Last time I saw you we had just split in two

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John Cameron Mitchell is returning to the stage as Hedwig. I’d heard rumors but nearly peed my pants when I saw the announcement yesterday. Yes, I already spent this year’s discretionary income to go to NYC and see Neil Patrick Harris as Hedwig, but I’ve bought tickets to go again February 2015. I can’t miss this. And I can’t explain it easily, but seeing JCM in the role, live, finally, feels incredibly important to me.

In 2001 when the movie came out I was aware of the theatrical production, but not really aware of JCM yet, as I lived on the other side of the country and just the idea of going to NYC was barely realized. I was 28, already married to a man, divorced from him, and dating women. Through high school I had mostly dated men, not entirely, but close, I didn’t really come out until I was getting divorced. But Hedwig and the Angry Inch was something different for me, it was literally the first time I can remember sexualizing male bodies. Having sex with men is one thing (expected of you if you’re born female and presumed straight, really), sexualizing men is entirely different. Ironic, really, that it was John Cameron Mitchell as Hedwig that really turned my eye to men. Hedwig is important to me for a lot of reason, as it is, I’m certain, to hundreds of thousands of people the world over, but more than just the show, the take away from it, what it represents, is this feeling of recognizing something in myself, about myself. This weird part of my brain always whispers that my sexuality is John Cameron Mitchell. Not gay, or bi, or queer (how I usually identify) but just JCM. I know, it sounds crazy, but back to New York I go, regardless of expense, of whatever I have to sacrifice to get there.

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I was entirely emotionally overwhelmed watching Neil Patrick Harris perform as Hedwig last summer. If my companion, Punny, had tried to speak to me during the show I probably would have burst into tears. I had so many emotions simmering so close to the surface. For days afterwards I felt like my heart was swollen with joy, like falling in love. I don’t know what to expect from JCM. I do know I have to be there. Friends are flying to NYC from all over the country to see it with me that day, because Hedwig is as important to them as it is to me. Hedwig has changed my life twice already. Hopefully the third time is even more charmed.

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Vale, Leslie Feinberg

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(An open letter to Leslie Feinberg on the occasion of hir death.)

lesliefeinbergprotestThank you for teaching us to live by our convictions and be who we are. Thank you for being a true revolutionary. Thank you for being. Thank you for loving. Thank you for sharing.

With all my gratitude and love I will pay this kindness you’ve given the world back in turn, by being better, by doing better, by living by my convictions and trying to change the world.

 

(I was going to add a book link to Stone Butch Blues, where my journey with Leslie started and discovered this fucking bullshit, so instead visit hir site. I get that the book is out of print and in demand, but what the ever-loving fuck.)

A face with a name

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Years ago, when I started writing in earnest, it was mostly fanfiction. A valid artistic expression and an excellent writing exercise because it focuses on story and making the story work. Setting, character and all already exist in a given canon for fanfic. Character description is often limited to facial expressions and a passing mention of hair color. No need for more because everyone in your fandom knows what your characters look like.

When I set out to write original fiction I spent a lot of time casting my Queen City Boys after I had my plots in order. Maybe as some leftover from writing fic I needed that visual, I needed to see faces, really know my characters. It was definitely useful, in any given scene, to look at the picture pinned above my desk and do description from that. And it was, honestly, an amusing procrastination tool. If I wasn’t writing I could claim to still be working: hey, I’m casting! Which involves scrolling through endless pictures of good looking people, win-win!

Eventually I cast even side characters when I was procrastinating. Still some choices were never quite right, but others were perfect. Steven Frazier from This Charming Man was easy. Here he is:

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This picture captures him perfectly for me. His attitude, his beauty. It is is exactly as he looked in my head, as he came to me. Still the model in this picture, Dieter Truppel, really only looks sort of like my imagination of Steven. Half his pictures don’t suit at all, but enough. And really I only need on picture to cast from anyway (though finding more is joy, more pretty and more procrastination).

My editor, Annie, read a draft of the book, long before I shared any of my own casting. Much of the story actually takes place in her neighborhood and she keeps insisting that she sees Steven on the street. I love the idea that he’s out there now, living in other people’s heads and appearing as if I called him into being.

My character John Pieters appears across the Queen City Boys books. This series, as it unfolds spans four decades so that added a hitch to casting. I need John at 20, at 45, at 60. This limits casting if I want a picture at each age. I did finally cast John, though it isn’t perfect. I have such a clear picture of him in my head, at every age, of exactly who he is and I’ve never found a picture that was close. For John I cast like I would for a movie: good enough. But it doesn’t match my vision and indeed probably won’t match reader’s vision of him. I tried to write him so the reader could make their own John and decide whether he looks like Paul Newman, Daniel Craig, Alexander Skarsgård, Campbell Scott, Anderson Cooper, or Jorge Gelati. (Of all these perhaps that specific picture of Campbell Scott is closest to what is in my head, but no, still not quite perfect.)

The amount of time I spent on casting (*ahem* procrastination) eventually bled over into casting places as well. It’s all compiled, however inadequate, on Pinterest now. It was a great for me to visit while writing, to think about places (many of which don’t exist anymore since I’m writing about Seattle twenty years ago), and to see my characters all together. It made it much easier to spend even more time day dreaming about them. I’m working on the other books in the series, pinboards already filled with casting of upcoming stories, vast new spaces for me to procrastinate in.

And of course, because I am me, I am utterly ridiculous, and I find even more ways to procrastinate and play with my characters when I should be doing other things:

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Because who doesn’t love anime? Or because I love anime anyway. In fact my love of anime is what started this whole universe in my head, but that’s a story for another rainy afternoon.

Let’s have a party!

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TCM-cover-web Let’s have a celebratory party! Can I throw my own party? Is that a no-no? Because I’m pretty excited about my book, This Charming Man, being released into the wild and we should at least have a drink, right?

Here it is at Amazon and Smashwords (other venues forthcoming).

If you run into me in person I suggest not asking me about it unless you want your ear talked off. It seems like I should have used up all my excess verbiage in actually writing the book, but nope, I still have plenty more to say about the characters and the setting. So brace yourself if you engage me in that conversation.

And I could spend all day thanking Jugum Press for publishing me, adding me to their eclectic cache of books. Even you think you’re not into my book, well there’re probably some books over there you’d like. The editing Annie Pearson did for me was so above and beyond, I’m eternally grateful.

So let’s celebrate, get you a copy of the book and settle in with a drink and a quiet read. After you can come over and I’ll cook and we talk about the book,okay? Or alternately you can go review it in the venue of your choosing and I’ll just be over here drinking and hoping that you liked it.

 

This book is a wonder

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While travelling, when I should have been giving all my attention to my loved ones, I sat down for a bit and started reading That Door Is a Mischief by Alex Jeffers. I meant only to distract for an hour, to start something I could pick up before bed later, but instead I read the whole book, cover to cover, in a day, to the detriment of everything I should have been doing.

Jeffers_ThatDoor_hi-rezI don’t know if I can be objective about this book. Like all of Jeffers’ stories I was pulled in to a bubble universe that I never want to leave. The biggest tragedy is that I’m not reading this book anymore. It is not, like the fairyland in the story, a universe I can literally climb inside, through some magic door, and stay there forever. More’s the pity, I would happily live with Liam and his dads, Harry and their made family, in this beautiful bubble universe that Jeffers created.

The fairyness of this story is presented so matter-of-factly you think: yes of course there are fairies, no need to make a big deal about it. Not a delicate, sweet fantasy tale, the book is at times dark, dirty, and horrible, the way life is. The reality of fairy-Liam, particularly as a teenager is rough, uncomfortable, and awkward, yet I wouldn’t miss a minute of it.

TDIAM is a love story above all else. More than a romantic love story, it is a love-of-life story, love-of-family, made and chosen. The story’s presentation of family is spectacular, inclusive, the future we all hope for where sexuality is irrelevant to love, to family building, and everyone can make the choices they want.

How long will it take me to be ready to talk about the central love story in this book? I don’t know if I’ll ever be over it. I’m still tearing up with the enormity of it days later. It’s a gut-punch, but breathtakingly beautiful as well. It’ll just leave you entirely breathless, but it will feel like a that first glow of oxygen after you’ve had the wind knocked out of you–like the sun in your chest, huge, glowing, unfathomably sweet.

I have recently written my own book and the conclusion of that writing was emotionally devastating. Living in your own head, with your beloved characters, dreaming them, breathing them, but at some point you have to let them go, to be done. That end left me so lonely without them. Finishing reading TDIAM came close to that loneliness. Where will I be without these characters? There is a hole in my heart shaped like them. If I have any complaint about this book it is simply that it does not go on forever and that eventually I had to close it. I wondered if I would be able to handle the ending, the last chapter was intense and emotionally rough, but Jeffers came through, perfectly, so that now I can dream always that these boys are as happy as they made me.

I don’t know how to recommend this book. It is certainly supernatural fantasy, fairies, fairyland and all, but it felt so real. The characters come off the page, like people you know, fallible, damaged and exceptionally beautiful people, exposed and broken and still lovable just like your own friends. The sense of wonder Jeffers creates when people really see Liam, see the world around them differently, stuck with me. If you were going to read a fairy story anyway, read this one. If you only wanted a window into the lives of people so real you think you might pass them on the street, read this one. If you want to utterly lose yourself inside someone else’s massive world changing love, then read this book.

So this happening

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I wrote a book, and now it’s edited, and has a cover, and is going to be a thing you can buy soon. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed.

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This Charming Man by Ajax Bell

WILL SEATTLE MAKE A MAN OF HIM YET?

It’s 1991 and Steven Frazier has danced away half a decade in the Seattle club scene with his beautiful-but-poisonous best friend, Adrian. Two glittering princes against the world, too high above life to care about what they might be missing.

But everything changes when a chance meeting with older—not to mention handsome—businessman John Pieters, reveals a cosmopolitan world and possible futures Steven’s never considered.

Flashy club clothes won’t impress John, this charming man who knows so much about many things. Motivated by fantasies inspired by his crush on John, can Steven finally fight Adrian’s sick hold?

As he steps out into the larger world, supported by new friends, Steven must prove to John—and to himself—that he’s not a hedonistic rhinestone club kid, but a true diamond in the rough.

KINDLE: Amazon
PRINT: Amazon  | Barnes & Noble  |  CreateSpace  |  Find other bookstores
EPUB: Smashwords

The End of Writing (before I start again)

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I wrote a book and I like it. It’s a book I want to read. Which I guess is why I wrote it? And yet here, on the cusp of publishing, I’m paralyzed with insecurity. I guess the old chestnut is true, being an artist is the intersection of flagrant, narcissistic ego and devastating, debilitating insecurity. The closer my writing comes to the reality of being an actual book, the more I’m waffling between the two. Some days I’m unabashedly proud of what I’ve accomplished and of my simple, sweet little story. Other days I’m certain I’m setting myself up for humiliation and my beta readers just won’t tell me how stinky my book really is.

How it feel sint he middle of writing. You've taken a vow and you might never get laid again.

How it feels in the middle of writing: you’ve taken a vow and you might never get laid again.

Writing a book was equally exhilirating and exhausting. I’m dragging my feet right now on committing to really starting the next one (plenty of research to distract me until I have no excuses left to keep me from writing) because this time I know what I’m in for and it’s harder to jump right in. And yet there has been so much I didn’t anticipate. Like all the waiting. So much waiting before publishing. I’m waiting on some translation, on cover design, on beta readers and editors. And even when that’s all through, I think I’ll still be waiting on myself to know it’s really ready to go. Leta tells me you’re never really done with a book: there’s publishing, there’s promo, there’s always something left to do. But really I think there’s levels of done. I’m looking forward to the “this is packaged and ready to distribute” level of doneness with this book, so I can stop fretting over the details of creation and start worrying about if other people will like it or not.

One day I'll hold one of these of my very own

One day I’ll hold one of these of my very own