Covid-19 IS our new normal, y’all

Hey, friends–

I was talking to a friend the other day. Both of us are vaxxed and we both continue to mask up when we have to leave the safety of our caves and my friend said: “COVID’s with us from here on out. People need to get used to it.”

I’ve been thinking that since the first year of this latest pandemic — yeah, LATEST. Because pandemics are part of human history (see this timeline), and, because humans can also be colossal dicks, there have always been anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists and the whole bag of squirrels that goes along with that.

Here’s a nice piece from Scientific American that gives you the denialist playbook. No doubt a lot of that is going to sound familiar if you’ve been paying attention. And these movements can cause a lot of damage. (if you’re interested, an intrepid Redditor collected several images of articles and flyers over the past century that are eerily prescient for what we’re dealing with today)

I’ve been reading up on pandemics and different historical eras and I’m struck by how widespread disease interacts with sociopolitical structures. Pandemics have, indeed, changed the course of human history and like others before it, COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) has exposed the underlying rot and rifts in countries (including the US) and systemic inequalities and tensions. So everything feels out of control and like a train wreck — for good reason. It is.

[Depiction of the great plague of London, 1665, from Origins at osu.edu.]

Professor of Italian history Paula Findlen at Stanford talked about 14th-century Italians dealing with bubonic plague in a 2020 interview and had this to say:

For Italians in the 14th-century, plague at first seemed extraordinary, then it became ordinary, even endemic. People responded creatively to the initial waves of plague. They thought about life and death, love and friendship, sickness and health differently. They took the moral pulse of their society, while getting down and dirty in the political struggles of the age. Once people got used to the idea that plague would periodically return, it became an economic annoyance, a catalyst for social negotiation and an administrative problem to resolve. The arc and duration of each outbreak became a measure of the success and failure of public health, rather than a subject of great reflection. Hospitals and charitable institutions benefited from the ongoing need to experiment with how to care and cure, and how to tend compassionately to the poor in the midst of the horrors and fears of a major pandemic.

[SOURCE: “For Renaissance Italians, combating black plague was as much about politics as it was science, according to Stanford scholar,” by Melissa DeWitte, Stanford News (May 12, 2020)]

Speaking of Italy and plagues, I discovered that some of the things that continue today put in place to deal with widespread disease can be found in Italy hundreds of years ago. Quinto Tiberio Angelerio was a doctor in the Italian town of Anghero when a plague swept through in 1582. Alghero is on the island of Sardinia and this plague outbreak killed almost half the population.

Angelerio had survived an earlier plague in 1575 in Sicily and thus had developed some practices to help combat transmission. So when three people died after developing symptoms in Alghero, Angelerio went directly to the city leaders and told them to start isolating other people with symptoms. Most city officials balked, but the viceroy prevailed and soon the town was locked down and guards patrolled its borders to ensure compliance.

And because people are dicks (and have been forever), some of the population freaked out about the measures and called for the lynching of Angelerio. But when the plague swept through the city, Angelerio was entrusted with taking further measures, and he would later list those in a 1588 pamphlet.

Some of the recommendations are wackadoo by today’s standards (I mean, the understanding of disease was rudimentary), but others are basically common sense: forbidding meetings, dances, and gatherings; disinfect (using heat) anything that had been in contact with someone with plague; and house lockdowns except for necessities (like food shopping; one person at a time and you had to get permission). And if you had to go out, you had to carry a six-foot cane and it was necessary, Angelerio said, to keep that distance between yourself and others.

So humans have been dealing with pandemics for centuries.

[Pieter Bruegel the Elder, “The Triumph of Death,” 1562. Thought to be a statement about a (the) plague. Hit this link at schoolhistory.org.uk to dissect it and think about different elements of society and politics with regard to disease.]

The truth is, you can’t put the genie back into the bottle or, in this case, the virus back into the original vector. COVID-19 is now among humans, after making the leap from its previous hosts and, like viruses do, it mutates and lays waste to us, its new hosts, who don’t have any natural immunity to this disease. It doesn’t mean we won’t eventually get some immunity, or that more effective treatments won’t be developed. It just means that right now, our systems don’t have the hardware or virus protection to combat this threat. In a few years, perhaps, this particular COVID manifestation might actually end up being “like the flu”

But until that happens — better treatments, better vaccines, possibly the development of immune responses that are more effective against this damn thing — it behooves us as a species to take care of ourselves and each other in our communities and we do that by masking, keeping our distance, vaccinating (if possible), and using common sense: wash your hands effectively and often (and show kids how to do it, too); eat right, exercise, try to engage in self-care. Also, check in with people who might not have access to basic hygiene products to do that and help provide them, whether in your community or through donation sites to populations that don’t have them. Build some community if you can, and also, see what lessons you can glean from history.

The point is, humans have weathered plague storms before, detractors and assclowns included. And we’ve done it with a lot fewer resources and a lot less knowledge. But take measures to help you and others weather this storm. Such things have been in place for centuries, after all. And maybe use this “new normal” to start making some real change in your life and in your community. But please take precautions and stay safe.

10 cool things to check out

HI, friends!

Hope everybody is doing well (or as well as can be). Here are 10 things to maybe get your mind off the hellscape all over the place. There can still be good in the world. Sometimes you just have to look a little harder.

1. Okay, so over at BoredPanda there is a super-cool article with photos about a French artist who creates 3-D art on icky/boring urban structures. Pierrot (Scaf) does some awesome work. Check it out. Another cool element he incorporates into his art before he photographs it is he includes himself in the piece, so it looks like he’s part of the art.

2. And speaking or art, during the lockdown, people found interesting ways to amuse themselves. Including recreating famous artworks at home. LOL See some here. The idea may have originated from a Tweet sent out by the Getty Museum asking people to do it using household items and then post the photos on Getty’s Twitter thread. Like this one.

3. Parkour. I dig watching people do this. If you’re not familiar, parkour is the sport of moving rapidly through an area — typically urban — negotiating obstacles by running, climbing and jumping. Suffolk-born Shane Griffin is a BOSS at this. Check this link for some background on him (includes some vids, too). And here’s a vid of Griffin in action:

Shane Griffin, via YouTube

4. Otters. OMG WHO DOESN’T LOVE OTTERS. You can find great photos and vids on the Twitter account @In_Otter_News_2. And the person who runs that account also created an otter meme library last year. Find it here.

5. Carmilla, the web series. Let’s be real, here. I binged this web series when I discovered it a few years back (OMG WHY DID IT TAKE ME SO LONG TO FIND IT????). It’s a lesbian vampire web series loosely based on the 1872 gothic novella of the same name by Irish author Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (find it at Project Gutenberg). It pre-dated Bram Stoker’s Dracula by 26 years, y’all. The novella is told from the POV of a young woman preyed upon by a female vampire. Anyhoo, the Canadian web series of Carmilla launched in 2014. Episodes average 2-5 minutes (some longer, some shorter) and they’re told from the POV of college student Laura Hollis (played by Elise Bauman) who is a vlogger wanting to document her college experience. So it’s told in single-frame format, but it’s really well done. Laura’s roommate — Carmilla (played by Natasha Negovanlis) — turns out to be a vampire. There are 3 seasons and a short “zero” season which is kind of a prequel. Here’s the first episode:

S1.1, Carmilla web series

6. And how about some gaming? June’s Journey by Wooga is a hidden object game that has you solving a mystery during the 1920s. Romance! Intrigue! Available on apps for all the devices you could need. Find out more over at Wooga.

7. Or maybe board games are more your thing. Try this cool historic-ish train board game, Ticket to Ride, in which you and other players are collecting cards to build your cross-country railroad routes.

8. And since Halloween is on the way, howsabout checking out some horror/spooky podcasts? Find a short list here. One of those is “And That’s Why We Drink,” in which co-hosts Em and Christine bring you a true crime story and a paranormal spooky story.

9. Candles. Y’all, let’s make some candles! If you’ve got a few extra bucks, maybe invest in a DIY candle-making kit and create some cool candles for your house, your friends, your family, or whatever. I’m partial to soy candles (they tend to burn cleaner), so here’s a kit you might dig. Maybe make some spoooooky Halloween candles!

10. Libraries. They always have programs going on and so many other things. My local library has a jigsaw puzzle collection where you go and take a puzzle and bring it back when you’re done. My library also allows you access to Kanopy, a movie and documentary platform for public libraries. I can watch up to 7 movies/documentaries a month. Just create an account with your library card and start streaming! I’ve got Kanopy set up on my Roku and I’ve watched several documentaries already. Also, many libraries have access to Overdrive, the ebook lending service. Download the app, create an account with your library card, and boom. Point being, libraries are a God(dess)send. Treasure them, support them, and support librarians, too! Run for the library board and help keep your libraries going! Get involved in civic awesomeness!

All right, friends. There you go. 10 things to get your mind off the cray (hopefully). If you know of something cool/awesome, just leave a comment to let us all know.

Cheers!

5 things: 5 books I recently read

HI PEEPS.

omg I have a confession to make. Here it is: I don’t read much romance. And by that, I mean I probably read maybe 1-2 of those a year, but if I’m being really honest, I don’t think I’ve read a romance novel since the end of 2019. (having said that, I am currently reading a cute queer graphic novel romance)

I like writing romance (when I’m writing lol; see last week’s post), but as I’ve gotten older, I find it’s not the most interesting thing about characters or narratives or plot arcs or stories. It can add some spice to the mix, but a driving factor of life isn’t necessarily romance. I mean, who DOESN’T have a fuck-ton of other things going on? Seriously — who is able to spend every waking moment doing nothing but pursuing a romance? Must be nice if that’s you.

Also, the other thing about reading romance that frustrates me is that the characters involved spend a lot of time trying to please this other person or pining for someone when the real deal is that you can’t truly love others in unselfish/non-needy ways until you love and care about yourself in healthy ways.

Sorry, but there is no other person on the planet who can fix your issues and “complete” you. Only YOU can do that. Sure, another person (or people, for the polyamorous among us) can be a really good match for you, and you can complement each other and be great support systems for each other, but if YOU can’t complete yourself, then you’re probably trying to fix some of your own inner workings by using other people/relationships to do it, and that’s a huge burden to put on another person. Sorry. Truth bomb for you. It took me a long time to learn that, and a long time to get to a point where I liked being me and I liked who I am as a person. When I got to that point, romance was a hella bunch better, and so were my relationships. Both romantic and non-romantic.

All because I got my own shit together.

Anyway, that’s why I don’t read much romance. I want the character who’s been through all kinds of shit, gotten therapy, worked on their issues, and has come to recognize their strengths and weaknesses, and who refuses to indulge in potentially toxic situations. Characters like that tend to be older and (hopefully) wiser, and there’s not much market for romances with characters like that. Or maybe publishers just haven’t thought about it. And where are the stories for those who are Ace? Romance and meaningful relationships don’t need sex to be soulmate-ish. More of those stories, too. *side-eyes publishers*

Caveat: I’ll read a fluffy graphic novel queer romance (see below) because fluffy.

But on the list of 5 books I’ve recently read listed below (in no particular order), there is zero romance. It’s not my go-to and never has been (because I’m WEIRD, okay? LOLOL). HOWEVER, I am currently reading a graphic novel queer romance (see below in “currently reading”). Regardless, I read across genres and I read a lot of nonfiction. And I highly recommend doing that, because you can get a lot of different perspectives, which is always good.

1. War Girls, Tochi Onyebuchi (2019): young adult science fiction and omg, the world-building. It’s 2172 in Nigeria, in a world ravaged by climate change, nuclear war and perpetual battles. Two sisters torn apart by war — can they find their way back to each other? Onyebuchi also notes that he based the conflict in this book on the 1967 Nigerian Civil War. This is a beautifully written and deeply personal tale about the wounds and wreckage of war and the survival within. Read more about War Girls here.

2. The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars, Paul Collins (2012). I’m a true crime buff (yes, I’m a Murderino, too), so books like this are right up my alley, given that and my academic background in history. Here, a grisly murder (headless torso and then legs that match the torso) serves as the backdrop for the absolutely nutso media/tabloid wars in New York City around the turn of the 20th century. Fascinating look at how early police work often intertwined with tabloid journalism. Newsflash — tabloid stories and the yellow press are nothing new in this country’s history, and you’ll probably recognize the roots of current “media” cray.

3. American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century, Maureen Callahan (2019). Yeah. More true crime. This one is about the serial killer Israel Keyes. We honestly don’t know how many people he killed and after his arrest before his trial he committed suicide in his jail cell. Keyes had “kill caches” stashed all over the country — kill kits — and he traveled extensively all over the U.S., selecting victims completely at random, which is why it’s been so hard to track his activities. His background includes growing up in an off-the-grid cult-like situation and hanging out with white supremacists. This was one scary dude. Don’t read this at night. Callahan frames the book around the horrific kidnapping and murder of a young woman in Alaska, which begins the unraveling of Keyes’s killings.

4. A Study in Scarlet Women, Sherry Thomas (2016). This is the first in Thomas’s Lady Sherlock Series and OMG so enjoyable! Most excellent take and interpretation of Sherlock Holmes. Here, Charlotte Holmes ends up “losing her place” in society due to a calculated dalliance with a married man so she could be pushed out of high society and basically be more free as a woman in Victorian London. Charlotte has always been different (and I’m suspecting Thomas wrote her as neurodivergent), but she uses the name “Sherlock Holmes” to help with police matters through a Lord friend of hers. Great re-imagining of Holmes, and fab writing. Fun fact: Thomas immigrated to this country from China when she was 13. English is not her first language. But damn, she wields it well.

5. Ring Shout, P. Djèlí Clark (2020). OH. MAH. GAWD. Run, don’t walk, and get yourself a copy of this ASAP. Here, Clark does an alt-history (OR IS IT) of the 1915-era Klan. That was the year the racist film Birth of a Nation swept the country and burrowed into the most horrible thoughts of white people, creating literal demons — Ku Kluxes — that spread fear and violence across the country. But there is resistance, and Maryse Boudreaux and her crew hunt and fight them, taking them out every chance they get. But something’s brewing in Macon, and it could unleash hell on earth. I am a HUGE fan of Clark, and this will stay with you long after you finish it. (also, in case you wondered, here’s what a Ring Shout is).

And I’m currently reading:

Historian Lisa McGirr’s excellent analysis of Prohibition as a tool to increase state power: The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State (2016). McGirr has done a lot of work on the American right, and I’ve always been fascinated by how the Christian Right, in particular, drove Prohibition (and continues to drive theocratic policy and laws — want to know why this country is such a fuck-up? The Christian Right plays a huge role in that since the country’s founding, basically). This addresses the role of the Christian Right in Prohibition, along with how Prohibition was used by law enforcement to police race, class, and gender.

And wow, I never actually thought of Eliot Ness outside that whole Prohibition thing, but in Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher: Hunting America’s Deadliest Serial Killer at the Dawn of Modern Criminology (2021) I’m getting a look at Ness as a lawman outside that, on the trail of the perpetrator responsible for the Cleveland torso murders.

AND OMG A CUTE QUEER HOCKEY ROMANCE (SEE????? I sometimes read romance!) in Check, Please, by Ngozi Ukazu. This started life as a super-popular webcomic and now is available in graphic novel form. Follow Eric, a former junior figure skating champ, co-ed hockey player, who is also an excellent baker and food vlogger. He starts playing for the Samwell University hockey team that has a really attractive captain, Jack.

Share your own reads in the comments if you want. I know folx out there are always looking to expand their book lists. 🙂

Happy weekend, all.

Writing is weird, in a pandemic

So y’all know that the pandemic basically derailed writing in my world. Which is fine; a lot of other things took priority. Like, for example, staying alive.

[lol some of you no doubt have no idea who these dudes are or the year this song was released…anyway, here’s the direct YouTube link in case anything disembeds.]

I tend not to kick myself over not writing because whatever, life happens and what are you gonna do?

I have, however, been doing a bit of writing here and there, and I feel like I’ll be able to be more regular about it, but I’ve got a lot of demands on me still and I’m working on carving out some time each day to do some of said writing. It’s not that I feel uninspired. It’s that I have other responsibilities that have taken precedence and I’m learning how to organize those and get used to my new normal, which is not at all what it was when the pandemic lockdowns started in 2020.

I used to think that I’d be making a living of some sort from writing, but the pandemic has made me re-think a lot of things, including the role writing takes in my life. I don’t write the kinds of things that gajillions of people are interested in, so I’m not ever going to sell enough to support myself without other jobs, but I guess somewhere in the back of my mind I thought maybe — just maybe — that could be a thing though I am pragmatic and realistic about it. Heh. Hope springs eternal!

At any rate, the last 18 months have involved a fuck-ton of change, and I’m rolling with it. So I’m re-calibrating my reasons for writing, and really thinking about what, when, and why in that regard. I ain’t no spring chicken anymore, and time is precious and I’m really thinking about what makes me happy and how to spend that time. I’m fortunate in that I have the space and privilege to do that, which means I spend some time thinking about people who don’t, so I also still try to make myself useful in a community sense.

We won’t know for a few years the extent of the societal impact the Covid pandemic created, but I do know there’s a lot of trauma circulating out there and everybody is dealing with it in their own ways (some less healthy and dangerous than others, but there you go).

For me, it completely shut down my writing as I worked to ensure that family was okay, that we were able to get supplies and that we were safe. When vaccines became available, I got my elderly relatives signed up and vaxxed, and then went to get one for myself as soon as that option became available for my age group. At my house, we still live, however, for the most part like it’s pre-vax era, and that’s okay. It is what it is.

The vax did make us relax a bit, but we know that the world is not going back to pre-pandemic happy fun times. Covid is here to stay, and until our immune systems develop natural responses to it and medical science develops better treatments for it, this pandemic will continue to be a danger for years, made worse by people who have succumbed to conspiracy theories and who do not care about anybody beyond their own noses.

The pandemic also exposed a lot of percolating shit beneath the surface, and the effect of that won’t be known for years, either. Basically, this pandemic has changed everything and it’s healthy to acknowledge that the change is not only on an individual level, but a community and global level. Trying to pretend otherwise and go about your business like no big deal, everything’s fine is a gambler’s (fool’s?) errand.

Point being, writing is important to me, yes, but not so important that I gave it primacy over other very important things that came up during the last 18 months. We all cope in our own ways, and an interesting thing for me during Covid is that writing was not an escape as it normally is. Other things were, and I went with them. When writing isn’t an escape for me, then I back-burner it. But slowly, I feel like I’m getting back into the swing of it.

At any rate, if you have any Covid coping strategies that you found worked for you, share in the comments for others. We could all use fresh perspectives and suggestions.

And stay safe, everyone.

Don’t forget our peeps down South

Hi, friends–quick post tonight; I’ll probably do a longer one in a few days.

Just wanted to remind people that Hurricane Ida hit the Gulf Coast really super hard including communities like Houma (HOME-uh) in Louisiana.

Here are links to organizations that are helping on the ground; please consider donating if you can; spreading the word helps, too. Let’s not forget that people will be without power for weeks and another storm is bearing down on the area.

Foodtank has links to orgs you probably didn’t know existed, like House of Tulip (which helps trans and gender nonconforming people in Louisiana); Cajun Navy (geared to help rescue and provide relief supplies); Mercy Chefs; Another Gulf is Possible (led by WOC).

I’m partial to local orgs, but some big orgs are doing good work (though I’m side-eyeing Salvation Army and Red Cross rn). Here are other sources with links, including to those:

Accuweather how to help
USAToday how to help

Share the luv as you can, and help as you can if you’re so inclined. Thanks, all.

yes, bad books get published by the big houses

So. Look. There are lots of things about publishing and editing and writing that I still don’t know even though I’ve been doing all of that for…um…over 20 years. YES I’M OLDER. WHATEVER. AND I AM CRANKY ABOUT THIS BOOK. DOUBLE WHATEVER.

And I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when I read a book published by one of the big houses that leaves me wondering “how the hell did this even get accepted in the first place?” because well, shit gets through. That’s the nature of the game. And maybe somebody out there read this thing that I ended up skimming and thought it was great. Thoughts and prayers to that person.

Anyway, there are so many indie authors out there, for example, who write really good stuff but maybe couldn’t get a book deal with a big house (presuming that they tried and wanted to) but then a serious case of WTAF gets published by a reputable big house and it just makes me wonder. Like, who thought publishing this was a good idea? And clearly, experts were not consulted to read the manuscript and ascertain whether it worked or not.

I’m not going to name this book or the house; no point to that. It was published around 2014, so we’re not talking back in the day, when our present context makes reading some older books cringe-inducing. And this isn’t about all the white supremacist presses currently operating that are re-printing horrendous racist and antisemitic crap and publishing new horrendous racist and antisemitic crap. Or about the big conservative houses that are pumping out pseudoscience about LGBTQ+ people and abortion and publish crap by white people freaking out about critical race theory. I mean, stop it with that.

This is about a book that’s trying to be a mystery/thriller set in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I checked it out at the library because I’m from Albuquerque, and I like to read books set there. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy reading this one for many reasons, and a lot of those have to do with the mechanics of writing. Here’s what I mean:

  • This book needed a (better?) developmental editor. Which means it needed somebody to help the author work on plot and make sure that the elements therein made sense, that the characters made sense, that the arcs all worked. As it stands, this book was not developed very well and after 40 pages I literally couldn’t take it anymore and had to skim the rest of it. Why did I bother? Because I wanted to see if maybe it tightened up later. Spoiler: it didn’t.
  • Character development. Everybody in this book felt interchangeable, which is a sign that your characters need work. Describing a character’s physical attributes does not character development make.
  • Dialogue. Only one character had a dialogue quirk. The rest were interchangeable with the same affect. Dialogue is an extension of a character. As a reader, I need to believe that a particular character is saying a particular thing, and I will “hear” the character in their dialogue if the character is well-developed.
  • Setting is a major factor in books like this; it’s another character. As it stands, descriptions were either barely there or something like a room was described in excruciating and wholly unnecessary detail. This is supposed to be a mystery/thriller. You need to pace it a certain way, and you don’t need a lot of grocery list details about mundane things unless it’s playing into some larger element of the plot or playing a role in grounding the characters in their overall setting.
  • More about that setting thing. This is supposed to be set in Albuquerque, but it seemed the author had never been there from the writing. Vague references to streets that do exist and a couple of specific places that do exist, but overall, this was Generic-land, USA. Goddammit, if you’re going to set a book in a specific place, then give it local flavor. Otherwise, what’s the point of setting a book in a specific place? And a specific place with very specific local flavors like Albuquerque? I know that city and I know New Mexico and this book pissed me off with its lack of attention to setting. That’s something the publisher should have done, is gotten someone familiar with New Mexico and Albuquerque to assess it. There are plenty of readers and writers based in that area who could have done it. And now I’m wondering if they did do that and the reader was all WTF, offered corrections and suggestions, and the publisher was all “nope” and went ahead with the manuscript. (caveat–there is a possibility that the publisher axed many Albuquerque and NM details)
  • Sensitivity readers. A main character was allegedly Diné. But if I read this manuscript without knowledge of the writer’s name or background, I would assume it was written by a white person stuck in a “noble Indian” interpretation of Diné culture, regardless of the author’s actual background. This book is not written for Indigenous people. It’s written for white people, most of whom have stereotypical views of Indigenous cultures if they even think about Indigenous people at all. (Reminder: publishing is a majority-white industry; so, no surprise about the representation in this book) Maybe the author thought they were educating white people and maybe the publisher didn’t allow much along those lines. Regardless, it didn’t work for me.
  • Plot issues. Basically, the book’s premise is that a couple of dudes end up buying a small business in Albuquerque and end up doing a homicide investigation in conjunction with law enforcement. It seems to just sort of happen, that they’re involved and they have a friend who is cop who feeds them information as they’re all going behind the lead detective’s back. So many problematic things there. Police procedure? What’s that? And why are these two guys allowed to do whatever? How did the inside cop not lose their job or get reprimanded? If you’re going to incorporate a law enforcement element like this, then make it realistic and make it work. Make me, the reader, believe that it COULD happen.
  • Clunky writing. This feels like an early draft; a lot of “as you know, Bob” and telling and not showing. These are things that happen usually with a beginning author. I know. I was one. And I did those things, which is why I’m sensitive to them now.

The point is, even books that need a lot of work get published by big-ass houses, aside from my having gripes about the lack of true ABQ and NM rep. What comes out of a book like this is I have no desire to read follow-ups in this series, even if the writer improved because my experience reading this one book just turned me off to the rest of them.

Writing is a craft and an art form. Most of us suck at it when starting out. We can all learn things to get better at it, and we have to work our asses off to do it, and most of us do. But when a book like this gets published by a big house, a little part of my soul withers because there are so many talented writers out there who aren’t getting the recognition they should or the resources a big house can provide (should a writer want to go that route with their career). It didn’t have to be that way. Maybe the author wasn’t edited effectively. Or maybe the author refused to accept edits. Maybe there was a huge fight about it. Who knows. The point is, this could have been a much stronger and well-constructed story and it wasn’t. And we sure as hell aren’t richer for it. Boo.

Source.

What the fckity fck

HI PEEPS!

Yeah, so, trying to avoid any weird-ass AI censorship with that title. LOL

How are y’all? It’s been a minnit and I apologize profusely. The truth is, this whole pandemic shit has basically wiped writing off the face of my earth, because guess what? Life gets in the way.

During this pandemic, I have been taking care of some elderly relatives in addition to myself, and our world shrank to a microcosm during pre-vax lockdowns. I’m in the States, and some jerkwad state governments have loosened restrictions this year, which means a tidal wave of the unvaxxed amidst Delta variant creating problems for those of us who are vaxxed and who, like me, are still living like we’re in lockdown. I’m masking when I have to go out and still social distancing because I don’t want to bring cooties home to the older folx, you dig? Even though we’re all vaxxed.

And let’s just clear this up now — just because you’re vaxxed (hopefully) doesn’t mean you still can’t get COVID. The difference is, the vax will hopefully decrease your symptoms and keep the majority of the vaxxed out of the hospital, and that’s a primary purpose, is to free up hospitals/healthcare resources and hospital workers so they’re not burning out/dying.

Getting a vax is community love. Continuing to mask is also community love. It shows that you care, and that you don’t want to spread cooties to your community and friends and family.

Anyway, writing.

A lot of my fellow writers have confided to me that they’re experiencing writers’ block and other issues with regard to writing, and they’ve been experiencing this since lockdowns and, between you and me, the anxiety engendered by the previous US administration.

Y’all, that’s legit. Don’t feel guilty if you’re not able to write. Don’t feel guilty if you’re not able to deal with all the apocalyptic bullshit going on and you just can’t do X, Y, Z or whatever. That’s fine. Say no to loading your plate. Set your boundaries. If you are a creator and you’re having trouble creating, it’s okay. Everything has been a hot mess for months (who are we kidding–centuries), and in this country, at least, we’ve all seen the cracks in our infrastructure and the systemic inequity undermining everything. We’re also seeing a surge of anti-rights movements and people who have no problem resorting to violence against their fellow travelers to get whatever weird conspiracy-addled crap they want.

So be gentle and kind to yourself as you start navigating this new world. Because the truth is, the pandemic is not over and COVID is not going to go away. It’s another disease that we will have to learn to live with, and until we have managed to build up natural immunity as a species, we need to be careful and protect ourselves and others. We are not ever going to go back to pre-COVID life. And that’s not entirely a bad thing.

Here’s what I’ve been doing to get the creative coffee percolating:

  • Reading. I’ve been reading a fuck-ton of fiction, including nutty Florida stories by Carl Hiaasen; another Florida thriller writer Randy Wayne White; a historical mystery series set in New York City by Victoria Thompson; a translated dark Swedish thriller by Stefan Ahnhem; the new Star Wars novels in the new ‘verse, and lots of nonfiction, including Lillian Faderman’s The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle. I pretty much read every day, now, and it not only provides an escape, but also inspiration.
  • Watch some TV. Go ahead. If you can, binge watch your guilty pleasures. I’ve been watching the Brokenwood mysteries on Acorn TV and Murder, She Wrote on Peacock. I find that watching stuff I enjoy helps me unwind and also inspires me to create.
  • Work out. I have a regular workout regimen, so I work out 4-6 days a week via workout programs on TeamBodyProject.com. But it doesn’t have to be that way; if you take a mile walk every day, you’re getting good exercise and it helps clear your head. Just be careful out there and always carry a mask. 🙂
  • Garden. This is something I picked up during the pandemic and it brings me a lot of joy and peace to be working with plants. I have flowers and veggie plants, now, and I find that working with them and learning more about how to be a better cultivator is really meditative.
  • Doing jigsaw puzzles. By hand. Over the past year I’ve worked dozens of these on an old card table. I really like the thousand-piecers for a challenge. I do landscape images, seascapes, and Americana. It’s really relaxing and meditative for me.
  • Therapy. Yeah, I said it. I’m in therapy (again — I’ve done therapy quite a few times during my life). I started back up last year because I realized I needed some extra help on working some shit out, and I am a huge proponent of therapy. Just make sure you find the right therapist for you, within your means.
  • Podcasts. JFC, people. I’m a podcast addict. I listen to several true crime podcasts but also this great oral history podcast called Making Gay History. And I listen to some excellent news podcasts including In The Thick (news from a POC perspective). Stay away from news channels. All kinds. And do NOT get your news from social media. Podcasts, legit blogsites, and newspapers (indie and LA Times enewspapers) are, I’ve found, the best way for me to stay informed and absorb information and mull it over without the constant bombardment of reality-show news. That shit is designed to fill you with fear and dread, which contributes to the divisiveness around us. So remove yourself.

Those are a few of the things I’m doing and you know what? I actually am writing again. I’ll be posting some fanfic soon and I’m finishing up expanding a short story into a novella that I hope to publish soon. It’s different — YA teen detective kinda stuff.

So, yeah. There’s a lot of horrible shit going on, and you are totally legit in not feeling very creative if that’s where you are. But try to find a little bit of joy in each day, and remember to be kind to yourself and others. There seems to be a dearth of that.

Love and peace! And I think I’m gonna make this blog shit a regular thing again. MUAH!

You can choose to be childless

Hi, friends. Some thoughts.

Women and Words

Hi, all–

Just putting in some thoughts even as Women and Words winds down to its hiatus (which begins June 1, ICYMI).

I read an essay today on Feminist Giant by Mona Eltahawy titled Essay: Unmothering.” Eltahawy is a feminist author and speaker.

It starts thus:

I am childfree by choice.

My maternal grandmother had 11 children. My mother is the eldest of those children and she has three children of her own. I am the eldest of those children and I am glad to have none of my own.

It is still a taboo to say that.

She continues, discussing her realization that she didn’t want kids and that she never wanted them. And I think about all the ciswomen out there who have been pressured or felt pressured to reproduce. Eltahawy did marry a guy, but divorced a couple years later:

If marrying him was the biggest…

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Online promo tips for your book!

Hi, all–

If you’re working on a first manuscript, you need to start thinking about how to publicize your book. Whether you’re indie or working with a publishing house, the brunt of getting the word out fall on YOU, the author.

If you’re an already published author, then you’re always trying to find new ways to get the word out about your book, and we’ve all had to adjust in this pandemic era.

To that end, I ran across this great post by historian Lindsay Chervinsky who writes nonfiction, but she has some awesome tips about publicizing your book online. She posted these tips over at Medium, so

HAVE A LOOK.


Some good ideas, there, and a lot of them dovetail with some of the things I’ve posted here over the years. You can’t not promote, anymore. But there are ways to do it without being tedious. Think outside the box. Think about themes. Think about cool stuff for a newsletter. Think about doing podcasts (that is, being a guest on one). No venue is too small if you’re passionate about what you’re writing.

And don’t just stick to finding out what fiction writers are doing, if that’s your gig. Have a look at promotion of nonfiction, too. Chervinsky is focused primarily on nonfiction, but you can adjust these tips to your own use and figure out creative ways to approach your own material. Don’t feel you’re limited to just listening to other fiction authors. Branch out. 🙂

Hope everyone is having a fab day.

Yeah…about that whole Pride thing…

Hi, friends. Thought I’d share this post I did over at Women and Words, my other hangout. Take care of each other.

Women and Words

Hi, Queerfolx.

Especially white queerfolx.

Okay, relax. If it makes it any easier, white peeps, I’m white, too. So maybe you’ll be more comfortable with a white person telling you to think about some things.

Let’s talk a bit about a galvanizing reason behind these protests. And as I write this, US military forces are literally being deployed to possibly enact lethal force on their fellow Americans — in response to peaceful protests of thousands of POC and their allies.

Please think about that, too, as you read this. About the United States military being sent to possibly employ lethal force against American citizens.

Primarily, think about police brutality, because that’s a major driver of the current protests.

I wanted to bring this up today because June is Pride month, and it’s important to remember that the modern LGBTQ rights movement was launched in the early morning hours of June…

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