Monday, December 11, 2017

But Enough About Me; Let Me Talk About ME #writerslife

Yesterday I was part of a panel for my local RWA chapter, LARA, for authors who saw their first full-length book be released this year. Five of us - and, interestingly, only one had opted to "go traditional," with Harlequin; the rest of us indie-pubbed.

Aaaand it was at my favorite independent bookstore, The Ripped Bodice.

As you can see, I dressed for the occasion.

So in preparation for the discussion, I did this online interview. Some of which answers I totally forgot, so I made up new ones, lol. But I thought I'd recycle and build on them a little bit.

How long have you been writing? I've been writing since I was a teenager, if not well. Been writing books since my thirties.

What got you interested in writing as a career? Writing lights me up; when I find that perfect sentence, or paragraph even, it's like the clouds part, a beam of light streams down, and the angels sing.

What was your most satisfying professional experience? Recently one of my friends told me how much he enjoyed this memoir I released. According to him, it made him laugh, cry, and gave him a boner.  Who can ask for a better response?

What was the most surprising thing you've learned in your professional life? That people REwrote. That they wrote first and second, and seventeenth drafts. For whatever reason, that part of writing totally escaped me, the first few years. I would write something, and upon rereading it, decide it was crap (which it was) and threw it away. Now it's still crap, but I accept I'm going to have to edit and rewrite.

Do you have a book that you read over and over? If yes, what is it? If no, why do you suppose not? Gone With the Wind. Although there are many things about it that are hugely problematic *cough* racism *cough*, dubious consent *cough*, Scarlett O'Hara is an unforgettable, and many would say, unlikable character. However, the skill of writing from her POV, while cluing the reader in to all the things that Scarlett is oblivious to, is brilliant. Also, Anne of Green Gables.

What one word would you use to describe yourself? Ambitious.

I expanded on that a little bit, when we discussed. I am ambitious; I want to change the world. I want to write things that make people laugh, cry, and come away from my work changed.  To be a little kinder, a little more open minded, and little more willing to accept people who don't look like them, worship like them, have the same privileges they do.

That's my ambition.

Mind you, making a few bucks would be okay, too.

What's your ambition(s)?
Have you ever sat on a panel - what was the best or worst thing about it?
Your thoughts?

Monday, December 4, 2017

When Beverly Met Hillary #ImStillWithHer #Persist #Resist

Via johnhain at pixabay
This past Friday, I spent most of the day in line with about 1,000 very cool people outside Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, to get an autographed copy of What Happened, and to shake the hand of the person I believe was rightfully elected President of the United States, Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton.

It was a long day in the hot sun. Line-up officially began at 9:00 am, though about 50 people had arrived even earlier. Some people with mobility and health issues asked for and received special accommodations, being able to sit inside the store until the actual signing began. (I should've asked for it, too, but I was too damn stubborn.) Others were in line with their children, who were amazingly well-behaved.

Although officially there was no holding places in line, people looked out for each other, and yes, held spots so people could take potty & other breaks. Shared food, brought each other drinks, helped each other get up when we might have decided to sit on the pavement for a while. I got some of the most interesting stories from Ann, Trevor, and Alex, that I was blessed to be hanging out with.

Side note: About two dozen Bernie supporters showed up to protest the signing... several carrying signs blaming HRC for Trump. Oh, and also for "Lybia." Then got rather testy when the misspelling was pointed out.

I guess we were lucky they weren't blaming Hillary for Labia.

One of the people I was standing with went to talk to them, and asked, "Why are you HERE? Hillary's not in office. Why aren't you protesting the tax bill at one of the local Trump golf courses? Or one of the offices of a R congressman who is supporting the bill?" Her answer: "This is more convenient for us."

There you have it, folks. "Our Revolution [when convenient]."

At about 3:00 my group made it inside the store, and we wended in line through the store until our turn came, about 4:30.

During this waiting time, some of the children began to fuss. It had been a VERY long day for them. The organizers hadn't thought of it, but Hillary called a halt, had the store staff and Secret Service go get all the groups of people with kids, and brought them all to the front of the line.

Because that's how she does things, has ALWAYS done them, back to her work with the Children's Defense Fund. Children first.

By the time I was within 10 people of taking my turn, I was obviously having problems standing, so they offered me a chair. I was able to move from chair to bench until my turn. I was nervous, and extremely self-conscious about my not particularly clean-feeling hands, though I'd wiped them with a wet paper towel a few hours previously.

Photos were not permitted; I understand it's because it slows things down a bit too much. Also they are a huge security risk.

She looked wonderful - and Presidential. She had an event in Philadelphia just the night before, but if she was tired or grumpy, if signing over 1,000 books and shaking over 1,000 dirty sweaty hands made her wrist ache (made MINE ache, in sympathy), she didn't let on. She wore a bright turquoise pantsuit that set off her amazing eyes.

She made a comment about my "Deal Me In" T-shirt, and I thanked her for what she'd done for America, and for women and children all over the world. Choked up a bit on that last part, but she simply smiled, said, "Thank you, that means the world to me."

They directed me to a table where I picked up my book - and some tissues; they had several boxes on hand. Apparently a lot of people, men and women alike, have been losing their shit upon meeting her, all over the country, and it occurred to me how difficult it is for me to be around people who are hurt, crying, angry, or otherwise emotional, and here Hillary is, taking it in day after day and keeping her cool. She has more class and dignity in her little toe than the Twitterbeast has on his best day.

The woman who came after me was sobbing so hard *I* wept with her, and offered a hug, which she accepted. We comforted each other, said goodbye, then I limped out to my car, both feet on fire.

Luckily I had a loving partner to give me a most excellent foot massage that evening. Especially as things deteriorate during this regime, I'm going to continue to mourn what we all lost, what could've been, but am grateful for patriots like Hillary. She's going to continue to fight for our country, and so am I.

"Resist, Insist, Persist, Enlist"
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Your thoughts?

P.S. My story in the Rejoice and Resist anthology references Hillary Rodham and her groundbreaking speech at Wellesley college in 1969. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Light Shines in the Darkness #Hope #Kindness

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)

This is one of my favorite Bible verses [surprise! I'm quite familiar with and am very fond of much, if not all of the Bible.]

And yes, darkness and shadow is necessary for rest, for seed germination, and many other things. If the Earth didn't turn on its axis, if it was sunlight 24/7, life as we know it wouldn't exist.

Queen Califia's Magickal Circle in Escondido; photo by Beverly Diehl

However, for this particular pondering of dark and darkness, I am looking at the mood and trauma of people I know and love, as well as others I have never met, will probably never meet.

These are dark times, spiritually, financially, emotionally, for many people right now. Some people are experiencing frightening medical conditions for themselves, and their loved ones. It's dark as in we as a people can't seem to find our way, dark as in the dark night of the soul, dark as being scary, and painful.

It seems that every time we turn around there is someone talking about #MeToo or #ChurchToo or some other way they have been degraded as a human being for being a woman. Or LGBTQ+. Added to this the people I know who are in daily fear of their lives being taken because they are POC (People of Color), and the unstable person in the White House with his Twittering fingertips on the nuclear button.

It's a difficult time, and I am not alone in experiencing nightmares, PTSD moments, anger, frustration, fear...

And yet. What I am seeing with the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movement is people being brave enough to share their stories of abuse, knowing at long last they will be believed. I am hearing #NotAllMen pulling the #NotAllMen card; some men acknowledging that they may have sexually assaulted women and others, and being willing to take responsibility, and make reparations. It's a hopeful first step.

I am seeing my loved ones, and others, treating one another with kindness and gentleness. I participated in an intimate exchange among friends this past weekend where some amazing things went down. I witnessed vulnerability, curiosity, patience, generosity, care and loving kindness so deep it almost made me weep.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has NOT overcome it. 

Has not, will not, CAN not, as long as we do our best to treat one another with care and tenderness during this challenging time.

Doesn't mean we can't #resist, however that works for us. Doesn't mean we can't make calls to our elected officials and push back against the current regime and its abuses of power. Doesn't mean we can't occasionally step back from the fray and practice self-care, because we have to be in this for the long haul.

It means that "they" don't win. It means they cannot MAKE us hate, and fear, and turn on one another. It means every day I look at this quote by Anne Frank that hangs in my bathroom (don't judge!):

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

Let's all shine on.
Your thoughts?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Leading Edge Love with Sumati Sparks #OnTheRadio

Pleased and honored to announce I'll be appearing on the Leading Edge Love blog radio program of Sumati Sparks, The Open Relationship Coach, on Tuesday, Nov 21, at 6 pm Pacific time. Mark your calendars now, so you can call in!! (657.383.1132) You can also listen to it live, or on the web, later.

I've been listening to past programs at SumatiSparks and they are terrific.

The conversation will flow in various directions (if you know me, you know how difficult it is to shut me up!), but here's the general idea of what we'll be discussing:

How do you cope with a breast cancer diagnosis while fresh into your exploration of solo polyamory? How do you ask for and accept help as needed, keep yourself and your partners happy (Hint: boundary work!), and cope with a changing body that you were struggling to love in the first place? How important is the support of community during these times? We'll discuss these - and YOUR questions, if you call 'em in.

And in other news...

I did my first Goodreads giveaway, and like my first Facebook party, it did not kill me.  Yay for that! Just sent off the signed copies of Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n Roll, and a Tiara to my three winners.

After I got the word from Goodreads that they would let me do a giveaway, I panicked. What if I only had, like, 10 sign-ups, how humiliating would that be?

Well, I had over 600!! While I am sure that J.K. Rowling is not shaking in her shoes, this made me happy. And my copies are off to the lucky winners.

And in other, other news... I am trying to clear my procrastination crap backlog. Like this wonderful goal planner, that I spent beaucoup bucks on at the end of 2016, because 2017 was going to be all shiny and productive and organized...

Well, that didn't happen. But luckily, the goal planner inside content isn't tied to any particular calendar year, so I am repurposing it to 2018.

And while hanging out with and catching up with my friend, the Amazing Karen, I also caught up on my MENDING. Yes, I am one of these cheap AF frugal types who will actually mend a separated seam in a sweater or skirt, or reattach the handle of a perfectly good canvas grocery bag that has come unattached.

Also, Karen and I were drinking really, really good champagne. In case you were wondering, excellent champagne makes even the horribly dull household tasks like mending a little more sparkly.

And it was pink, of course.

CW: some ranting about sexual abuse to follow

In the midst of all this catching up with tasks and friends, lots of news broke about people (mostly men) who sexually assault others (women, teen boys others), Senate candidates who used to mack on young teens, and other unsavory characters.

It's not an easy time, if you are a rape sur-thriver, or love someone who is. So many heartbreaking, triggering #MeToo stories.

It's a difficult time. Please tell those sharing their stories:

#MeToo (if you feel safe sharing your stories.

Do NOT tell them:
You were lucky; I know people who were assaulted much worse.
Well, false accusations are a thing too (which is true, though they only make up a fraction of reports, and they deserve their own conversation - AT ANOTHER TIME). Can abuse victims not have the undivided attention and sympathy for, I dunno, a week, maybe even a day or two, before we once again derail and focus on how cis het men are REALLY the victims? (Apparently not.)

In the midst of this, an older article I'd overlooked came floating up into my news stream, like a turd in a backed-up toilet. John Grisham, you can go die in a fire. The consumers of child porn - the few who are actually arrested and jailed - are neither overcrowding our jails, nor is it a problem if they were. They are NOT innocent victims; they are the reason children are molested AND filmed.

What I do find encouraging is that, for however long, we are finally talking about and seemingly, becoming aware of the vast number of women, men, and children, who've suffered at the hands of entitled people (mostly if not entirely men). Will this be a turning point? Will the election results of November 2017, where a transgender woman unseated the homophobic bigot who wrote Virginia's bathroom bill, where people of color and different sexual orientations and gender identities unseated incumbents across the United States, be the beginning of the end of hate?

Stay tuned. To this blog, and keep #resisting

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Fangirling on my Photographer #NickHolmes

Recently I "met" Sarah Stevenson, another fan of the photography work of Nick Holmes. I'm a little jealous of this great clip, becauseI wanted to videotape an interview with him. But I never got around to it and the pussies would probably have been jumping all over him anyway.

My pussies, Creativity and Motivation - what were you thinking?

A Conversation with...Nick Holmes from Sarah G. Stevenson on Vimeo.

In the clip above, Nick reads a little from his wonderfully sensual book of poetry, Time Spent Falling.  Confession: I'd always wanted to re-enact that scene from Bull Durham, where Annie Savoy has tied an almost naked Ebby to the bed... and then reads poetry to him while he writhes in frustrated anticipation. And pleasure.

I can stand to improve both my rope-tying game, and my reading aloud skills, but...

Let's just say this book lends itself quite well to doing this as a scene.

So, in Nick's other work... My Kicking Cancer's Ass memoir, I am so pleased to be sharing his empowering, life-changing work with the world. It's getting some positive reviews, which is exciting, (Note: I would ALWAYS love more reviews) and I'm doing a Goodreads Giveaway of the paperback that ends tomorrow, November 8. Get in while you can!

If you'd rather buy a copy, I ain't gonna say no to that, either.

I am really happy to be supported, not just by lovers, family and friends during my cancer journey, but now, during this really vulnerable time of exposing myself to the world via this book. In a way, my boob pictures are the least revealing part of the thing.
Photo by Nick Holmes. Of course.
Anywho, Nick - and Sarah - have another collaboration they're doing together, and it looks wonderful. It's a project called We Will Rise:
We Will Rise is a forthcoming book and growing movement of women offering stories of hope for our daughters. Through stories, photography, and film, we're ushering in a better future through the ways we raise our girls. 
You can Like the project and sign up for the newsletter on Facebook.

I must to admit to being jealous, again. I wasn't lucky enough to have a daughter, though I have a terrific son. And I will never have more photographs of me and my mother than the few already in existence. But I am quite enthusiastic about this project and wholeheartedly agree that the way we raise our daughters in this world, can make a world of difference.

Are you raising a daughter?
Have you been photographed by Nick?
Have you read Time Spent Falling?
Leave any thoughts or comments, below.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Busting Virginities All Over the Place #BevsBoobs

Ready for my book signing in my pretty
Jenette's Bras bra.
While I've read my work in public before, it's never been at an actual book signing. And never in an actual bra store.

Jenette's supplied an amazing location, helpful staff, delicious and adorable cupcakes with pink ribbons on them from Dot's and pink champagne. Which I swore I took a picture of, but cannot find on my phone. 😢

I did put on a shirt before I left the apartment. And kept it on through the reading.  And then... unleash the boobs!

I was blessed and honored to have so many wonderful friends come out to support me for this event. But then, that's the way my whole journey has been, filled with incredible people and a whole network of love.

Of course, like always, I am missing some pictures of some very important people. But here's a few of them.
Monika and I have been friends online for years, and she drove
all the way from Ventura to meet and support me.
As noted in the memoir, hot men in tiaras, yum!
Bruce is one of my writing crit group.

Hot men with fans, also sexy. Work it, Bobby!
ZaNyaa Lee is my fabulous Arbonne consultant..
and friend.

Tina rocked the tiara AND a fan, because she's multi-talented.

Kady Ambrose, another good friend, and hell of a writer.

Paula Johnson, creative consultant extraordinaire.
She designed my bookmarks and is revamping my website.

My darling Clarissa popped off her top so
we could double the bra boobage.
You're welcome.

So I signed books - with a pink pen, of course! and chatted and enjoyed the yummies. And then I read a selection from the first chapter.

My dear friend Cassie who couldn't attend, suggested I Facebook live it. One more thing I'd never done before - why not?

I didn't have something to hold the phone/camera up, so Jenette's staff came to the rescue - again. However, I am going to learn how to do the thing, so the audio is better next time.

Then on the very next night, I joined in a Facebook author party with my friends and collaborators, the Speakeasy Scribes. Again, super nervous, totally a virgin - but I think I did okay. I got new newsletter subscribers anyway (have you signed up? top right of this page) and I actually sent out a newsletter this month. I might even do another one, sometimes before the end of the year.

With my scribes, I was promoting this holidayish anthology.

You can preorder it here.
And you can now get a paperback of Sex, Drugs, Rock 'N Roll, and a Tiara: How I Celebrated Kicking Cancer's Ass via Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and e-books (which are better, IMO) just about everywhere.

So, this author thing. When do I get to go back to writing stories? Soon, grasshopper, soon.

Have you done anything new and terrifying lately?
Would you read your book in a bra (and nothing else on top)?

Monday, October 9, 2017

Sometimes We Get What We Didn't Pay For #Giveaway

Me and Ericka Hart. Shitty picture, but she's a ball of fire;
I'm lucky I got even a blurry one.
Over the weekend I went to see an exhibit about dick pics (as one does), and to hear a panel talking about that, and feminism.

One of the speakers I especially wanted to see and meet was sex educator Ericka Hart, also a breast cancer sur-thriver and all around amazing woman.

And one of the things she mentioned that struck me as hugely important, is how, if we value something, we need to PAY for it. Like newspapers/magazines. I am now paying subscriptions to news organizations that I usually read only a small portion of, because I value the reporting in these tumultuous times. Reporters gotta eat, too.

Also, Teen Vogue has been kicking ass with their articles in the past year.

Ericka and most of my friends who are sex educators, generally don't make a boatload of money. We need them, we need their work in our communities, we need their articles on EveryDayFeminism and Medium and other outlets, but as far as paying for it? Ugh. People expect things should be free.

The only sex educators I personally know making bank are those who are ALSO sex workers of some type. And while yay for sex workers, that's important work too, much akin to that of massage therapists, we need to recognize the unpaid labor of the women, men, and non-binary folx who perform sex education out of love, simply because they see a need.

We need to find ways to pay them, whether it's via Patreon (I currently subscribe to Kimchi Cuddles and PolyRoleModels) or by hiring them for speaking engagements and events, or by buying their books.

I'm currently reading this one, just released:

"Tamara Pincus and Rebecca Hiles fuse personal experience and community research to break down the various incarnations of polyamorous relationship structures, the intersections of polyamory with race and gender, and the seemingly esoteric jargon of the lifestyle."

Polyamory might not be your lifestyle, but you just might want to read about people who are practicing it, because there are probably polyamorous families whose kids go to school with your kids, or grandkids.

I've pre-ordered this one:

"Love's Not Color Blind puts forward the framework—through research, anecdotal testimony, and analogy—for understanding, identifying, and ultimately confronting the manifestations of racism within polyamorous communities. Whether you’re a community leader or you just like to date a lot, this is an invaluable tool for creating a more inclusive polyamory."

Okay, but you're REALLY not into polyamory or open relationships? Not to fret, pet.

This terrific book by Walker Thornton works regardless of your relationship configuration, whether you're in a monogamous marriage, an open relationship or currently single. We ALL deserve pleasure. At every age.

"Using a 30-day format, each day focuses on a topic, using writings, images, and exercises to help women experience pleasure. You’ll explore self-care, sexual health, learning to ask for what you want, and more. Inviting Desire teaches you to enhance awareness of your body and embrace your sexuality."

This book, by Elle Chase, is soooo good. Wonderful text, descriptions, ILLUSTRATIONS and photographs. They work for every body, not just those who are big - for people with bad backs, or problem shoulders...

"Sex educator Elle Chase covers sex positions from basic to advanced, specific challenges faced as plus-sized lovers, and precise, body positive tips, tricks and techniques that cater to your big, beautiful body."

People keep trying to borrow my copy, but I won't let it out of my big beautiful hands.

I highly recommend ALL the above books. But the one I am giving away is another favorite, Emily Nagoski's Come As You Are.

"Researchers have spent the last decade trying to develop a “pink pill” for women to function like Viagra does for men. So where is it? Well, for reasons this book makes crystal clear, that pill will never be the answer—but as a result of the research that’s gone into it, scientists in the last few years have learned more about how women’s sexuality works than we ever thought possible, and Come as You Are explains it all.

The first lesson in this essential, transformative book by Dr. Emily Nagoski is that every woman has her own unique sexuality, like a fingerprint, and that women vary more than men in our anatomy, our sexual response mechanisms, and the way our bodies respond to the sexual world. So we never need to judge ourselves based on others’ experiences. Because women vary, and that’s normal.

Second lesson: sex happens in a context. And all the complications of everyday life influence the context surrounding a woman’s arousal, desire, and orgasm."

I really love Come As You Are, which is why I'm happy to send a paperback copy to someone in the USA (Foreign postage kills me, but you know what, if you're overseas, we'll work out a gift certificate or something.) If you'd like to be considered for it, just leave me a comment (if you're creating an account via Google to do so, make sure it has your email address in the background, or check back here to see if you won).

You don't have to buy my book, though I'm over the moon if you choose to do so - especially if you review it.  You don't have to sign up for my badass newsletter, though I'm totally stoked if you do - and I promise not to send you 8 bazillion mailings a year. Or Fan my Facebook Page, or Follow Me on Twitter, or any of those hoops some bloggers make you jump through to enter a giveaway.

Just leave a comment. A remark about one of these books, another sexy book recommendation, or a picture of your cat.

(I do not, actually, know how to leave a photo of a cat on a comment, but wouldn't it be awesome if we could?)

Note: If you're creating a new account via Google to leave your comment, please make sure in the background when you sign up it lists your eddress, so I can let you know you've won. Or check back here after Friday the 27th, when I'll be drawing the lucky winner.  Thanks!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Release Day vs. Technical Difficulties vs. Life

So yesterday, my Kicking Cancer's Ass memoir released! On all available sites.  Okay, on Amazon. Kindle version and Paperback. It's also available on Kobo.

Have you added it to your TBR list on Goodreads yet?
Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n Roll, and a Tiara (How I Celebrated Kicking Cancer's Ass)

Plan A was to also have it available on iBooks, B & N, and Smashwords, but... life got in the way.

It'll get there soon, and that's good enough.

I've gotten a little sidetracked from blogging and the finishing touches, by friends who needed time and attention, including one who began her own breast cancer journey in June, and is now trying to wrap her mind around a body disfigured by a missing breast, and then two weeks ago, a face disfigured by the removal of a "small" bit of basal cell carcinoma that turned out to be more extensive than they thought. So I've been supporting her as much as I can, with phone calls and visits.

The T-shirt I desperately need from CatalogueFavorites
I've also spent priceless, delicious time with friends, family, lovers. And that's kind of the point of this cancer journey of mine, that life is short, and people are the most important thing. There will always be time to struggle with the technical difficulties that come with trying to format a book for different e-versions and print.

FWIW, WordPerfect is still out there and still a MUCH better program than stupid Microsoft Word, especially if one wants to have different odd and even page headers, but to suppress the headers on the pages where chapters begin.

Except that when you convert a .doc to WordPerfect, Word will corrupt the file during the conversion process, as a final "Up yours!" Asshole.

I got it done (I think) and paperbacks are ordered for my upcoming books signing on October 15 at Jenette Bras in Old Pasadena.

Here's something else that got in the way... Mah toof hab an owwie.

This was BEFORE the dental work. 
Yes, although I take very good care of my teeth, including thrice yearly cleaning and I JUST HAD dental work to replace an aging crown in July, another tooth decided to blow up on me. Pretty much within a 24-hour period.

It's hard to concentrate not just when your jaw hurts like a mo-fo, but infection in da face also impacts da brain. They kinda hang out together, you know?

Luckily, one emergency root canal later, it's about taken care of now (thank you, antibiotics!). Like my breast cancer journey itself, just one more unexpected detour.

But in honor of my dental distraction, here's a short excerpt from the chapter titled, appropriately, Bring On the Metal Hook!

EVERY TIME I HAD A DENTAL APPOINTMENT, I started off with high hopes. First, that I would get there on time (almost never). I am traffic-math challenged, and in L.A., traffic seems to grow worse every trip. Second, I hoped that Pat, my dental hygienist, would be impressed. I worked so hard at polishing the parts that were not-so-good the last visit. I tried to use dental picks and floss to get the gunk out of the crevices, polish well… 
And every time, Pat would find spots I’d missed, places I’d neglected. One would think, that for as long as I’d been conscientiously working on it, my teeth would be flawless. But no.
One would also think that my writing, which I’d also been working on for decades years, would be flawless. And at every critique group meeting, somebody would get out the metal hook and start poking and fire up the drill to root out the rotten parts.... 

If you write, does your editing process feel like a root canal? I can't give you painkillers over the Interwebs, but here's the music I picked for that chapter:

What songs would you choose to illustrate time with your dentist - and critique group? Leave a comment and tell me about your suggestion, or your recent life detours.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Five Lessons Trains Taught Me About Writing

1) I Think I Can, I Think I Can

We always need to believe in ourselves. If we think we can, we just might be able to accomplish what seems impossible; and if we're convinced we can't, we are 100% guaranteed to  fulfill our prediction of failure.

2) Refueling on a Long Journey Is Always Necessary

Writing long-term, is a marathon, not a sprint. Amtrak, not Metro. Modern trains need diesel refueling; steam trains need coal and water.
via Wikimedia Commons
We need to read books, watch movies and trashy reality shows, hang out with friends, spend some quality time with our family, lovers, and vibrators. Whatever fills us up and makes us feel ready to steam on, we need to reserve space and time to do that.

3) The Journey Can Be a Dirty, Messy, Exhausting Process

In every generation, there are are whiners; people who are outraged that, considering how marvelous they are, they must reduce themselves to XYZ indignity to put food on the table or to earn success as a writer.

In 19th century America, some complained about how wearying a train journey was; the enervating effects of hours on a train, the coal dust upon one's clothing, the inferior food en route. Of course, trains were still easier than walking, taking a sea journey, or a covered wagon. Better yet, there was always staying at home.

Strasburg RR, via Wikimedia Commons
See that dark smoke drifting back? Yep, it'll get on you.
To embark on a transcontinental voyage, by whatever means, we had to want it. If we did, we accepted the reality that more than likely, bad shit was gonna happen along the way.

Suck it up, Buttercup. Every writer has always had to make sacrifices and/or accommodations to suit the needs of his or her era. In the current market, success as a writer requires Social Media and a lot of hard work, rejection and criticism.

Don't like it? Don't board the train, then.

4) Always Have Another Engine Ready To Go in the Roundhouse

If one train gets stuck, is that it? Are we going to just roll over and abandon the dream?

Oh, hell no! We're going to rev up another engine and get it out there.

via Cliff1066 via Flickr Creative Commons 
We should always have more than one project, at the very least in an embryonic stage, in our heads. Because aren't we thinking of new ideas all the time? Write 'em on a steno pad; dictate them to a voice recorder, take e-notes via Evernote or some other gadget, but we need to capture many, many ideas, and develop them as time allows.

5) You Always Need A Cowcatcher

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Adventures with Formatting #kickingcancersass

Book Pregnant is the very clever term coined by a group of bloggers, to indicate that stage where an author is almost ready to launch their work into the world.

Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n Roll, and a Tiara is pressing on my bladder, kicking me in the kidney... Really, I SO feel ready to pop this baby out.

Except, some problems came up with formatting for my pictures. And my captions. And the oh-so-clever links to Spotify I inserted at the top of each chapter.

I have a formatting genius helping me with these issues, but in the meantime, in honor of it being two years ago this week that I started the radiation part of my cancer journey, here's an excerpt from the chapter titled:

Joe Manganiello Needs to Stop Following Me.

It's a fine thing when you go to meet your radiation oncologist, and everywhere you turn, Joe Manganiello is giving you that "Hey Baby!" look.
Sadly, Joe wasn't there in person. Just his impressive biceps and artfully scruffy face, all flirty from the cover of WebMD. There had to be at least two dozen copies strewn about the large, comfortable waiting room.

It felt like his eyes were following and undressing me.
Do you want to see my boobs, too, Joe? Why not? Everyone else has...

...I was eager to get the radiation started, get it over with. That wasn't going to happen.
The next step was coming in, a week later, to do a radiation simulation with the radiology techs. Basically a dry run to troubleshoot any problems and make sure once the actual zapping began, that it would be quick and easy.  I lay down on the long table thingie that would slide in and out of the hole in the big round tube. Yeah, not so vaguely sexual.
The machine was called TomoTherapy... 

Peter, the tech, used a CT scan to get me into the correct position, then used a device that blew Styrofoam into a mold that would hold my back at the precise angle so that Tommy could zap Laverne and only Laverne. Then he turned on laser guide lights, got out a tattoo gun, and made three markings on my chest, below my boobage, right, left, and center, for future lineups. I was hoping for butterflies or something fun, but all I got were three tiny black dots.

This is one of my radiation tats.

There was a hand-grip thing above my head. Peter had me grip it with both hands, then frowned. "That's not going to work." It brought Laverne into the correct position, which was good but also brought Shirley into the line of fire. So he had me turn my left arm down to my side. That almost worked.
Peter frowned again. "We're going to have to tape your left breast down to get it out of the way. Is that okay with you?" After all I had gone through so far, was I going to quibble about a little medical tape? Of course not.
I also had to turn my head a certain way with a roll of surgical tape tucked under my chin. So, one hand above my head, the other at my side, my head turned... Glad Joe M wasn't watching this part; it wasn't a particularly sexy pose. It was like I was playing a solo game of Radiation Twister.
There's more, but I'm hoping you'll read the whole thing. Also, there's music. Below is the mini-playlist for this chapter, which you can click and play right here, if you like.  (I'm all about consent.)

Fight The Good Fight is the song I assigned to my journey as a whole, and as a ringtone, to all my doctors.  Buster Voodoo - well, a lot of cancer treatment reminds me of voodoo magic. I don't have to explain Radiation Vibe, do I?


If you want to add Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n Roll, and a Tiara to your Goodreads TBR list, that would be very cool. If you'd like a review copy, and we haven't already discussed this, leave a comment below (make sure your profile links to something so I can track you down!), because that would be even MORE awesome. Better even than Radiation Twister.

Thanks! Stay sexy, and healthy!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Kevin Patterson on the Hot Seat #POC&Polyamory

I'm newish to polyamory, and always feel honored and blessed to learn from the experts. I met Kevin and Antoinette Patterson online a few years ago, then in person at CatalystCon 2016. What I've seen of his relationship style and efforts to build community is mindful, kind, and always ethical to all parties involved. I guested on his PolyRoleModels blog in 2016 and am delighted he let me turn the tables on him, and ask MY questions, for this post.

1) In the polyamory communities, there's often some interesting discourse on "what polyamory means to you, or "how to do polyamory RIGHT." How would YOU define "doing polyamory right," and what do you consider "doing it wrong?"

I'm not really a stickler for high and tight rules about what is or isn't polyamory. I bristle at the polysnobbery that shows up in a lot of communities. As far as I'm concerned, it breaks down as the capacity for multiple romantic and pr sexual relationships with everyone aware and willing. Even still though, I feel like any definition or label under the ethical nonmonogamy umbrella should be the start of a nuanced conversation when put into practice.

2) What was your journey to polyamory like? Was it an epiphany, did you always know you were polyamorous, was it a journey? Any notable polyam screwups?

I definitely didn't always know I was polyamorous. I just lucked my way into a threesome that stuck. Because I accidentally stumbled into nonmonogamy, I didn't think it was a real thing that a regular guy, like me, could actually do. Once I found myself in the middle of a nonmonogamous relationship, I didn't want to lose what I thought was my only shot. So, I did a bunch of study and research as I went along. I read all the books. It wasn't until I found communities that I could model myself after did I really hit my stride.

My notable screwups are actually scattered throughout the Cautionary Poly posts on my blog. Mostly under aliases. I don't like talking about them. Some are pretty embarrassing.

3) WHY is publicly promoting and discussing polyamory important to you? Not that it's not an important cause, because it is, but there are LOTS of important causes, from ending childhood poverty to stopping the destruction of the rainforests, on and on and on. Why do you think THIS cause grabbed you as a primary focus?

I'm really into customizing my life. I don't do it obsessively, but I am obsessed with at least having the option to cast off convention and live life on my own terms. Polyamory was a major addition to that. The ability to negotiate and advocate for the relationship you want is something that everyone can benefit regardless of love style. It's a mindset that can extend into every aspect of your life.

4) Polyamory and parenting. Some people ask "What about the children?" Yet it seems that children often thrive - or suffer - in traditional two-parent homes, in single parent homes, raised by grandparents or other relatives, in stepfamilies... How is a polyamorous extended family beneficial for children - and what are the downsides that you've seen?

Rolling off what I said in the last question, a benefit is that my kids already know their parents aren't conventional. They're only 6 and 4 but they understand that doing things different isn't always a bad thing because they love their lives surrounded by responsible adults who care about them. I couldn't tell you what the downsides are. I'm sure they exist but I'm lucky to have never really encountered any.

5) Stating the obvious, you are a black American man. America has had cycles where it has been less openly racist toward black men, but there's never been a time where things were GOOD for people of color, especially black men. How do you deal with dating interracially in this environment? Do you just shut out the world, and its prejudices, making everything about you & your partner, or do you integrate the racial climate, almost like a third partner who's always in the room? Have things changed for you and your loved ones in the last 10-15 years, and how? Are there adjustments you are making?

The major shift for me is in the vetting process. I vet white potential partners a lot harder than the women of color I show an interest in. There is nothing that hurts quite like finding out someone you're into isn't 100% checked in on your humanity or civil rights. Intersectional feminism is a hardline dating requirement for me. We need to be able to have real talk about privilege, entitlement, and systemic oppression. I refuse to have any doubt when it comes to someone I'm seeking to spend personal time with. In return, i'll offer up the same level of vetting in regards to my privileged gender, sexuality, education level, etc.

6) Things aren't always black-or-white. There can be racial tensions between people who all identify as POC: Asian, Hispanic, Native peoples, black people, multiracial people, POC who pass as white. And then there are people who are disabled, LGBTQ, nonbinary gender, out about their mental health challenges... One thing that makes me cringe is when "those people" are immediately pounced on by community leaders to "help us bring in more XYZ people." Like, maybe they are sick and tired of always being designated as the lone ambassadors of "their kind." At the same time, if we (CisWhiteHet able-bodied) don't figure it out, our "other" friends will stop attending events, because nobody wants to feel like the only pink monkey in a cage full of brown monkeys. Beside listening hard, what kinds of things can a community that is primarily white, heteronormative, cisgender and able-bodied, do to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment? Also, how do we deal with people in our communities who are "woke" in some ways, dead asleep in others?

I always advocate bringing those people into the conversation. Making them an equal participant in the event or group planning. Up to and including replacing or expanding the leadership structure to make it as inclusive as the audience you seek. As far as people who understand systemic oppression in some way but not in others, all I can do is try to connect those points.

That's how I was eventually able to understand feminism. I heard a man dismissing a woman's experience with misogyny and rape culture and his tone sounded so similar to how white people have dismissed my experiences with racism. Not only did the analogous behavior click in my head, but I immediately understood that I had done the same to women. After that, I had to ask myself some really tough questions and then proactively rewrite my own narrative.

7) Gray areas, and forgiveness/rehabilitative justice. Sometimes people say stupid shit - racist, sexist, homophobic, whatever. *points at self* Some of my friends practice zero tolerance - once you say or do a stupid thing, the offender is dead to them, forever. And I get it, traumatized people usually don't have the spoons to give others more opportunities to traumatize them. Others, perhaps, give too many second/third/fortieth chances. But there are different dynamics in a community, rather than a personal relationship. Where in your opinion is a reasonable line for a community, between, "On the path to better awareness," and "dead-set on finding new ways to be an asshole"?

I'm all about effort. If somebody fucks up and then puts in effort to make it right, I'll give them the room to do so...while still being very wary of their presence in any spaces I inhabit. If they don't put in that effort, they aren't welcome and I'm typically pretty clear about saying so.

That's just how I am. I'm very vocal about the need for multiple approaches though. There are people who I think others are too soft on and others that I think people are too hard on. But that's my perspective and I’m not arrogant enough to think it's perfect. I welcome the proverbial good cop and bad cop when it comes to these debates and I often alternate which role I play.

8) You're working on a book - any idea when the launch date will be? What specific topics make YOUR book on polyamory different from the works already out there? And while we're waiting for the the launch of the book, where can we catch you in person giving workshops and roundtables?

My book should be available in Spring 2018, but I'll be loud and proud about any changes made between now and then. In it, I cover the same topics that I do in person. Barriers for entry that people of color face when entering polyamorous spaces and real world steps we can all take to be more welcoming and inclusive. It's gonna hurt some feelings, but that's a good thing. You can't reach for change while sitting comfortably.

In the meantime, I'll be appearing as a guest host on the Polyamory Weekly podcast. I'm presenting in person at Poly Dallas Millenium (July 13-15), Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit in Alexandria, Va. (August 4-6), and CatalystCon in Los Angeles (September 15-17).

9) I know your efforts are a labor of love, or perhaps, a work of art - but even lovers and artists gotta eat. How can people $upport your work?

I've opened up a Patreon account, linked here. While my Poly Role Models blog will remain a free resource, I wanted to open up an avenue for subscribers to both show some support and possibly fund future projects related to inclusive representation of polyamory.

10) What question have you not yet been asked - and what is your answer?

I don't know what question I haven't been asked, but I do know the question I've been asked too many times. That would be “How many people are you seeing?” I say that I've been asked too many times because I feel like it boxes in my interpretation of who I refer to as a partner. It almost feels like I'm being asked to quantify how many people I care about.

My dating is pretty wide range and my polyamory is pretty fluid depending on who I'm with. A friend today might be a friend with benefits tomorrow then a friend again the day after that. All with no real change in affection or logistics. A sentiment of “I love you” could mean, “I want to spend my life with you” or it could mean “I love who we are to each other during the twice-annual weekends we spend together.”

While I might only refer to one person as a wife or two people as a girlfriend, there are so many people that I love and have huge personal investments with. Women who have supported me or whom I have supported for years. I always feel shitty when asked that question because, without a list in my hand, there's no way I can answer it without leaving out someone I love. And occasionally, that loved one will call me on it. I'd rather just be asked about how my polyamory is “structured” without having to nail down a number.

Kevin Patterson, M.Ed is an active member of the Philadelphia polyamory community and the curator of the interview series blog, Poly Role Models. After stumbling bass ackwards into ethical nonmonogamy, Patterson found himself in a landscape with far more diversity than was being portrayed in mainstream media. He's since made it his mission to promote true stories from the people that make polyamory what it is. Himself included. Kevin is author of the upcoming book, Love's Not Color Blind, which examines the intersection of race and polyamory.

You can find him at PolyRoleModels on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can support his work at Patreon 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Off the Relationship Escalator with Amy Gahran - Giveaway!

You may have noticed I've been giving away some of my favorite books on the blog lately. Stepping Off the Relationship Escalator by Amy Gahran is one that blew me away. It's "meaty," with great stories, research, and resources, but tremendously easy to read. So I'm delighted to have her on the blog for a mini-interview, and to be giving away a copy of this book to one lucky commenter.

But what does the "Relationship Escalator" even mean? From the site:

When most people say “a relationship,” they usually mean something like this:
Relationship Escalator. The default set of societal expectations for intimate relationships. Partners follow a progressive set of steps, each with visible markers, toward a clear goal.
The goal at the top of the Escalator is to achieve a permanently monogamous (sexually and romantically exclusive between two people), cohabitating marriage — legally sanctioned if possible. In many cases, buying a house and having kids is also part of the goal. Partners are expected to remain together at the top of the Escalator until death.
The Escalator is the standard by which most people gauge whether a developing intimate relationship is significant, “serious,” good, healthy, committed or worth pursuing or continuing.

Here are the questions I asked Amy, and her responses:

1) A connection with a sibling, or a best friend might be emotionally closer and longer-lasting than our latest romantic relationship. Yet we're taught that by pop culture that the most important relationship is supposed to be an "Escalator" one; romantic and/or sexual.

Did it surprise you, as you were gathering the research, that so many people voiced how important these kinds of relationships were? If that didn't surprise you, what did? I'm sure there was more than one surprise or unexpected insight as people were sharing their experiences.

The fact that people attach strong significance and commitment to some of their nonromantic and/or nonsexual relationships did not surprise me; I see that every day. What is notable, I thought, was how many people mentioned that stepping off the Escalator gave them motivation and a sense of permission to own how strongly they value their non-Escalator, nonsexual/romantic ties. Several specifically mentioned regretting undervaluing or neglecting those relationships previously, before they began to question the Escalator.

The biggest and best surprise I had from doing this research was hearing from over 100 people who identify as somewhere on the asexual/aromantic spectrum. You wanna think really, really hard about relationships and intimacy? Try taking sex and/or romance out of the picture.

2) Another section I found fascinating is about how romantic relationships don't necessarily end cleanly, or end at all. There can be pauses and resumptions, we can break up as a romantic relationship but stay friends. Many people are doing this and co-parenting quite amicably, for example. Why shouldn't people break up the traditional way, hating each other and trash-talking their former partners to anyone who will listen? What's the benefit to actually staying friends (as opposed to paying it lip service), or even as occasional sexual partners?

I think -- and this is just my guess, based on hearing so many stories and witnessing so many relationships on and off the Escalator -- that the "normal" mode of breakup + completely exiting each others lives, often with bad feelings, stems from a few things:

1. The common belief that positive, ongoing ties with former partners indicates a failure to "let go" and "move on." There's a *lot* of mainstream social pressure to do these things; to "get over" a relationship. People view cutting ties with former partners as a sign of maturity or personal growth. And depending on why the relationship ended, that might be the case -- but not always.

2. A perceived need to clear the way to jump back on the Escalator again ASAP. When people stay unpartnered "too long," their suitability as an Escalator partner often starts to be questioned. They're not dating anyone seriously yet? What's wrong with them?

Also, the loss of social prestige associated with not being part of a couple is really challenging for many people. Plus, often, their ability to function socially and logistically as an individual may have suffered if they'd ridden the Escalator for a long time. Finding a new Escalator relationship can feel like the safer option, in so many ways. And people often run to perceived safety.

3. The competitiveness fostered by how the Escalator works. Any other potential partner is easily cast as a rival or threat. This is especially true with former intimate partners -- people often worry whether good ties with former partners = the potential to "rekindle the flame."

4. The Escalator is designed to be hard to leave. When you've fused your life -- and more importantly, your identity -- with an Escalator partner, then ending that relationship poses the risk of severe logistical and existential disruption. Facing that risk, and the fear associated with it, requires working up a lot of energy to leave. Often the most expedient way to muster the needed "escape velocity" is via negative emotions.

....All that said, whether or not former lovers/partners maintain a genuine, healthy friendship (or other positive "aftership") once their original intimate relationship has ended, depends on the people and circumstances. Sometimes people break up and exit each other's lives for good reasons.

Also, shifting a relationship from, say, a marriage to a platonic friendship, often requires effort and energy. No one is required to expend that energy.

Personally, I think "let's be friends" can be rather oppressive if it's treated as a blanket best outcome. In its own way, that can be as oppressive as saying everyone should ride the Escalator. If it works out, great. But if not, then not.

The good thing is that the awareness and negotiation skills that are needed to step off the Escalator in any way (or even simply to consider that possibility) tends to make people more skilled, compassionate and humane about how they conclude, de-escalate or otherwise change their relationships.

3) Stepping Off the Relationship Escalator is planned as a series of three books, with the next, 10 Common Questions about Unconventional Relationships planned to release later this year. There's already a lot of "meat" in this book - can you give a quick preview of three of those ten questions?

Here's all 10 -- take your pick!

1. Parenting: What About the Children?
2. Commitment: Who can you count on?
3. Difficult Emotions: Don't You Get Jealous?
4. Oh, the Drama! How Can You Stand It?
5. Sex: So You Get Laid All the Time, Right?
6. Slut! (OK, not a question, but people hear that a lot...)
7. Sexual Health: Aren't You Scared You'll Catch a Disease?
8. Working things out: Isn't this just too hard?
9. How do you find people to date?
10. Communication and negotiation: Talk, talk talk....

Amy Gahran is an independent journalist, editor, blogger, author and publisher based in Boulder, Colorado. In 2013 she began a research project into unconventional intimate relationships, culminating in the book "Stepping Off the Relationship Escalator: Uncommon Love and Life," published in 2017. It's the first of at least three books on this subject.


Aggie Sez/Amy Gahran
Publisher, Off the Escalator LLC

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Leave a comment below to win a copy of this fabulous book. Entries will close on Friday, June 23. And if you feel like being a sport, sign up for my mailing list (link at top right of page), and I'll let you know when my book is ready to be born.