Comedic TV Characters that Crushed LGBT Stereotypes



The following is a guest post from the adult store, Adam and Eve.

The plot of the upcoming series finale of Two and a Half Men has been revealed. Like any long-running series, fans are eager to see how the show is wrapped up. So how are they planning on bringing the story full-circle? With a gay wedding. Walden (Ashton Kutcher) finds that the only way he can adopt a child is if he’s married, so Allen (Jon Cryer) agrees to marry him. The story will end with the two men taking care of another young boy, reaffirming the title of the show once again.

While I love seeing gay marriage further represented on TV, it seems as though Two and Half Men is using it simply as a shock factor to end the show with a bang. The very fact that gay marriage can be played as a joke in a sit-com shows how far we’ve come on the subject, but it seems to me that actors that played actual homosexual and transgender characters have a bigger impact on audiences for their diverse portrayals of members of the LGBT community. And some of them do so in such a powerful way that they’re earning awards as often as their making audiences laugh.


Adam_Pally_2010_(cropped)Happy Endings’ Adam Pally as Max Blum

Max was a late twenties character on ABC’s short-lived series Happy Endings. He was the guy that was still trying to figure things out, never wanted to settle down, and was always there with a witty remark or hilarious joke. He also happened to be gay.

Any stereotype someone could possibly think to associate with a homosexual man, Max was the opposite. He was by far the grossest character on the show, so gross that he was the one guy in college that chose to pee in the in-room sink instead walking down the hall to the dorm bathroom. But somehow, it made him even more lovable. He didn’t work out, he gave little thought to his appearance, and couldn’t care less about fashion. Instead, this bearded, beer-drinking sports fan wanted nothing more than to sleep all day, eat a pizza, and hang out with his buddies.

He also regularly used his sexuality as a way of poking fun at himself, leaving nothing for others to ever use against him. Other characters were taken aback, but ultimately laughed when he said lines like, “Even I think rollerblades are gay. And I had sex with a dude last night.” He’s perfectly happy with himself, and doesn’t let anyone make him feel bad about it. As an article on Buzzfeed shows, he’s always good for a laugh.

Laverne_Cox_2014_crop_2Orange is the New Black’s Laverne Cox as Sophia Burset

Laverne Cox was a perfect choice to play the transgender character Sophia on Netflix’s hit original show, Orange is the New Black. As a transgender woman herself, Cox knows the hardships that Sophia has had to go through.

The show gave her an amazing back story, complete with the difficulty her character faced within her marriage and with her children when she decided to live life as a woman. And Cox’s close relationship to the character hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Orange is the New Black is currently in its third season and has won a slew of awards, everything form the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comedy Series to a Peabody award. But it was Cox who really stolen headlines, being named the first openly trans actress to be nominated for an Emmy. After receiving the news that she was up for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, she told the cast of The View, “I hope people out there now can associate being transgender with being accomplished, being successful and achieving your dreams.”

But of course being on a comedy series means she’s not always so serious. One of the more humorous spots for her character came during season two in an episode titled, “A Whole Other Hole.” In a conversation about female anatomy, Sophia realizes that a lot of the other inmates are woefully unaware of how their bodies work. In an effort to educate her fellow prison mates, Sophia becomes her own version of Adam & Eve’s Doctor Kat—a psychologist who frequently blogs about sex—to the inmates. She answers the inmates questions about sex and explains how each part of their vaginas and sexual organs work.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Andre Braugher as Capt. Ray Holt

andre-braugher-Brooklyn Nine-Nine won the award for “Best Comedy” at the 2014 Golden Globes, and lead actor Andy Samberg walked away with the win for “Best Actor in a Comedy Series,” but it’s Andre Braugher’s character, Capt. Ray Holt, that attracted the attention of the LGBT community. Slate praised the show on a particular episode that involved Holt having a romantic anniversary dinner with his husband. The article said that, “In less than a minute, Brooklyn Nine-Nine managed to make a more thoughtful, heartfelt, and compelling argument for ENDA than any other show on prime-time network television. And it did so without losing its sense of humor, keeping viewers laughing, despite the heavy subject matter.”

A strong and powerful authority figure, Holt is quiet, intense, and at times, difficult to read. Even though the show is a comedy series, they actually take a deep look into the struggles that Holt has had to go through in his career. Being a homosexual in the police force, he’s faced prejudice and discrimination, and his actions are constantly put under a microscope by those who would do anything to see him removed from the department because of his sexuality. But the character never lets that faze him, and continues to plug away at his job.

Braugher did an interview with the LA Times about his recent Emmy nomination for supporting actor in a comedy series. When asked how he feels that Holt would congratulate him on his nomination, Braugher said, “He would make a small pointing gesture with his index finger and say, “Good job.” I mean, that’s the highest praise you can get from Holt.”

It’s the sign of true acting talent. The ability to make you laugh, cry, and feel every bit of pain that they do. Of stepping outside stereotypes when depicting members of the LBGT community and saying, “Hey, we’re more than just our sexual identity.” These comedic stars have a special way of sharing with the audience the deeper challenges of coming out, and presenting them in a manner that makes such challenges understandable to the average viewer. One thing is for certain, their influence in the LGBT community won’t soon be forgotten.


Tougher Than You Think You Are…

Rosie the RiveterI’m not one typically given to having epiphanies.

My shifts in perspective tend not to come in a sudden toppling of brick and mortar, allowing me to see a path that was previously closed to me. I don’t usually pop up crying ‘Eureka!’ at a radical alteration of thought patterns. Things are more likely to percolate through my subconscious, rising slowly to the surface where they occasionally escape the treacle of my thoughts. When it happens with a story, it’s delightful, and I hurry to grab my notebook and jot the ideas down before I lose my grasp of their ephemeral nature.

But sometimes, my thoughts coalesce into one big bubble that bursts through the surface tension in my brain and I get that bright light bulb moment.

This morning started out in a typical fashion for me. I woke, recognizing that my To-Do list for the day was far too ambitious (as usual) and that I would have to eliminate all but the most important things to accomplish even a tenth of what I had planned. I got my final edits for Walk a Mile in my inbox last night–working on that has to take priority today.

I resisted the urge to sleep in that extra half hour and took the dog for a run in the forest instead. We have to get out early to beat the heat these days. It had rained during the night, and the air was as steamy as a tropical jungle as we left the house this morning. When we reached the top of the mountain, it was shrouded in fog. We were the only ones on the access road as we drove into the National Forest. I let H out of the car and put on my hiking boots. We started walking down the road toward the trails.

Wooden Bridge and HSpending some time outdoors, preferably each day, is absolutely necessary to my mental health. Watching the dog frisk ahead of me on the trail makes me smile, and often my mind is free to brainstorm on my stories. Frequently, I take pictures of wildflowers, the dog, and anything else that I want to capture as a digital memory. It’s all very low key and imminently soothing. I consider trail time vital, in other words.

So here we were, enjoying the summer morning, while I thought about what I was going to do with the rest of my day. Keeping one eye on the dog, I went over my To-Do list, planning the best way to get the most accomplished. I also spent some time thinking about my writing in general, and where I wanted to go with it in the future. Which stories to work on next. What was tugging at my heart to begin and where the path might take me on down the line.

H’s head suddenly came up, and he went very stiff. I tried to make out what caught his attention–a jogger? A deer? Either way, I needed to call him to me before whatever it was made its way around the corner. Normally, H has an excellent recall, and he was on his way back to me when a black bear ambled into view.

black bearI think the bear and I both had an ‘oh shit’ moment at the same instant. It was a young adult, about the size of a large calf. Probably last year’s cub now out on its own, though I couldn’t be sure there wasn’t a Mama Bear somewhere around. No, I didn’t take this picture! But that’s what he looked like! :-)

H glanced back to see the bear standing in the path and took off like an arrow after it. Silently. The silent part is important, because when H chases a deer, he shrieks with excitement the entire time. Not so with the bear. He flew like a guided missile straight at the bear, and the very silence of his movement bore witness to his intensity of purpose. I knew it. The bear knew it, too. He turned tail and ran.

I ran, too, after my dog, bellowing his name and shouting, “Leave it! Leave it!” as I chased him down. All I had to defend him was a dog leash–I snatched it out of my back pocket and folded it so I could leash-whip the bear if needed. Fortunately I didn’t have to pull a bear off my dog–H came trotting back to me with what could only be described as an extremely smug look on his face. The bear had taken to his heels and kept running.

Flat Topped MushroomDeciding to head back to the car in case there were bigger, less cowardly bears out there, I spied a cool mushroom on the side of the trail and stopped to take this picture of it with my cell phone.

Then it hit me. Less than three minutes before, I’d just encountered a bear for the first time in my life. I’d been prepared to beat it with my dog’s leash if necessary to separate it from my dog. And here I was, casually snapping pictures with my cell phone. I recalled last year how I trapped a copperhead that was in the camp and safely transported it to the other side of the river (you try wading in waist-high freezing water with a copperhead in a trash can, it’s not as easy as it sounds). That’s when it dawned on me that I’m a lot tougher than I think I am.

In that moment, I realized that I will always have options because I am a lot tougher than I think I am. I’ve always been brave when it comes to physical things–I’ve always trusted my body to do what I’ve asked of it, which is one reason I’m taking its defection over the last few years kind of hard. Where my courage has been lacking is in all other areas. Believing that there is value in what I bring to to the table, be it in writing, or work, or love. In that moment, however, I went from “You’re tougher than you think you are” to “I’m tough.”

I knew then I could do it. Because not two seconds after the words ‘I’m tough’ hit my brain, I heard myself saying, “You don’t have to life a conventional life.” And you know what? I don’t. Not that I live a conventional life anyway, but hells bells, I might as well go for broke, right?

Micro HouseI can do whatever is necessary. So my crappy little house disintegrates around me because I can’t afford the massive repairs necessary to make it safe? Fine. I have a couple of acres. I can build one of those micro-houses and I’ll be better off than if I pour any more money into the financial black hole that I currently live in. Hell, I could even plant a garden next year. I know the thought of growing and cooking my own food makes those of you who know me well laugh, and yes, I’ll probably suck at it, but if I have to, I know I can.

It’s not the actual circumstances that are as demoralizing as the crushing fear that there will never be any way out of them. I’ve always been the Queen of Worst Case Scenarios, and they’ve had the power to shackle me my entire life. But nothing that I’m going through is as bad as what I imagine it could be. I was ready to take on a bear this morning. I can take on the world.

I can do this. I’ve got it covered. I’m tough.



The Sound of My People: The Equal Rights Blog Hop

equal_rights_blog_hop_buttonWelcome to the Equal Rights Blog Hop! Each year, members of the the GLBTQ community and their supporters gather to celebrate the battle for equal rights. This year, thirty different authors have joined in the hop, and there are prizes galore! Be sure to check out the entire prize list at Queertown Abbey and see how you can enter to win the rafflecopter–as well as the Master List of Participating Authors.

Last year at my annual weekend gathering of fandom friends, where we meet up to stuff ourselves silly with each others best recipes and stay up until all hours talking about our fandom loves, there was a moment when all of us were busy on our laptops checking our emails, updating our status, or working on stories. The only sound in the room was the clattering of keys. One of my friends looked up and said with a happy sigh, “Ah, the sound of my people.”

We all laughed, and it has become a catch-phrase for us ever since.

You know what she meant, though. It’s true, as a species, we like to say ‘us, not them’ and form communities while at the same time, shutting some people out. The very thing that makes us recognize ‘alike’ makes us suspicious and leery of ‘other’. That need to separate people into tribes, into ‘us vs. them’ can be both a good and a bad thing.

This post was supposed to be about my first experience with the GLBTQ community, and I’d originally planned a nice sweet little blog post about how I did a lot of theater in high school and how my friends were neither my gay nor straight friends but my theater friends. I didn’t identify them as to their sexual orientation. It wasn’t a big deal. Ricky was the one who could hold a note for 16 bars without taking a breath. Amy was the one who made me laugh. Tom was the one I had a mad crush on, despite my friends telling me I couldn’t have a crush on him–and I knew it would never work, but I had a thing for talent, you see. Yeah, short and sweet, that was going to be my original post.

Then the whole thing with SCOTUS and their ruling on the Hobby Lobby case came down, and I have to tell you, I was both stunned and appalled. I’ve spent most of the week being seriously pissed. I’m sure I’ve annoyed and alienated many of my friends (and potential readers, too) with how angry I’ve been. I posted about it yesterday, as a matter of fact, and why I believe that the only thing that scares the GOP more than the mythical ‘gay agenda’ is the single, independent woman.

But here’s the thing. Almost every one of my GLBTQ friends have been just as upset, vocal, and angry by this ruling as I am–and for many of them, it has no direct bearing on them and their lifestyle. They resent it, however, for what it represents: discrimination on the part of one group of people against another group of people based on religious, economic, and political beliefs. They resent it in the same way that I resent seeing states pass laws banning equal marriage rights, or allowing discriminatory hiring/firing practices. Because it is wrong. Because no one group should be able to impose their will on others to this degree. All those times I stood up and cheered for my friends finally getting married, or I voted for someone who vowed to stand up for civil liberties across the board, or I fought to see some measure passed that would protect my friends? Well, yeah, they’ve got my back, too. And that, my friends, is what community is all about. I love you guys. :-)

If you enter the Rafflecopter, you’re entered to win an e-copy of my award-winning novel, The Boys of Summer. I have a short story out in the newly released Not Quite Shakespeare anthology from Dreamspinner Press, and will be releasing Walk a Mile, the sequel to Unspeakable Words, in Sept/Oct 2014. Good luck, and happy hopping!

Why “Frozen” Embodies Everything the GOP Fears Most

Frozen_GOT Mashup

Frozen_GOT Mashup

Okay, so this isn’t the first time I’ve written about the movie Frozen. The first time was with delight, to share how much this movie resonated with me and how much I identified with Elsa, always hiding who she really was for the good of her people, to please her parents, for intentions well-meant but ultimately wrong for her. The second time I posted about it was in response to some of the ludicrous reactions that followed: that by breaking with the standard Disney traditions of the ‘princess’ being rescued by the Prince in the end, Frozen was somehow dangerous and should be prohibited viewing for young, formative minds.

Today’s post takes that theme a bit farther into darker territory. To be honest, I am reeling from the recent SCOTUS decision handed down in favor of Hobby Lobby ruling that they are exempt from having to provide health insurance for their employees that does not agree with their religious beliefs. In one single action, SCOTUS has determined that corporations are things that can hold beliefs, that the religious beliefs of one set of people trump the access to basic health care for another set of people, that employers have a say-so in their employees health care, and that women are second-class citizens. Ruth Ginsberg was right when she stated in her scathing rebuttal of the decision that this was opening a minefield. Already corporations are filing lawsuits to not cover other kinds of birth control under the same reasoning. One of the things I find most damning in the SCOTUS decision is the mandate that this ruling pertains to certain kinds of birth control only: that it in no way should be taken to mean that other forms of health care, which might also be forbidden or offensive to certain religions, will be subject to the same exemptions based on religious beliefs.

Oh. I see. It’s not people needing blood transfusions or having allergic reactions to shellfish that you are discriminating against. Just women who want to have some control over family planning. I had a woman respond to one of my tweets on the subject by saying “I don’t want my tax dollars going to support some other woman’s immorality.” That’s what it really boils down to. Sex is for procreation only, and if any woman indulges in it for any other purpose, well, then she is a dirty skank. Note that the prohibition doesn’t apply to men. After all, boys will be boys, right?  Let’s completely ignore the fact that many, many women take birth control for medical reasons (I was one such person, who could not function with erratic periods that hit without warning, resulting in overwhelming nausea and blackouts. Without birth control, I was simply not functional for several weeks out of every month) Let’s eliminate the case of the woman who gets pregnant as a result of rape as being “God’s will”.  So let me get this straight. It’s not God’s will that some man can’t get it up? What purpose is there for Viagra besides sex?

I was tempted to tell respond to my twitter troll by saying that I didn’t want my tax dollars going to support her church, but really, that’s not true. I haven’t minded the fact that my tax dollars goes to support schools when I have no children, and fire departments when I’ve never had a fire–simply because I believe in the idea of communities and having support available to all when they do need it.  However, if churches are going to become such huge political entities, I think we need to re-think their tax-exempt status.

GOP PLan for WomenI’ve read several excellent and damning articles on the subject over the last few days. Best selling author Kate Aaron has written an insightful essay into why we all should be worried about what this Supreme Court ruling means. She says what I’ve been saying about the implications of this ruling with far more eloquence than I have; you should read her post. I also read an excellent article posted by Salon this morning, which states what I’ve been saying all along: the only thing the GOP finds more frightening than the mythical “Gay Agenda” is the Independent Woman.

And that’s the heart of the antagonism toward Frozen by certain parties. If you haven’t watched the “Let it Go” scene (and where have you been, hiding under a rock?) then I invite you to watch it now. Go on. I’ll wait.

Did you see it? The most frightening thing to ever appear in a movie! *gasp* The heroine who discovers the power within herself to be herself–without a man standing at her side. Notice, too, how Elsa’s transformation into her true self was decidedly sexy and seductive–and yet with no other motive than because it pleased her to look that way. In another stunning twist on the old tropes, it isn’t Kristoff who saves the day when Anna is turning to ice (though it would have been a nice ending–Kristoff’s a good guy and he *isn’t* a prince, so Disney could have stopped there and it would have been trope-breaking enough). No, Anna’s last act before turning into a solid block of ice is to rush to her sister’s defense. To throw herself between her sister and the sword about to fall. Her sister.

You would have thought that this act of sisterly love would have embodied the core of the GOP’s professed ‘family values’. What could be more pure than the love two sisters have for each other? What could be nobler than the self-sacrificing act Anna made (which incidentally ended up saving her own life)? Nothing.

So how did Frozen come to represent the mythical Gay Agenda? Why were people jumping up and down and screaming that it promoted lesbianism, among other things? The answer is quite simple–and yet very ugly at the same time. As of the most recent US Census, women outnumber men in this country. Women represent 41.6% of the workforce (for which they average salaries over $10 K less annually than men). Single, independent women tend to vote democratic. There. I said it. It all boils down to politics. So why target Frozen as the work of the Gay Agenda? Because it’s safe to do so. Because the far right can still ramp up its political base with the words ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’. They are doing a good job of ramping up their base with the word ‘slut’ as well. And every single term is considered a permissible form of name-calling in today’s media.

But there was no slutty behavior in Frozen. And to scream, “But look at her! She’s promoting being a Strong, Independent Woman!” would sort of point out the GOP’s real agenda: to keep women financially dependent on men. It’s a harder sell to say, “Don’t let your little girl watch Frozen, as she might grow up to be able to think for herself!” than it is to say, “LESBIAN ALERT!!”

The fact that all of these words are used to denigrate and subjugate one group of people to the belief system of another is wrong. It needs to stop before we see the gradual erosion of civil rights across the board. You think I’m being overly pessimistic, don’t you? Perhaps. But I keep seeing posts about fathers making their daughters sign ‘purity pledges’ (and taking creepy photos with them like they were Prom dates or something–what’s up with that?) and men advocating keeping your daughters at home, preventing them from being sullied with education, and the like. So, yeah. I believe if we don’t wake up, we’ll be fighting to keep our very right to *vote* in another thirty or so years.

Talk to your boss

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe all of this has finally woken the sleeping dragon at last. You know the one I mean. The middle-aged woman who has been too tired to get involved in politics because she’s been too busy taking care of her elderly parents, and her own family, and working a full time job for less money than her male co-workers. She’s been up to her neck in house payments, and dealing with chronic illness, and surviving on too little sleep and anti-depressants, and burning the candle at both ends only to scrape up the wax and slap it back on the wick again because if she gives up and flops down on the couch, there is no-one else to get everything done. And this woman is *angry*. Most of the women I know are furious right now. And you know what? The GBLTQ community has our back because we have THEIR back. Since I’ve never met a homophobe who wasn’t also misogynistic and racist, it only makes sense that we support each other. And we’ll remember this come election time.

Dear GOP: Winter is coming.


Under Pressure: Writing in spite of it all

Home Sweet Stormtrooper HomeYou know that scene in the original Star Wars movie where they are all stuck in the trash compactor? Chewbacca is yowling, and Han is blindly firing at something moving under the filthy water (which then ricochets off the walls), and the walls themselves slowly grind their way in toward our heroes. They climb the piles of slippery, nasty garbage, desperately seeking something to brace against the walls to stop them from being crushed to death. There appears to be no escape.

Yeah, my life is feeling a bit like that lately. The walls are crushing in from all sides: emotional, physical, financial. And I’m not sure R2D2 and C3PO are on the outside, working to release the door lock in time.

But I’m going to choose to believe that they are.

What it means is that I need to re-trench and re-think some priorities. My life is turning topsy-turvey on every level and all of it is impacting my ability to write. That is unacceptable. I’ve made a number of sacrifices in my life (haven’t we all?) but not writing isn’t going to be one of the casualties of my current circumstances.

I’ve been reading several awesome posts on writing lately, only one of which I can lay my hands on the link right now, but seriously, you should go read Chuck Wendig’s latest post called Writing: How Do You Do It? I really enjoy reading his blog posts–as usual this one is bang on target.

Which leads me back to my own blog post today. See, blog posts come easily to me. I enjoy them. I love signing up for book tours. I love putting my thinky-thoughts on paper and sharing them with others, inviting a back-and-forth discussion. I often think up posts while doing other things, like walking the dog, or housecleaning. (Okay, no one who knows me will believe that last sentence because housecleaning is a low priority for me, but it’s true! It’s true!) But I used to spend that time dreaming up the next bit of my story, and I wonder what happened? When did it start to be more about the process than the process itself?

This year is half over and I have spent a great deal of my writing time on things we’re all supposed to do as writers–promoting, writing blog posts, hosting other people on the site, interacting online, and in general, making connections with people. All good stuff. All fun stuff. All *easy* stuff.

Much easier than wrapping my head around telling a different story from the one taking place around me in real life. But I also think it is easier to shrug and say, “Golly, I just don’t write the kinds of stories people want to read” than it is to put myself out there on the line by producing those stories and seeing if anyone likes them. It’s a lot easier to spend 2-3 hours on Facebook and other social media sites ‘decompressing’ from my day than it is to resurrect the WIP and try to remember why I cared about this story in the first place. I kid you not, I believe social media is addictive. While I see no problem with catching up with your online activities during your lunch break, I think the more time you spend on Facebook the like, the harder it is do leave it and focus on any task that requires a greater degree of attention from you than a 15 second sound-bite, a funny picture set, or the latest political outrage.

Writing, for me, is like a muscle. The more I exercise, the easier it becomes. The less I do, the harder it becomes. I love it, but if I leave it for too long, it’s a kind of Herculean task to get back into the story I left behind.

So while I am looking for a way out of the trash compactor that has become my life, here are the ground rules I’ve established for myself:

1. Write something every day. I don’t care if it is crap–it probably will be crap, but I need to work on some sort of story every day. It doesn’t have to be a specific word count–but it does have to be daily. Writing daily strengthens those skills so that eventually, even on a bad day, your former crap is not that bad. Also, anything once committed to paper, can be re-written. You just have to get it down on paper first.

2. Scale back on other commitments. This is a tough one for me. I tend to over-commit in the first place, I want to show my support for friends and fellow authors, and I tend to be a ‘pleaser’, not wanting anyone to be unhappy with me. Well, if you’re familiar with the Spoon Theory, you’ll understand when I say I’ve been looking at the number of spoons in my possession and I simply don’t have it in me to be all things to all people anymore. No, I don’t have a life-threatening disease. But I am reaching my limits and I’m having to recognize that I can no longer pull a three ton weight behind me like I used to do in my youth. Yes, maybe that is selfish of me. But maybe it’s goddamned time I put myself a little higher on my list than forever in LAST PLACE.

Frozen_GOT Mashup

Frozen_GOT Mashup

3. Let it go. Yes, there’s a reason I’ve been besotted with Disney’s Frozen. That movie spoke to me on so many levels, it’s not funny. I need to let go of the things that are out of my control and concentrate on the things that *are* within my power to change. I need to stop being the ‘good girl’, stop hiding my abilities for fear of what others might think of them. To tear off the chains with which I’ve bound myself, and walk freely in the morning sun. I can’t control what others think of me. Trying to be what everyone expects me to be hasn’t worked out so well for me, either. Besides, the cold never bothered me anyway.

4. Spend less time on social media outlets. I wasn’t joking when I said that I thought social media was addictive–at least not where I’m concerned. You know, I never used to think of myself as having the characteristics of an addict before. That was because my addictions didn’t seem all that harmful to me. It wasn’t until I was forced to give up caffeine that I fully understood what it was like to be addicted to something–and how persuasive that little voice is that tells you one more Pepsi won’t kill you. Because it lies. It will. Even over a year later, I can walk past a vending machine and gaze longingly at the frosty cold can of Pepsi within, moisture beading on the outside of the aluminum can. It’s pure poison to me, and yet I still want it.

So for me, I can’t just say, “Oh, I’ll only be on Facebook a few minutes…” I’m going to have to set limits. Set a timer. Lock myself out of the site when I need to get some work done. Put the cell phone in a drawer in the other room. Close the browser. The buzzing notification of something new in the inbox is like seeing a squirrel in the yard for my dog–my attention is immediately focused on that and not the task at hand.

And not just the social media outlets, but the lists, and the chat groups, and every single thing that takes time away from the story you still have yet to tell. Everything. I’m putting everything on digest, turning off notifications from most of my groups, and eliminating certain lists. IT’S NOTHING PERSONAL. It’s just that I am overwhelmed on daily basis from everything clamoring for my attention. I can’t even take the dog for a walk anymore without checking my messages on my phone as I go. That’s not good for either one of us.

5. Get enough sleep, stop eating crap. My mother used to say, “Secretariat didn’t win the Triple Crown on a Big Mac and fries.” We pretty much rolled our eyes and grabbed some snack food on our way out the door. We we were busy people, all of us career professionals that put the needs of others before our own. Eating was something you did to keep going, and if we could keep going on a packet of peanut butter crackers, what was the big deal? For decades, I was one of those people with the kind of metabolism that you probably hated: I could eat pretty much anything and remain a decent weight. I was relatively active, and I never ate a huge amount of food, but I’m pretty darn picky. For years I lived off Pepsi, peanut butter, crackers, and cheese. Guess what I can’t consume anymore? Right: all of the above. Unlike the Pepsi, which *will* kill me if I have, the rest just makes me feel like toast. But here’s the thing. When you feel like crap, it makes everything that much harder. Harder to pull yourself out of bed. Harder to deal with the stresses of a stressful job, or the 47 million emails in the inbox from people wanting you to do something for them ASAP. Harder not to let your fears get the best of you, to stymie you into gnawing at your knuckles all day long instead of doing something about your situation.

It makes it hard to feel sexy–or write about someone else feeling sexy. Given that I write romances, that’s a bit of a stumbling block I need to fix.

6. Write what I want without fear of repercussion.Okay, I wanted to end this post with five talking points, making it a nice, expected number, but I think this one is important to add. I once wrote a fanfic story at a time when I was feeling down, so I threw in every ridiculous feel-good trope I could think of. Characters singing songs from other movies. Clueless guys finally recognizing that the reason none of their other relationships had ever worked out was because they belonged together. Christmas. Kittens. Lord of the Rings references. Magic. I knew it was hopelessly silly, but I didn’t care. It was the story I wanted to tell, so I did. Much to my surprise, it got widely recc’d and even ended up on some big rec site.

The moral of that story is that if you are hankering for something to make you feel good, the chances are promising that someone else wants that same feeling as well. I began writing to take myself out of my life for a few hours at a time. If reading one of my stories can do the same for someone else, then my job is done.

But I need to write them first.


Tempe O’Riley’s Desires’ Guardian Book Tour & Giveaway!


I’m delighted to have author Tempe O’Riley back here today to share with us some about her latest release in the Desires series by Dreamspinner Press! If you recall, Tempe dropped by the website last August to talk about the first book in the series, Designs of Desire. I’m so pleased that she’s back here today to talk about the latest in the series! Be sure to read through the entire post for her interview, and to find out how you can be entered into her Rafflecopter giveaway!

Desires’ Guardian
by Tempeste O’Riley

Desires Entwined series book #2

M/M Erotic Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Release Date: June 6th, 2014 (ebook/print)

Length: Novel / 200 pages



Order: Dreamspinner Press All Romance Amazon B & N

Add to: Goodreads



Most people see Chase Manning as the party-boy twink he seems on the surface. Only James, Chase’s BFF, knows the depth of his loyalty and the extent of the wounds Chase carries inside. When Chase meets Rhys Sayer things don’t go well, but he can’t shake his attraction to the huge, sexy man.

Rhys is a man of contradictions and fear—a strange combination for a PI and bodyguard. He’s in a bad place emotionally when he sets eyes on Chase for the first time. When Chase puts the moves on him, Rhys insults him, thwarting any possibility of a relationship. Rhys doesn’t see himself as a complicated man, but he dreads the very kind of connection he desires.

Just as they’re trying to overcome their uncertainties, Chase is put in harm’s way. Luckily Rhys and their friends have all the right talents to help Rhys save the man of his dreams.

Hello, Tempe! Welcome to my blog and thank you for answering my nosy discerning, questions! First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?

Hi Sarah! Thanks for inviting me to visit and share a little about myself and my newest release, Desires’ Guardian.

I’m not really that interesting, lol. I’m a mom, priestess, and author—and yes, in that order. ;) I love to read, I’m not even that picky on genre, though my favorites are contemporary and paranormal. I’m never without at least one book active on my night stand and/or Kindle. As for what I love to write, that’s easy…

I write about the heart finding its perfect match. That’s not to say that either MC is perfect—how boring and freaky would that world be—but that they’re perfect for each other. So far I have gay men, bi men, and gender fluid people all seeking to find the other half of their heart. There’s such a wonderful feeling when you get to write “The End” and look back on not only a story of love but one of overcoming and triumph.

As for my “theme”… that would have to be to never judge the person by the wrappings. Whether you are gay, straight, bi, trans, fluid, disabled, abled, tall, short, fem, butch, or any other label you might think up, it’s the person inside that matters, not the outer shell of the person. That’s actually a huge issue in Desires’ Guardian, as you can probably guess from the blurb, but it’s so true. It’s the same driving thought that helped me create Designs of Desire and my fall release, Temptations of Desire, as well.

What gave you the courage to submit your first story to a publisher?

A couple of authors already well-established in the publishing world. Even once I decided to write my first book, I still wasn’t set on submitting it. But, after joining in the old Six Sentence Sunday and gaining followers for my first story and being encouraged by the likes of Andrew Grey and Dianne Hartsock, I bit the bullet and sent Designs of Desire to Dreamspinner Press. DSP was my first choice publisher, and I couldn’t be more thrilled that they said yes! So what gave me the courage, seeing that others than just me loved my guys and the love of other authors, willing to bolster a baby author. It’s one decision I will never regret!

I see you write M/M fiction. Would you characterize your stories as M/M romance, erotica, or something in between?

Actually, I prefer the tern homoerotic romance ;) I write erotic romance, that’s to say, romance with the reader is invited into the bedroom, or kitchen, or living room, or… well, you get the picture, right, lol. The characters are my focus, but getting to read the sex is hot too! However, I often don’t use the term M/M even though all my characters are male.
Yeah, I know, that seems like a weird line to draw, but you see, one of the characters you met in Designs of Desire, and again in Desires’ Guardian, is bi, and another you’ve yet to meet is gender fluid. When I hear M/M I think of gay romance, and while all my men do have yummy boy bits, that’s not all they are. But I love to read sexy boys that find love, not just lust, so that’s also what I write—though you never know, I might branch out into other areas of the GLBTQ…

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, do you find what you listen to influences the story at all?

Always! If it’s too quiet, I can’t write. Heck, I can’t read if it’s too quiet either. I love music and tend to d weird things like plug in a couple of groups into Pandora and then see where their muse goes. Once in a while the music I’m listening to affects the story, but it’s more likely for me to put on a particular song or group because of what I’m writing than the other way around.

Do you miss your characters when you come to the end of their story? Do you find ways to write sequels for them or do you become entranced with a new set?

LOL. Funny you should ask that. You see, I loved James and Seth so much (from Designs of Desire), I’ve written two shorts that happen between Designs of Desire and Desires’ Guardian. The first is in the Grand Adventures anthology (the donation anthology benefiting Eric Arvin and TJ Klune) called Simple Desires. The other just released on May 30th and is a freebie to my readers called Bound by Desire.

In fact, take a moment and go grab yourself a copy (it’s FREE).

A Spin-off of Designs of Desire
Desires Entwined: Book 1.75
Despite his past abuse, James has come to terms with his relationship with his Dom and lover Seth. Seth treats James with all the trust and love his sub desires. There is only one thing left to do to make it all complete: Seth needs to put a collar on James.
Dreamspinner or All Romance


Desires Entwined Series:




a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author:

Tempeste O’Riley is an out and proud  omnisexual / bi-woman whose best friend growing up had the courage to do what she couldn’t–defy the hate and come out. He has been her hero ever since.

Tempe is a hopeless romantic that loves strong relationships and happily-ever-afters. Though new to writing M/M, she has done many things in her life, though writing has always drawn her back–no matter what else life has thrown her way. She counts her friends, family, and Muse as her greatest blessings in life. She lives in Wisconsin with her children, reading, writing, and enjoying life.

Tempe is also a proud PAN member of Romance Writers of America®, Rainbow Romance Writers, and WisRWA. Learn more about Tempeste and her writing at

Website Goodreads Twitter Facebook Google + DSP Blog




New releases, Cover Art Wars, Interviews and more for Sarah Madison…

Not Quite Shakespeare PaperbacksYou know how it is when you want to share a bunch of information but you have to keep tracking down links and C&P them where you need them? It’s not worth making a whole file for them because many have a short shelf-life and you don’t need to keep them *forever*, but still, it would be nice to have them all in one place.

Yeah, that’s what this post is about. :-)

First, look at my lovely books! I came home last night to discover that Dreamspinner Press had sent me complimentary copies of the Not Quite Shakespeare Anthology! Yesterday was the release day, and the timing of the books couldn’t have been better! I had a typical Monday at work, which means my guts were churning with stomach acid by the time I got home–this was the perfect antidote! Available as both an e-book and a paperback, Not Quite Shakespeare contains 15 stories of love and adventure set in the UK by some of your favorite M/M authors–including me! ;-) You really need to check this one out! I’ve been looking forward to it for what seems like forever! Now on Amazon, too!

Atop Chanctonbury RingIn honor of the release of Not Quite Shakespeare, I was interviewed yesterday by the incomparable Sarah Granger, author of the smokin’ hot Regency M/M romance A Minor Inconvenience. I shared my inspiration for my contribution to the anthology, Chanctonbury Ring, as well as some photos and my love for all things UK.


And if you missed it, I was over at Raine O’Tierney’s Hat Party, talking about Chanctonbury Ring and my fear of zombies! (No, the two are not related!) I’m also holding a giveaway there, but time is running out soon on that!


The Boys of Summer400x600Also, the cover for The Boys of Summer, designed by the amazing Reese Dante, is currently participating in Cover Wars over on the Masquerade Crew! This is a month-long battle to see which cover will come out as the victor, and truly, the cover for The Boys of Summer deserves to be one of the top contenders, yes? Yes! So save this link! Drop by daily and select your ten favorite covers that will move onto the next round.  Be sure to share this link on your various social media sites–the more the merrier! I’ll be posting little snippets about how I came to write this story, and why it means so much to me.

Speaking of covers, I just sent in my spec requests for the cover for Walk a Mile, the sequel to Unspeakable Words, due out this fall. I’m like a child two weeks before Christmas, imagining the various prezzies I might get and knowing that what I get in the end will exceed all my expectations!

Sizzling Summer Reads 2014Last, but not least, I’m one of the participating authors in the Summer Sizzling Reads Party over at The Romance Reviews for the entire month of June! You can click on the banner on the right of my webpage to go to the party, or follow the link here. The Boys of Summer will be featured on June 14th with a Q&A. The answer to the question is hidden somewhere on this site–so if you want to get in the running for a free e-copy of one of my stories, you’ve got a couple of weeks to poke around this site looking for the answer!

Be sure to come back this weekend, when I’ll be hosting author Tempe O’Riley as part of her book tour for the next in her Desires series. Lots of fun things going on this summer!

Not Quite Shakespeare, Summer’s Sizzling Reads, and More!

NotQuiteShakespeareLGAh, lazy Sundays… for the past ten years, I’ve had to work most Sundays. Getting them back again has been lovely. Today I took the dog out for a walk in the forest while it was sunny and cool. Now it is clouding over and it looks like thunderstorms are on the way.

That’s okay. I’ve had a lovely late-morning breakfast with the BF, and I’ve got books to read and stories to write. I’m humming Keith Urban’s “Raining on Sunday” as I settle in on the couch.

First order of business: Not Quite Shakespeare releases tomorrow from Dreamspinner Press! This anthology features 15 stories from your favorite and new-to-you M/M romance authors–all set in the UK! If you’re an Anglophile like I am, this anthology will be right up your alley! Even if you’re not an Anglophile, this anthology could make you fall in love with the UK: its history, its beauty, its quirks. And let’s not forget the hot men, either! :-)

The best part is you can pre-order it now–and it is currently on sale! Hurry, though, because I think the sale ends today!

Sizzling Summer Reads 2014The next order of business is that The Sizzling Summer Reads Party begins today on The Romance Reviews now until June 30th! There are over 250 participating authors and publishers, and more than 200 prizes up for grabs, with a grand prize of a $100 gift card! I’m participating as well, and my Q&A for my prize giveaway will be on June 14th. The answer to the question is hidden somewhere on this website, so poke around and see if you can find it! You have two weeks to find the answer before the question goes live! In the meantime, check out the great stories being highlighted on the site during this month. Come on, I know you’re looking for that perfect beach read, right? Even if you’re reading in a hammock in your own back yard. :-)

As for me, I’m going to run out to the grocery store and pick up some pet food before the storm rolls in. Then I’m going to snuggle on the couch with the BF and read while we listen to the rain coming down. If only Sundays could last forever!

Susan Mac Nicol wows with a dose of Double Alchemy: Climax!

Large-Banner-Ad_DA_ClimaxHello, and welcome here today author Susan Mac Nicol as part of her Double Alchemy: Climax book tour! As most of you know, Susan is the author of such bestselling M/M romances as Stripped Bare, and Saving Alexander. She recently released Double Alchemy, the first of a two-part series dealing with warlocks and magic! In Double Alchemy, Susan created a unique world where warlocks are paired at an early age with a ‘Withinner’, an ancient sorcerer from a different time period. The two can feel and communicate with each other–but not exist in the same place at the same time. They can, however, trade places–and times–when the need presents. In the first book, someone is killing the warlocks, hunting them down one by one. In the midst of this turmoil, one of the most powerful warlocks, Quinn, falls hard for Cade, who is not quite what he seems. The attraction between the two men is instantaneous and powerful–and not without its bumps in the road. There are unanswered questions at the end of Double Alchemy, thus paving the way for Double Alchemy: Climax! Readers are saying that Climax is the perfect sequel to the first book, and though Susan states this is the last in the series, the readers are clamoring for more from Cade and Quinn!

Official Tour Page
Facebook Event Page

Be sure to read the entire post to find out how you can enter Sue’s Rafflecopter!

About Double Alchemy: Climax (Double Alchemy Book #2)
• Title: Double Alchemy: Climax (Double Alchemy Book #2)
• Author: Susan Mac Nicol
• Publisher: Boroughs Publishing Group
• Release Date: 22nd May, 2014
• Genre: M/M Paranormal Romance
Powerful modern warlock Quinn Fairmont found ecstasy with the silver-eyed and not-quite-human Cade Mairston, but to know true happiness the pair must best both the shadow of a long-ago lover and an ancient enemy who seeks to destroy love, light and all they hold dear.

It begins with a Book of Shadows discovered by a London coven. The grimoire is as dangerous as it is rare, which is why it evokes modern-day warlock Quinn Fairmont’s desire. He collects objects of great power and beauty—like his lover, Cade Mairston.

Against all odds he and Cade found each other, but their perils have just begun. First is the ex-lover who once held Quinn in thrall. And, someone has been killing warlocks. Could it be one of his own kind? There are those too who would challenge Quinn’s power in their quest to overthrow him as Grand Master. Or is the danger something darker, something invoked inadvertently, rising from the shadows, building from the very inside of a man until it brings an end with a quick flash of light? Of the truth, the surface has only been scratched. Now Quinn and Cade must go deeper and find both answers and an end. They must learn what lurks in the hearts of men…and whether it seeks to love or destroy.

Praise for Double Alchemy (Book #1)
“I love Paranormal stories & I’m a huge fan of Susan Mac Nicol’s M/M books. In this book, she brings both genres together & gives us this amazing story. With her master storytelling, she takes us into the mystical & magical world of Witches, Warlocks, Withinners & Feys. A world where danger lurks in the shadows.” – Maria Recchia
“I stayed up all night reading this story. Susan has a way of writing that is different than anyone else. She’s uniquely brilliant at weaving a tale that brings out my emotions. I have laughed in every one of her stories. That’s incredible for me. Not just a smile, but a laugh. I love that. This book needs to be read. You won’t be disappointed.” – Author Kindle Alexander

“Susan Mac Nicol has created a complex and fully realized fantasy world…. Quinn is the star of this novel, taking out the bad guy and learning how to trust in Cade’s love enough to share his unsavory past.” Library Journal

“I completely loved this beautifully and highly detailed written Paranormal story! This wasn’t a predictable story by any means. How Susan Mac Nicol takes us on a ride through this very creative and engrossing world that you will not forget, anytime soon and will be wanting more and more of it. I am a huge fan of this author and Double Alchemy, doesn’t disappoint by any means at all. I highly recommend this hot, steamy, love, paranormal and so beautifully written story!” Paul Berry

“Susan Mac Nicol brings us another sexilicious m/m romance but also takes us into a magyckal world of Warlocks, Withinners, Fae, Witchfinders and Witches… I loved the combination of the magyck and the m/m romance storyline. I am so glad Ms Mac Nicol is not keeping us waiting as the second book in the series will be released 22nd May 2014. I highly recommended this book to read and is an absolute five star rating from me.” Foxylutely Book Reviews

Praise for Susan Mac Nicol
“We have to re-iterate that this Author will always be an automatic one-click for us. Her writing is flawless and her flawed characters are completely lovable. There’s always something quirky and fun in her stories as well as drama, angst and heaps of passion! We can highly recommend!!” – Gitte & Jenny – Totally Booked Blog

“Susan has been hailed as a genius writer of male/male literature. Her Saving Alexander has been nominated for several awards and has been reviewed widely. Congrats on all your success, Susan. You have earned it.” – Gay Lit Authors

Purchase links for DOUBLE ALCHEMY (Book #1)
Boroughs Publishing Group | Amazon: US, UK, CA, AU
Purchase links for DOUBLE ALCHEMY: CLIMAX (Book #2)
Boroughs Publishing Group

Double Alchemy: Climax Excerpt

Quinn’s eyes flashed violently at his uncle. “I am not fucking losing him to the depths of a bloody Hampstead Heath pond.”

He knelt down beside Cade again, closing his eyes as he tried once more to heal, but the wound just kept seeping blood, now at a much slower rate than before. Cade’s face was ash white, his dark hair standing out starkly against the deathly pallor of his face.

Quinn. Your Cade is nearly gone. You have to put him in the water now before it is too late. There is no time for your modern medicine. He will not survive unless you do it now. The Water Sprites will take him and heal him as long as there is still a spark of life left in him.

“I can’t. Don’t ask me to do that. I can’t.” Quinn’s voice was strangled as he struggled to compose himself. His body was cold, his mind sluggish and he had never felt so desperate.

Daniel strode forward and despite his small and wiry frame, he picked Cade up in his arms. He looked at Quinn, his voice resolute. “He’s dying. This may be the only way to save him.”

Quinn growled and reached out with a hand to hold him back. Daniel sidestepped him and looked at him with a resolute expression. “You can hurt me if you want but it won’t help Cade. This is all we have left to try before he dies.”

Quinn’s hand still gripped him tightly and the older man winced.

“If anyone is going to do this, it’s going to be me.” Quinn’s voice cracked and he held out his arms. Wordlessly, Daniel placed Cade in Quinn’s outstretched arms and Quinn pulled his lover closer to his body. He walked down to the water’s edge and waded in as Daniel watched helplessly from the bank, his face stark. Quinn gently laid Cade down in the water. He seemed to float for a while, hair spreading about in the water like black smoke. His face was still, eyes closed as Quinn held tightly onto his cold hand, rubbing his thumb over the engagement ring. Quinn’s vision blurred as tears filled his eyes.

You need to let Cade go. Let him join his kind below the water. Trust me.

Taliesin’s voice was soft, compassionate. Quinn heaved a shuddering sigh as Daniel joined him in the water, laying a comforting arm on his.

“I can’t—” Quinn shook his head in grief, his heart breaking.

His uncle took hold of his shoulders, firmly holding him back. “There’s no other way, son. Let him go.”

Quinn relinquished his grip on Cade’s hand, standing there as he heard a soft splash and saw the water rippling around them. As they watched, two sets of pale hands emerged out of the water, and slowly, lovingly, Cade was dragged gently beneath the dark waters of the pond. Quinn saw the hand with his ring on it slowly disappear under the water. It was the last glimpse he had of the man he loved.

Now let’s hear from Susan on stepping out of your comfort zone, making the most of social media, and going for it when it comes to going for the job you want!

As I was out of work for so long, I decided to change my focus a little and apply for jobs outside of my comfort zone. One of this jobs was a ‘Social Media Manager’ for an ad agency in London. They asked me to write a short intro as to why I thought I might be suitable for the job. This is what I sent them, and I thought you might find it interesting.

Why YOU and US was the question…

The best way to start this is to tell you a bit about me because only then can you understand why I think ‘you and us’ might work. I started writing a book in Feb 2012, managed to find a publisher and now have nine novels to my name and plenty more in the works. I was one of those people who pooh-poohed social media, thinking it was for angst driven teenagers and people who had nothing better to do with their time. Then I became a published author of digital books and found out the hard way that I meant nothing out in the world without it. I went on a crash course, learning all I could how about to promote myself. I drove myself hard to become good at it as to me, not being the best isn’t good enough. I worked damn hard, developed my ‘author platform’, my ‘reader base’, my street teams, my networks, aligned myself with people who could help and mentor me, all the time developing my skills and trying to understand how social media and the internet worked to get me the results I needed.

To some extent it worked. I now have 5 best- selling books, have a reputation for being among some of the big names in the genre in which I write, which is gay male romance. I’m told I’m a damn good writer. I think I have a long way to go still but the reviews I get for my writing prowess I guess are somewhat proof that perhaps I do have a talent somewhere :-) I even have my own company which helps other authors promote themselves. I also edit other writer’s books, using what I’ve learned. It’s a fledgling business and I haven’t done much with it yet but it’s a start. I give talks at local writing circles to other budding writers on the power of social networking and how it can pay dividends if you work hard at it. I even managed to convert one retired curmudgeon to try it against a lot of resistance and now he hates me because I was right:-) It works. (He doesn’t really hate me, we’re very good friends)

And in the race against the extremely tough competition out there one of the things you need to develop and grow your business and make people notice you is the content you put out on social media and in any promotions that you do.

I see your website, see what you have achieved, see the passion and humour behind the company and admire you for how far you have come. I love the fact that you are ‘ fascinated by the fluid frameworks that define human relationships, and the role that innovation and technology can play in shaping them.’ As a writer trying to grow my business, I can appreciate that and it’s only by developing these frameworks of human relationships, that I can develop my reach.

So many people do not get the aim of social media. It’s not to tweet out a thousand times a day ‘buy my book’ or keep putting Amazon links to your book on your Facebook page. It’s not about sending out copious emails to your subscribers telling them about your next release. It’s about engaging with people on a human level, appealing to their baser instincts, letting them know you find them as interesting as hopefully they find you. It’s about giving them what they want, not what you need.

It’s why when I wrote a book with a male pole dancer as one of the main characters, I started a Facebook group called Male Pole Dancers and Groupies, because readers became so enamoured with the concept, it made sense to draw them in on another level. I now have over 90 world class pole professionals as members who regularly stop by, encourage the novices and tell us all about their latest competition or routine. Some of them are reading my book and promote it.

That’s how you get to people. By being good at what you do, being a social animal and being their friend, their provider of entertainment and in between, letting them know what you are doing with your books and letting them find their own way there. It’s a slow, sly creep into their lives, keeping them interested and feeling you are a human being. Enough said. Thanks for listening no matter what the outcome is.

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About Susan Mac Nicol
SueSusan Mac Nicol was born in Leeds, UK, and left for South Africa when she was eight. She returned to the UK thirty years later and now lives in Essex. Her debut novel Cassandra by Starlight, the first in a trilogy, was published last year by Boroughs Publishing Group in the US. Sue’s latest story, Double Alchemy: Climax is her sixth m/m romance.

Sue has written since she was very young, and never thought she would see herself becoming a Romance writer, being a horror/psychological thriller reader all her life. But the Romance genre is now something very close to her heart and she intends continuing the trend.

Sue is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Romantic Novelists Association here in the UK.

Susan Mac Nicol is also author of The Magick of Christmas, Confounding Cupid, Cassandra by Starlight, Together in Starlight, Stripped Bare, Saving Alexander, Worth Keeping, Waiting for Rain and Double Alchemy.

Social Links: Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest


Why My Feminism isn’t About You

Better livingI’m supposed to be cleaning the house today. The BF has a sports thing he’s doing, and I have several days off in a row. I’ve just finished one major writing project and am that little lull before I’m ready to tackle a new one.

I’ve also been doing a bunch of research on the 1950s as part of the background I need for a new series I’m contemplating: think of it as Ward and June Cleaver meets the X-Files.  With the emphasis on homemaking for ‘the little woman’ of that era, I might be feeling a bit guilty about the state my own home is in.

So right. Today seemed like the perfect day to tackle the house, which is long overdue for a major spring cleaning. The kind where you put on your favorite playlist, crank the music and PURGE your house of all the useless crap that has accumulated for decades, trimming it down to the bare minimum in the hopes that you will find that external hard drive you misplaced last year and now desperately need. Instead, I woke to the internet discussion of the Elliot Rogers shootings in Santa Barbara yesterday. And the ‘mansplaining‘ that had already begun.

In many ways, the need of some men to stand up for Elliot Rogers and claim that he was right to take out his frustrations on not being able to get a date by shooting up a sorority house full of women is more shocking than the fact that once again, we have *another* campus shooting here in the US because a mentally unstable person had easy access to weapons that allowed him to commit mass murder.

I began reading the Twitter hashtag #YesAllWomen. I read this well-thought out article by skepchick on the Alpha Male/Retribution syndrome and how Rogers’s rage will be blamed on his mental illness alone and not the growing number of Men’s Rights and women-hate groups on the internet fomenting his anger. Yes, Rogers was mentally ill. So yet again, we have an example of a mentally unstable person gaining access to a gun and killing large numbers of people with it. I don’t dispute this.

What concerns me is the amount of sympathy that Rogers got post-shooting, The numbers of men who took to the Twitterverse to cheer him on and applaud his shooting spree. “Damn right, blonde bitches, that’s what you get for friendzoning us” and “If a girl had just given the guy a little pussy, none of this had to happen” being two of the most chilling comments I came across.

I read the effing *brilliant* post by Chuck Wendig titled Not All Men, But Still Too Many Men in which Wendig tackles the problem head on for what it is–the utter insanity of men’s privilege and sense of entitlement when they already have it. More than anything, I am conscious of the double standards still perpetrated, in fact, even promoted by the GOP, that women are second class citizens who must be controlled and monitored like small children because their wanton actions might trigger unfortunate behavior in otherwise ‘nice’ boys.

DeLorean_Back to the FutureLike the GOP, growing louder in its religious and social cage-rattling in an effort to keep their base hopped-up and voting blindly for them (despite the fact that their economic policies are ruinous for anyone except the 1%–don’t get me started), it seems the closer women get to true equality, the more we get laws governing our bodies passed by men who want to keep us in ‘our’ place, or deny us equal pay, or erode the civil liberties we fought hard to establish. For every young woman out there, I’d like to tell you this: civil rights aren’t a battle fought and won and something you can just accept from now on. They are something that must be defended every day. If certain political parties could figure out a way to do it, they would strip voting rights from us, too.

One of the fun facts I discovered during my research was that up until the late 1960s, it was impossible for a woman to rent a car in the US without the written permission of a male relative. Presumably, this was to prevent women from leaving their husbands without their knowledge, denying them the right of a headstart away from someone who may have terrified them.

But I digress.

Shortly after the Steubenville rape case (and please, don’t get me started on the Football Culture/Rape Culture in this country. An openly gay NFL player will bring down the sport but rapists, murderers, and players who RUN A DOGFIGHTING RING are scarcely acknowledged? Give me an effin’ break.), a very good friend of mine posted an open letter to her son on consent. This was one of many conversations she’d had with her son over the years on his responsibilities for his actions and expectations when it comes to the people he chooses to date, and the letter was posted by The Good Men Project. It has since been reposted and shared so many times that I’ve lost track of the current stats (and have asked my friend to share them here with me), and has been translated into other languages. The GMP invited my friend to be a regular contributor to their site, and she was asked if she’d be interviewed on television.

She declined both offers.

Why? Read the comments on that post. For every woman thanking her for speaking up, for speaking to her son about such an important matter, three or four men chimed in with complaints that she didn’t address the comparatively small number of men who are raped and molested by women. Okay, that occurs. No one is denying that. But that is not what the letter was about. The letter was about a parent taking responsibility for educating her son about what constitutes sexual consent between two people, and to have a stridently vocal group try to usurp the discussion away from its true purpose was disheartening to say the least. Not because these voices didn’t deserve to be heard–but because some of these voices tried to make it seem as though the subject at hand–the rape of women by young men either through lack of respect or as a kind of sport–was somehow not a real or significant problem. Worse, however, in my opinion, was the number of men who wrote in saying that she should be turned in to child services for emotionally crippling her son by even *having* this discussion. Men who likened her to a monster. Trolls who called for her death and predicted dire ends for her children. My friend responded with courtesy, intelligence, and patience to these comments, but eventually she couldn’t take it any more. And I don’t blame her. The comments enraged me. No one should have to put themselves through that every day.

Redhead bondageSo when I wake up to find that mansplaining is in full force for Elliot Rogers today, by groups who advocate making women submit to the will of a man by making them bleed, I felt compelled to share with you some of my personal experiences on being a single woman in the US. I’m not complaining, mind you. I’m just saying how it is.

During orientation for college, the women in the audience were advised not to go anywhere after four pm in less than groups of two or three because of the rape problem on campus. Women were getting raped in the stacks at the library, and this was treated as a matter of course, something to be aware of, like a pothole in the street.

When I was in college, my chemistry tutor hit on me during our very first tutoring session together. I guess I should have realized something was up when he wanted to hold the tutoring session in his dorm room seated on his bed, but hey, I was young and naive. I thought he was there to tutor me in inorganic chemistry, not human biology. I was so incapable of dealing with this situation, it was so outside the ability of my teenage self to handle it appropriately, I ended up dropping out of chemistry and taking it another quarter.

Also while in college, a professor (whom I found out later had a reputation for being a rake), cornered me between two pieces of lab equipment while I was working on a project, pressing up against me from behind so that his dick was noticeable against my ass. I was a little older and wiser by this time. I pretended to be excessively startled by his sudden, silent presence, elbowing him sharply in the ribs and stomping on his instep before innocently turning and saying, “Oh dear! You surprised me! Perhaps you shouldn’t stand that close.”

Fortunately, he wasn’t *my* professor, or else I suspect I would have failed that class.

I acquired a stalker my junior year of college. I’d been out on *two* dates with a guy before I figured out he wasn’t the nice, funny, upstanding young man he’d pretended to be. In fact, he’d lied to me about everything that he said he was. He broke into my car and stole my schedule because he didn’t believe me when I said I had to be in class instead of going out with him. He became angry when I refused to pick up on his hints that he needed a place to live, or that, on our second date, he brought up the subject of marriage. He privately chastised me for ‘canceling’ our second date when all that I’d really done was suggest we meet for dinner instead of lunch as I had to go to the library. And when I refused to let him in my apartment after the end of our second date, when I told him I thought it would be best if we didn’t see each other any more as I had to keep school my first priority, I almost became a date-rape statistic. Almost.

I was forced to move, to change my appearance, to take an unlisted phone number. The fact that I could be so *wrong* about a person scared me–I no longer trusted my judgement. I made a conscious decision not to date for years. About the time I’d decided maybe it was time to give dating a chance again, I received a letter from the father of one of my best friends. Recently a widower, he felt this was the right time to tell me that he’d always admired me and that he would like to date me. Um, yeah, no. Bad timing there, dude. I went back into my self-imposed exile for another couple of years, disturbed by the fact that I could no longer enjoy my happy childhood memories of going over to my friend’s house. I was creeped out, to say the least.

When I was in my early twenties, I was followed on the interstate for over 150 miles by a man in a car that sped up whenever I did and slowed down whenever I did. I’d pulled into a rest stop earlier to get my packed lunch, never getting out of the car. I didn’t realize this guy was following me until I noticed that he’d pulled up beside me at the rest stop, and he’d never gotten out of his car, either. When I got back on the interstate, we began an hours long cat-and-mouse game that had me gripping the steering wheel with white knuckles trying to figure out how to safely lose him before I ran out of gas. This was before cell phones, so short of getting off the interstate and driving to a police station, I didn’t know what to do. What I ended up doing was speeding up until he was racing me, then slamming on the brakes and taking an exit as he passed it. I drove the back roads the rest of the way home sick with terror that he’d find me on them and I’d be at his mercy.

For the man who drove alongside me on the highway honking his horn until I looked over at him, so he could wave his dick at me, I asked my German Shepherd to sit up from where she was sleeping in the backseat. She sprang up like a spring-loaded weapon, and he hit the brakes and took the next exit.

When a man ran me off the interstate at night because I honked at him for tailgating me and flashing his high beams in my rearview mirror, I ended up zooming backward up a major interstate until I could flip the car around in an illegal U-turn and take the exit I’d just passed.

And I will never forget the night I was on-call and decided to dash into the grocery store around 7 pm to grab a few items for dinner. I say ‘dash’ because wearing a pager and planning to cook a meal is just asking for it to go off, especially when you’re stuck in line at the grocery store. So I pulled up, leapt out of the car, ran across the lot, dashed around the store picking up items on the fly, and trotted back out to the car.

When I exited the store, a pickup truck on the far side of the parking lot turned on its headlights. No big deal, someone leaving the store, right?

When I reached my car, the pickup truck was pulling up beside me.

By the time I jumped in the car and hit the lock button, a man was standing at my driver’s side door, looking at me with the expression of a tiger who’d just missed the gazelle at the watering hole.

Military Working DogsIt shook me to the core. I don’t go to the store at night by myself anymore unless I have the dog with me. And you know, there may be a reason why I keep getting German Shepherds. It’s why shows like CSI make me uneasy, as I see them as a blueprint for men who set traps for women. It’s why I always pay attention to where I park, why I carry my keys between my fingers like a shiv, why I took self-defense classes, why I don’t take up jogging. I have never been beautiful. The only thing that makes me a target is that I am female and alone. And I know that my risk of attack won’t go down with age because its never been about being young and pretty. It’s about being a target. Vulnerable. A soft-bellied gazelle that someone who wants to pretend he’s a big jungle cat can terrify and abuse.

I don’t even think about it anymore, except to warn the daughters of friends that they need to pay attention to their surroundings and that they need to be prepared to defend themselves. But daily I am appalled at the casual comments of hate my friends and colleagues report at the hands of the men who are supposed to love them. Men who belittle their creativity, their actions, hell, their very existence. Men who berate them when they try to cook healthier meals, who shove them in parking lots, who demean their opinions, their looks, their goals. I used to not be able to understand why someone just didn’t walk away from that kind of abuse, but as a single middle-aged woman, I can now understand how the fear of poverty or being without health insurance can be greater than the fear of someone’s unkind words. After all, it’s just words, right?

No, it’s your very soul. And you deserve better. And part of this culture of shaming women into believing that they deserve to be treated this way is to ensure that she’s there cooking your dinner for you when you get home from work.

I am a terrible cook. Thank god my boyfriend does most of the cooking, or I’d live off Cap’n Crunch. Thank god, too, that he believes in mutual respect, intelligent discourse, believes in my writing, and never belittles anything that I hope or aspire to. I’m a very lucky woman, living as a I do in a Red State (where daily someone is trying to pass a law to make me less of a person than I am), to find someone like him. Because if you look at my track record here, you can see why I almost lost hope of ever finding this kind of adult relationship. Believe me, it’s better than anything I can dream up in one of my romance stories.

The thing is, I don’t think my experiences are unusual. I think they are frighteningly typical of the average American woman. And that is wrong on so many levels.

One more thought before I go. I came across this article by Dr. Jill McDevitt, a sexologist. She sums up the current thought toward women and sex very succinctly. It is no longer damned if you do, damned if you don’t. It’s dead if you do, dead if you don’t. Read some of the comments and reactions Dr. McDevitt describes in the case of a woman who put herself out there online performing a sexual act and then was driven to commit suicide because of it.

Wow. Chew on that one a bit.

Right. Well, I’ve got a house to clean, folks.