At What Cost?

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Anyone paying any attention to the news anywhere in the world the last couple of years cannot help but know that the world feels as if it’s teetering on a brink of… I’m not sure what, but it isn’t good. The world, and the US in particular, feels broken.

At the beginning of October, when I started thinking about this post, I would have said that my retirement accounts were benefitting from this temporary boost in the economy, but those gains have been wiped out. That’s my point.

Rash, irrational, impetuous decisions from this administration have created chaos all around the world. Short-term gains can’t be sustained when they’re based on the whims of someone who has never been held accountable for his bad decisions. Congress won’t act as a co-equal branch of government to rein in this catastrophe. And we’re all paying the price.

But this is only the beginning.

I’ve said this a million times since November 2016, but I just don’t understand. I don’t understand how people could vote for a bigoted, misogynistic, egotistical, ignorant lout and justify that decision on the basis of “I like his policies.” I don’t understand why conservatives have been willing to compromise their values to support someone who violates every tenet of ethics and decency. I don’t understand why white people are so afraid of brown-skinned refugees that they are willing to turn their backs on everything America has represented for over two centuries. I don’t understand how they could forget all our ancestors who fled Europe or Russia or any other part of the world, looking to start over in a country where hard work and a desire to build a better life were the only passport needed to live the American dream. That’s all these new immigrants are asking.

What part of environmental and financial deregulation can possibly be good? What industry anywhere has ever self-regulated out of a desire to do what’s right? When we have more Flints with undrinkable water, when we have more coastal cities flooding because of climate change, and when we’ve lost more species to extinction because of human encroachment, will they still think deregulation was a good idea?

When we have the next recession, and there are no consumer protections for those of us who aren’t in the top 1%, will they be okay with losing all their retirement savings and their houses to foreclosure?

When their children and grandchildren are left to deal with this debt that is going to crush us, what will they say?

Healthcare. Voting rights. Racial divisions. Immigrant rights. Children in cages. A judiciary we don’t trust. The list of issues facing us goes on and on.

This election in three days is our opportunity to stop—or at least slow down—this freight train of corruption and destruction. I wrote HERE about the need—even in the dark days after the 2016 election—to feed the right wolf. To keep fighting for good, to stick to our ideals, to not sink to the level of the deplorable base that supports this pretender to the Oval Office.

We must elect a Congress who will act as a check on this administration, who will hold it accountable for its decisions, who will investigate the rampant corruption that has seeped into every part of the government now, who will make sure Robert Mueller’s investigation continues to its conclusion.

VOTE as if your life depends on it, because it very well might!

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Launched!

I am really pleased to announce the launch of my brand spankin’ new website!

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I would like to say I was able to do it myself, but those of you who know my limitations in terms of computers know better. A dear friend who is way more knowledgeable than I put hours into helping me design and set this up.

I will still use this blog to post my ramblings on various and sundry topics, including social justice causes, because those issues are important to me, and I don’t want to give that up. And I’ll post brief book-related updates here, but most of my book news will be on the new website.

Please pay the site a visit and let me know what you think!

Pax,

Caren

First Kiss

First kisses are supposed to be magical. A first kiss may be awkward, full of nerves and a heart racing so fast you think you might pass out, wondering if the other person feels the same, but a first kiss is supposed to be the kiss you will always want to remember.

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Authors spend an enormous amount of time trying to create the magic of a couple’s first kiss, trying to make it as memorable for the reader as it is for the characters. Same with movies or television shows. If we’ve followed a couple falling for each other, we wait breathlessly for that first kiss – wanting to experience the wonder and joy with them.

First kisses are supposed to be magical. They’re not supposed to taste of booze and tobacco on the breath of the old man who has trapped you behind the counter of the shop you worked in at age 16. The nerves aren’t supposed to be nerves of fear. The racing heart isn’t supposed to be a fight or flight response. The wonder isn’t supposed to be wondering what you did wrong to allow it to happen; or wondering what you could have done to prevent it; or wondering what will happen when he tries it again.

Until the Me Too movement exploded a year ago – October 2017 – with the exposé of Harvey Weinstein and the subsequent avalanche of women coming forward with their stories, I hadn’t thought about my first kiss in decades. I chose not to think about it. I never told my parents what happened. Luckily for me, the commander of the base I worked on happened to walk in on that kiss and kept a very close eye on me after that. Most girls aren’t that fortunate, and many aren’t lucky enough to have it stop at a kiss.

But the events of this week have brought it to the fore again. Watching Dr. Christine Blasey Ford bravely speak to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the world about what happened to her, knowing how hard that must have been for her – because I’m not sure I could have done it – I have remembered things I wish I could forget. His name. His greasy slicked-back hair. The feel of his tongue in my mouth. The flood of relief when the Captain walked in. The shame. The feeling that I was soiled and dirty.

And now, the anger that this shit keeps happening to girls and women, while men (and some women) keep making excuses for it. Check that. It’s not anger I’m feeling. It’s fury.

I’m not even going to speak about how outraged I was at the spectacle Kavanaugh put on, or Graham or any of the other republican senators who STILL don’t understand why this was so hard for Dr. Ford.

For the past year, I’ve looked at the world differently, even listened to music differently. I can’t stand listening to Bruce Springsteen sing, “Hey, little girl, is your daddy home? Did he go and leave you all alone?” Or Sting, “Every step you take, every move you make, I’ll be watching you.”

It’s everywhere. This attitude that men have the right to treat women as objects, as possessions, as trophies to be won or taken by force. And so many don’t even see it. The excuses, the bullshit “boys will be boys” mantra, the acceptance of “that’s just the way it is.”

Granted, not all men are like this. Some men, like my brother-in-law, see it and actually speak up and intervene, but we need more to do it. And we all need to call it out in all of its little, insidious, pervasive forms. Especially now, when we’re facing this onslaught of white, male privilege, even up to our highest court.

This isn’t going to go away unless we make it go away.

 

 

Take Joy

Take Joy

I can hear you now. “Why is she posting about a Christmas book in August?”

Well, you may not want to know the weird ways my mind works, but I had one of those weeks this past week. You know, one of those that makes you think.

I love this book. First, because it was a gift from our dearest friends, Erica and Karen. Second, because I love Tasha Tudor. Third, because it’s such a lovely reminder of the homely things that Christmas should be about. That every day should be about.

 

We’ve had a weird summer. Much wetter and rainier than normal. I really can’t complain. We’ve been so lucky – no floods like other parts of the east have experienced. No drought and wildfires like they’re dealing with out west. But it’s been rainy enough that I haven’t been able to do the things I thought I would be doing this summer. I took my birthday off from work, thinking to play golf, but it rained. Other weekends when we thought we might take day trips here or there, it rained.

The upside has been that we’ve managed to clean out closets and clear (most of) the clutter from the office. But it hasn’t exactly been fun.

On Thursday, I took a last day off before classes begin for the fall. I waited to make a tee time until I was reasonably certain the forecast would be favorable. It turned into kind of a magical day.

It was a perfect summer morning – pleasantly warm and sunny. The golf course had a few people out, but I got to play alone. That’s one of my favorite things about golfing. I love playing by myself. It’s great thinking time. And the course I was playing is beautiful. Even the neighboring cows were hanging out, enjoying the day. I played well, too, which was a bonus!

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I finished in time to get home and have lunch with Beth. We used to have lunch at home together every day for almost fifteen years before I took my current job. It was so nice to have that time together in the middle of the day.

After Beth went back to work, I wrote a bit and spent some time with the dogs. Hermione and Maxwell always know how to live in the moment. Well, Hermione does. Maxwell is usually looking for something to bark at.

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Hermione, loving the sunshine

Part of the afternoon was spent playing my guitar. I have a new Taylor 514, but my old 1981 Yamaha L10-A has a rich sound that the new guitar just can’t match. I pulled out old music – you know actual folk music like Blowing In The Wind, Where Have All the Flowers Gone, Danny Boy. I love those songs, and it was funny how my fingers remembered them, too.

I have a couple of friends who have dealt with some really difficult life situations. One’s wife has been battling cancer for over fifteen years. It keeps cropping up in new places, but they keep fighting. The other’s husband has a progressive disease that has robbed him of almost all of his mobility. She manages a team of caregivers, and the logistics of any trip they plan make my head hurt. All of this for both of them on top of their own careers.

I mentioned once to one of them that I felt guilty about how easy our lives have been in comparison: both of us with good jobs, good health for us and our families, no real worries.

She said something I think of often. “Don’t feel guilty about it. Just don’t forget to be grateful.”

I thought of her words as I enjoyed every minute of my magical day.

I thought of them again when I returned to work yesterday. A patient I had seen earlier in the week with suspicious symptoms and weird CT results was thankfully being worked up for probable spine surgery before something catastrophic could happen.

I wish all of you the joy of being able to live in the moment – even if it’s just a moment. We never know when things could change. Take Joy!

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GCLS 2018

At the beginning of the month, we got to attend the Golden Crown Literary Conference in Las Vegas. It was so much fun to reconnect with friends from around the world: England, Ireland, Germany, Canada, Texas. (Just kidding)

While I have to admit to having an aversion to Las Vegas itself, the surrounding terrain is incredible, with some gorgeous parks and astounding sights. Our friend, Danielle, was a terrific tour guide. I swear she could hire herself out!

 

Those are wild burros we saw on our way back from Red Rock Canyon. The bridge is from our trip to Hoover Dam.

The conference itself was better than I had expected it to be. My reading group included some fantastic authors (from left: me, Radclyffe, Barbara Ann Wright, Ann Roberts, Lynnette Beers, Susan X Meagher, Suzie Carr) and was a lot of fun.

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But it wasn’t all work – you know, readings and panels and classes. Oh no. We were in Las Vegas, after all. The fundraising auction included some “surprise packages”, as Lynne Pierce found out when she won herself a gaggle of authors “not” to dance with!

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Lynne in the middle, surrounded by: Lynn Ames, Jae, Karin Kallmaker, Jessie Chandler, Patty Schramm, Lori Lake

Awards night was stress-free for me this year, as I didn’t have a book that made it to the finals, but I did get to present the award for Paranormal/Horror. Jae, of course, won an award for her beautiful book, Perfect Rhythm.

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One of the most exciting things about this year’s con was all the new faces! There were over 100 Con Virgins, including many younger women and more women of color than in years past. They were terrific sports when they got tapped to participate in ways they probably hadn’t anticipated – like going up on stage at the awards to present. I would have been scared to death! One of the highlights this year was meeting so many new people – Brenda, Elizabeth, Gerda, Anissa – who were all brave enough to come up and say hello.

One of the coolest things about GCLS is the Writing Academy, a year-long writing course for the bargain tuition amount of $1000, whose participants also receive personalized mentoring from established authors. What a great way to learn and get their manuscripts in shape to submit for publication. In addition, the WA participants wrote short stories which were gathered into an anthology published by Brisk Press, courtesy of Susan X. Meagher, with all the proceeds going to the WA. Anyone interested in the WA can check it out HERE.

To be honest, prior to this year, I wasn’t sure I’d continue to attend, but this year re-energized me (even if all the cigarette smoke and some of the sights in Las Vegas put me off and can gladly stay in Las Vegas!). I’m looking forward to Pittsburgh next year, especially because it will be in easy driving distance. It will be my first visit back to the Steel City since 1981. I can’t wait to see how it’s changed.

One of our stops was at Bonnie Springs, a delightful watering hole in the middle of nowhere.

I know a lot of people enjoy Las Vegas, but in the future, I’ll just use it as a jumping-off point for way more interesting places.

Empathy Through Books

In my last post, I wrote about my invitation to participate in Shenandoah University’s 33rd Children’s Literature Conference. I presented yesterday to a small group of about ten people. But there were about twelve sessions all running concurrently, so I was thrilled to have ten!

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I covered a bit of the history of LGBT literature, from the pulp novels of the 50s and 60s – with their legally mandated tragic endings – to the current wealth of YA/NA books. But there is a gap in books available for middle readers – kids old enough to be aware of their otherness, but not old enough for dating or romance stories.

The theme of the conference (as you can see from the mugs above) was We Are What We Read. In my opening slides, I added that we also long to read what we are. I certainly knew I was gay before I was ten, and I wanted so much to see myself in the pages of the books I read. Kids in that middle age range need to see older LGBT characters modeling what they will grow into, to know those relationships are just as healthy and normal as heterosexual ones. Of course, not all relationships are healthy. Kids also need to read books in which young characters deal with unpleasant, real-life scenarios.

Divisions and divides mostly occur when people have never had any exposure to those who differ from them. Books provide kids (and adults) a safe way to bridge those divides and see the ways in which we’re more alike than different.

I hope I opened a few eyes to what is lacking and what is out there, including some of our smaller lesbian and gay presses that offer so much more than just the offerings from mainstream publishers.

The coolest thing of all was that right after the short sessions, we got to listen keynote speaker, Lois Lowry, who has twice won the Newbery Medal. Her talk was fantastic, but it echoed much of what I said about finding empathy through books. I’m glad I went first!

Oh, and the next best thing is that I’ve been invited to return next year!

Wowed and Humbled and Terrified

This has been an incredible week for me. Thanks to the efforts of a dear friend who has been an advocate for my books, I’ve been invited to participate in Shenandoah University’s Children’s Literature Conference!

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I’ve participated in panels and sessions at the Golden Crown Literary Conference but, to be honest, most of us in the lesbian fiction genre will never be bestsellers outside of our tiny niche. We have very loyal and wonderful readers, but they are small in number.

This Children’s Lit conference is an entirely different part of the literary universe. This is its 33rd year. The presenters and guests are world renowned. They are major award winners (think Newbery Medal) and have been on the NY Times bestseller list. They are mainstream, major bestsellers in children’s literature. This is rarified air.

The organizer of the conference, Dr. Karen Huff-Stewart, has been so gracious and excited about the addition of an LGBTQ element.

I’ll be speaking about four of my books that feature young protagonists. Like me, the girls in my books knew at a very young age that they were different. There are a lot of books now written for very young children with two moms or two dads, and tons of YA books written for teens in high school (and thank goodness for all of them!), but there are very few written for kids in between – too young to be worried about dating or romance but old enough to know who they’re drawn to or that they identify differently.

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I cannot tell you how excited and how terrified I am about this opportunity. Wish me luck!