Posted in Current events, Personal Real Life Stuff, Politics

White People Baking Cupcakes

Y’all please pardon my metaphor, but the past day or so, I’ve seen a lot of people getting their feelings hurt when they really shouldn’t, and I’m hoping this will help.

Imagine you find out that your church is holding an all-night vigil for the families of children who have been murdered. You think this is a fantastic idea; you want to help. You’ve read about some of these sweet kids and how they died, and your heart genuinely breaks for them. Your tears are real; you feel for these people so much. You know you can’t possibly ever really understand what they’re going through, but you want to do something, contribute something, let them know that you stand beside them. So you volunteer to help host the event and even bake a bunch of cupcakes–your best cupcakes, the ones you’re famous for.

You show up at the event, and it’s packed–you had no idea so many people had been touched by this kind of tragedy. It moves you more than you can say; you wish you could do more than just offer cupcakes but cupcakes is what you’ve got. So you put them on the buffet.

Now the people who are attending, they are all very different from one another with different personalities, different experiences, different histories, different ways of coping with their loss. Some of them actually know you–you’ve met before, they know what a kind, empathetic person you are, they know cupcakes are what you make when you don’t know what else to say, and they will accept and appreciate your effort as part of the on-going relationship the two of you already have. They might not give a tinker’s dam about your cupcakes; they might not taste a single one; they might even feel pressured and irritated to have to engage you about cupcakes when their minds are so much elsewhere. But they will notice, and on some level, it will mean something to them.

But most of them don’t know you from Adam’s housecat; to them, you’re just the stranger who brought the cupcakes. Some of them, because of their personalities or coping mechanisms or upbringing, will be able to muster up enough social politeness to notice your cupcakes and say thank you even as their hearts are shattered. Some of them are so raw they won’t even see your cupcakes, wouldn’t recognize a ten foot cupcake if it fell on their car on the way home. Some of them might even be furious with you for thinking a fucking cupcake could make the slightest bit of difference to someone who has lost a child–how dare you,  you person who hasn’t felt the pain I feel, show up here with a damned box of cupcakes? What do you want, a medal? But even those people will know you made the effort, that at least one person who doesn’t really understand cares enough to at least make a batch of cupcakes.

And here’s the thing. You don’t get to be mad at any of those people. You don’t get to get your feelings hurt. You don’t get to think they’re ungrateful or that you wasted your time or that next time they can eat store-bought cookies or starve as far as you’re concerned. Because it’s not about you. Did you make cupcakes so people would say, ‘oh how awesome is she? She made cupcakes!’ Or did you make them so people who are dying of grief at least have something good to eat?

Fellow white folks (and cis folks and straight folks and Christian folks and whatever folks who don’t have to worry about getting dragged out of their cars and shot for who they are), on days like today, we just brought the cupcakes. We see the Nazis marching in Charlottesville, and we feel sick to our stomachs. We want our friends and neighbors whose lives are threatened by these assholes to know we stand with them–we HAVE to let them know we stand with them. But on some level, we don’t know shit, and we HAVE to acknowledge that, too. Until we can turn aside this tide of hate for good, until the people who are practicing this hate are no longer using their color or their gender or their sexuality or their religion as an excuse to label other people as un-people, those of us who share the traits they value have to not only get past our raising and stand against them, we have to understand how hard it is for the people they’re hurting to trust us. It’s not about us. We’ve just got to keep on bringing the cupcakes.

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Posted in Current events, Personal Real Life Stuff, Politics

The Day After the Day Without a Woman: A Letter to Four Men

So yesterday was National Women’s Day, and women who could afford it stopped doing all the good stuff they do to make it the Day Without a Woman, and God bless them. Big symbolic gestures made by the people who can afford them are how most of the good in this world gets started. But of course the hills of the internet were alive with the sound of rhetoric all day long. A lot of it was from women expressing solidarity, but at least as much of it came from men. Before it all made my head hurt so much I had to walk away from the computer, I identified four different types of straight men who were sounding off. (Gay men were part of the conversation, too, of course, but their relationship with women is a completely different paradigm. Most of the day, I just felt like I owed them an apology.) Now that I’ve had some Excedrin and a good night’s sleep, I’d like to answer those four straight man-types back.

Type Number One: The Troll:  You boys are the ones who spent all day yesterday trolling your sister-in-law’s Facebook wall, looking for strange women to piss off. You had your misogyny memes all cued up and your big boy cuss words in reserve, and frankly, kumquat, we saw you coming from a mile away. You little bastards are the loudest, most infuriating, and ultimately most dangerous subset of man known to woman—hell, one of you got himself elected President. One comment from you, and we know you’re not safe, to avoid you in the real world like the plague. You’re the guy we know will hurt us given the slightest chance because you hate us and believe in your rotten little hearts that to punish us is your right. But as loud and as horrifying as you are, you’re a tiny voice shrieking in the wilderness; there just ain’t that many of you. For the purposes of the internet, you’re easy enough to ignore. And you give the angriest among us womenfolk something to snack on. So go ahead on, dumbass. You do you.

Type Number Two: The Iron John: You’re the ones who feel marginalized by the whole notion of a National Women’s Day, the ones who feel a little queasy at the idea of anything that’s not about you. You ask why can’t there be a National Men’s Day. (There is one.) Whenever any of us says men have historically done this or that bad thing, you’d rise up from the grave to holler, “Not all men!” Many of you are the same guys who spent Valentine’s Day complaining to the perfectly attractive female friend who shares your office and eats lunch with you every day that women only like men who treat them like crap and that’s why you don’t have a girlfriend. You spent most of yesterday demanding affirmation from the women who care about you that you really are a nice guy. You’re irritating as hell, but I can’t be too mad at you. I know a lot of you are one really good eHarmony date away from re-thinking this whole thing.

Type Number Three: The Motherfucking Expert: You’re the ones who spent yesterday cracking jokes and laughing at how ridiculous it all was. You’re just sure we silly womenfolk are over-reacting, again, because you know that’s what women do. From the safety of a context that extends precisely as far as the length of your dick, you think you have the whole wide world worked out, that life is for all of us as you perceive it to be for you, and if we are finding it difficult, we’re just not trying hard enough. Or worse, we’re oversensitive, making things hard on ourselves and blaming everybody else. You’re the guys who talk about how we women live on a pedestal; you joke that we shouldn’t want to be equal to men, that to be so would be a step down. In the same breath, you say we’re all for equality until some manly job needs doing, then we come crying for Daddy, and isn’t that cute? Last night as I unclogged the kitchen sink while my six-foot-two, two hundred pound, bearded Aussie Viking of a husband created something pretty on his desktop, I mused at length on how satisfying it would be to choke each and every one of you to death with your own jockstrap. But after a night’s rest and reflection, I will simply say: Fuck you.

Type Number Four: The Ally: Speaking of that Aussie Viking. You were the ones I read the most yesterday. You outnumbered every other type by at least two to one, and that’s awesome. You know having a National Women’s Day takes nothing away from you, that the rights women demand are to be shared, not stolen. You see us, respect us, collaborate with us, and recognizing your own strength and privilege, you risk your own comfort, security, and physical safety to defend us. And while some of us have been hurt too much and too deeply to dare to trust you, I think I speak for most of us when I say we see you, too. We love you. And we thank whatever higher power we believe in for you every single day.

Posted in Books, Current events, Lucy Blue Short Story, Other People's Awesome, Personal Real Life Stuff, Politics, Pop Culture, Publishing, Short Story

We Are Not This: Carolina Writers for Equality – Press Release

small-we-are-not-thisI’m lucky enough to have a story in this–“The Dark Lady” about a transgender actress in the days of Shakespeare. But even if I didn’t, I’d promote the living juice out of it. Much, much great stuff to read, all profits benefiting a magnificent cause. It’s available as an ebook right now from Amazon here, and print copies are on the way. Get a copy, boost the signal, spread the word. HB2 and the hate it represents are NOT North Carolina. 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CHARLOTTE SMALL PRESS RELEASES CHARITY ANTHOLOGY PROTESTING HB2

For Details, contact John G. Hartness
john@falstaffbooks.com

10/25/16

In an “October Surprise” for Governor Pat McCrory and members of the NC General Assembly, Charlotte-based micro-press Falstaff Books today released We Are Not This – Carolina Writers for Equality. The anthology, a collection of 31 short stories, poems, and essays by North Carolina writers or writers who feel a strong tie to the Carolinas, was created as a response to HB2, the divisive “bathroom bill” passed by the NC General Assembly earlier this year.

We Are Not This includes stories from NY Times bestselling author A. J. Hartley, noted singer-songwriter David Childers, Bram Stoker Award nominee Jake Bible, Charlotte Observer columnist and longtime educator Kay McSpadden, Hugo-award nominated editor Edmund Schubert, and a host of other writers. The anthology is currently available as an ebook, and will be available in print within the month.

In his introduction, publisher John G. Hartness writes “We understand that people are people, and all people deserve to be protected from discrimination. We understand that insuring equal rights for one group does not take away rights from another group. We understand that laws restricting freedom and taking away someone’s chance for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is the opposite of the values that this country was founded upon. We understand that we are stronger together, and that love is love.”

Proceeds from the sale of the anthology will be divided among NC-centric LGBTQ charities, non-profits, and lobbying organizations. The first group of organizations to receive funding will be Time Out Youth, Queen City Theatre Company, and EqualityNC.

Posted in Current events, Personal Real Life Stuff, Politics

For What It’s Worth

For the past two days, I’ve been trying to think of something to say that isn’t being said better already by somebody else, and what occurs to me is this. Right now and for the next two months, every political party in the US is going to be falling over itself to convince people of color to help them win the election. The so-called “black vote” is one of the holiest of holy grails in the American electoral process. But why should black Americans who aren’t already invested go out of their way to prop up and participate in a system that offers them no protection and has in fact defined them generally and institutionally as a threat?

Regardless of the details of any specific incident (and the undeniable humanity, bravery, and intelligence of most police officers as individual men and women) we can no longer pretend we don’t know one single, horrifying fact: that it has become an accepted truism within the official institutions of this country that black men are inherently dangerous. That the mere presence of a black man even with his hands up is a threat so immediate and so dire it justifies the use of deadly force. That isn’t just racism, folks. That’s genocide. As a people, we have to acknowledge it, and we have to fix it.

And yes, that starts with all of us individual white folks reaching out in empathy and friendship, but the warm fuzzy feelings aren’t enough, not any more. We have to share in the outrage and demand change. We have to risk our own comfort to join the fight for justice. We have to stop waiting for Dr. King to rise from the grave and take selfies with us so we can prove how liberal we are and instead become one nation united in grief and rage and the hope for something better. We have to stand beside our brothers and sisters of color and echo their voices as they shout, “No more!”

Posted in Backlist, Books, Fairy Tale Romance, Falconskeep Trilogy, Medieval Romance, Paranormal romance, Personal Real Life Stuff, Publishing, Witch Romance

Falconskeep Trilogy E-Books, $8.99 each!

ENJ-89956-La-Belle-Dame-sans-MercFinally, finally, finally!  Simon & Schuster have FINALLY released my first three books (A Falcon’s Heart, This Dangerous Magic, and Wicked Charms) in e-book at a consistent and pretty decent price – $8.99 each!  And to celebrate, I’ve given them their very own blog with all the info – synopses, reviews, inspirations, etc., with excerpts to come.  Check it out! http://falconskeep.wordpress.com/

Posted in Personal Real Life Stuff, Pop Culture

The Internet Can’t Love You

Only people. And dogs. And cats if they so choose. And horses, of course. And guinea pigs and sugar gliders and all those other warm, fuzzy creatures people keep as pets, probably, and maybe even snakes. But not spiders.

And definitely not the Internet.

Social media has taken passive aggression to heights the military psychiatrists who first coined the term in 1945 could never have imagined. See if this sounds familiar. Somebody is pissing you off. That meaner has hurt your feelings, stolen your happy thought, danced all over your last damned nerve. But for whatever reason, you don’t want to confront them directly. Maybe they have more power than you. Maybe a confrontation will just turn into this whole big thing, and who needs that? Maybe it’s just in your nature to be a passive-aggressive whiny-ass. Don’t be ashamed; millions share your affliction and parade it daily. In any case, telling the source of your pain to piss off directly is not an option. But even so, you cannot in good conscience allow that blight on humanity to get away with that shit even one more time.

So you take it to the Internet. Without ever actually defining the conflict or identifying your oppressor, you air your grievance. You open a vein and spill. The individual people who read your post and know you will probably hate it.  People (and dogs, etc.) who genuinely care when you’re hurting would much rather know exactly who did you wrong and how so they know where to show up and whether to bring you a nice, consoling milkshake or quick lime and a gun. Those individual people will probably send you some kind of a private message asking some version of “WTF is going on?” If they really love you, they’ll restrain themselves from adding, “You passive-aggressive whiny-ass?”

But the Internet looooooves (or”Liiiiiiiiikes”) your post. Not you; never you; but your passive-aggressive reveal of yourself as the victim of some wrong. Because that allows the Internet to feel one of its favorite things. Pity. Friends of friends you’ve never even heard of will come out of the woodwork to tell you how sorry they are, how rotten those unnamed bastards can be (they know; their lives are full up to the top with unnamed bastards), how deeply they feel your pain. Each one of those individual posts comes from an individual person who is probably quite nice and almost certainly means well. But taken collectively in response to shit they in fact know nothing about, they aren’t people; they’re the swarm that is the Internet.

Which doesn’t mean it can’t make you feel better. That spontaneous outpouring of impersonal pity  can feel like just the balm you need to get you past your pain. But be careful. Because it isn’t love or even empathy.  It’s just pity.

Pity gives the Internet a seemingly benign outlet for its most favorite thing of all:  feeling superior. “Oh, you poor baby!” spoken by a loved one means, “I feel bad because you feel bad.” “Oh you poor baby,” from the Internet means, “Maybe my life is shit and I’m a moron, but at least I’m better off than this poor bastard.”  Passive aggressive pronouncements of pain make this kind of judging effortless.  If you never say what the problem is, the Internet can assume the absolute, wickedest worst. So be careful.

This is why the Internet, for all its, “You go, girl/boy/undetermined gender and that’s your choice and yay for you!” grandstanding, loves the weak and hates the strong. The weak make the Internet feel better about itself. The strong . . . those bitches are just showing off. And it can turn on you faster than you can hit “Send.” The same endless wellsprings of kindness who succored you through your misery will stone you in the public square just as soon as you tell them you’re better.  Because the Internet doesn’t love you.  It loves pitying you. And it loves judging you even more. So be careful. Hipster. Hypocrite. Poseur. Slut.  These are all Internet synonyms for “possibly superior to me in some way.” And they’re far from the worst.

The Internet is a mob, a hive brain, specialized bits and pieces but rarely the whole of all those individuals with an IP address, banded together for the sole purpose of belonging at any cost. Every chat group, every friends list, every hashtag is a different mob with a different focus, but it all amounts to the same thing–be one of us, be no better than the median, or be the Other. The Enemy. That’s how teen-age girls get hounded into suicide. That’s how female game designers get hounded out of their homes.

And of course I know it’s not all bad.  That same hive brain, that same Internet can accomplish great things, raise huge wads of cash for charity, spread awareness of social ills, keep Firefly on the air–wait, not that, but stuff like that.  But it doesn’t do it for love.  It does it to belong. It does it to feel superior.  It does it to judge. The motives of individual people can be entirely altruistic–they genuinely want to help. But the Internet just wants to be so right that all who oppose it are wrong. Meaning it can eat them.

There are wonderful, amazing, kind, brilliant people all over the Internet. I met my husband there. He’s a person; I know him as a person; I trust him as a person. I know the bits and pieces of his character he shows to the digital world, and I know all the other stuff, too.  And I know he loves me, he himself. the individual human.  Not the Internet.

The Internet can’t love you.  Get a dog.

 

Posted in Art & Artists, Books, Other People's Awesome, Personal Real Life Stuff, Strange as Angels, Writing process

My Love Affair With Artists (particularly one)

rock of cashel drawing

I can write, but I can’t draw worth a lick.  I’m serious; I’m not being modest; I can’t even draw a stick figure you can recognize as meant to be human; playing Hangman makes me nervous.  If the cultural life of human beings had been dependent on me being able to paint a bison on a cave wall, we’d all still be living in the dark.  (Or reality TV would have happened a few millennia sooner; I’m not sure which.)  But apparently I’m destined to admire other visual artists from up close and personal.  My bestie since seventh grade, Marcia Addison, can make something beautiful out of anything; right now she’s doing a lot of pottery, and it’s amazing.  My roommate at Governor’s School for the Arts, Sophia, was a painter – I still remember her sitting up half the night working in the bathroom of our suite, the only room big enough to hold her massive goldenrod yellow and heliotrope purple canvas.  The best friend I’ve made as an adult is a big time artist and painter, Isabel Samaras.  I’ve prattled endlessly about her and her work here before, but just in case you missed it, check out her own blog here:  http://isamaras.wordpress.com/ .  And then there’s my husband, Justin Glanville, who, among other things, drew the gorgeous charcoal sketch above.  (Drawn, incidentally, from a gorgeous photograph of the Rock of Cashel taken by Marcia Addison.)

I think one reason why I’m so drawn to visual artists is I feel like I can both understand them and be completely awestruck by them at the same time.  The initial stages of their creative process are very similar to mine as a writer; they conceive something new out of the bits and pieces of their experience, and there are distinct steps they go through as they bring that idea into focus.  But once the actual execution starts, once the image in their head starts emerging on the page or in the clay or from the fabric, as far as I’m concerned, it’s witchcraft.  I’m sure Justin gets annoyed with me, though he’s too sweet to show it.  I can stand just behind him and watch him work for hours, and I couldn’t be more impressed if he were turning base metal to gold.

Chelsea, the heroine of my most recent book, Strange as Angelsis an artist.  Her late husband, Hank, was also a painter, and she has always lived happily in his shadow.  Now that she’s lost him, she feels like she’s lost herself completely, including her own art.  The book is a romance between Chelsea and her guardian angel, but it’s also the story of Chelsea finding her voice as a painter.  I consulted with all these near and dear ones about matters of technique and market while I was writing, and with their help, I hope I got those mechanical details right.  But more importantly, I hope I got the magic right.  I love those guys, and I hope I did them justice.