A Thought on Pride

This is a blog about writing.

This is also a blog about a writer.

I am a gay woman, this is Pride month, and I just watch several hours of a debate on the Texas legislative floor over a woman’s right to speak. To quote a popular Facebook meme: I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.

As much as I would love to talk about that history-making, heart-wrenching filibuster, instead I’m going to talk about this thing called gay pride: where it came from, what it means, and why you should speak up.

Gay pride did not manifest out of an aspiration to show off. We don’t shower you with glitter and rainbows because they’re pretty (although they definitely are). Gay pride stemmed from the Stonewall Riots. Don’t know what that was? Google it. Educate yourself. We’ll be here when you get back. Pride is a demonstration of a minority that we are here; we are human; we deserve to be treated as such. Before you wax poetic on how there ought to be a Straight Pride, realize that you ought to be grateful that you don’t need one.

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Last month, I watched hours of debate on the Minnesota Senate floor. It wasn’t about something practical like the state budget or healthcare – it was regarding my right as a lesbian to marry my girlfriend. My life. My future in the hands of a group of people who have never met me. Thankfully, the vote came out in our favor. As of August 1st, I am allowed to marry my girlfriend, my partner, Crystal Saete… but only in this state, and the handful of others with marriage equality legislation. When we visit my family in red Florida, however, my marriage will not be recognized there.

This is 2013. We should not be having these discussions. This should not exist. 

During this Pride season, speak up, even if you’ve never done so before.

Wendy Davis stood 12 hours without relief – no bathroom, no food, no water, no leaning. The people at Stonewall risked their lives and freedom to begin the gay rights movement STILL in action. 

Say something. Do something. Please.

I Think I’m Getting… The Fear

Yesterday began what is damn close to being the final edits to REAPER. You remember that one – the book that NaNoWriMo forced out of me like ipecac? The two most competent Beta Readers I know got back to me with some fantastic tweak notes and I’m putting them to good use. After this, it’s final touches and BAM – I’m ready for serious, no holding back submitting.

But then today I had a NERVOUS FUCKING BREAKDOWN.

Out of absolutely nowhere, as I sat down to continue work on the edits was, “Jesus butt-fucking-christ I am a TERRIBLE writer. Who in their write mind would read this garbage? This? THIS is what I’m expecting people to publish?”

And then I cried. I cried for a fucking hour with a Harry Potter movie in the background and gummi bears melting in my hand. It was when the snot ran like a faucet that I had a thought.

I have The Fear.

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The fear that I just might fail. That after all this work (7, possibly 8 long months) on ONE BOOK that’s at SUCH an awkward word count that I STILL don’t know whether to call it a novel or novella, that I’ll get rejected. Rejected like whoa.

Of course I’m going to get rejected. We ALL do. (And if we don’t, we’re fucking LIARS).

So when I do get that first rejection, you can be DAMN SURE I’m going to post that shit loud and proud above my desk.

After the whiskey. Cause whiskey.

The Legend of Jackson Murphy by Renee Miller – A Review

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Today, my good friend and writing mentor’s novel, THE LEGEND OF JACKSON MURPHY became available in paperback and I couldn’t be more excited. Of all of her work that I’ve had the pleasure of reading, this is hands down my favorite.

Blurb:

Jackson Murphy wants to end his marriage and keep his money. There are many ways out of a bad marriage but Jack chooses the most expedient one. He commits the perfect murder but his brilliance leads to trouble. Soon, his business partner wants out, his mistress insists on a wedding ring, his blackmailing cousin comes back for more, and an enterprising competitor tries to squeeze Jack out of business. Each problem he eliminates creates two more. Jack ends up on the run from the Mob and a tenacious police detective. What they don’t yet know is this: what Jackson Murphy wants, Jackson Murphy gets. And he wants freedom…at any price.

The Legend of Jackson Murphy is a novel that makes you inch toward the edge of your seat with a menacing giggle on your lips as each page turns.

Because, you see, Jackson Murphy is an asshole. The reader can’t decide whether to love or hate him. With each triumph and misstep, we are awash with delicious internal conflict that draws us deeper into Jackson’s heinous plans.

Flanking Jackson is a cast of characters worthy of gracing the same page as the protagonist. A plethora of personalities shine with their own little stars, no matter how small their role. As previously shown with In The Bones, Miller proves again that she is fully capable of juggling a larger character set in a way that keeps the reader from getting lost in the tangle.

What’s most intriguing about the novel is how believable the plot is; how possible and even likely it is that Jackson’s motivations throughout the book could be placed in the minds of people we know. Not everyone is above murder, and for some it only takes a little push (or the threat of losing money).

While I won’t give away the ending, I will tell you that once you’ve reached it, you will close the book with a smirk to rival that of Jackson Murphy.

Grab a copy here, and let the games begin.

Short Fiction Monday – An Excerpt from THE BOOKSELLER

I’m not dead.

Yet.

I’ve spent the last week away from the computer and out in the sun because here in Minnesnowta we get a grand total of 12 (sometimes 13) really good days a year. 

This week for Short Fiction Mondays I’m dumping on you an excerpt from my latest WIP, THE BOOKSELLER. It’s an urban fantasy that mashes the naughty bits of several mythologies in ways you can’t imagine (or maybe you can, because you’re sick like me).

I AM STILL TAKING SUBMISSIONS FOR THIS WEEKLY CRAP, so if you have something you’d like to throw out into the world, I’d be happy to post it here. Any genre, I just ask that in keeping with the “short fiction” theme, it be less than 2k words with 1k being the sweet spot.

Without further adieu —

 

From “The Bookseller”

In the bathroom, Erin ran her hands under intermittent cold water. Plumbing issues had been her father’s “area” so the bathroom water flow was still touch and go. In the mirror, she noticed bags under her eyes, made worse by the paleness of her skin. So pale she was almost ghostlike, Erin always wore her dark hair up to lessen the contrast. Like Snow White, but less beautiful. And Erin would probably try to kill any woodland creature that crawled into her lap.

A knock on the door.

“All right in there?”

“Fine, Mom. I’ll be out in a sec.”

She was getting better. Usually, Erin’s mother walked in unannounced. Erin splashed some water over her face then realized there were no towels on the rack. She lifted her shirt and pressed it against her face, and when she pulled it away, if she squinted, the water mark looked a bit like the Virgin Mary. Maybe she could sell the shirt on Ebay. Make some rent money.

Erin diced tomatoes, cucumber, and onion while her mother set the table. They couldn’t just have Chinese takeout on the porch, no, not with Erin’s mother. There was a right way to do things, and wrong way. Allowing others to cook for you when you had perfectly good food in the pantry and expensive copper pans to prepare it in was the wrong way. Erin tasted her first delivered pizza at a friend’s slumber party in middle school. It was the best thing she’d ever put in her mouth. Later, when Erin was older and her mother became less neurotic (and slightly more lazy), she would allow them to go out to dinner on Friday nights. Now that Erin’s father was gone and her mother’s hypochondria was at an all-time high, the woman barely left the house.

Erin drizzled balsamic vinegar over the salad.

“Not too much.” Her mother said as though Erin were adding gun powder to a bomb, rather than dressing a salad. “The salt will bloat you to explosion.”

“It won’t kill you.” Erin said.

“Not right away, no, but in the long run.”

 They sat, Erin at one end of the table, her mother at the other, like opposing Generals. The eggplant slices flopped like purple tongues as Erin dished them onto her plate. She smashed them with her fork and mixed the pile with a bit of tomato sauce to create something slightly more palatable.

“Don’t play with your food, Erin.”

“Give it a rest, Mom.” It was out of her mouth before she realized she’d said it. She shoveled a mound of eggplant into her mouth to keep it at bay.

“Give what a rest?”

Erin shook her head.

“I’m only looking out for you.”

“You’re treating me like a child.” Dammit.

“Maybe,” her mother sat her fork delicately next to her plate, food untouched, “It’s because you insist on acting like one.”

Insist. Like Erin chose her actions specifically to annoy her mother. Ten years ago, she would’ve been right.

“Eggplant’s good.” Erin said. The afternoon’s buzz had worn off and she wasn’t prepared to come up with new responses to the same argument.

Her mother looked at Erin for a long minute before turning her gaze back to her plate. “New recipe. No salt. It’s organic.”

No argument today. Erin’s stomach unclenched slightly.

“How’s work?”

Spoke too soon.

 “It’s fine.” Erin said and stuffed her mouth with vegetables. If she was chewing she couldn’t lie, and if she couldn’t lie then her mother wouldn’t know she was lying and then probe her Mom Stick where it didn’t belong.

“Just ‘fine?’”

The Mom Stick was brandished and waved about threateningly with those two words.

Erin nodded. She was treading on thin ice with her silence.

“Because I got a call today from a young man today asking where he ought to mail your last check since he didn’t have an updated address from you.”

“Or he’s just a bastard who wanted the last laugh.” Stupid coupons.

“Language, Erin.”

“Mother.”

Erin sighed and pushed her plate away. The clock next to the china cabinet read 7:30. Thirty minutes. That had to be a record.

“I can give you a little to tide you over, but you’re going to have to find another job. Between your father’s pension and social security I can barely afford to keep this house afloat.”

“I don’t want your guilt money.”

“And what is that supposed to mean?”

It meant that Erin would rather beg on the street holding a tin can, surrounded by cat companions made from newspaper, than accept one cent because that would come along with an obligation to forgive – and that was something Erin wasn’t prepared to do.

“Nothing.” Erin said. “I have to go.”

“But you just got here.”

“Yeah.”

Erin stood from her chair with such force it wobbled. She knocked the table with her hip. It hurt. Erin picked up her shoes from beneath the table next to the door and, without bothering to put them on, she left her mother’s house, slamming the door behind her. The house was no longer in her rearview mirror before Erin stopped to finally slip her shoes on. She gripped the steering wheel with both hands and willed herself not to cry. It’d been two years. Normal people would be over it by now, or at least doing something productive about it. Erin wasn’t normal people.

 

After her father’s funeral, the hundred plus mourners had piled into her parents’ house to eat deli sandwiches and macaroni salad until the bottomless pit left by his death was filled. There was no room to sit and little room to stand, so Erin had sequestered herself in a corner between the refrigerator and cabinets with a glass of whiskey and diet coke. People came and went to retrieve food and utensils, but mostly left her be. Erin had taken her father’s death better than expected. It wasn’t like it had been entirely a surprise. Though no one could predict the heart attack, with his steadily growing girth and lack of attention to his health, it was bound to happen sooner or later.

When her mother found her, she took Erin by the hand without saying a word and escorted her through the crowd and upstairs to Erin’s old bedroom. It was the same as she’d left it when she went to college – all pinned-up articles and books. A poster of an underground band she bought at the only concert she’d ever been to.

“Sit,” her mother said and patted the bed. She wore a simple black suit. Not a dress-type woman, Erin’s mother.

Erin sat, cradling the glass in her hands. Her mother was probably going to attempt to pry some tortured emotion from her. She was always doing that, assuming that Erin was more fragile than she really was. Like she was an infant in a grown woman’s body. Erin sat up straight with dry eyes.

“Won’t people notice you’re missing?” Erin said.

Her mother shook her head, wearing a sad smile. “Doubt it.”

Erin waited for her mother to say what she’d brought her in here to say, but all she could do was stare at Erin’s face. It was disconcerting.

“Did you need to talk to me about something?”

She’d placed a delicate hand on Erin’s knee. “Your father and I disagreed about how to go about this. You know how he was; out of sight, out of mind. He saw no reason to burden you with something like this.”

“With what?” Erin concentrated on her breathing. An old trick Bean taught her to control her anxiety. It’d been terrible during her first year of college.

“But I always said that you would figure it out one way or another. You’re a smart girl. You notice things other people don’t.”

“And?”

“And I’d rather you heard it from me before you found out on your own.”

Erin filled her mouth with whiskey and swallowed it. She knew what was coming. She’d known it was coming since high school biology when they’d done a section on genetics.

“You were adopted.”

She knew, and yet those three words dropped like concrete blocks in her stomach. Hearing them out loud was different than speculating on her own. Adopted.   

Found, actually. Her parents had been on vacation in Ireland, a belated honeymoon, when they found her squirming infant body partially hidden just inside the mouth of a cave. They’d looked for Erin’s real family, but no one stepped up. So, they brought her home to the states. Christened her “Erin” for her Irish roots. The Poons were Scandinavian.

At the moment her mother confirmed the suspicions she had held inside for so long, Erin hated her father for taking the secret to his grave. Hated her mother even more for using his death as a reason to relieve herself of her burden and instead place it on Erin’s head.

She spent the following year looking for some lead into her parentage, a summer of which was in Ireland, but each search yielded a dead end.

 

Back at her apartment, her sanctum santorum, Erin impaled a styrafoam box of leftovers with the only kitchen knife she owned, and then poured the last of the cheap white wine into a coffee mug. After tossing her mismatched couch pillows across the room, she sat in front of her computer. Erin opened an internet window and typed: BABY GIRL FOUND IN IRISH CAVE in the search field. No new items. She deleted the phrase and typed: BOX WITH BIRD CLASP.

No relevant results.