I'm starting to suspect the same thing here, only, "Oh, it's a week before RT and you've been dealing with kid-thing after kid thing and they haven't let up."

Which means I'll feel better tomorrow.

But right now, I'm going to bed so I can obsess about how I'm ruining my children's childhood one dropped ball at a time.


Ain't Technology Grand


So, tonight I've got two moments.

Moment 1: We pulled into the driveway and, of course, the first sound to greet us was the dogs. They were barking their heads off.

"So, Zoomboy," I said with a  yawn (it was my nap time), "Do you want we should go put them out of their misery?"

"Sure. Should we pet them gangland style or execution style?"

heh heh heh-- clever, that one!

And Moment 2:

So, we were supposed to post our swag to the different rooms at RT this year. For those NOT sending stuff, it is supposed to get there by Friday, with a code on it for each room, and if the code is wrong, or if it got there late, it would cost us $100 to bail our stuff out from the holding company to give away our swag.

Well, I've been a little busy with the family thing these last two weeks--and the sick thing, but mostly there was St. Patrick's Day and Easter, and this weekend there's Squish's birthday and housecleaning and when all of that was done THEN I was going to concentrate on RT.

And it just hit me, like LAST NIGHT that the deadline was coming up, and then I had a thought about getting all the shit sent, and then this morning I started printing stuff out so I could make my plan about what went where and then it hit me that my printing order wouldn't be here until Friday and then I asked anyway to see if I posted tomorrow, would it get there Friday, just so I could do a couple of boxes and...

And fuck it.

I"m going to have to haul all that shit to my hotel, assemble it all, and then haul it down to the appropriate sites (I understand it's half a mile from our rooms to the convention floor, and I'll probably get lost because it's a fucking casino, DAMMIT) and dude.

The first thing I'm going to do after Squishie's party guests go home on Sunday is go buy one of those milk-crate carts--one of the light kinds that collapses? (The second thing I'm going to do is go buy some new dresses. Because.)

Anyway-- the thought of the milk crate thing took me back-- twenty-four years ago, actually.

So, my first teaching job was a substitute teaching job in the Grant district during the golden years--as in, the years where the cops would sweep the junior high quads before school in order to make prostitution and drug busts of the 12 year old students. No. Not kidding. It was in the news--and I saw it in person.  This substitute teaching job lasted well into my first pregnancy. It ended around six months along. A kid threw a chair at me, I called security, and the principal walked him back into the classroom and said, "The kid says he's sorry," and I sheltered my unborn baby and thought, "Fuck. This."

So, when they had interviews at the San Juan district--a district that had its shit slightly more together--I thought, "Well, I can go in for an interview and practice my interview skills, but I"m seven months along. Who's going to hire me?"

Apparently the woman interviewing me didn't notice the seven month baby bump--and I called attention to it too. When asked if I could help with after school activities I pointed actively to the Big T in my stomach and said, "No, I don't think so. I"m going to have other things claiming my attention after school for the next two years."

But they hired me anyway, because they were stupid, and I know this because I pulled up that first day to get shown to my classroom, and I was told by the principal, "OH my God. We didn't realize you were pregnant. You have four classrooms."

Yeah.

So, the first thing I bought was a luggage cart--one of the little collapsible dollies they used to have before the suitcases had wheels. I bungee corded a milk crate to this, bought a file box to stack on top of the milk crate, and bungee corded my teacher's edition on top of the file box.

I hauled that thing to four different classrooms--and before someone says, "It could be worse," my prep period was between the two classes I had in the same room, and the room was needed for another class. So, yes, I hauled my entire life around the school between EVERY CLASS.

After my first job review--the one that happens after the principal comes in and watches you teach--I was sitting in the conference room waiting for my principal to come grade me and I heard the following conversation:

"OH my God-- she's huge."

"Yeah-- the district's pissed, too."

"Well they should be. Why'd she even interview like that?"

"I have no idea. But they want her gone at the end of the semester."

"Well, it's her own fault."

And that was when the secretary realized I was in the room with the open door and heard everything. And then the principal arrived.  Awkward.

But I still had to haul that shit around for the next five weeks.

Anyway-- I still remember when I walked up to my principal, Friday the week before my due date, and said, "I'm sorry. I know I was going to teach until I gave birth but I can't. I just can't." She was so disgusted with me for not making it one more week.

Big T was born an hour after his due date had passed. I lost my mucus plug the Wednesday after I bailed, and I think that was probably a close call. I remember stopping in the middle of a class once, and along with twenty students I watched as Big T did a barrel roll in my stomach, head for ass.  One of the kids went, "She is going to have that kid RIGHT HERE."

But for the most part, they were very sweet.

Nobody offered to haul my thirty pounds of classroom for me though-- I had to do that my damned self.

So anyway--I'm going to buy myself one of those collapsible milk crate/dolly things now, one of the lightweight ones that requires no bungee cords, and I'm a little nostalgic.

Or is that bitter?

Either way, I know I'll be thinking, "This thing is GREAT--where the fuck was it 24 years ago?????" the entire time I'm hauling it through a Vegas Casino.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Random Thoughts About Volunteer Work

Okay-- I am eyeballs deep in an edit, and I almost forgot to blog! So it's going to be a short one, kay?

*  Two weeks ago, before Spring Break I served as Art Docent in my daughter's classroom again. I was doing trains--Currier & Ives,  Monet, Grandma Moses and a few other artists--and we had equipment difficulties. In an effort to give the kids something to do, I played Arlo Guthrie singing The Train They Call the City of New Orleans --and I sang along with it. (Sorry, kids--hope there was no permanent scarring there.)  And I asked the kids to guess what pictures we were going to look at from the song.

And they did.

And then we learned about paintings of trains.

And some of those kids were humming the song on their way out.

And even though I have no time and I'm exhausted and behind several deadlines and omg we have soccer AGAIN... I'm really glad I did that.  IT feels important.

*  ON Saturday before Easter, Mate, the kids, and I went to Rusch Park--Mate has a soccer booth there. Mostly all he does is pass out fliers so people know our city has a soccer team at all.

Now, seven years ago when Mate first started coaching, it costs around $250 to sign each kid up, and uniforms were around $75. If this sounds expensive--and we were up to our eyeballs in fundraising as well-- that's because the board was crooked and taking kickbacks and sucking the bank account dry. The fundraising was going in their pockets and the parents just ponied up the rest.

Mate's been on the board four four years, because he was so angry and wanted something to change.  This Saturday at Rusch Park as 2/3 of our family is passing out fliers, a father came up to us and asked about scholarships for soccer. Mate said we had some programs, but that they had quite some time to sign up--and then he pointed to the registration and uniform costs. Registration is less than half what it was seven years ago. Uniforms are $25, not including shoes and shin guards.

The father looked at the pricing and said, "We can do that!" and the little girl next to him just glowed.

And when we got home I told Mate, "You did that. You and everyone on the new board--you did that. You wanted a better place for kids to go and you made it happen and that kid and a bunch of others can play because of you."  And it sounds corny, but it's true.

That good people can make the world a better place.

It's important to remember sometimes--because sometimes the world can feel chaotic and painful and unjust.  But sometimes we make it better.

That's all.  Back to the editing hole!

Amy

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Scorched Haven--Part 5: Consequences

Okay-- as promised. A hint of our Little Goddess world, and then to bed!  Like I said, I'm editing and it's a tough one. *low whistle* This sure is a a lovely break!

*  *  *

Zeb drove like he was playing a video game-- like crashing the car would have no consequences, and he'd just get another life.

Of course Zeb would be able to survive a car crash at 120 MPH, but Colton, moaning in the backseat and losing blood by the quart load wouldn't be so lucky.

Goddammit!

Green!

He wasn't aware he'd even done the psychic scream thing until Green popped into his head, a cool burst of water in a shaded glen.

Hello, there, my boy. Long time no hear-- we've been worried.

Oh God. He'd been missing for a day--Richie had been dead for a day, and he'd known about a kid named Colton who was now dying in the backseat of this car for less then eight hours.

Richie was killed yesterday at the Grapevine. I got away and got help but... He couldn't make words, could only project a picture of that pretty kid with the strong jaw and long dark hair, bloody and undignified in the backseat.

Oh no.  Green's concern helped a little. It meant he was taking this seriously, didn't it?

He's a good kid, Zeb said, aware that he sounded like he was begging. He helped me, he was worried for his friend, his family. He wanted out of that town so badly, and I told him... I told him... Oh Goddess. The hubris, of thinking that Zeb could rescue Colton the way that Adrian had rescued him. I just wanted to get to Bakersfield, Green. I thought if we could get there, I could get hold of someone, and we could at least get him up to the foothills. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry... He was crying. He was driving 120 MPH down Hwy 5 and he was crying. Desperately he wiped his eyes with his wrist and tried to pull his shit together.

He felt disoriented for a moment, and then as though it were more than Green's voice in his head. Oh, oh God-- was Green's entire mind in Zeb's head?

For a moment, Zeb was afraid Green could see all of his insecurities, all of the times he'd felt like a coward and failed. Oh, he'd rather wreck the car than have Green, or Teague, or Lady Cory know that he wasn't worthy of living on the hill. He'd spent three years laying low so nobody knew what a mistake Adrian had made, recruiting him. Three years not getting involved so nobody could see that he didn't count anyway.

And now Green was in his head, and who knew what' he'd see? Oh crap oh crap oh crap-- Zeb's hands were sweating so badly he could barely hold the wheel.

Okay, mate-- I need you to calm down. Bakersfield was a good try, but I want you to aim a little closer here. There's a turnoff coming up--Bracken says you can take back farm roads through Visalia, to Yosemite. Yosemite will be good, Zeb, because we know most of the people there. It hasn't been taken over by the crazy yet, and your friend is going to need some wide open spaces.

He can barely move, Zeb thought, glancing at Colton's almost blue face as he stuttered for breath through what looked to be a river of blood.  He tried to keep the bark of insane laughter inside.

He'll surely be moving after you bite him, right? Now get ready--Bracken says you need to take one of the farm exit coming up. Yerkes, does that ring a bell?

Oh God. That was right... "Fuck!"

With one yank of the wheel, Zeb darted through two lanes of traffic toward the offramp, speeding toward's an intersection about a half-a-mile ahead. In his rearview he saw cherry lights, following him, and he kept his eyes glued to the cross traffic coming down the overpass. Timing. If he could time it before this semi and after this little Toyota, he could hit the two-lane farming road at full speed. Timing... timing... timing....

He skidded around the curve, jumped the light and bolted ahead of the semi.  The oncoming lane was clear so he veered into that and stood on the gas, passing the Toyota and veering back into his own lane with nothing but free air in front of him.

Took the exit, Green, he said meekly to the passenger in his brain.

That a boy. Now in two stretches of trees, you're going to see a tiny road to your left. It leads to a one horse town that should have a gas station.  You'll need to stop there.

For what?

Gas?  

We just got some.

You just squandered most of it going too fast for this car, which, by the way, will fall apart bolt by bolt if you don't give it a rest.

Zeb toned the speed down to 100 MPH and listened guiltily to the doors rattling inside the joins. God, this thing was not sturdy.

And to bite your passenger, dear boy. He's going to die if you don't.

Wait-- wait-- you want me to bring him over? ME?

Zebulon, you trusted this young man with your life. And now we owe him. Of course. Do you think we hold such service lightly?  Now get to the gas station and then see if you can reach me by phone. Tired. 

Green's psychic kiss on Zeb's forehead smelled like wildflowers and rich warm earth, and for a moment Zeb's heart rate slowed down and his adrenaline stopped dumping into his blood stream.

Of course he was tired--he didn't usually project into someone's head long distance--and when he did, it was usually someone he was much more closely connected to, which made the communication easier.

Colton groaned behind him, and some of that calmness seeped into Zeb's voice.

"Okay, kid. We've got a plan."

"Hospital?" Colton managed.

"No, better. Werewolf bite.  You game?"

"No choice," the kid whispered, blood bubbling up between his lips, and fuck if Zeb was going to let him die.

The turnoff was almost invisible, and fuck Bracken for no warning at all.  Zeb saw it and pulled a 90 degree turn in Colton's aging sedan. He managed to hold the thing to the road when by all accounts it should have just popped into a demolition derby style roll, and then he floored the car again.

Zeb, you've got about thirty seconds before he dies.

Zeb checked the rearview for cherry lights, saw none, and hit the brakes, fishtailing to a halt on the dusty side of the road.

Colton was unconscious, the breath bubbling from between his lips coming at gasping intervals, and Zeb didn't even bother to get out of the car or even stop the engine.  He turned in his seat and grabbed the hand resting on Colton's thigh. It sat in his own hand, limp and unresponsive, and he closed his eyes and concentrated on the change.

Just his muzzle changed, a thing he'd practiced out of boredom one day, but had never considered a power or a skill, particularly-- until now.

As soon as he felt his muzzle in the shape of a wolves, he lifted Colton's hand to his mouth and nipped quickly. As soon as he tasted the fresh blood welling through the skin, adding to the copper patina of old blood crusting over Colton's hand, he dropped the hand back onto Colton's thigh and turned around, letting the change slide off his features.

He could only hope now-- and try to get to the gas station before the car rattled apart. Mindful that a functioning car needed doors and a chassis, he lowered his speed to sixty MPH and watched the road ahead.

He didn't even realize he was holding his breath, listening with his super-hearing for a heartbeat, praying to the Goddess herself for help, until he heard Colton's low moan behind him.

He didn't realize he'd said thank you out loud until Colton mumbled weakly, "You're welcome. For what? And I'm hungry again."

He'll live, he said gratefully, hoping Green could hear him.

Good. Now fix your phone.

Well, yeah. One thing at a time.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Here's to you...

So-- no Scorched Haven tonight, because tired. But I'll be editing tomorrow and in desperate need of some fiction writing, so look for it then.

Now, in the last few years, really, I've noted that I've kept more and more of myself and my private life back from online. A lot of this is to protect the people I know in real life, and while it was hard at first, I'm not sorry I've gotten better at discretion--it was a long overdue skill.

But today, as I was talking to friends and family, I was overcome by a surge of admiration for so many people--I wanted to shout out ALL THE PEOPLE--but they would not want to be so shouted. So I'm going to leave you with this:

Here's to Mates who fall in holes while being Easter Bunnies and kids who look for eggs even though they're pretty sure mom and dad hid them.

Here's to Moms who do the holiday thing one more time, because they don't want that last bit of their kids' childhood to disappear.

Here's to Dads who suck up the expense because, dammit, they want to see their kids happy, and moms who budget and make room and pull miracles out of thin air so they don't give Dad an aneurism.

Here's to people who don't celebrate Easter and who put up with the rest of us and our eggs and our bunnies and traditions from our childhoods that we're not quite willing to ditch. (Or who just like the idea that it really is a pagan holiday, masked as a conservative Christian tradition.)

Here's to the people who make Reese's Peanut Butter Cups which get us through.

Here's to people who have lost someone, and who had to endure this day alone.

Here's to young men and women with hearts too sore to people with their families today, who hid away so others didn't see their pain.

Here's to people who've had their lives thrown in upheaval and couldn't possibly do one more goddamned minute in a crowd--but who were grateful for the time they managed.

Here's to playful friends who put up with random jokes and silly pictures because sleep deprivation finally caught up with me and all of my weirdness spilled over into texts and off-color puns.

Here's to the people with minds like labyrinths who found the door today to come out and visit with the rest of us.

Here's to missing friends and family whom we wish were here, just once, sometime in the spring.

Here's to the folks who always host the gatherings who wish their kids would get their shit together so someone else could clean the fucking house.

Here's to exhausted dogs who got to play outside all day, and who brought the rest of us joy.

Here's to Moms who don't usually cook but who cook on holidays and really frickin wish that just one damned Easter we could send out for pizza.

Here's to the whole laughing, crying, screaming, shouting, hiding, hugging, energetic, exhausted lot of us, who try so very hard to brave another turn around the sun, another marker of our mortality, another family gathering, another moment alone or in pain, another moment surrounded by too many people, another moment screaming inside...

Because somewhere in all of the tumult, we all remember, pray for, hope for, dream for, long for, believe in...

Moments of peace and love.

Namaste and Blessed Solstice and Happy Easter

Amy


Saturday, March 26, 2016

And The Pagans Rejoiced

So, this was going to be Scorched Haven, but I'll try to give you that tomorrow. It seems I'll be filling plastic eggs with chocolate tonight and hiding them for the kids...

Speaking of, I have a little story I'd like to share.

So, Big T is going to be 24 in December, which means that, for the last 24 years, we've been collecting kid shit for Easter. Everything from plastic eggs to table centerpieces have been accrued in a giant Lexan that we keep out in the garage.

An old Lexan.

A missing Lexan.

Only, we didn't know it was missing.  We spent much of our day at a community egg hunt passing out soccer fliers to potential club members, so the day was pretty busy. No time to send Mate to look for it until late afternoon.

So, right about the time dinner was almost ready, I texted Mate (since kids were in the room) Are you going to get the Easter stuff? T can't find it.

Mate texted back, I'll get it.

Then he came back in and texted, Not there!

And it wasn't. Whether it sustained water damage (because it could have been cracked) and T threw it away without telling us, or it's buried in a different pile of boxes, one that we can't find, the Lexan was gone.

Now, we have Easter. We have chocolate eggs and new suits of clothes and chocolate bunnies and jelly beans and a toy a kid (and yes, St. Patrick's Day followed by Easter followed by Squish's birthday has been driving us into credit debt for 10 years, why do you ask?) already bought. Hell, I sent Chicken's stuff to her on Thursday--it arrived today.

But for things like baskets and decorations and plastic eggs, we depended on that Lexan!

Do you want me to go buy some eggs and baskets?  

Great! Another $100 on plastic eggs. Fucking wonderful.

Well, he does have a point. We're sort of getting near the finish line here, folks. Squish is turning 10. I give it maybe two years before we don't need to hide plastic eggs and just the Easter basket and a gift certificate to Target will do us.  (Mate is looking forward to these days with all his heart. He loves kids, loves playing with them, but these yearly sacrifices of cash for ritual obesity have him baffled. I gotta admit, I was eyeing the bedroom sets at Target with a wistful eye, given that Geoffie tends to chew on the blankets when she's bored.)

Anyway--I sent back, I can do it for under $50. 

Then I took dinner off the stove, mixed it one last time and took off.

I saved that Easter in $18.96.

I got home and Squish asked me where I'd gone (I left the bags in the car, natch.)  Anyway, I replied, "I went out for mushroom soup and real butter to rescue dinner," which is what I should have gotten because dinner sucked.

"Why don't you have anything?"

"Store was closed. It's the night before Easter."

"Oh well-- I'm making frozen burritos anyway."

"I"m sorry."

Mate looked at me as I walked in. "How much?" he mouthed.

"$18.96."

"Dinner didn't need rescue. It was awesome."

I ate my bowl. Folks, it was not awesome. Repeat NOT AWESOME.

But when Big T said, "Dinner isn't good?" Mate repeated, "AWESOME. Dinner was AWESOME."

Which means that, apparently the only thing you need to do in order to excel at dinner is to replace 24 years of memories with $18.96 in clearance Easter products.

Now I know.

Anyway-- Scorched Haven tomorrow or Monday, given that I'm spending tonight stuffing plastic eggs with chocolate and jelly beans.

I hope your Easter has some redemption as well ;-)







Thursday, March 24, 2016

And For These Things I'm Happy

This is me, happy. (Okay-- it's Johnnie, happy, but I feel like this a lot, so he's taking my dork rap.)
A FB Reader made this for me-- she made all of them! Nikki Fournier, you've made my WEEK! This one is for Gi-Gi from Deep of the Sound.

This one is for the Candy Man books-- the first one in particular. I told Nikki that I used to try to get my students to make these when I taught-- a graphic organizer with quotes from the book. I love that Nicki did this just on her own.

This one is for The Winter Courtship of Fur Bearing Critters. And I can never get enough animated alpacas. 

This one is just very me. Thanks, Rhae, for putting this one on FB.

This one is NOT me--I mean it LOOKS like me, and the books are mine, however, if you read the bio, there might be something amok. Thanks to Tawny who took the screen shot-- I actually told Google a month ago that this was about the wrong Amy Lane, and I've even gotten letters for the other Amy Lane in my e-mail. I really think Google should fix this, don't you?

This used to be my wrap, the lovely one with all the fluid drape? And then there was a drier when there should have been no drier. Now It is a thing Squish cuddles, because it's soft.
But it used to be my wrap.
And seeing it like this does not make me happy, but on the plus side? This here is a guilt free trip to the yarn store. And maybe my grief will ease just a tad.

And these are our morning assles. Good morning, assles, do you feel like dropping more Easter Eggs on the neighbors' lawn?

And there you go. It's actually been a sort of boring day-- I caught up on scads of sleep, which apparently my body needed, and actually did some work, which my job needed, and I made the kids pick up dog poop, which the lawn AND the Easter Bunny needed.

And my friends sort of did the rest-- thanks to everyone who posted lovely things for me today. It really did make me SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE!


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Best Part Was I Got a Nap...

Another brilliant spring day here, folks, and I got to see some of it from the swimming pool as I did my aqua aerobics. Today was actually a pretty busy, almost normal day. Huzzah?

*  Took the dogs for their half-mile.  Took myself for aqua. Yay!

*  My aqua instructor is going to try to dye eggs using old neckties and boiling water with vinegar and twine. I want to do this too... but we don't have any silk I'm actually willing to sacrifice. A trip to the Eco-thrift may be necessary. I told her I probably couldn't make it to her house, but we could do it and put it on FaceBook and see. I'm getting all excited about this now... silk ties-- who knew?

*  Had lunch with my friend Berry Jello.  We went to the pizza place where they have every board game known to man, and my ZoomBoy got to play Jenga with her four-year-old. He's so good with little kids--his heart is the heart of a puppy, and I love that about him. Squish and Berry's daughter talked like their mothers--they looked very suburban-pre-teen sitting and chatting about reading groups and plays and Squish's birthday party. Once again, score mom!

*  And, of course, Berry Jello is a delight. She loves trying new things--right now it's essential oils, and she was waxing lyrical about how putting peppermint oil on her temples killed her migraine dead. I was like, "Where were you Saturday?" and she was, "Next time call me, I'll be right there!" And the thing is, I know she will be, because Berry Jello = Awesome. She's going to help me put swag together in mailable boxes for RT, and I love her so very much for even offering.  *smishes Berry Jello over the internet*

* Came home, caught a half-an-hour nap before Mate and I went to see Mate's soccer game. He's playing keeper in an Over 40 team, and this was their third win. It was the first time I got to see him, though, and he's quick and fit and smart--I told him this was a lot more fun to watch than his softball games, and part of that is that indoor soccer moves so much faster, but part of that is that I've been watching soccer in one form or another since Chicken was in second grade. I actually understand what they're doing.  Okay, and yeah. Softball bores me spitless.

*  Got to talk to a kid watching his father play. Oh my God-- this kid is going to be president some day. First of all, I dropped my yarn bag, and he just came and picked it up (because I was obviously old and decrepit, but still!) and then, he told me about being in Academy League soccer, and how his brothers could have played pro but for injury, and how he spoke two languages and he went to an IB school and...  And God love 12 YO boys. Granted, I have one at home, but this one was fun to borrow for the course of the game.

*  Speaking of my 12 YO-- I made him spit-take today. The conversation went:

Me: Geez, is Geoffie nuts-- what's up with her anyway?
ZB: I don't know-- maybe we should rename her "Nutty Assle".  (He says "assle" because that's somehow not a swearword. I let him get away with it because if I'm calling the dogs assholes, it's not like he didn't get it from me anyway.)
Me: No, we can't call her Nutty Asshole because that would be gross. 

At this point, the mental image hit him, his eyes grew huge, and he almost spit out the drink he'd just taken.

I walked away smug as a clam, because dudes. I made him laugh--and seriously?  I've got about three  years before I'm stealing his material.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Pretty Day

 Okay-- so this is Dave Marquis-- you don't actually have to look at the clip, but he's the local weatherman. For almost thirty years,  Mate and I have watched as Dave Marquis froze his skinny butt off at Donner Summit and Pollock Pines and Sugar Bowl, telling Sacramento about the snowpack. For the longest time, he did this in the same Member's Only jacket, but lately someone has given him a nice REI fleece jacket with the News 10 emblem on it, and we were much relieved. He looked cold. Anyway-- say hi to Dave, everybody-- he's an institution and we love him:



So, what Dave was telling us lately is that the weather would look like this (rain modeled by my children and my parents' dog, on my second trip to Florida about two weeks ago.)

And because California was sinking (literally--our central valley sank like three inches because our water table was completely depleted) there was much rejoicing. (Insert Monty Python GIF here.)

And there is still much rejoicing--magic sky water has lost none of its magic here, folks, trust me.

This weekend, when I felt like crap, part of what made feeling like crap not quite so awful is that there's nothing like a rainy day to make you glad you can curl up under the covers and sleep. It's like a blessing from the gods, right there, and I was anxious to take it.  The bad news is that I was starting to feel like, for the kids, their whole Oestre break was going to be remembered like this picture of Steve here-- sort of dark and out of focus and mostly in the cave, playing with video games.

And I felt like bad mommy.

So today, I took said offspring to my parents' house while I got my teeth cleaned. (Yes, I see the same dentist I saw at sixteen, is that bad? Dr. Vanderwalker underSTANDS me, I'm telling you!)

Anyway, this is my parents' backyard.  For those of you who enjoyed Bewitched by Bella's Brother, this was be backyard I described for that one. My parents bought this house on an acre of land in 1980--it cost about $70K and looked like rattlesnake shit.

Because rattlesnakes shit there.

What you are seeing here equals thirty-five years of concentrated effort. When my stepbrother, stepsister and I were kids, during the summer my stepmom would leave a list of chores on the microwave when she got home from work. (She worked swing shift as a nurse's aid until she graduated from nursing college right after they bought the house.) The list would say things like, "Pull ten square feet of starthistles, do it early in the morning so you can wear long sleeves and not get poison oak."  Or, "Weed the garden, feed the pigs, collect the eggs, dump the compost."  I remember work parties where we got all our friends together and walked a well pump into one of the three wells on the property, the pump getting heavier as our human caterpillar (not the dirty kind) circled the house.

Now, way back beyond the swimming pool is a chicken coop. My stepmom just told me with much glee that they had a light timer for the door. This is genius, by the way--because the chickens really do go into roost before the sunsets, and they're ready to get out when the sun rises, no matter what time of year it is.  Anyway, the chickens were all out today--I know this because we had to wash Geoffie before we took her home. Butt cookies--they're her favorite weakness, and she rolled in about twelve.

Anyway-- my teeth got cleaned, I came to pick the kids up and we chatted--my stepmom was just getting back from this lake cleanup gig she does, and had to wash the poison oak off her body. She's so damned active as a senior citizen, I often wonder how I get to breathe her oxygen. Damn. She and my dad are amazing.

Anyway-- she got out her nail polish and did Squish's nails.

And Squish was delighted.

And even though I took the kids home and went shopping (twice! Once for Easter Sunday and once for milk) by the time I kicked them out of the car I felt a little better about their activity level.

For a couple hours they were not electronic trolls, locked in the place of cat dander and no light.

For a couple of hours they were out and about, talking to loved ones and enjoying the pretty day.








Scorched Haven: Part 4

Okay-- first of all-- Lollipop is available on audio today, and that's sort of exciting!

Second of all-- as I put out on FB, I spent the weekend sick, which really sucked because after lunch with bio-mom, I slept my weekend away. So this--my ficlet, which I usually schedule on Saturday is late, but it's up today--YAYAYAYAYAY!

Also, I started the sequel to Winter Ball, Mason Hayes's story, Summer Club.  I am realizing that Mason--who can't open his mouth without fucking up his life--is like my spirit child. I adore this character, and I think if he and I were to meet in real life we would have much tequila together.  I love it when a character does that in my head!

So right now, let's get to Scorched Haven-- enjoy!

*  *  *

Zeb stared out past the rolling hills of the Grapevine Pass and grunted as Kettleman City came into view.  That rabbit he'd eaten had about disintegrated into his bloodstream, between the losing blood and the multiple changes and the massive adrenaline dump.

"Hey," he muttered, "do any of these places have drive-thrus?"

"Yeah--do you got cash?"

Zeb let out a groan. "You don't have any money?"

"Well, twenty bucks--but we're going to need gas!"

"Don't you have a bank card?"

"Yeah, but..."  Colton's wrinkled his nose. "Won't they be... like, tracking my bank card?"

Zeb thought about it. "Like, CSI or the FBI? Does your town have those kind of connections?"

"Uh..."  Colton suddenly started laughing.  "Okay, so we share a police station with the adjoining town. Their computer still uses dial up and they do most of their phone work on landlines."

Zeb had to laugh too. "I think you're safe."  Then he remembered Richie and sobered. "No, not safe. Okay..."  He sighed. "God--I don't think Kettleman City is going to be overrun with werewolves--it's too damned public."  It was the Hwy 5 depot in the foothills of the Tehachapi-- anyone coming off the Grapevine or getting on the Grapevine usually stopped in Kettleman City or Grapevine to fill their tank, bleed their lizard, and get one more coffee to sustain them for the drive.  "But... I don't know which one is safer for you," Zeb confessed, shuddering. "I sent Richie inside thinking he could take a leak in peace, and he ended up sushi. I'm afraid to be the one going in, and I'm afraid to be the one staying out."  He tilted his head back against the seat and thought.  "I'll go in," he said after a moment. "You fill the tank, start the car, and wait for me--if things go south, take off."

"Take off?" Colton squeaked. "But... but-- you said you'd find me safety!"

"Safety's easy to find, kid. Drive up five for over three-hundred miles, take the turn-off to 80 East, keep going for another 100 miles or so to the foothills, and take a right at the Forresthill exit in Auburn. Drive until you hit Lake Clementine, go down to the lake, sit on the car, and shout out to anyone who comes by, 'Do you know Green and Cory?' Trust me. Safety will find you."

Colton squinted at him. "But... but what about you?"

"Take the turnoff, Colton. Odds are good, I'll be fine."  Zeb swallowed, thinking about how nice it was that somebody would miss him. "But it's sweet of you to worry."

"I'm not sweet," Colton muttered.

Sure he wasn't.

Zeb went to the bathroom first, practically vibrating on his toes the entire time he had his dick out. God he wasn't meant for this shit--no wonder Teague and Green had asked him repeatedly if he wanted to go. And it didn't help that he'd let Richie die. God... God that rankled. The guy had gone to the bathroom, and Zeb had done what he'd done his entire mortal life too.

He'd let the guy down.

Jesus-- Adrian almost had him convinced that he could be better than that.  But Adrian had been dead for two years now, and while the rest of the hill had seemed to find its balance without him, Zeb was still mourning the promise of having somebody--even if not a lover, but somebody--believe in him.

He washed his hands, nose practically quivering like a wolves as he tried to smell past the diesel fumes and the bad food and the antiseptic and the super strong soap to see if he could pick up any hinky werewolves.

Yes--but no. Not strong. As though the werewolves who had been through had been among the myriad--the three stoners, the guy who needed a nicotine patch, the many dads who helped change babies or hold toddlers, the toddlers themselves, and the adolescents stinking of puberty.  The werewolves had been a part of the constant stream of people through that bathroom, and that was all.

Zeb couldn't actually relax, but as he moved from the bathroom to the snack bar, he took a look outside to see Colton leaning against his car, hands in his pockets, looking about him anxiously.  He waved then, glad to see the young man brighten a little. They weren't safe, not by a longshot, but for the moment, they could appreciate their hot dogs and sodas in peace.

"You do like to live dangerously," Colton said when Zeb got into the car with his bag of convenience store hot dogs and peanut butter M&Ms.

Zeb looked at the junk food and smiled good-naturedly. "Best part of being a werwolf," he confessed. "I can seriously eat anything. No heartburn, no diarrhea--just fuel."

Colton raised his eyebrows. "But my stomach you're willing to risk?"

Zeb grinned and winked. "Well, you know, just stick your head out the car to vomit. And pick the hamburgers-- they looked safer."

Colton chuckled and Zeb felt a reluctant curl in his stomach. Yeah, yeah-- he was pretty, Zeb already knew that.  Dark hair--long enough to curl around his ears--dark eyes, a delicate chin and jaw--very male, but, well pretty. But the chuckle, the ability to laugh in the darkness--that was more important than the good looks, and Zeb was just lonely and scared enough to admit that it did something for him.

He set up the sodas and the food in the island between the two seats, and tore into the hotdogs he'd picked for himself.

"You eat like a wild animal," Colton said next to him, putting the car into drive and leaving Kettleman City in their dust. "When was the last time you had food?"

Zeb closed his eyes.  "Yesterday morning," he said in wonder. "Richie and I left  yesterday morning--sausage, eggs, cheese, toast, a little bit of fruit for sweet--we ate really well.  They'd thought they'd be in Disneyland today, and his heart ached a little for the nice Avian who hadn't made it there.

"Your friend," Colton apologized. "I'm sorry about him?"

Zeb grimaced and then gave it up. Yeah. His friend. Five hours in the car hadn't made them brothers, but it had definitely made them friends. "Thanks," he said softly. "We hadn't known each other long. We both just..." Damn. "Wanted to be of service, I guess."  God, I-5 was bleak. Nothing to look at, nothing to distract him. Nothing to do but tell his story. "Green's hill is really someplace special," he said after a moment. "Like... nobody would have thought worse of me if I'd stayed home. And I haven't put my neck out in three years. I mean, yeah, there was a war once, and I totally pledged my loyalty and all that shit--but nothing... you know..."

"Special?" Colton suggested.

"Yeah," Zeb sighed. "I... I just never felt like I had anything to offer. Except this one time, when I thought 'Hey! I'm expendable--and Teague is getting over getting hurt. And the whole hill is about to erupt into chaos, and I'm the least important person here. I may as well make myself useful.'  And I couldn't even do that right."

"Why's the hill about to erupt into chaos?" Colton asked, and Zeb grimaced.

"See, you know, like with the president? How, if he gets a dog, the whole world shits its pants?"

"Yeah," Colton nodded. "Sure. My favorite TV star got hit by a car--I didn't leave the TV for a week."

"Exactly. So, we have sort of a leadership committee. And there are three people on it who... their magic sort of holds the hill together. There's Green, the leader, and his wife, Lady Cory, and her other husband, Bracken."

"Two husbands?"

"Three, actually," Zeb filled in, because he didn't like leaving Nicky out, even if he wasn't one of the head honchos. "But we're talking leadership here, and the other one is more of a foot soldier, like me. Anyway, Cory's pregnant--with twins, one from each of the main guys."

"That's... odd..."   Colton's eyebrows were arched and delicate, and he was doing all sorts of strange and wonderful things as he tried to digest this information.

"Yeah--well, it's even odd in our world so don't strain yourself. Anyway, she doesn't know yet."

"Uh..."

"She's... well, her job is to run the entire freaking hill, right? Her and Green, with Bracken as her backup. So she's not paying attention to her body right now, and Green and Bracken have been waiting for a good time to tell her."

"When's a good time to tell her?"

Zeb shuddered, remembering the scars and the stories. "Well, it's not when she's getting her throat slit, which happened a couple of weeks ago. And it's not when she's jumping out of a helicopter, which happened like, last week. So, I was thinking, 'Hey, it's probably going to happen in this relatively peaceful time when people are talking about doing scouting missions and stuff.'"

"So you decided to be one of them," Colton said dryly. "That's heroic of you."

"You have no idea," Zeb muttered. "You don't get it. When she gets laid--or fights with one of her lovers or smiles at him and touches the back of his hand--the entire hill feels it. And now she's pregnant, with gigantic twins."

"So... like an entire girls soccer team during their menstrual cycle?" Colton asked, hazarding a good guess.

"Mm... how about an entire convention of cutthroat female business woman having their period during the full moon."

Colton let out a low whistle. "That's dire."

Zeb shook his head. "You have no idea."

"But you weren't going to be gone for nine months!" Colton said, laughing. "I mean, what? The entire hill is just going to run away screaming while she hormone cycles out? That's... weird man. Just totally weird."

"No..." Zeb was doing this badly, he could tell. "No. In fact, I want to be there for some of it. Because when they're all leading and it's all working? Man, it is something to fucking see. I understand that the night she got her throat cut, she led like five were creatures, two vampires, herself and Bracken up against an entire kiss of vampires and took half of them out before she achieved her objective."

"What was her  objective--world domination?"

Zeb shook his head. "No. That's the thing. She hated doing it--somebody in the kiss was hurting kids, or she wouldn't have. But... can you imagine? That's a reason to fight, you know?"

"Yeah," Colton said, looking at him sideways. "I can see you're looking for a purpose, that's what I can see."

Well, it was true. "Like maybe a young man who was looking to get the hell out of his small town?" Zeb asked pointedly.

"Score," Colton said, voice soft. "Got it in one--shit!"

Zeb looked in the rearview mirror and bristled. "You weren't going that fast."

"I know," Colton said lowly, pulling to the side of the road. The cherry lights of the police officer--not CHP, Zeb noted, local po-po--pulled up immediately behind.

"Keep your foot on the brake and don't put it in park," Zeb muttered under his breath. "Lower your window right now."  Zeb did the same, scenting the air without being too obvious about it, and keeping his eyes glued to Colton's rearview mirror.

He saw the drawn gun at the same time he smelled the werewolf rot.

"Gun it!" he shouted, and the car jerked away at the same time the shot fired.

The back window exploded and Colton was thrown forward against the steering wheel, foot practically standing on the gas.

"Shit!" Zeb screamed, and Colton just screamed, his entire shoulder disintegrating into a mass of pulp.  The car lurched forward and Zeb pulled Colton's body back against the seat, steering the car into traffic as the wheels spun in an attempt to catch up the the revving of the motor. Zeb found the buttons on the steering wheel, the ones for cruise control and hit them both, keeping the car in the slow lane, hoping that the quarter of a mile between them and the car in front of them was enough time.

"Colton, you okay?"

"Zeb, he shot me! I wasn't doing anything and he fuckin... God!"

"Yeah, here. He's following us, but not officially--cherry lights, no sirens. Here--I'm going to steer, and I want you to crawl into the back seat, okay?"

"Are you shitting me?"

"Do you want him to get us?"

"Fuck!"

They almost died three times--but they didn't. And if the cop wasn't going to try to chase them down with siren after Zeb steered the damned car all over the fucking road, he was never going to do it, so as soon as Colton flopped over the back of the passenger's seat into the back, he put his foot on the gas and killed cruise control and drove like he could get shot out of the front window and put himself back together.

Because he could.

It was the pretty kid in the back of the car he was worried about, because he figured Colton had about twenty minutes, tops, before Zeb had to make a decision that would permanently change his life.




Friday, March 18, 2016

Your Drug of Trope

I once knew a woman--a long long time ago, a friend of my parents, in a way-- who hated musicals.  Loathed them. I can clearly remember her stomping her foot and yelling, "Where does the fucking music come from? How are we supposed to watch a movie in which music comes up out of nowhere and people sing for no reason and then they dance?  What in the fuck is that all about? How can people even watch that shit!"

I remember this clearly--and it always seemed to be really ironic, because this woman became a drug addict and was killed in a heroin sale gone south on some godforsaken street corner.  True story.

As I grew up, I wondered--I mean seriously wondered--if maybe she didn't need that heroin because she couldn't have--or refused actually--the drug of everyday  fantasy instead. That if she didn't allow herself to indulge in the happy endorphins caused by pretty people singing--or given to us by the brightly macabre colors of animated fantasies, because she loathed those too, or funny books--even fairy tale books for her son--then the only happy she could get was from the chemicals that became her undoing.

I'm sure somewhere out there someone has done a study about happiness and an active fantasy life--I think I remember one, and  yes, the correlation is very apparent--but even without this correlation, I see this idea as a true thing.  Amy has a lovely little world built in brightly colored Lego bricks of supposition and storytelling--I am aware.

But don't we all?

Readers are very much aware that the stories they read are constructed of pretty Lego bricks made of words and tropes and archetypes and all of the bright, hard plastic pieces that have a fluid relationship with space and time and make up the suspension of disbelief and world building that occurs in any novel, even the most mundane of contemporary literary fiction.

Which is why it always sort of stuns and saddens me when readers choose to hate a writer based on a book's trope.

See, here's the thing. If a literary archetype is the skeleton frame of the story itself--the thing that determines height, width, gender, gravitas, build etc. of the story--then the tropes are the flesh, the eye-color, the hair color, the skin tone, attitude, and some of the genetic traits of the story.  The style creates  the clothes, hairstyle, education, background, sense of humor, likes and dislikes, and general personality, if we're going to extend the metaphor--but right now, we're going to concentrate on tropes.

A trope is a well-known element in a story--a plot event, character type, theme, or conflict that is familiar to the reader before the book has even been opened. The Big Misunderstanding is a conflict trope, The Secret Baby is a major plot trope, The Spunky Tomboy and the Smooth Millionaire is a character trope.  The fact is, romance has a single essential plot: two or more people meet, and on the basis of sexual and/or romantic compatibility they reach a long-lasting agreement of emotional satisfaction.  Of the myriad important things that can happen in the course of that one event, many of those things are going to be familiar--these are tropes. They are the molecules that make up the romance reader's air.

Not every reader is going to love every trope. Me? I'm not a fan of the Big Misunderstanding. That's why, in Keeping Promise Rock, Deacon had to wreck the truck. Otherwise, there would be no reason for Crick to have enough time to thoroughly fuck up his life.  That misunderstanding couldn't last for more then ten minutes, because, frankly, as a person, I can't hold a grudge that long with someone I love, and I can't hold back a secret--or a hurt. I am just that much of an open book, really. I couldn't write that moment lasting any longer than necessary, and I'm not a fan of reading them.  This is why The Secret Baby trope will never be my favorite--even though one of my favorite writers has done it exceptionally well.  (Mary, oh, my Mary-- you do all things so very exceptionally well.)

Now some people will look at that explanation and get mad. "But... but... does that mean all romance novels are alike?" No! The skill of the writer to weave the events together, to use words in a fresh way, to get us to look at the oldest conflict in the newest way-- that will continually surprise and astound us.  That's what makes romance amazing-- that a timeless story, told a zillion times, gives us that heartstopping rush again and again and again.

And even the most stale trope can be done exceptionally well.  Mate and I just watched San Andreas, partly fueled by a lazy Sunday, and partly fueled by my adoration of all things Duane Johnson. (He just seems like such a decent guy, yanno? Please, The Rock, don't ever let me down!)  Anyway-- we saw the tropes immediately: estranged workaholic husband, society climbing wife, teenager who was going to be in danger--and then, just as we settled into that comfortable ennui brought about by stale tropes, the movie surprised us.

The husband's job? It was important-- he was a search and rescue guy, and no, not everybody could do what he did. So when he said, "It's work, I'm sorry," his daughter and ex-wife said, "We understand. It's okay."  I was-- well, surprised. I was even more surprised when the source of the estrangement had just a tad more poetic depth than I was expecting. I was surprised when the ex-wife wasn't a shrill harpy--and she wasn't stupid and she didn't screech at her husband. (I was pleasantly surprised when none of these things happened, because I get tired of seeing that character get a happy ending in disaster movies. So tired.) I was more than pleasantly surprised when the teenaged girl made smart decision after smart decision, and her love interest respected that she had a different knowledge base than he had. In short, this movie took tropes I was familiar with--and did a little bit of work to make them fresh, to make the characters not grate on my nerves like garlic in a paper-cut. Bless you, Duane The Rock Johnson, you didn't let me down!

And that's the thing--the writers and the actors took a trope--a thing we're all familiar with--and made it fun to watch.  That's a romance writer's job as well.

So here's the thing. I get it when people don't love a trope--I just admitted I have a few that aren't my favorites. I don't get hating an author--or saying horrible things about an author--for using that trope.

Because when I see a "Big Misunderstanding" trope coming along, I'll usually skip to the end of the book to see how long it lasts. If it doesn't last that long, I'll go back and read through it. And even if that's not my favorite book by that author, I get that for some people, that's their favorite trope, and they'll read that book again and again. It's no more a matter personal to me than an author choosing to write M/M instead of het suspense--it's the story they chose to write.

Now, I know someone is going to read this and go, "But Amy! What about GFY!"  And of course some people are going to look at that and go, "WTF is GFY?" so let's talk about GFY.

GFY is a trope used in gay romance called "Gay For You."  It refers to a book in which one or more characters is not gay at the beginning of the story, but falls so emotionally in love in the course of the story that the romance occurs. People are really hating on GFY at the moment, because they feel that it completely erases the option of a character being bisexual--and thus bisexual people don't have a voice in romance.

So I'm going to say something about this that's going to piss people off. I actually only know one writer who has set out to write an actual GFY romance. Almost every other romance that is labeled "GFY" has been read as GFY, but was written as something else entirely.

Now, I don't often contradict a reader's perception--but I think there is sort of a running misapprehension about how bisexuality works.  That Kinsey scale poster is seen around a lot--I wish I could tell you where I got it--I think I saw it on FB once and yes, I snagged it for my own. Now, the impression I get from a lot of readers who, say, read something like Winter Ball, is that the readers think Skip and Richie are maybe 1's on the Kinsey Scale--but, just because they are such amazingly good friends, they fall into bed and have hot sex and hello, goodbye butt-virgins.

There are a couple of things wrong with this.

The first is that there are copious hints in the book (as there are in Gambling Men which is also called GFY) that suggest that the two protagonists aren't as heterosexual as they first present. Skip and Richie (and Quent) are not particularly self-aware. When they talk about how they're not particularly aroused by women, and how Skip doesn't get hard, and how he made his ex-girlfriend feel bad about herself (completely without meaning to) whenever she tried to get sexual and how Richie was not all that excited about boobs... well, these guys present more like 5's on the scale than 1's. In fact, most of the stories that I've read which have presented as GFY usually give indications that the men are at least a 2 on the scale, if not a 3.  What happens in the course of the story is that the man they become emotionally attached to becomes so meaningful that they shake off the social conditioning that tells them they can't possibly be with a man physically. The attraction was always there--it was the conditioning, the assumption that if they didn't present as gay from the very beginning there was no possible way they could be attracted to and fall in love with a man at all. 

And that's the other thing that's wrong--and again, it's a general perception that's at fault, not an author, not a trope, and not a reader.

Look at that scale. Now, I get the impression--again, judging from reader's comments and the comments of people who are not familiar with either the genre or the LGBTQ community as a whole--that people look at that scale and assume it's proportioned somewhat like a pyramid. They think the straight people make up the big base of the pyramid, and then the less straight people made up sort of the middle and then the gay people made up the teeny-tiny tip.

I don't think that's the case.

Sexuality is biologically determined--we all know that. However, socially sexuality is a heteronormative assumption. So, if a little boy doesn't tell us that he's marrying another little boy at the age of eight, we assume he's marrying a little girl. Now that's changing in some of our culture, and that's great--but it's going to take a lot of generations before that heteronormativity is universally rejected and a more open set of assumptions make up the bulk of American culture. So if a little boy or girl has enough attraction to the opposite sex to fall in love, well, a lot of the time that's what they'll do--they don't even think of another possibility. (Again, this is changing--but perceptions are always fluid, so we're forced into generalities.) So very often, for people in those middle ranges of the scale, sexuality becomes a combination of biology and choice.

Think of any other component of human behavior that's a combination of biology and choice.

Intelligence--that's a combination of the two. Biology can limit intelligence but choice and nurturing can stretch abilities beyond their first assumed capabilities. Example? My oldest son, who, we were told, might read by the time he was out of high school, and who is now about to get an A.A. from junior college.  Part of his abilities were determined by biology and part of them were stretched by his environment and choice.

Physical ability--there's another combination. Yes, genetic determination plays a big part in making an athlete--but so does practice. We've all been inspired by Michale Jordan's drive--he went from being a second string high school basketball player to a legend--and much of that was environment and choice.

So sexuality--biology can can determine part of a person's Happy Ever After, but environment, acceptance, and, yes, choice in the case of people who are happily attracted to both sexes--can play it's own part. (As Joe from Sidecar said, "It's an all you can fuck buffet, Casey-- pretty girls and pretty boys!" )

Physical ability and intelligence are never plotted on a pyramid graph. Ever. They're plotted on a bell curve, with the vast number of humans falling in the middle ranges of either.

Why would we think sexual attraction would be any less fluid?  On one end the severely heterosexual--but only a small percentage--and at the other end the severely homosexual --but, again, a small percentage. And most of the glorious middle full of the bisexual, the lucky many, who are attracted to both sexes, but many of whom are socialized to only try romantically for one.  (For straight men or women who don't believe this could possibly happen, why do we watch and read porn with both sexes in it? Mate once tried to read only girl on girl porn--after a while, he admitted that he needed to see some cock--not with another cock, granted, but there needed to be a guy in his porn. Straight women who watch or read het porn will tell you they need to see a girl in their porn, and that she needs to be a pretty girl. This alone indicates a level of attraction that straight people don't usually think about.)

Most of the writers I know write gay romance from this assumption, whether they've vocalized this or not. The Skips and Richies who are suddenly attracted to another guy aren't actually "suddenly" attracted at all. The attraction was always there, under the surface. There were hints, suggestions, attitudes that may have given an onlooker a suspicion that the person involved was never as straight as they thought.

Now, I know people will sneer, "How could they be twenty-five (or thirty-six or forty-two) and not possibly know they're gay or bi?"

Well, it's like I told my daughter when she asked if she'll know she's going to start her period.  My periods are irregular--and have been since I started. Anywhere from four to sixteen weeks between them--and as was the case between two of my kids, it was more like five years.  So I don't know when they're coming. I may watch a movie and cry, eat all the cookies, snarl at the dog and dream about throat punching my husband who had done nothing wrong before I determine that he doesn't love me anymore and then jump his bones until he begs for mercy. And then, when I wake up in the morning swimming in blood, I'll laugh and go, "Oh... yeah. Okay. That makes sense."  Even when my period is the most likely assumption, very often I'll assume it's anything but. (Last time I thought it was colon cancer. Because Web MD makes hypochondriacs of us all, that's why.) I once read a book about pregnancy in which the woman's husband dragged her for a shrink for mood swings and the shrink asked her if she was pregnant. This happened to her three out of four pregnancies.

When we're not expecting our bodies to do something, we frequently don't know what they're doing when they're doing it.

I've heard from more than one gay man who came out in this twenties or thirties that yes, sometimes they were the last to know.

So, where were we?

Oh yes. GFY. It's more a reader trope than a writer trope--most writers are writing self-realization, or Out-for-you.

But it's okay-- really. Doesn't bother me if someone reads Winter Ball and calls it GFY.  I mean, bisexuality needs to be recognized more--I'm not going to argue that--and it would be great if people reading gay romance could walk away with some empathy and awareness for an important facet of human nature that gets overlooked.

But when it comes down to it, isn't getting the trope right with razor precision--or aligned with science or perfectly politically correct according to the latest version of Salon--much like insisting that there be a reason for music in the movie?

Romance is written to celebrate the idea that an individual's happiness is important.  I've always believed that. It's one of the reasons gay romance has s such a wide appeal--an individual's happiness is more important than hatred and intolerance and a blind society, why do you ask?

In the case of an author writing a story for other people to enjoy, that celebration of tolerance and individual happiness needs to extend to reader understanding and appreciation as well.

If a reader can look at a book about two guys who didn't know they were bi and find it wildly romantic that they discover love in each other's arms, then they have celebrated individual happiness triumphing over societal expectations.

Does it matter if the guys were labeled (and remember how much we all hate labels!) gay or bi or pansexual or omnisexual or sexuality to be determined later?

The trope, whatever it may be called, allowed people to have that rush of endorphins, that happy that comes from a familiar friend of literature. It greeted people like an old friend, and it gave a thrill of satisfaction as it hosted the party of emotions interacting with words.  That right there is a job well done.

And if a reader doesn't like that particular trope-- well, there are a thousand others out there that mightn't offend the sensibilities. There is always a Big Misunderstanding or a Virgin Billionaire Rancher or a Secret Baby around the corner--and while each trope might have it's detractors and it's staunch proponents, the fact is that whatever the trope represents, it gives a certain segment of readers an emotional satisfaction they can't get with any other combination of plot events.  Now, maybe that will go away as society changes--but now, right now, it feels emotionally necessary and that is why it persists.

Let's not be too quick to shit on people's magic, folks. That woman I knew--if she could have, just once, swallowed the fantasy and not criticized the fact that IT COULDN'T EXIST, maybe she would have found a way to make herself happy without the thing that ultimately killed her. We need the happy, people. We NEED THE FUCKIN' HAPPY.

The more happy we try to take away in the name of making shit absolutely razor-line perfection, the less chance for emotional fulfillment we can find. I've heard readers say often enough that books are their drugs--and they're my drugs too.  Yes, I'm wary of my subtext, and yes, I get angry when I feel someone abuses subtext--but I'm not going to wage a campaign of hatred and bitterness to remove an unwanted subtext from all of the world.

The surest way to make a population miserable and vulnerable to all sorts of evil is to take away the fantasy of the happy. You think I'm kidding? How much romance do you think the average Trump Supporter reads--and they follow that yoyo because they think he's "real".

Don't shit on other people's happy. Don't shit on other people--readers, writers, advocates--period.  And please, if someone is reading a book to up their endorphins, don't piss on their high.

If the alternative to loving musicals or romance books or animated features is getting shot on a street corner looking for your next fix--or following a maniac because his mass-hysteria cult meetings give you a rush--for sweet fuck's sake, take the musical or the book or the cartoon--and don't shit on anyone else for doing the same thing.

We can't make the world better by using ducks to peck our art to death. We often can't make better art that way--and we're not doing the ducks any favors either.






Thursday, March 17, 2016

To-do lists...

Okay-- so Wednesdays are notoriously busy for me--and today, I left off something important.  Let's see, let's see, let's see....

Drop Squish off at school? Check

On time? No go, repeat, Daylight Savings Time is kicking our ass, and the on time issue is no go.  As Mate said about Zoomboy, he's been late three times this week, and it's Wednesday. Same with Squish.  Tomorrow, they shall be on time.

Remember not to drop embarrassing nickname for her classmate as I'm dropping her off?  Also a no-joy situation. As I was dropping her off, the little boy with the man-bun wedge walked up, little bun in place, and I said, "Oh, look-- there's your little man bun buddy."  Squish fell off her seat laughing and then told me she'd never be able to look that kid in the eyes again.  So, let's try that again--

Ruin my kid's chances at ever being socially smooth and worry free?  KAZAM! We have a check.

Walkies? Check

Aqua work out? Check

Zoomboy from school? Check

Stop at Del Taco? Oh my God, do you know they've got a steak burrito with both fries and guacamole? Dudes! It's like... anyway, check.

Thirty minute nap?  Check

Squish from school! Check

Dance lessons? Check

On time? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Return kids home? Check

Answer Squish's question about puberty? Check

Avoid scarring her for life?  Well, she asked me how she knew when her period was going to start.  I told her she wouldn't. She would put the signs together later. But first she'd wake up and her face would turn into the crater mud flat from Bumpass Hell, she'd rip her brother's face off to steal the last Oreo, and she'd go to sleep on white sheets, dream that wolverines were ripping out her ovaries, and wake up on the Japanese flag and go "Oh! I should have known!"

So, scarring for life?  Achieved.

Also, I told her that I'd probably be going through menopause at the same time, so we'd know something was up when all the men were hiding under their beds like the cowards they are.

And then there was dinner--brought my Mate--and watching a movie and general happy family time, and I thought we were all okay.

Until Zoomboy presented the green hat I'd bought him, and it hit me.

I'd bought him the hat, but nothing else for St. Patrick's day.

THERE WAS NOTHING TO PUT IN THE LEPRECHAUN TRAP.

So, I told the kids that the leprechaun would show up tomorrow when they were in school.  Zoomboy asked why. Squish said, "Because the leprechaun is tired now and needs to go shopping tomorrow."

So there you go-- destruction of cherished childhood holiday ritual? Complete. Check that baby off the list.

I'm gong to bed now to see what I can destroy in dreamland, yeah?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Backlist BA-dump-BUMP-- March Style!

Okay--I'm down to only a day late!  The Backlist Ba-dump-BUMP is here!  Now, the point of this feature is to have authors come on and actually talk about books from their backlist-- maybe, for instance, you discovered Kim Fielding with Motel/Pool, but you didn't know she also wrote historical fantasy as well.  And now you do!

So enjoy the stories behind the stories, from authors in their own words. Today we have Kim Fielding, L.E. Franks, and C. Jane Elliot-- and they have some awesome books in their backlist!

Enjoy!








 The Pillar

by Kim Fielding



Like many of my stories, The Pillar started out with a journey.

A few years ago, I was spending a month living and working in Zagreb, Croatia. Zagreb is one of my favorite cities and also makes a great base for exploring central and eastern Europe. During this particular stay, I booked a quick visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina—four nights in the beautiful city of Sarajevo. Now, Sarajevo is fascinating, with a long (and often tragic) history. I could easily spend much longer there. But I wanted to see more of the country as well, so I arranged a day trip to Mostar, a couple hours away.

The drive to Mostar was… interesting. Gorgeous scenery. A driver who spoke little English—and my Bosnian/Croatian is very rudimentary—but he was a friendly, patient man. I tried very hard not to notice that Bosnian drivers are terrifying. They cut the corners and drive really fast, shifting with one hand and smoking with the other.

I survived, though, and it was worth it. Mostar is charming. Much of it was damaged during the war, but it’s been rebuilt. And on a drizzly November day it was almost free of tourists. As I wandered through the old part of the city, I could almost picture what life was like there during medieval times.

That day in Mostar was the genesis of The Pillar. I fictionalized the town a bit and renamed it Zidar, but the details are as close as I could get to the original. I hope I’ve captured the feel of the place, with the coppersmiths, the bridge, the kavanas where people still linger over their strong coffee, the mosques and churches calling the faithful to prayers.

The area around Mostar has been wracked with wars for centuries. I needed to capture that too, and a bit of the devastation those wars create. I heard terrible personal stories from my (wonderful) guides. In the end, though, I wanted to end on an optimistic note, because I heard those stories too. I wanted to remind us that love can be stronger than hate.

One more thing. Punishment pillars really did exist throughout Europe during medieval times. A few of them still remain.

So, The Pillar. Possibly the only existing m/m romance set in medieval Bosnia. I hope you’ll give it a try. Oh, and that stunning cover is by Shobana Appavu, who really captured the look of the place. 

by C.Jane Elliot




Serpentine Walls came about because Dreamspinner Press put out a call for university stories for an anthology. The short story I wrote eventually became my first novel in the Serpentine Series. I was seized with the idea for a story set at the University of Virginia, where I had gone to school. Serpentine Walls reflects some of what was happening in my life when I went to college. My parents had split up and my father got remarried to a younger woman. I was angry and disillusioned about love, and my MC Pete shares those feelings. He seems to have no trouble attracting male attention but he’s not interested in the nice guys who want to have a relationship and he gets hung up on the sexy but unavailable guys. I was exactly the same way, and neither of us realized we were protecting ourselves from getting hurt. Lucky for Pete, he figures himself out and is able to let love in with the perfect man by the end of the story. It took me a little longer, but I got there eventually and have been married to my perfect man for 26 years. One other thing about the story: the creepy Professor R who hits on his students is based on a real-life professor that I had in college.

Buy at Dreamspinner
Buy at Amazon


Can This Be Real?

by L.E. Franks



I was answering a submission call from MLR – looking for something food related, and I thought about how I’ve always used my cooking to show my love for the people in my life and how there are an infinite number of stories centered around chefs in love, but I wanted something different. I pinged on the idea of throwing a celebrity chef into the arms of someone who wasn’t a foodie, where all his skills in the kitchen wouldn’t automatically work. How that might change the dynamic? So I eventually came up with a cop with no sense of smell and no ability to taste and a chef with no clue how to woo him if he couldn’t use his fallback menu. It was fun to write. - LE

Buy at Amazon

Scorched Haven: Part 3 --The Road Trip Begins

Okay, folks. Backlist Ba-Dump-Bump tomorrow, and in the meantime, I've got some Little Goddess for you.  (I work as Art Docent tomorrow-- we're doing trains! Yay!) I spent the evening finishing my Christmas story, so this is a little short--but it's celebratory. I love it when I get a break from my queue!

*  *  *

As soon as they hit the Grapevine, Zeb turned around and started going through the stuff in the back of the car.

"What the--"

"Oh, thank God, clothes."  He came back with sweats--not fresh out of the dryer, but not ripe either--and a T-shirt that wasn't crusted with blood and called that a win.

"You're welcome for my stuff," Colton said dryly, and Zeb realized he felt no shame or embarrassment for completely seizing anything he needed.

"That's awesome, do you have a phone charger?"

"iPhone?"

"Yup."

"Sure."

Oh my God.  "Seriously?"  And sure enough, there it was, plugged into the portal by the unused ashtray.  Zeb pulled his phone from around his neck and plugged it into the charger, and then declined to look.

"Is it working?"  Colton gave it a sort of side-peek and Zeb shook his head.

"We can only hope. I went swimming with that thing twice. It would be great if it did though. My boss could have people waiting for us in Bakersfield, and it is scary out there alone."

"But..."  The kid's eyes slid over Zeb like he was unsure this was okay to say. "Uh, aren't you a werewolf?"

"Yeah, and so's your friend," Zeb sighed.  He looked out of the window in time to see the sun scorched lunar landscape of I-5 pass him by.  "Apparently all the werewolves south of Bakersfield are nucking futz."

"There are werewolves north of Bakersfield?"  The kid sounded anxious and frightened, and Zeb couldn't really blame him.

"Look, kid--"

"Colton."

"I knew that. Anyway, Colton-- you gotta understand. From my part of the country, being a werewolf is all happy fine."

"You mean everybody knows?"  He was so startled the car actually swerved, and Zeb settled the wheel before they both became road hamburger.

Zeb sort of leaned then, in the front of the car, so Colton would feel his animal warmth and be comforted--it was a very wolf thing to do, a very Green's Hill thing to do, and it seemed to work. A pretty kid--darkly tanned skin, dark eyes, hair that hung down past his collar.

"Calm down," Zeb said-- probably unnecessarily. "The whole world is the same place. But underneath the stuff you know--in the places you can't see--there are people you never knew about, okay? Werewolves, elves, vampires--"

"Seriously? Are they sparkly?"

Ugh. "They're the scariest warriors I've ever seen and most of them are sarcastic fuckers to boot. God, we need to make another vampire movie, I'm telling you."

Colton's smile showed even white teeth.  "So noted," he said dryly. "So... there are things."

"Yes there are. And in my neck of the woods, they co-exist. Like... seriously. The vampires feed from the were creatures and the were creatures act as the hired muscle and the elves oversee everyone and own the businesses and we all keep each other safe."

"Do you see Kumbaya at breakfast and dinner?"

"God, you should have been a vampire. No. But we watch each other's backs."  Zeb felt the loss of the guy who'd gotten dismembered in the bathroom keenly. "I was sent down with a perfectly nice were-wolf, and he's dog food. My people are going to be pissed, and I'm quite frankly scared. We're not easy to kill and every wolf  I've run into down here has smelled like a vomit barbecue"

"Thanks a lot," Colton sniffed, and Zeb rolled his eyes.

"You know, we have a recruitment program. They'd love to convert you, you'd fit right in."

"Yeah?" Colton glanced at him to see if he was kidding or not. "What're the recruitment requirements?"

Zeb grunted and stared out the window again. "Mostly, you have to have fucked up your life so completely that dropping off the map and starting over again as a werewolf or a vampire is no  big deal."

The sound Colton let out was plaintive, and Zeb glanced at him in time to see a bleak, lost expression cross his expressive face. "I just left the only place I've ever lived," h e said, voice raspy. "The guy I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with turned into a werewolf and tried to eat me, and I'm in the only decent possession my family has, speeding towards Bakersfield with a guy who was wearing blood and fur about half an h our ago.  That doesn't qualify?"

Shit. "Are you so addicted to heroin you stole someone else's shoes to buy your last fix?"

Colton let out a short bark of a laugh. "Uhm, no."

"Then you're doing better than I was."  Zeb's sigh shook his toes. "God, all I wanted was to do a favor for my leaders, you know? Three years of laying low, not being a leader, just keeping my head down and hoping they let me stay, and just once I wanted to earn my place at the table, right?"

"Can I ask what happened?" Colton's voice shook, and maybe it was a scary question when the answer was coming from a guy who had been mostly wolf all day.

"We knew something shitty was going on down here," Zeb muttered. "We knew it. And our people got attacked in Monterey, so I asked Teague-- the head of the werewolves where we're at--if I could take a look. And hey, he just fell from like a ten-story drop and is still recovering, and he said, "Yeah, sure,' so I snagged another shapeshifter, and hey. Trip to Disneyland, right?"

"Right," Colton sounded a bit dazed.

"Except we stopped for gas over the Grapevine and some guy carves my friend up like sushi and tries to blow me away. And all I want right now--all I seriously want--is to be back on my hill, hiding under my bed, after I scream 'Abort abort abort! Natives AREN'T friendly!' so I can say I did my job."

Colton was laughing, snickering softly, and Zeb felt like a complete asshole.

"What?" he muttered.

"Not really a warrior werewolf, are you?"

"Nope," Zeb said sourly. "They save that job for the vampires. You know what job I do best for them?"

"I got no idea," Colton said, still smiling.

"Lunch."

Colton's snickers rattled through the car and the alien landscape of Central California stretched before them, if only their gas would hold.