Author Archives: Andi Marquette

In Memoriam: Leslie Feinberg

On November 15th, we lost another pioneer. Leslie Feinberg, trans/activist, theorist, mass culture changer, gender explorer and warrior, died at the age of 65, succumbing to multiple tick-borne infections that zie’d been battling for years, and zie saw all too well how the healthcare system denies access to millions of people through institutionalized discrimination and bias. If you know Feinberg’s work and impact, that shouldn’t surprise you. If you don’t, zie was a rare visionary activist who drew on myriad threads from myriad approaches and contexts that continue to resonate.

Leslie Feinberg. Self-portrait in setting sun.

Leslie Feinberg. Self-portrait in setting sun.

For those of us who came of age in the 1980s and 1990s, Feinberg was an integral part of the LGBT activist nexus, and a trailblazing pioneer in transactivism and radicalism. We were schooled by 1993′s Stone Butch Blues, which tells the story of a butch named Jess Goldberg who grows up prior to the Stonewall Riots. SBB entered the LGBT literary canon worldwide in several languages as a groundbreaking work on gender, and remains one of the best-known books in that canon. Hir theoretical approaches to gender — including the first Marxist analysis of transgender liberation — have been taught for decades. Hir work has impacted political organizing, academic research, and popular culture.

Feinberg’s 1996 pivotal Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman was one of those works. Laurie Miles at the Socialist Review noted the book’s profound effect on her, in that it adopted “an accessible international and class perspective on the universality of gender variant individuals, groups and roles. The book identified a defining moment in the drive for LGBT unity in the last decade of the 20th century. It became a rallying cry for transgender rights and for trans people to recognise and reclaim our history and understand the nature and causes of our oppression.” transgender warriors

Feinberg’s work and activism is best described in hir own words from the bio on hir website:

S/he is well-known in the U.S. and many other parts of the world as an activist who works to help forge a strong bond between the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans communities. As a trade unionist, anti-racist and socialist, Feinberg also organizes to build strong bonds of unity between these struggles and those of movements in defense of oppressed nationalities, women, disabled, and the working-class movement as a whole. Feinberg has worked for more than three decades in defense of the sovereignty, self-determination and treaty rights of Native nations and for freedom of political prisoners in the U.S. Ze is an internationalist and has been part of the anti-Pentagon movement since the U.S. war against Vietnam. Feinberg has toured the country, speaking at Pride rallies and protest marches, and at scores of colleges and universities.

Hir spouse, poet Minnie Bruce Pratt, includes more about Feinberg’s work in the obituary she wrote for the Advocate:

In her early twenties Feinberg met Workers World Party at a demonstration for Palestinian land rights and self-determination. She soon joined WWP through its founding Buffalo branch.

After moving to New York City, she participated in numerous mass organizing campaigns by the Party over the years, including many anti-war, pro-labor rallies. In 1983-1984 she embarked on a national tour about AIDS as a denied epidemic. She was a key organizer in the December 1974 March Against Racism in Boston, a campaign against white supremacist attacks on African-American adults and schoolchildren in the city. Feinberg led a group of ten lesbian-identified people, including several from South Boston, on an all-night “paste up” of South Boston, covering every visible racist epithet.

Feinberg was one of the organizers of the 1988 mobilization in Atlanta that re-routed the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan as they tried to march down Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave., on MLK Day. When anti-abortion groups descended on Buffalo in 1992 and again in 1998-1999 with the murder there of Dr. Barnard Slepian, Feinberg returned to work with Buffalo United for Choice and its Rainbow Peacekeepers, which organized community self-defense for local LGBTQ+ bars and clubs as well as the women’s clinic.

Zie was a transvisionary, as zie strove to forge links between communities facing oppressions in many manifestations, and zie was a throwback in some ways to the old-school labor rights activists of the 1930s and 40s, and that’s how I’ve always thought of hir: A beautiful and powerful melding of generations of thought and action — some from the past, and some that zie was pulling from the future. Feinberg never wanted to develop some kind of “umbrella” identity or term for everybody to get underneath. Rather, zie believed in the right of self-determination for oppressed communities, individuals, nations, and groups, and in coalitions between them.

Feinberg’s last words were, “Remember me as a revolutionary communist.”

I will. And as a warrior, philosopher, writer, and pathbreaker.

For more:
Leslie Feinberg’s website
National Center for Transgender Equality on Feinberg
HRC on Feinberg
Liberation News on Feinberg following hir death
The Atlantic
How Leslie Feinberg saved my life
CNN
Books on Amazon
1996 interview with Feinberg
Fall 1996 review of Transgender Warriors

NOTE: From Minnie Bruce Pratt’s obituary: “She preferred to use the pronouns she/zie and her/hir for herself, but also said: “I care which pronoun is used, but people have been disrespectful to me with the wrong pronoun and respectful with the right one. It matters whether someone is using the pronoun as a bigot, or if they are trying to demonstrate respect.”

Unwrap these presents, y’all, and help homeless LGBTQ youth!

Hey! Got some great news yesterday from Ylva Publishing.

The holiday anthology Unwrap These Presents is HOT OFF THE EBOOK PRESS available right now as we speak.cover_A_Unwrap-These-Presents_500x800

It’s got a ton of authors (full disclosure: I’m one of them) and ALL PROCEEDS go to benefit 2 organizations that help homeless LGBTQ youth:
Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 9.46.15 PM

The Ali Forney Center in New York City
The Albert Kennedy Trust in the UK

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 9.46.51 PM

I’m going to give you a stat, friends.

Some FORTY PERCENT of homeless youth are LGBTQ and nearly 7 in 10 respondents in this 2012 study about homeless LGBTQ youth said that family rejection was a major contributing factor to their homelessness.

Rolling Stone recently did a piece on homeless LGBTQ youth, and it will give you a stark picture of what these young people face without a support network.

We hope you’ll help us help these two wonderful organizations, and consider helping similar organizations and programs in your area whether through donations or volunteering.

To purchase Unwrap These Presents from Amazon.us, click HERE.

To purchase Unwrap These Presents from Amazon.uk, click HERE.

To donate directly to the Ali Forney Center, click HERE.
To donate directly to the Albert Kennedy Trust, click HERE.

Thank you so much for reading, and thank you for helping us share some luv.

Happy Sunday!

In Memoriam: Cate Culpepper

I haven’t wanted to write this post, because I didn’t want to believe that Cate was no longer with us on this mortal coil as of October 25. But Cate herself let us all know, in her own “Cate-ness” way, that it’s true. Cate Culpepper

I was not so fortunate to have met her in person, but I corresponded a bit with her via email. We e-chatted a bit about writing and our shared love of New Mexico.

I was born in Albuquerque, just north of the state’s center. Cate was from southern New Mexico, the Las Cruces area. We talked a bit about the magic of “place” in those few emails and the people who come to populate it, whether literal or metaphorical. We talked about New Mexico folklore and how stories come and go, and the ways they settle in the psyche.

I remember even through email, she gave me a sly Nuevomexicana wink, because we both knew what it was to come from desert and to take it with us always, no matter where we ended up.

Cate left us a marvelous legacy in the books we will still read, in the memories we all have of her, and the work she did outside of writing: teaching, working with homeless, inspiring others to live to their fullest potential with grace, humor both ribald and gentle, her saucy irreverence, and neverending kindness.

Cate, I wish you could see the evidence of the lives you touched and continue to touch. Or perhaps you did know. I’d like to think you did. I’d like to think that maybe, in some way, you still do.

For those of you who would like to see some of that evidence for yourselves, take a few moments to read the shared remembrances below of others who knew and loved her personally and/or knew and loved her work.

Bold Strokes Books tributes
Lee Lynch, “Cheeseburgers in Paradise: Cate Culpepper, 1957-2014″
Victoria Brownworth at Lambda Literary
Jove Belle, “A Brief Ode to the Amazon Queen”
D. Jackson Leigh, “O Captain, My Captain”

She is deeply missed, but we will all carry her forward in some way. Vaya con dios, Cate. Viajes seguros.

(Dis)organization

Heya, peeps—

Well, I’m going through a major organizational thingie up in here. No biggie. Every so often, I get rid of bunches of stuff and find better, sleeker strategies for keeping things in order. I have this issue whereby if I have too much stuff, I start freaking out and I feel trapped, so I go through a purge of sorts. It helps clear my mind and calm me down. Heh.

Generally, my office is a study in relatively controlled chaos. I have bookshelves and other shelving that I decided no longer serves me as well as I’d like. So I’m looking at options. I’ve gotten kind of into cubby storage lately, some of which are designed for those cloth containers you can then slide in. Like so.

I’m into no-frills, (relatively) inexpensive stuff and if it’s something I can fix up myself, that’s cool, too, though I don’t have a lot of extra time (found objects–cool!). I’m also trying to figure out some ideas for bathroom storage. I have a tall linen closet in my bathroom with really deep shelves. I’m not very tall myself, so I can’t really access the top shelf (that’s my apocalypse shelf–lots of toilet paper!) all the time. I’m trying to pare down my bathroom stuff and figure out, again, sleeker organizational strategies for that, too. I tend to be a bit minimalist (kind of Ikea-ish/Swedish design mixed with Japanese zen space), I guess, and if my furniture is big and clunky, it kind of stresses me out.

Unless it’s some kind of cool historic-looking thing. I have some shelves I bought from a Mexican import store that I really like. Rough around the edges, kind of crooked, but super sturdy. Kinda like this.

These are some of my ideal spaces:

Japanese Zen style. Source: Now-Zen blog

New Mexico style! Source: Offgridworld

From the cave houses in Spain. Source: cavehealing retreat

How about you? Got any good storage ideas? And what’s YOUR ideal space?

Happy Monday!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Hey, everybody! Go on over to Women and Words for a chance to win an ebook copy of Ylva Publishing’s Wicked Things anthology.

HERE IS THE LINK TO THE GIVEAWAY. It ends TOMORROW (1 November) at 9 PM EST US.

I also posted a short story of my own over there, but here it is here, too:

ANDI’S CREEPY (HOPEFULLY) HALLOWEEN STORY

You love camping, so when you decided to go that one time late summer above the town where you grew up, you figured it’d be like every other time. Hanging out with a group of friends at the campground next to the creek where animal sounds from the higher mountains roll down through the pines like fog. You love camping, so you said “yes” to the invite and grabbed your gear.

Night falls in a slow, quiet drift and you help get the firepit ready. A few cars pass the campground, on the way to the lake farther up, most people honking and waving. Except for the driver of that red pickup. He’s in a white tee you notice, and he slows down and stares hard at you and your group, but doesn’t smile and doesn’t wave. You watch that truck until the curve in the dirt road takes it out of your sight, but you see another guy in the cab through the back window, wearing a red tee. You think he might’ve been staring, too, expression hard and flat, like the side of a knife.

Just a couple of assholes, your friends say, but you can’t shake the slight chill that has nothing to do with the cooler air at this altitude. You hope they’re right, and you go back to getting the fire ready and when it catches and shoots sparks and merry flames into the air, it burns away most of that earlier chill and you settle in, laughing and joking, telling ghost stories because that’s what you do when you go camping with your friends.

The fire collapses into coals, as if full dark had pressed down on it, forcing the flames back to earth. The creek nearby gurgles and you hear a few rustles from underbrush, and the creak of trees as they shift in the breeze. Night sounds, all. Forest sounds, and one of the reasons you love camping. You look across the firepit to say something about that when a distant scream from higher up the mountain makes your words catch in your mouth and everybody around the firepit stares at each other, eyes wide, waiting.

Another scream, otherworldly, like a woman but not quite. You think of werewolves, then, because the sound isn’t quite human but it’s not quite animal.

“Cougar,” one of your friends says. She’s sitting across from you, and she’s trying to sound confident.

“Definitely,” her brother agrees, with the certainty of young male bravado.

You all listen, but the sound doesn’t repeat and you remember something you read, about how a mountain lion’s scream can mimic a woman in distress. You relax. Yeah. A cougar. Probably.

Another one of your friends throws a piece of wood on the fire, and the coals embrace it hungrily until flames emerge from its surface. That makes things better, so you add another couple of logs and the fire starts battling the darkness, and it wins, in the circle of your campsite, where your three tents are like wagons and you’re a group of pioneers braving the wilds. You relax and the conversation flows again, like the creek behind you.

Your friend’s brother has to go to the bathroom, so he gets up. She hands him a flashlight and he takes off into the underbrush across the dirt road that carried others up to the lake earlier. You see the flashlight’s beam bobbing among the trees, a willow-the-wisp in the forest. The cougar you heard was too far up the mountains, you think, so it’s okay if he goes a little farther away. Somebody says something about bears shitting in the woods and everybody laughs.

And then you hear a crashing from the forest, from where your friend’s brother went to take a leak, and everybody stands, then, and there he is, barreling out of the woods, flashlight beam skittering through the darkness like a weird concert light show. He’s running full-tilt, and you can hear him gasping his breaths. He doesn’t slow down until he hits the boundary of light that the revitalized fire created. Nobody says anything. You just watch and wait as he tries to talk.

“Guy in the woods,” he says. “Watching us.”

You all stare at him.

“Where?” somebody says. You don’t realize it’s you talking because you’re watching him, doubled over, still catching his breath.

“Couple hundred yards, maybe.” He gestures vaguely toward the forest, in the area where he’d gone to pee. He looks up. “White T-shirt.”

You all look at each other again. “Like that guy in the truck?” you say.

“Maybe.”

You all share another stare and you’re thinking that you’d much rather deal with cougars or werewolves than humans, and you think about Friday the 13th movies and Deliverance and you fight a crazy laugh when you realize you’re waiting for banjo music.

“Let’s find out,” one of your friends says. It was her brother, after all, who was scared out of the woods. “Asshole,” she adds and she goes to her pickup truck and opens the door and turns the truck’s lights on. They’re aimed at the forest across the road, and your gut clenches and you really have to pee but there is no way in hell you’re going up there to do it. And no way you’re leaving the fire’s light. You’re sweating, but it’s cold on your skin. Not like clean sweat, the kind you get when you work out or hike, but the kind that fear smears on your skin.

Dust from the road drifts in the headlights’ path, kicked up from your friend’s sprint. Your friend leaves her truck and picks up a hatchet from the picnic table. Her brother picks up a stick that would make a decent staff for hiking. Ballsy, you think. You go to the truck, thinking you’ll help somehow. Maybe by turning the brights on. Stupid, you realize, but you don’t know what else to do. Your two other friends stand nearby, waiting, as your armed friends follow the headlights across the road and into the underbrush, picking their way carefully. Your friend with the hatchet is the deliberate, slow-talking one in the group. Steady and patient. Doesn’t get all crazy. So if something’s out there, she’s the one to determine what it is. Not much fazes her.

But you’re coated in sweat, now. Your own tee is soaked under your sweatshirt above the waistband of your jeans and you realize you’re shivering. You clamp your teeth together because otherwise they’d chatter.

Nobody says anything. Seconds crawl. You think you hear your friends moving in the underbrush up there, about a hundred yards away. You hear your friend closest to you breathing and maybe you can even hear the blood moving through her veins, so attuned you’ve become to the dark and what might be in it. Your other friend exhales, like she was just holding her breath. Probably not a guy, you’re trying to convince yourself. The little brother had been telling ghost stories earlier. He was primed to see something creepy since he had already been thinking about it. You can’t convince yourself, though.

And then your friend and her brother burst out of the forest running. You freeze, not sure what to do, dreading whatever’s chasing them but unable to move.

“Let’s go,” your friend says when she gets to the truck. You look at her and then her brother and he’s nodding and gasping.

“Another guy,” your friend with the hatchet says. “Red shirt. He’s got a knife.” She’s trying to catch her breath and she’s shaking. Her knuckles are white on the hatchet’s handle. “Sitting up there.” She points toward the forest, where the truck’s headlights are aimed. She digs in her pocket and pulls the keys to her truck out and she looks at each of you in turn. “He smiled at me.”

And then you’re all moving. You don’t remember what you grab, only that you and three others pile into the back of the pickup and that your friend starts the truck and puts it in drive even before you’ve settled in. The truck’s bed is cold and uncomfortable against your skin but you don’t care. You brace yourself for the ride down the mountain, because she’s not taking it slow this time and you’re glad for it, though you expect bruises.

Better than the alternative.

You wait the night out in town. Nobody sleeps.

Finally, when the sun burns off every last bit of night, you all go back up the mountain. You left everything there. Tents, food, soda in the creek. Everything.

It’s all still there. But your deliberate, slow-talking friend studies the front of her tent. The flap is unzipped and moves in the breeze. She takes the staff her brother had carried the night before and uses it to push the flap aside so you can see inside.

Nothing inside that shouldn’t be there. But the other two tents are unzipped, too. You check them. Nothing missing. Even your soda is still in the creek. You don’t feel like drinking it, though. You all work in silence, packing everything up and loading the truck. You have a twinge of guilt because you’d left the fire still live when you bailed. Stupid, you think, but then you remember the guy in the woods, sitting there. Smiling. You pour extra water from the creek into the firepit, like you’re washing away last night.

And then you head down the mountain again. You’re in the back of the pickup, listening to the day sounds and the cheerful patter of squirrels and birds, going about their animal things. Business as usual.

But it takes you a long time before you go camping again.

Copyright 2014, Andi Marquette
—–

Happy Halloween!

(anti)Social Media

Hi, peeps!

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about social media and how to navigate it. I was having a conversation recently with a friend who’s teaching a college class, and a lot of the students are in their 20s/late teens. We got to talking about social media and how it’s useful for so many things, but can also be downright dangerous.

Part of that is because perceptions of privacy are so different now than they were when she and I were teens. I didn’t grow up with the ubiquitous intertoobz. Back in the 80s, the Web was nascent among average Americans, and I didn’t even send my first inter-office email until the summer of 1987, I believe it was. I was already in college. Which means I have no conception of posting a photograph in public so that random passers-by could see it and comment on it. That’s just not something I do.

When I was growing up, you interacted primarily face-to-face or via telephone. Because you interacted so much face-to-face, it was damn hard to be a douchecanoe. It’s a LOT harder to troll someone face-to-face in the real world than it is online. The interwebz offer anonymity and distance, both social and physical, and that’s just not something I had growing up.

Everybody knew who the people in town were who you had to avoid, and you did. You were polite enough, because you didn’t want those people following you home from the store if you pissed them off, but for the most part, you left them alone. It never entered my mind, at least, to go and harass somebody just because they were “weird” or “different” or just plain mean or because I was bored. And in order to do that when I was growing up, you had to confront someone directly or lurk outside their house. You couldn’t just hang out in a basement somewhere with a laptop to make someone’s life miserable.

So with that in mind, here are some things about social media that you might find useful. And yes, we are a “NOW NOW NOW” society. But stuff like this requires some introspection and some consideration of ramifications of your actions. Nothing new about that. We could all use a bit of introspection now and again.

Read the rest of this entry

Questions answered!

Hi, everybody! Every once in a while, I take random questions from people and post them here along with my answers. This is one of those times. So here, you go. Auntie Andi’s on it.

1. From Fran (a 2-fer!)
A. “Is it easier now for lesbian authors to get published without having to go the vanity press route?”

Yes. That may or may not be a good thing, depending on your view. Here are my pros and cons, which I stated elsewhere today:
PRO: gets more books to people, allows easier access for those who are isolated.
PRO: brings more attention to lesfic and F/F writing, which allows access to more “mainstream” venues.
PRO: expands the audience for lesfic and F/F
PRO: expands networks of writers worldwide

CON: through “mainstreaming,” are we perhaps losing an aspect of creative lesbian culture that has sustained us for decades?
CON: (this applies across the board, though)–loss of “gatekeeping” and, in some cases, quality control (not all, and I’m certainly not suggesting that traditional houses don’t publish poo or mistake-ridden books–this does happen).
CON: perhaps unravels tight-knit lesfic creative culture and instead creates disparate pockets of lesfic without coherent networks.
CON: an overabundance of writers means a market glut and it becomes more difficult for individual writers to find an audience.

NOTE: I am not in any way judging either traditional or indie publishing, as I do both. These are merely observations.

B. Also from Fran: “Are you seeing more lesbian/gay content in mainstream writing? Is it gaining cultural acceptance?”
I’m not sure how to define “mainstream.” I think that LGBT characters are appearing more and more in so-called “mainstream” fiction, but I think it’s harder to find LGBT main characters (a few exceptions–e.g. Ellen Hart, Sandra Scopettone) and when you do find them, their sexual relationships are totally curtailed. Whereas in, say, a “heterosexual” thriller you’ll have the main character having sex (however that author expresses the scene, there’s no mistaking what’s going on), but you certainly won’t have an LGBT character having sex (not even a hint of it) in a more “mainstream” book. If there is stuff out there along those lines, let me know!

Overall, I think that will change, with time, however, and same-sex relationships will start to be accepted within mainstream canons. It’s a matter of time, I think.

2. Eh: “Beer or Wine”
Yes.

3. E.J.: “Are you going to get married?”
Dunno. Depends on the woman.

4. From Stephni (another 2-fer!):
A. “Of the seven deadly sins, which do you think is the lesser of the aforementioned?”

I don’t believe in “sin.” Everything on that list is a personal choice, so it’s your choice whether you want to engage in it. Too much of any of ‘em might make people think you’re a douchecanoe, so it’s in your best interest, I suppose, to not be a douchecanoe.

B. Also from Stephni: “Lastly and to finish the seven theme which of the 7 heavenly virtues is the most trying for you to maintain?”
None of them. I try not to be a douchecanoe overall. Except sometimes at the holidays, I might get a little crazy and suck down too much chocolate, which could mean I’m being a glutton, but it seems to me that to be a glutton, you have to do that stuff all the time and not share your chocolate. Is it gluttony if you share your chocolate? I don’t think so. :D

5. From Daniela: “Have you met a deaf person?”
Yes. Several.

6. Also from Eh: “Ever consider updating your covers on your older work? (Just looking at your Far Seek Chronicles)”
Yes. But I don’t consider it “updating.” I consider it “changing.” And if you’re an artist who does that sort of thing for this genre, send me stuff from your portfolio to have a look at.

7. From Joan: “Do you approach fiction writing differently than nonfiction? Are there different rituals or habits of mind you employ? Do you find it harder to do one or the other? Or easier? Wording of your choice, my friend!”
Yes. I enjoy writing fiction more than nonfiction. I write to music, incense, and candles when I’m working on a fiction project (which makes it sound like I’m dating my fiction). Nonfiction stresses me out a bit more because I’m super-anal and it has to have valid, solid sources that support it. I don’t really have a ritual with regard to nonfiction, though I have been known to procrastinate a lot more before working on a nonfiction project than a fiction project. I’d rather be in my own private batcave, writing fiction.

8. From Tara: “Is there anything you can’t do?”
Yes. I still can’t fly, walk through walls, go invisible, or run faster than a speeding train. I keep trying, though. And I can’t field dress a deer. Though it looked pretty cute in that matching camouflage outfit. Oh, and you probably wouldn’t want to trust me with brain surgery.

9. From MM Perry: “Boxers or Briefs?”
Yes.

10. From Linda: “Have you ever written a time-travel story? If not, would you?”
No, I haven’t. I don’t know if I ever will. I have written historical fiction (19th-century; unpublished), but there are lots of time travel stories out there, so I’m not sure what would make anything I’d do different or interesting in that regard. If a story comes along in that vein, I suppose I’ll write it. None have, though.

11. From Diane: “You are a fan of Walking Dead – have you ever thought of writing a lesbian-themed zombie story?”
Yes. I’ve got one kicking around in my head and it has been for a few years. Not sure I’d call it lesfic, though, since it’s the apocalypse and there’s not a whole lot of sexy-time going on. And honestly, there shouldn’t be. You should be busy surviving and not getting your swerve on with every survivor you think is hot. That should be the farthest thing from your mind. Having said that, the MC in the story I’ve been kicking around identified as lesbian prior to the collapse of civilization as we know it.

12. From PA Andrews: “Do you listen the music when you write? If so, what type do you prefer?”
Yes. Each genre has its own type of music and each project has its own soundtrack. You can find out what by checking out my playlists at Spotify. Here are links on my blog:
Far Seek Chronicles: Friends in High Places, A Matter of Blood; Land of Entrapment; From the Boots Up; From the Hat Down.

13. S. Marie: “Toilet paper roll- over or under?”
Depends on whose house I’m visiting. When in Rome…

14. JRob: “How tall are you?”
Not very. But I’m loud, which makes me seem ginormous.

15. J. Chavez: “What are your ties to New Mexico?”
I was born in Albuquerque. I ended up growing up in southwestern Colorado, but spent a lot of time in NM with the family. I returned to Albuquerque in ’92 and was there until ’04. Returned to the Southwest in ’08. New Mexico is home, and will always be home, whether I’m living there or not.

There you go, peeps. Another round of questions answered. Here’s the first round, in case you wondered.

Happy Monday!

I swear.

No, really.

It’s true. I curse. And, like many people who do, I generally use swearage in contexts in which there is precedent for it (i.e. friends and yes, family).

For those of you who know me personally, you’re not shocked by this revelation. For those of you who don’t, sorry. I’ve blown your image of me as a pristine, untainted virginal woman with an entire closet full of white dresses who coyly smiles and demurely defers.

I bring this up today because I was recently answering some questions for a book group and one of the questions I got asked was why there was so much swearing in the book.

Context of question: The book was one of my mysteries, whose main characters identify as lesbian. The book group was predominantly (if not all) women and, I presume, lesbian.

Someone else then said that she hadn’t even noticed the swearing. I responded that there was far more swearing in one of the other mysteries I’d written, and that some people swear. Ergo, some of my characters swear. It’s unrealistic, I think, for characters not to swear. I did wonder what the person considered “swearing.” There were a few F-bombs in the book, but for the most part, it’s “hell” and “damn” in my books, which, on my swearage scale, ranks a bit above “crap” and much below “fuck.”

But the deeper issue here is this:

If I were a man writing mysteries and thrillers (regardless of sexual orientation), would that question even have come up?

I doubt it.

Language conveys many things, including where in the social hierarchy someone is. The way you use language and the way you express yourself linguistically signals certain things to listeners. Language can convey power, and the way you say things (your intonations) as well as what you say provides clues about how you think of yourself, where you’re from, and what your background might be. did-you-mean-damn-with-an-n-or-without--13cea

Swear words (which are found in pretty much every human language) are typically considered “power” words (maybe “scary” words), and have historically been most associated with men. Women who curse have historically (and still) been viewed as “unladylike,” “dangerous,” “uncouth,” “ugly,” “trashy,” “harlots,” and [fill in epithets here; the list does go on]. Buzzfeed has a nice GIF-ridden list that addresses the double standard that women face when they curse.

Professor of linguistics Robin Lakoff opened a whole new field in linguistics — language and gender as an object of study — in 1975. She identified “women’s language,” i.e. the characteristics and kinds of language women were expected to use and often were socialized to use. Here’s a chapter she did, “Talking Like a Lady” (Language and a Woman’s Place, 1975). Below, a relevant quote from said chapter.

Allowing men stronger means of expression than are open to women further reinforces men’s position of strength in the real world: for surely we listen with more attention the more strongly and forcefully someone expresses opinions, and a speaker — unable for whatever reason — to be forceful in stating his views is much less likely to be taken seriously. Ability to use strong particles like “shit” and “hell” is, of course, only incidental to the inequity that exists rather than its cause. But once again, apparently accidental linguistic usage suggests that women are denied equality partially for linguistic reasons, and that an examination of language points up precisely an area in which inequity exists. Further, if someone is allowed to show emotions, and consequently does, others may well be able to view him as a real individual in his own right, as they could not if he never showed emotions. Here again, then, the behavior a woman learns as “correct” prevents her from being taken seriously as an individual, and further considered “correct” and necessary for a woman precisely because society does not consider her seriously as an individual.

And if a woman “appropriates” what’s considered male language, she also runs the risk of being ridiculed and dismissed for “stepping out of line.” Damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t (see what I did there?).

This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked that question. And each time (around 7 or 8 times, now) it gets asked, it’s a woman who identifies as lesbian wanting to know why there’s “so much cursing” in my books. Have you read John Sandford’s Virgil Flowers books, I ask. And usually, the answer is “no.” Well, I say, there’s your point of comparison.

And, yes, swearage can also be a function of one’s background. I grew up in a household that used swearage in appropriate contexts. I also grew up around a lot of public defenders and other attorney-types and I’ll tell you right now, the swearage was strong with that group. Both men AND women. I grew up in a rural western town, where we snuck swearage into our conversations during high school lunch breaks and after school, and learned how to wield it with our friends. Furthermore, I’m not religious, so any kind of religious moratorium on swearage has no context in my life. And, let’s be honest, here. I grew up with strong women. Who swear.

I come by my swearage honestly.

But again, the deeper issue here is the fact that if I were a man writing, I doubt I would ever get asked why there’s “so much swearing” in (some of) my books.

And what, exactly, is “so much”? How much is that? I’m only granted one F-bomb per 100 pages? I have a finite number of “hells” and “damns” I can use? Do dudes writing have a finite number of swear words they can apply to their work? Again, I doubt it.

Regardless, I don’t believe in quotas on swearing. And I don’t believe that women shouldn’t swear, because I think ultimately, that’s what’s really at the root of that question. Some people swear. Others don’t. Some of my characters swear. Others don’t. It depends on the scene, genre, story, and the characters’ arcs.

Basically, in my world, women swear.

For realz.

To explore this further, see the following links:
Robin Lakoff, The Language War (2001)
Profanity and Gender: A Diachronic Analysis of Men’s and Women’s Use and Perceptions of Swear Words”
An Encyclopedia of Swearing
A Brief History of Swearing
Swearing: A Social History…
Swearing can help with pain
9 things you may not have known about swearing

Happy Monday!

Diving into the writing fray off your PLATFORM

Hi, peeps! Hope everything is groovy with you and yours.

First, we’re doing a big-ass giveaway of the anthology I co-edited with R.G. Emanuelle, All You Can Eat: A Buffet of Lesbian Romance and Erotica at Women and Words (AYCE scored an honorable mention in the Rainbow Awards! YAY!), so run on down and get in on that. We’ve got 2 print copies and 5 ebooks to give away. HERE IS THE LINK TO DO JUST THAT. You have until Tuesday, 9 PM EST U.S. time to play.

And now, I thought I’d just chit-chat a bit about writing. Because that is ostensibly what I do up in here. Today, let’s talk marketing. In sort of a broad sense.

Read the rest of this entry

Oldies but goodies (plus update)

Hi, kids!

First, the anthology I co-edited with R.G. Emanuelle is now available in print! WOOO! Go get some.

AllYouCanEat-197x300

And second, I’ve been doing a lot of mystery/thriller reading these days, trying to get inspired to write a mystery/thriller short story. I’ve never written a short story in that genre, so I’m a little tentative about it. I do have an idea, but I haven’t really had the time to sit down and hammer away at it. I’m hoping this weekend is the key.

Anyway, I just finished Walter Satterthwait’s Joshua Croft series, which he published in the late 1980s and early- mid-1990s. Croft is a PI in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the five books (listed HERE) are full of local color and the quirks and vagaries not only of Santa Fe, but of northern New Mexico and its myriad characters. For that alone these are worth the read, but what Satterthwait does so damn brilliantly is characterization and dialogue.

Croft is a wiseass, and the snappy interchanges between him and the other characters that fill these books with New Mexico goodness and maybe a touch of Southwestern noir lend great pacing to the plot arcs and subplots. Satterthwait is a master at pacing, and his descriptions and turns of phrase can be both brilliant and laugh-out-loud hilarious. Witness this, from The Hanged Man, the fourth in the series (that deals with murder most foul in a part of Santa Fe’s new agey community). Here, Croft is about to interview someone who was at the gathering at which a man was later found murdered. He’s gone to her house and is noticing its décor:

The basic motif here appeared to be Egyptian. …There was enough marble in the room to slap together a life-sized replica of the Parthenon. Even the floor was marble, black, as shiny as obsidian. That floor might be pleasant in the summer, on the two of three days when the temperature in Santa Fe rose above eighty-five degrees. During the winter, it was probably a bitch to keep warm. But I suppose that if you could afford a marble floor, you didn’t worry about heating the thing. You just marched your Nubian slaves in from time to time and had them breathe on it. [p. 26]

And one of the interesting things is that there are LGBT characters that pop up in some of the books, and they’re not treated disparagingly. They’re part of the fabric of the culture in Santa Fe, and for books written in the late ’80s and early 90s, that’s actually really cool.

Anyway, I also read crime fiction written years ago to get a sense of how investigation has changed over the years, and what techniques people used to track down suspects. Having a historical sense of shifts in methodology, I think, can help a writer develop a better sense of the many different ways people use to find information. And indeed, ol’ skool is still used for some things today. Reading authors like Satterthwait not only gives you a sense of shoe-leather approaches, but also of how that type of investigation can influence pacing, characterization, and plot arc.

Reading someone like Satterthwait, who weaves the setting so beautifully into his plots and whose characterization is so good, can also provide you some guidance on writing a thriller/mystery with regard to those elements, and how they should work.

So with that in mind, read the oldies, friends. You can find lists of them at links like this:

Stop, You’re Killing Me!
The Top 100 Thrillers of All Time
100 Mysteries and Thrillers to read in a Lifetime (Amazon list)
Mystery Thriller Writers (Wikipedia list)
Edgar Awards Database at Mystery Writers of America
History of crime fiction

Happy reading, happy writing, happy Wednesday!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,827 other followers