This Morning I Became Something Else

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Last night I went to bed the same old me I’ve been for approximately twenty-eight years. Or at least the same old me I’ve been for the last ten. I mean, I’ve changed in that time, but I’m always me. The difference last night, was that I knew when I awoke, things would change.

And change they did. I awoke and I was a published fiction writer. Oh, I’ve been published. You can check some of my credits out on the main site. I’ve done “professional blogging” and I have an essay out there in this great big world–but my heart, my love, my fiction–usually just sat around.

So the question is, does it feel any different? And the reality is…it doesn’t quite. I still woke up feeling like I would die without coffee, I still had all the same tattoos and no new ones, I still needed my glasses to see properly. What’s different, I guess, is much like a wild animal, once I’ve tasted blood I must have more.

Since I received the email saying my story would be published (you can read it here on page 18) I’ve been thinking about how long it took. I realized something important. It didn’t take long at all. See, it feels like it took a lifetime. I’ve been writing ALL MY LIFE. But submitting? I’ve been submitting fiction for the last few months. I wonder if I am lucky. I just had the right story at the right place at the right time, or if the reality is, if you are aggressive, you’ll find success.

Once I started submitting, I dipped a toe in. I submitted one story to about three different places. Then I talked to writers I admire and found out that they often have over 30 pending submissions. So I took three stories I really loved, and went to work on Duotrope, researching to find the best places to send them. I papered the digital world with these stories. I got a lot of rejection letters. I mean, stacks. But it only took a few months. Not years. I guess I can thank the internet for making it that easy to send out forty-something submissions in a few days.

I guess what I am saying is, while it is hard to get three or four rejections in the same day, it’s better than taking a year and a half to see any fruit from your labors. And I’m saying, if you’re a writer, get a Duotrope account (it is free). And that’s really my only advice because I still don’t feel like I have any idea what I am doing. I’m holding hands with writers and authors that are always willing to help, workshop, and give advice–and tell me, “suck it up, Buttercup” when I am worried about submitting. So maybe that’s my advice–find some cool people who know what they’re doing and ask a lot of questions. Having a partner that “gets it” is important, too.

And this all feels really silly. Me giving advice. But I’m stoked, and I wanted to share my excitement in a way that wasn’t just “LOOKITME LOOKITME!”

But seriously: LOOKITME!

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I’m Going To Do Something I said I Wouldn’t…

I’m going to be political.

I don’t want to do it. I don’t like doing it. But, this is important.

If you are a woman, or you know a woman that you care about, I think there are some things you should be aware of.

Republican women get raped, too. Republican women have medical issues that would be helped by birth control, or conversely, hurt by pregnancy. They have times in their lives (yes, even the married ones) where pregnancy would signal a huge problem in their lives, perhaps even an insurmountable one.

Now, this may all seem pretty obvious to you–but it must be missed on some people. Women still vote Republican. Men who love women–men with sisters, mothers, wives, daughters–still vote Republican. They do this, I assume, because either they believe that it cannot happen to them or the people they love OR because they believe in other issues on the Republican platform, and I get that. Hell, I’ve voted Republican a couple of times, too.

But the truth is, it can happen to you. Just like a Constitutional Amendment banning abortion even in cases of rape and incest can happen, or, if you have faith in the Republicans ability to get what they want is happening. Access to birth control, even for women who pay their insurance premiums can be (is) at risk.

I’m not going to do an information dump on you. I’m not going to show you links that support my side or tell you that you are wrong for voting one way or another. I’m not going to push a candidate on you. I’m just going to ask you to pay attention. Please. Don’t let the controversy over Aiken’s words “legitimate rape” take your attention away from the very real push for a Constitutional ban on abortion for EVERYONE (rape and incest victims, women who may die if they carry to term, your sister, your mother, your daughter). Don’t let discussions about sex before marriage take your attention away from the fact that birth control is something women use regardless of their marital status or fidelity, and often to treat real medical issues. Don’t let the fact that Planned Parenthood performs abortions distract you from the medical services the organization provides many women (to include yearly exams that have nothing to do with pregnancy prevention or abortion).

Just…keep looking. Lift the veil.

What’s With All The Boobs On Facebook?

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Like you mind…

If you’ve seen the barrage of photos like this on Facebook today, you may be wondering a lot of things. You may wonder why so many women (and a few men) have decided to show you their bras with no strings attached, or you may be wondering what the sign over their faces means…or who the hell is Dora? Lot’s of questions.

Allow me to answer. Lidia Yuknavitch, author of Chronology of Water and the short story collection, Real To Reel, is releasing her novel Dora: A Headcase today. When faced with the task of promoting the novel, she asked herself “What would Dora do?”

From the Amazon description:

Ida needs a shrink . . . or so her philandering father thinks, and he sends her to a Seattle psychiatrist. Immediately wise to the head games of her new shrink, whom she nicknames Siggy, Ida begins a coming-of-age journey. At the beginning of her therapy, Ida, whose alter ego is Dora, and her small posse of pals engage in “art attacks.” Ida’s in love with her friend Obsidian, but when she gets close to intimacy, she faints or loses her voice. Ida and her friends hatch a plan to secretly film Siggy and make an experimental art film. But something goes wrong at a crucial moment—at a nearby hospital Ida finds her father suffering a heart attack. While Ida loses her voice, a rough cut of her experimental film has gone viral, and unethical media agents are hunting her down. A chase ensues in which everyone wants what Ida has.

In short, Dora would fuck shit up in an artistic and ballsy way. So, there you have it. Free boobs courtesy of Lidia Yuknavitch. You can thank her by buying the book!

Now some of my favorite photos from this new meme.

And we can’t forget the brave men who have decided to play along:

So join in–just you, a bra, and a sign over your face. Or, if you’re feeling modest, use a Barbie doll, a drawing, or get creative! And buy the book. Seriously.

And Lidia has hinted at more games for the month of August, so stay tuned via the Dora: A Headcase Facebook.

Summer Of Ska

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I love ska. Someday, when I grow up, I want to be in a ska band. What could be more fun? No pretension, no taking yourself too seriously, just horns and guitars and dancing.

Anyway, I got older last week. Some people get really wrapped around the axle about birthdays, but I try to embrace them–what better way to celebrate getting older than by getting in touch with that skankin’ kid inside of me? Enter: Summer of Ska. Four fun, energetic bands.

First up was The Maxies. They were ridiculous, fun, and from Greenland. They weren’t ska, but they were everything a pop-punk/rockabilly/Greenlandish band should be when touring with a bunch of ska bands. Plus, they looked like this:

Sometimes when I go to see a band I really love, it’s hard to get excited about the opening act–not the case with The Maxies. They were pure energy with a heavy dose of humor. As the Summer of Ska tour came to a close, they were full of jokes and jabs for the other bands. I loved ’em. Definitely going to buy the album.

And they had a polar bear on stage…seriously, what’s not to love?

Here’s a video for their song “Sandy”

Next up was Suburban Legends. I had been hearing a lot about them, but hadn’t heard any of their songs. They were great. Ska mixed with Pixie Sticks and Rockstar energy drinks. The ticket price was worth it just to see their horn section go wild with choreographed dancing and fully acted out skits whenever they weren’t actively blowing into their instruments.

Suburban Legends was the fun, friendly ska that makes you smile and dance. They do a cover of “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” from the Lion King soundtrack and have songs about how much they love their friends. The sound was awesome, the energy on stage was outstanding. I bought the album directly after the show and listened to it on repeat until the new Reel Big Fish album showed up in my mailbox.

Here’s the video for “Infectious” where you can see some of their fancy footwork:

On to Big D and The Kids Table. I used to listen to these guys in high school, and after seeing them live, I’m a little bummed that I let myself stop. Something was a little off with the sound during their set and it made the vocals a little hard to hear, but they brought a harder sound to their music, while not shying away from reggae/rocksteady and old school ska.

High energy, of course–and a fun look at Boston’s ska sound. Definitely different from Suburban Legends and Reel Big Fish, both from Orange County.

Plus, their set featured a large man with a ukelele. It doesn’t get better than that.

Here’s their video for “My Girlfriend’s on Drugs”

Last, but most certainly not fucking least, REEL BIG FISH.

I’ve been listening to this band long enough to feel horribly old when I tell people how long I’ve been listening to this band. I first saw them live almost fifteen years ago. I have to admit, after managing to miss them on tour for a few years running, I was worried about how they’d sound, if they’d have the same energy on stage, if I’d love them as much as I’d always loved them.

Well…

They rocked my face off. Or…ska’d it off.

High energy? That doesn’t really communicate what RBF still has going on after all these years. Most of my pictures were slightly humanoid blurs of light and color. They ran around, skanked, jumped, and had a fucking blast on stage without missing a single note. That’s a big enough accomplishment for a three-piece band, but RBF is boasting six members in their current line up.

If Suburban Legends was fun to watch because their horn section’s well thought out dancing, RBF’s horn section is fun to watch, because it’s never particularly clear if they planned anything they did on stage.

They packed in all the crowd favorites from seven (that’s SEVEN) albums, and kept the humor up. I thought I would miss the verbal ping pong between Aaron and former trumpet player Scott K, but this band has such good chemistry, it’s hard to imagine that the line up has ever changed. After three bands, I really thought my old ass was done dancing, but RBF put on such a good show I jumped around and danced until I literally couldn’t feel my feet anymore. It’s impossible not to.

Impossible.

Reel Big Fish always brings the fun, the dancing, the catchy tunes–and the angry lyrics that are just too much fun to sing along to.

Aaron Barrett runs around like a rabbit on speed while expertly fingering his guitar, and jumping to the mic just in time to sing the next chorus or verse, and manages to have an awesome rhythm with the laid back bass player, Derek Gibbs. It was really cool to watch them get it on when their on stage personas couldn’t be more different.

Also, this happened:

That’s one of the guys from Suburban Legends in man panties, chaps, and a wig. If you were wondering.

This tour couldn’t have had a better line up with better chemistry. Of course Reel Big Fish owned the place, but each band brought something really fun and unique to the table. And since I have been photo-bombing the hell out of this post already, here’s my favorite photo I took all night, wherein Aaron Barret looks like Elvis Costello:

I could go on and on about how great this show was, and I guess I sort of have already. The take home message here is that if you ever get the chance to see any of these bands live–do it.

Here’s Reel Big Fish’s video for “Don’t Start A Band”

All the shitty photos are mine. All the awesome videos are not. Go figure.

Some Thoughts on Social Media’s Response to the Aurora Theater Shooting

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Last night, very late, I published the latest Books And Booze podcast, so this morning I logged into Twitter to let my followers know. I glanced over the trending topics and noticed “Colorado Shooting” and “Columbine” trending, which I thought was odd, so I clicked.

The tweets featured gave me a basic idea of what had happened. I felt my heart sink and a general sense of “oh shit” come over me. Then I noticed a tweet mentioning the infant that was injured in the massacre–the person was upset that the infant was even there. I felt a moment’s rage–how is this even relevant? People are dead, those parents are likely thanking whatever they believe in that their infant survived. But it is easy enough to brush off a single sentiment from a single person on the internet.

By noon, I think I was ready to write off humanity entirely. Why? Because everyone seemed to be using this horrifying tragedy to push their personal agendas. Pro-gun people went on about how if more people were armed the man could have been stopped. Anti-gun people went on about how dangerous guns are. People in favor of universal healthcare used this as an example of why everyone needs mental health coverage. More about infants in movie theaters. More and more and more.

And I have to ask–when did the victims of this horrible crime stop being human beings?

I am sure the people posting about this thought they were doing something at least partially selfless. I am not judging their hearts on an individual basis, but I am disgusted by how this unfolded. Can we not allow the 12 dead to make it to the funeral parlor before we start viewing them as vehicles for our political beliefs? Can those survived have a moment to process everything that happened to them before we forget that they were actual human beings that had been through a real terror and neglect to mention them AT ALL when posting/talking about this event?

The political response, of course, is to proclaim that if your personal belief were held by all/put into law, that this would never have happened. The human response is to feel empathy for those who were involved. To think of the terror the survivors are likely still living in. To think of the family and friends of those who were brutally killed.

I am not special in any kind of way that really matters in this situation. I hold some of my socio-political beliefs very close to my heart. But I do like to think that I am more than those socio-political beliefs. I like to think that I am a human being before I am a member of an advocacy group, a political party, or a religion. I am so outraged right now it is hard to lay out what I really want to say, and at the same time I feel a little guilty for being outraged at these people when, in fact, there are people suffering because of this shooting in Colorado, and that’s the only reason I have something to be outraged over.

I know it’s an election year, and politicians like to make us believe the “other guy” is going to do the opposite of what we want. The other guy is going to take away our right to bear arms, or he is the one who is going to make sure every whack job in the country has a gun. He’s going to make our country unsafe in this way or that. Your religious freedom is at risk. Your freedom to be without religion is at risk. Everything is at risk! But it’s bullshit. It’s political bullshit. What happened in Colorado last night was incredibly real. People lost their lives. Others were terrorized.

So please, from the bottom of my heart, can we see these people as people, at least for a little while? Like everyone else in the country I have opinions on religion’s role in government, gun rights, and universal healthcare, but those opinions mean fuck-all to the grieving families left behind and those who likely still haven’t slept since being shot at in a crowded movie theater.

Just once this election year, can we try to be human beings first?

My Response To: “The Busy Trap”

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By now, many of you have probably read the New York Times blog “The Busy Trap” by Tim Kreider. It’s been blowing up Facebook and Twitter and is “the most e-mailed” NYT blog post. Most people seem to just love it (if you haven’t, you can read it HERE).

Tim Kreider is a cartoonist and essayist of some success. He has book credits, a regular feature on The Opinionator (New York Times) and several other credits many writers would kill for. He argues that being busy is a “self imposed trap”, and goes on to tell us that he has found success while writing for four or five hours a day, riding his bike, and catching up with friends. Hey, good for Tim Kreider, right? But he’s an asshole, and I’m going to tell you why.

Either he got very, very lucky and broke into the business very quickly, or he worked his fucking ass off. There is no in between in the creative world–there is blood, sweat and tears and there are overnight successes (though most “overnighters” will tell you that it only appears that way, and they put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears). Those of us in creative industries (like the artist friend he mentions who lives in Paris now, and is like, totally relaxed) know we have to work our asses off. One of the things Kreider admonishes us against is “work obligations”. Work? We should…not work so much? He also decries being “driven” and feeling like we “could do better”. Do I need to comment on why being driven and wanting better for yourself is a good thing?

Work less. I don’t even know what that means. I’m being honest. I work my ass off daily in hopes that someday a place like the New York Times will look at me with a moment’s interest. I’d love to have a book out. So…I’m fucking busy. The time I am not writing, working on a project, or networking, I am thinking about those things, or, you know, doing laundry. Us writer-types wear clothes, too. Busy means progress. Busy means I am not sitting around waiting for my dreams to come true. I’m working. I’m saying “yes” to the opportunities that knock, and yes, I am scheduling friends in, because they are kind enough, and care enough about me to want to see me succeed.

It’s not just us creative types, either. I have some friends, a married couple, who run a business in the Los Angeles area, for most that would be “busy enough”. Not them. They volunteer, they network constantly, they are involved in everything from animal rights to their local Chamber of Commerce. I have to schedule visits about a month in advance. By Kreider’s op-essay, they should be “cranky”, “dead on their feet”, “sad”. But they are happy. They are making a difference in their community, and probably brining more business to the company they work so hard to make successful. And here’s another secret–they meet people they like while doing these things. They have fun.

So, what does Kreider say to that? Did he really just wake up one morning and have the money and influence to write a few hours a day and then go do…whatever? I doubt it. If he did, then he isn’t a hypocrite, just unqualified to comment.

So, the question, I guess, is why are so many people yelling “AMEN!” to Kreider’s essay? My theory? I think we all look for reasons to dial down. Writers are infamous for getting on the net to “research” and ending up on Facebook or googling funny pictures. We say “I wrote for five hours yesterday, I’m not going to write today.” And that’s fine, it’s part of who we are (writers and non-writers alike) but we can’t forget that those people we look up to, the Lance Armstrongs, Stephen Kings, and yes, even Tim Kreiders, got to where they are because they spent a lot of time being relentlessly busy. Thankfully, most of them haven’t forgotten that. They will tell you to put the work in, make sacrifices, work your ass off. They won’t tell you to do the minimum amount of work to stay afloat (because most of us aren’t floating where we’d like to be) then go take a leisurely bike ride around the city.

In fact, most writers I know, that entertain any level of success, work harder than anyone I’ve ever met. The people who are in their thirties and working the jobs they’ve always wanted, making decent money and enjoying their life–work harder than everyone else. It’s a fact. And, there’s laundry. There’s dishes. There’s family. For most of us, there’s a day job, too.

Kreider seems to have forgotten how much work goes into gaining the life he leads. It’s kind of sad. He should be proud of working his ass off to get to a point where he can work the way he claims to. If he’s happy with where he’s at, nothing is stopping him from enjoying the privileged lifestyle so many of us would love to have.

I agree with Kreider on one point–busy-ness is self imposed. It’s what people do when they want to be great. Not good. Not moderately successful–great.

So I plan on staying busy. I hope my friends with dreams do, as well.

SURPRISE!

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I’ve been working pretty hard on this Books and Booze thing, and last night was no exception. I had planned to post my response to “The Busy Trap” article that’s been making rounds, but worked too much last night and today is a holiday! Going to kick back and relax, then watch controlled explosions. Look for the real blog tomorrow. In the meantime….

 

SURPRISE STEVE BUSCEMI! The best kind of Steve Buscemi.

Music Monday: Daybreak Ends & News on Books And Booze

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Umm…so I forgot to write a blog for today. I had the best of intentions before going to Hollywood to see my friend’s band at Bar Sinister, then…well, everything is sort of a blur after that. Two things you should know: 1) I am a lightweight 2) They pour very heavy at Bar Sinister. Secret third tip: don’t get into a car directly after your last drink if you are a lightweight and have had several heavily poured drinks.

So, after four hours of sleep and a day of realizing how old I actually am, I didn’t write a blog. It’s not you–it’s me. On to business. Monday should be Music Mondays, right? Okay.

Daybreak Ends. Got to see them on Saturday and in addition to the joy that is reuniting with an old friend over drinks, they were amazing. I grew up in small, dimly lit clubs listening to local punk rock. It was beautiful (as we’ve discussed) but with everything beautiful, there are always people who want to destroy it. All the punk venues got smashed. Enter the metal underground. Oh, it existed prior to all the punk venues getting shut down, I just didn’t know it. I went on a several year metal binge, hanging out with some of the hardest bands in the Central Valley, and it was good. Underground metal is a really special thing, there is an undeniable energy to the mish mash of heavy bass, screaming, and melodic singing. Daybreak Ends captures all of that, and adds  ten years more skill than any band I saw back in the Central Valley.

I highly suggest checking them out. I suggest it so much, I got the bassist, Josh Chastain, to agree to join us on Books And Booze for our inaugural episode. So click the links in the blog and get ready to get to know them better in a couple weeks!

ANNOUNCEMENT TIME! Books And Booze

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BOOKS AND BOOZE!

Are there two things in life I love more? Well, there is music. And we’ll have that, too.

Books And Booze is the dream of three broke authors with snarky, sarcastic attitudes. We’ll be interviewing authors, listening to music and talking to bands, and bringing the live radio experience to the literary podcast.

Thursday, July 12, our first episode will go up in all it’s glory featuring author Andrez Bergen and his book One Hundred Years Of Vicissitude. We have some amazing authors lined up for the first few episodes and are working our asses off to bring the best, the coolest, and the most amazing to you. Like the Books And Booze Facebook page to get the latest info and the first episode–and don’t forget to “ooh and aaah” over the graphic design donated by Alex J. Kane and Rebecca Jones-Howe.

Flash Fiction Friday–Community Property

Flash Fiction Friday is a weekly feature of short-short fiction I’ve either written on the spot or pulled from “the trunk”. Community Property is a trunk piece.

 

The couch was antique. It had belonged to Don’s grandmother. I sat on the middle cushion, running my hands over the burgundy velvet, staring out the window. The air was thick and hot, my nose burned. The temperature in the house had risen steadily as the sky grew darker. The flames were closing in.

I felt a small pain in the center of my chest, sitting on Don’s couch, in Don’s house.

Don had taken the ATV. I could have gotten down the mountain early in the day when the evacuation order went out, if I had it.

Don’s kindness surrounded me, mocking me. The five thousand dollar stove I had to have when we remodeled stared back from it’s faux retro frame. “Just had to have the vacation home with the custom kitchen you never use, didn’t you?”

The soft, worn velvet of the couch tickled my fingers, giggling. “You just had to have me, didn’t you? You slut.”

I thought I could hear the BMW in the garage saying, “You know, the beat up old Chevy had four wheel drive. You’d at least have had a chance.”

The afternoon sky was black now, but I stared out the window, anyway. Waiting. All the things I had won in the divorce looked back at me, disapproving. That’s okay. They would burn, too. I saw the crimson and orange flames lick the outside windowsill. It was time. Everything I fought for would be gone.

I should have fought for Don.