Some upcoming appearances and other news

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Hello again friends! I had to sneak away for a while due to some personal travel (Happy B’day Jurgen!!), and on the return, I received the edits for Werecat #4, which kept me busy for some time. That manuscript is off to the next stage of production. I’m excited, and, having gotten a bit of a rep for leaving loose ends in my books, I’m quite satisfied to say that this installment brings the Werecat saga to a close.

Saying that out loud–or I should say typing that out loud–I’m a little sad as well. Jacks has been a part of my life for five years, and now I’m finally saying goodbye to him. At least for the near future. It’s possible I suppose that a totally different adventure lays ahead of him, though I’ve queued up a good bit of work to do continuing my other series (Poseidon & Cleito and The Lost Histories) before I can think about expanding his story. Don’t forget: For a limited time, I’m providing new mailing list subscribers with a free copy of Werecat #1 as a thank you and a special promotion for the upcoming release of the final book. Just fill out the form up the page a little and to the right.

Meanwhile, I wanted to let folks know about two upcoming events I’ll be participating in.

First, I will be at the 2017 Saints and Sinners Literary Festival from March 24th – March 26th. This is an event I’ve been wanting to go to for several years. It was created to celebrate LGBT literature while bringing attention to HIV/AIDS specifically. That’s completely up my alley, and the festival takes place in New Orleans, which I’ve always wanted to visit. So, just a few days into the New Year, I decided to clear out my schedule and pony up the money for a flight and lodging because this is the year for me to go. The festival program will be released soon, so stay tuned for information on the panels, the workshops, and the special guests. They have already announced a terrific list of headliners: Dorothy Allison, Justin Torres, and Felice Picano, among others. I expect to be on an author panel where I’ll be talking about The City of Seven Gods. Here’s the festival website for preliminary information about this year’s event.

Next, the ninth annual New York City Rainbow Book Fair is on, and I’ll be there along with fellow Bold Strokes Books authors including my good pals Daniel W. Kelly and Eric Andrews-Katz. The fair has an expanded venue at John Jay College and will take place Saturday, April 29th. Programming for that event is also in progress, and you can find out more about it here.

Winter sale: Poseidon and Cleito

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Didn’t get a chance to pick up Poseidon and Cleito yet? The time might be right, as this month it’s on sale for just $2.99 at Amazon, Kobo, iTunes and BN.com.

Here’s some recent reviews of the book:

“Poseidon is a mighty barbarian leader, and Cleito’s a commendably strong woman with a ruthless streak. Alternating between Poseidon’s and Cleito’s points of view…gives the story a wonderful counterpoint while illuminating two very separate cultures…. A fresh twist on an old sea myth, complete with magic, intrigue, and plenty of old-school adventures.” ~ Kirkus Review

“Recommended for lovers of myth and historical fiction.” ~ Author Carol Holland March

“The story is well written and the cast interesting, while the complexity of the political relationships…are quite well drawn.” ~ Author Margaret McGaffey Fisk

“I enjoy hearing the “other side” of classic stories and found it interesting to hear more about a character I knew next to nothing about.” ~ Author Suzanne Blaney

“Highly recommended for fans of Greek mythology and vivid storytelling.” ~ Kindle reviewer YouThere

Meanwhile, I thought I’d get another plug in about a promotion running for another one of my books. For a limited time, sign up for my mailing list above and get an e-book copy of The Rearing (Werecat, Book 1). You can get started on the series before the final installment comes out later this year.

Writers Resist: Some FAQs

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A peaceful transition of power?

Hell, no!

Normalizing the new presidential administration?

Hell, no!

That’s why I’m joining with thousands of writers across the country and around the world in the Writers Resist: #WriteOurDemocracy campaign. I believe we have truly reached a critical moment in U.S. history, and I know that expression gets overused, but this is what I mean.

The incoming president and vice president fought their way into office through the ugliest, most deceptive, most misogynistic, most anti-environment, anti-democratic, most fear-mongering, most-anti-press, most Islamophobic, and most racist campaign we have ever seen (I probably left something out there, so feel free to help fill in the blanks). Our incoming Republican congress has vowed to aggressively dismantle universal access to health care, turn back tax reform that promotes economic equality, criminalize women’s reproductive freedom, weaken voting rights and ethical accountability for elected officials, and reverse legal rights and protections for LGBTs. (I probably left some things out there as well).

So here’s the critical moment: we can call it a “popular mandate,” or “all’s fair in war and politics,” and fall back in a conference room to analyze what went wrong with the campaigns of fair-minded, progressive candidates in hopes of doing better in the midterm elections in two years. Or, we can raise our voices to decry the incendiary rhetoric, tactics and ideas of the present administration, and demand a better way, right now.

Here’s the statement of purpose from Write Our Democracy’s website:

Write Our Democracy is an initiative to gather writers in response to the growing public cynicism and the alarming disdain for truthfulness threatening to erode our most dearly held democratic principles. Originally launched as Writers Resist, the movement inspired nearly 100 worldwide events on January 15th, 2017, which mobilized writers and focused public attention on the ideals of a free, just, and compassionate democracy. These events will remain an important facet of our mission.

Our country was founded on brilliant writing. As writers, we have tremendous power to influence hearts and minds and impact policy. Together we can leverage that power in non-partisan, highly targeted ways to renew and amplify the core values of liberty, justice and respect that were written into the source code of our democracy.

Our nation was intended to evolve, not devolve. To best protect and defend against further erosion of social justice and democratic process, we believe there are three essential arenas in which writers can best exert influence and inspiration: we must elevate the narrative surrounding democracy; better educate young future citizens; and mobilize writers who want to put their pens into political practice.

Our democracy is at risk, but its renaissance is within our grasp. The founders of our nation conjured and codified their magnificent political experiment using the very same tool that every writer alive today uses in their craft — language. We are equally capable of using finely wrought phrases to inflame a renewed love for the principles that we hold dear in our quest for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.The time is at hand for us to put our skills to the test to Write Our Democracy.

I wrote my first resistance article about a month back. For this dispatch, in support of #WriteOurDemocracy, I thought I’d write a piece answering some FAQs that I’ve heard in RL and social media.

Aren’t you protesters just sore losers because Hillary Clinton lost the election?

No. First, you should understand that the protests since the November presidential election have been multifarious. Some have focused on protecting the rights and dignity of immigrants. Some, such as the Women’s March on Washington, have been organized broadly around human rights. Some are concerned specifically with preserving health care for Americans of all incomes.

The protesters themselves are diverse in terms of political affiliation. Certainly, based on the inclusion of these issues in the 2016 Democratic National Convention’s platform, it is not surprising that many democrats are protesting, as many of them did in response to Trump’s inflamatory rallies, speeches and tweets prior to the election. Some protesters are registered independents. Some are Green Party or socialists. Some are republican, and some voted for Trump and are alarmed by the direction of his administration since the election (e.g. dismantling health care insurance). Some did not vote at all.

As for me, yes I voted for Hillary Clinton. I voted for Barry Sanders in the democratic primary. But neither of those candidates are why I am protesting Trump’s inaugaration. I am protesting his dangerous propagandizing, what he has pledged to do when in office, as well as the agenda of the Republican congress which is already underway.

If you’re not sore losers, why are you using #NotMyPresident as a slogan?

I can’t speak for every person who is expressing themselves with #NotMyPresident, but from the people I have talked to and seen interviewed in the media, their goal is to show their rejection of the values and direction Trump stands for rather than to uplift Hillary Clinton. They want to show that the election results do not validate and endorse the hateful treatment of Muslims, Mexicans, sexual assault survivors, and disabled people, which was a principle rallying tactic by Trump; and they want to stand apart from the racist and xenophobic individuals and groups (e.g. White nationalists) who exalted in his election.

Here’s a personal essay by writer Debra Lobel that addresses this issue really well.

Shouldn’t people like you and Meryl Streep stick to entertaining people rather than waging political rants?

Thanks for putting me in the same sentence with Meryl Streep. But no, I don’t think actors, artists, writers, athletes, and other public figures are beholden to any different standard than any other human being when it comes to standing up for social justice. I have been impacted personally by the threats to LGBTs articulated by the campaign. Trump chose as his running mate a politician who has a proud history of defaming and persecuting my community, and Trump himself changed his position on marriage equality in order to appeal to religious homophobes. Moreover, as bystanders to bigotry, we have a choice to be silent, walk on like nothing happened, or to condemn the perpetrators and to support the targets. I will not ignore attacks against disabled people, Muslims, Mexicans, sexual assault victims, or any other group. They are my friends and my family.

On the contrary, I feel that public figures have an added obligation to speak out on these issues as they have a platform that reaches thousands, even millions of people and are thereby well-positioned to facilitate positive change. When writers such as Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and Anne Rice publicly condemn the president’s actions, they probably have far more impact than elected officals like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, not that we don’t need the voices of our politicians too.

Plenty of people disagreed with President Obama’s positions, but they didn’t take to the streets to protests his election in 2008 and 2012. Why can’t you people respect the political process?

I’m afraid that’s a bit of revisionist history. Trump’s election has spurred unprecedented protest in terms of quantity, but the tradition of post-election protest is hardly owned by one political party. The election of Obama in 2008 in particular saw a rash of White nationalist protest and racist violence, including images of the president hanging from a noose.  You may also remember the Birther movement, which sought to discredit Obama’s legitimacy, and the insurgent Tea Party did indeed organize protest rallies across the country.

That’s not to say this election’s protest is tit-for-tat. But we live in a democracy, and free speech and dissent are critical aspects of maintaining that system. Furthermore, the logic for postponing protest until after the inaugaration is faulty. The sooner we can stop the Trump agenda from being enacted into law, the better. It’s far easier to prevent than to dismantle laws and policies that have already been put into place.

But Trump was fairly elected. Aren’t you undermining the democracy you espouse to value so much by protesting his legitimacy?

As I mentioned before, the post-election protests have been multifarious, and in my view, mostly aimed at social justice issues rather than the president’s legitimacy. There certainly has been increased discussion about the fairness of the Electoral College system versus honoring the popular vote (Clinton won that by 3 million+), and some elected officials such as U.S. Representative John Lewis have called Trump illegitimate due to Russian interference in the campaign as well as timed statements by FBI Director James Comey to discredit his opponent.

While I think that position has merit and warrants further investigation, as for me and many of the protestors I know, I’m galvantized to protest Trump based on the issues at stake through his rhetoric and campaign promises. Whether he was legitimately or illegitimately elected, I will stand with those who oppose injustice, irresponsibility and attacks on vulnerable people.

So what good is protesting going to do at this point? Trump’s already in office, as is a bicameral, conservative Republican congress.

There’s a famous expression by Margaret Mead: “Do not doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” History bears this out. For example, people will probably ascribe the 2012 Supreme Court decision that made marriage equality the law of the land as the turning point in the LGBT civil rights movement. And the action of the Supreme Court was enormoulsy important, but it never would have happened without the local-level, even street-level protests that changed public opinion and exerted pressure on elected officials, and in this case, politically-appointed officials.

Protests have impact. I would argue that they already have. Mike Pence has publicly dialed back his anti-LGBT positions in reaction to outrage from our community. Republicans are facing enormous pressure from their constituents to handle health care reform responsibly. Trump has shown he is more impervious to challenge, but there can be no doubt that the many voices of dissent have had impact on public opinion, and he will have to govern responsibly if he endeavors to redress his growing unpopularity. Yes we can, folks. Protest and #resist.

 

 

 

 

Visit Prism Book Alliance for a CoSG special feature and giveaway

Just dinging a little media alert about my latest release The City of Seven Gods.

Brandilyn and her staff were kind enough to host a guest post and giveaway over at the LGBT fiction fan site Prism Book Alliance.

My post takes readers behind the story, and inside myself really. It’s titled: “On Writing about Taboo Topics.” I talk about the sources of inspiration for the book, and it’s also a bit of a confessional.

“I’m always excited to have a new release out, but I have to admit, I had some trepidation about reader reactions to my latest title. It’s only hinted at in the blurb, but the co-lead characters are a temple prostitute and a freed slave of a foreign race.”

You can read the full guest post here, and if you drop a comment at PBA, I’ll enter you into a raffle for a free e-book copy of the book.

Good luck, and many thanks to PBA for helping to spread the word!

The Lost Histories, a poem

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It’s been a long time since I tried my hand at poetry, possibly for good reason. My feelings about poetry are similar to my feelings about dancing. I have tremendous admiration for those who can do it, but its artfulness always seems to be out of my grasp. Just ask the few people who have witnessed me dance. The problem is not merely a lack of rhythm, though that’s definitely apparent. It’s also a lack of confidence with my own body, which leads to a stunted sort of bouncing around, shoulder shrugging, and an occasional loss of balance.

Alcohol helps a little. So I’ve been told.

The last time I enjoyed writing poetry was all the way back in eighth grade. That was when I had the opportunity to take my first creative writing class. When we got to the poetry unit, I recall that most of us were skeptical. In my middle-class, suburban junior high, back in the 1980s, poetry was not cool. It was sappy, or pretentious, something that depressed, lovesick girls did in their depressing diaries. Well, to be fair, I kept a depressing diary. But I didn’t write poetry in it, and I certainly would never share my feelings with the world.  Besides, I hardly related to the male poets that we read: Robert Frost, John Donne, William Butler Yeats. First of all, they had things to say that were much more profound than anything I could come up with. Second, the way they said those profound things was much too elegant and clever for my feeble brain.

I dreaded having to write poetry myself and figured I would just fake it. Until we read poems by e.e. cummings, and I saw that poetry could be funny. I suddenly became a prolific poet.

Sometimes I wish like mad I had held onto my work from back then. I’m sure I would get a good laugh over how juvenile it was, however appropriate for my age at the time, but I also remember reveling in the creation of the absurd, and inventing parodies of “high brow” poetry. My teacher totally encouraged my insipid verse, maybe in surrender to my refusal to write anything else, maybe taking a broad view of creative expression. He was a pretty cool guy. In any case, I discovered I really did like poetry. That year, I looked forward to creative writing class every day. It became a place where, unexpectedly enough, I could be myself.

Nowadays, I practically never indulge in writing humorous poetry (though perhaps I should). I’m still intidimated by poetry generally, but I recognize that it’s important for me to read and write, both to better understand the world and to improve my prose. I don’t ever think I’ll be accused of being an especially stylish or lyrical writer, but poetry helps me to appreciate the flow and rhythm and imagery of writing. From time to time, I do it as an exercise, with nearly the same foot-dragging aversion of going to the gym. Like I said above, it’s been a long time, but you can see some of my past poetry here, and here, and here, and here, and here from the early days of my blog.

I’m working on the sequel to The City of Seven Gods, which is part of what I’m calling The Lost Histories series. In the New Year’s spirit — let’s do more things that are good for us — I refound some motivation to give poetry another try. Thus, I bring you a poetic companion piece to the series, which I wrote, trying to inhabit the mood and origins of the story.

Before Greek titans tramped the earth,
And Gilgamesh slayed mighty Humbaba,
‘Ere Atum sneezed, bringing forth his god-children,
And the heavenly war arose for dominion over Babylon,
Yes, certainly before a god made man from clay,
And plucked his rib to fashion woman as his companion,
There were battles and love affairs and tragedies,
To drown multitudes in the deepest canyon.

What did the Egyptians know?
Or Herodotus who thought he had learned so much?
They were as green as spring,
Their continents the burial ground for the masses who came before,
Once clashing and laughing and bragging and whimpering,
As though no other generation would ever know joy and strife,
They are silent now as the desert dunes,
Tears dried brittle on the sand, long ago swept away by the wind.

Yet do not doubt: They lived,
Gods who were no more than men,
Men who accomplished feats befitting gods,
Most wanting only to be known as daughter, son, or lover,
Think now,
Remember.
They are the song you hear in your sleep,
Hold onto it before it disappears in the shock of day.