Audio Books for Jogging

Just realized that I haven’t made a blog post since March. I’ve started a few, but current events seem to go by so fast these days that they’re obsolete by the time I finish them.

I’ve been fairly busy, though I haven’t been doing a lot of writing lately. Since I’ve started doing more for my fitness, it’s just been so difficult to keep my butt in the chair long enough to write more than a few words at a time. I’ve been on a sort of sports kick lately (never thought I’d ever write a sentence like that!). I’ve been doing a lot of jogging, lifting weights, and lately ice skating — which burns so, so many calories and judging by the way my abs feel on the next day, exercises my core. So all this has helped my health if not my manuscript revision.

I’ve also been reading quite a bit, and in my quest to relieve some of the monotony of my workouts have started listening to audio books — something that, as a voracious reader, I never thought I’d ever be into. One of the first audio books I listened to was So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, and though I really enjoyed it I think I would have enjoyed it more in print so that I could pay it the attention it deserved.

I’ve found that comedy works the best for distraction on my long runs, even if I do look like an idiot when I start laughing my head off for no apparent reason. I also find it easier if I’ve already read the book, so that it’s not such a big deal if I get distracted by something on my run and miss a paragraph or two.

I’ve even found that some books gain a new dimension when I listen to them on audio, something which surprised me. Gustavo Tiberius from How to be a Normal Person by TJ Klune, for instance, gains a lot emotional depth. There were a couple of passages that were much more heartbreaking when read out loud in the narrator’s deadpan style (or maybe it’s just the hormonal changes of menopause? Nah.)

Here’s a short list of some of my favorite audio books so far:

  • Anything by TJ Klune is worth hearing as an audio book. He just hits the right spot.
  • Glitterland by Alexis Hall almost made me pee my pants.
  • The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish
  • Lock In by John Scalzi. I have the narration from Wil Wheaton

Now I’m going to hit publish before I get distracted by Twitter again and forget it…

Adam Rippon’s Oscar Outfit and that One Time I Went to a Bondage Club


I’m of that certain age that my celebrity crushes have become more filias than douleur exquise, so one moment I’m admiring their looks, and the next I want to take them home and feed them lasagna. I knew I was getting old when I saw a picture of Adam in his harness for the Oscars and the first thing I thought was, “It must be so hard to be his mother right now.” Not because I thought his outfit was particularly daring — Adam’s skating costumes are much more revealing as is his Instagram — but Adam has been flying pretty high and public opinion can turn so quickly. I’m sure that his mother is terribly proud of him, his accomplishments, and his strength of spirit, but still…I imagine she feels a little trepidation, watching him walk that razor’s edge in the shark-infested waters of the rich and famous, hoping that he’ll come through with his soul intact.

But anyway…on a less earnest note, I was looking at the pictures of Adam in his harness and Mirai in her gorgeous evening gown, and felt an old memory trying to break free from the murky depths of my brain. It eventually popped out fully formed as OMG THAT ONE TIME I ACCIDENTALLY WENT TO A BONDAGE CLUB.

It all started out with this guy I had a crush on. We’ll call him Paolo, because although he was Pakistani he used to tell people he was Italian, and changed his name to match. That’s the type of guy he was, it wasn’t the only thing he lied about, and I’m ashamed to admit that back then my heart was an extremely bad judge of character. Anyway, it was the 90’s, I was around 21-22, and Paolo, his best friend and I would sometimes go looking for interesting bars and parties to go to on Paolo’s endless search to get laid.

Unbeknownst to me, he was under the impression that I was a lesbian, probably because I was so dudely, and I think he was hoping I’d become his lesbian wingman or something like that.  Later on, he’d make little hints like, “Have you ever kissed a girl? Don’t you think she’s pretty?” in an attempt to push me out of the closet (he also would rent lesbian porn videos and we’d all watch them together but that’s a different little sordid tale of its own). We hadn’t gotten to that point yet, and I think this was the night when I told him I was into him for the first time (I don’t give up easily so it wasn’t the last time I tried, unfortunately). The answer I received is the story of my life: “You’re too much like one of the guys, can’t we just be friends?” So some of the details are a little hazy because I was pretty crushed.

Paolo was a big fan of Nine Inch Nails (and I just now realize that “Bow Down Before the One You Serve” is a Golden Oldie) (edited to note that the song is actually called “Head Like A Hole” but the only thing I remembered at 1am when I was writing this was that part of the chorus – rb). So we decided to go to a local club that played industrial music.

The club wasn’t really anything special. It was in a strip mall, inside an office building, and it was dark inside but I don’t remember anything too wild about the decor. There weren’t very many people there, maybe 10 or so, and I vaguely recall lots of leather and studs. Paolo and his friend were dressed Abercrombie & Fitch style, with Chino shorts and polo shirts. I had sort of a poodle perm at the time, and was wearing an outfit my grandma had bought for me because she had good taste and I was hopeless about women’s fashion. To say we didn’t fit in would be an understatement.

Still, we were there to have fun, so we went out on the dance floor and started to dance with the couple of people who were there. YOLO, right?

Then this chick walked into the place, and everyone stopped because she sort of commanded the whole room, like in a movie when the hero and heroine come out onto the dance floor and everyone stands aside to admire them. She and her companion are just about the only things about that night that I remember in any great detail, because they made such an impression on me. She had long black hair, was dressed in a gorgeous white evening gown, and she was holding a leash. The leash was attached to a dog collar being worn by a young man with a shaved head and beautiful eyes, wearing a leather harness. He was somewhat more scantily clad than Adam was on Oscar night, because I think I can remember that he had nipple rings, but he was wearing a long leather coat over his ensemble so the aesthetics were similar.

Anyway, this Lady started dancing with her Boy, and I sort of watched them out of the corner of my eye because I had never seen anything like it before in real life and I was rather fascinated. At some point the Lady sidled up to me, put her arm around my waist, and whispered in my ear, “You’ve got a great ass,”  while her Boy looked up at me with this coy expression. At that point my brain exploded, so that the only response I could think of was, “Thank you.”

I left the club with my crush and his friend not too long after that, since they weren’t having much luck, but I had already been cheered up by the fact that the only one of us that night who had a chance to be with a beautiful woman was me.

And the moral of this story is: accessories are everything.

 

Revised Draft of Book One/Deviants DONE!

So, last weekend I managed to finish my revised draft of the first book of Deviants. Now I just have to type in 300+ pages of mostly handwritten material, then print it out and do the final revision. Oh, joy!

It wouldn’t be so bad if my handwriting was actually legible, but it might have a silver lining: I’m too lazy to try to decipher my handwriting for superfluous information so I’m automatically getting rid of some deadwood while I type it in. So, “it’s not a bug, it’s a feature”?

Author Spotlight – TJ Klune

Okay, so TJ Klune is not strictly speaking an indie author, since he’s over at Dreamspinner Press, but he is an LGBT+ writer, and also responded to a tweet of mine with a really cute gif . So he definitely deserves a profile.

TJ Klunes writes in several genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Contemporary, and his books run the gamut from falling-down funny, to sentimental, to sweet, to dark and twisted. My first book from TJ Klune was Murmuration, which falls under the umbrella of speculative fiction and has an unconventional love story thrown in. I enjoyed it so much that I read a few more of his books after that, branching out into his contemporary novels such as How to be a Normal Person (which was one of the the first books I read after Jay Bell traumatized me with Something Like Autumn because I needed something with humor), John and Jackie, and the series starting with Bear, Otter, and the Kid. I read The Lightning-Struck Heart – which is Fantasy with a twist, and screamingly funny. I can’t even look at a picture of a unicorn without thinking about Gary.

Then there’s the Immemorial Year series, beginning with Withered & Sere and continuing with Crisped & Sere. The series is Science Fiction, of the post-apocalyptic variety, one of his darker works and twisted enough to be worthy of Stephen King. One of the things that makes this series so haunting is that the world is all too plausible. There are always some people who act in destructive and cruel ways, and when civilization and its rules and enforcers are gone, there won’t be much to stop them anymore. The two main characters are more than just a little flawed: they’re certifiably insane, and broken beyond repair. They are not really “good guys”, nor are they “bad guys”, but fall somewhere in between. Despite their flaws, I was still rooting for them, and their weird creepy romance.

And yet … despite the darkness, the author’s sense of humor is still there. Characters like Bad Dog and SIRS add some lightness, and Bad Dog is probably one of the most endearing characters I’ve read.

What I really like the most about TJ Klune is that he has a vivid and wild imagination, along with a unique sense of humor, and these things are very much reflected in his books.  His writing voice is unique, honest, and a lot of fun. Most of us censor our thoughts when we write them down, taking out anything that might seem too strange, too bizarre, too weird. TJ Klune lets these thoughts remain, and the result is wonderful — because it’s precisely the weirdest thoughts and ideas that make life more interesting. When I’m reading one of his books, I feel like I’m getting a glimpse of what goes on inside his head — and it’s definitely a fun place to spend a few hours.

 

Pride in London and 80’s nostalgia

 

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British Parliament in Rainbow Colors

I was in London on business last week, and by a happy coincidence was able to catch the tail end of the Pride in London Festivities on Saturday. I’m not sure if it was Pride, or simply my mood, but on this particular visit I was hit by a wave of nostalgia while listening to my 80’s mix on Spotify.

You see, I’ve been in love with England, and its central city London, ever since I was a preteen, and just figuring out that I was different than other girls. I was just getting into music and fashion and being “cool”, and there seemed to be so many English music groups to love: the Who, the Rolling Stones, Def Leppard, Pink Floyd, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Billy Idol, the Smiths, the Cure. British musicians, with their cool (to an American) accents and hip British style, were the people I wanted to emulate. To be more precise – male British musicians. I listened to the Clash singing “London Calling”, and wanted to be Joe Strummer, sounding the call to action. I would look at pictures of Led Zeppelin, and wanted to be like Robert Plant, with his mix of androgynous and masculine sensuality, and have Jimmy Page gazing at me with respect and affection (I used to ship those two before shipping was even a thing ….)

My first forays into the androgynous fashion of British pop stars were met by raised eyebrows at the hairdresser, when I asked for a “Rod Stewart” cut instead of my old standby, the “Dorothy Hamil” wedge, and ended up looking … well, even nerdier than usual, sad to say. It got easier as New Wave with its made for MTV pop icons came along – so many boys who looked like girls, and girls who looked like boys. Androgynous haircuts were now all the rage, so that no one thought too much about it when a girl asked for a step cut and a side part, bleached “Billy Idol white” (one of the few times I actually got the cut I wanted instead of the “feminine” version, come to think of it).

After New Wave, the rise of Glam Rock made things even easier for a genderbending DFAB, with only myself knowing that my long, shaggy spiral perm and leather pants were my personal tributes to Roger Daltrey and Robert Plant, my sleeveless Union Jack T-Shirt a tribute to Joe Elliot. Add Guyliner,  studded leather accessories, and minimal lipstick, and I could imagine myself as one of the pretty glam rock boys popular at the time, while still looking enough like a girl to fool everyone else.

Since then, and through the years, I’ve had phases of “trying to look like a woman” and periods of “I don’t care”.  These days I’ve gone over to the “I’m a frumpy, androgynously-dressed middle-aged woman with no makeup and man shoes and I don’t care what you think.” However, as I enjoyed the crowd at Pride, in the fabled city I have loved since my youth, surrounded by many wonderful people who were much more far-out than I could ever be, a part of me felt like I had finally come home.

 

 

Revision Blues

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I haven’t been blogging very faithfully lately. I promised to myself I’d try to do at least one post a month but it seems that things change so fast in the news these days that by the time I manage to write a reaction to something, it’s already obsolete, and to be honest some things have been so horrific that they don’t really need a blog reaction at all. I wish that there weren’t so many leaders determined to prove that there is evil in the world, but unfortunately they exist.

On a more positive note, I’m still in the middle of revision on Deviants, and have been doing Camp NaNoWriMo with a goal of at least 1 hour/day doing revision.  I made the decision to incorporate a lot of the backstory into the manuscript, so right now it looks like there are going to be at least two books following the adventures of Simon and Jamie from childhood through adolescence and early adulthood. I may also do a third, which will follow them into old age. So on that front things are shaping up nicely.

 

 

Being a refugee

There are a lot of white supremacists in the U.S. Not every white person is one, of course, and not every Trump voter or Republican is one, not by a long shot, but there are definitely a few of them out there, and some belong to organized groups that do recruitment, have weapons, and do “survival” training and that kind of thing. I have met American white supremacists before, and I found them creepy, scary, and disturbing, even though I am white. I am certain that people who are not white find them even more threatening and scary than I do.

If I lived in, say, Afghanistan, I would probably meet more radical islamic jihadists, and would feel the same way about them, but in the U.S. I think it’s safe to say that the white supremacists outnumber the radical islamic jihadists by a fairly large number.

White supremacists are not innocuous; they have engaged in significant terrorist activity over the years. In Europe, for instance, white supremacists were responsible for the deaths of millions of people, and have caused considerable terror in the U.S. with lynchings, cross-burnings, and worse over the years. There have also been more recent examples of white supremacist terrorism, in Quebec City, in Norway, in Germany, and in the U.S. Even today, people like Bannon and his Breitbart Media as well as Putin have been supporting far-right groups in Europe, fanning the flames, possibly with the goal of breaking up the EU. The side effect that stirring up these groups might cause some of their followers to commit violent acts – and they have. They tend to be against “the Government” – at least against established democratic government that allows everyone to vote.

Imagine what if …

one of these far-right white supremacist groups started a civil war in the U.S., maybe with support from the Russians or Chinese or both. If they were intent on destroying the government and taking over, they would attack some big U.S. cities in order to destabilize the country, making them unsafe to live in.

Now, imagine that you live in one of these cities under siege, with your family, with grandparents, parents, your siblings, and your children. Your children are afraid go to school, you can’t go to work, and even going to the grocery store risks your life if you run into a band of supremacists, or get caught between them and the remaining U.S. military or the militant left that sprung up to fight the white supremacists. You don’t care who is shooting at you, you don’t care about politics, you just want your family to be safe and live a normal life.

After your brother is killed while trying to find food, you decide to take your family out of the country and escape to somewhere else. The closest safe places are Mexico and Canada, and both countries are already so overrun by U.S. refugees that they have to house them in tents, and are reluctant to welcome more. Who could blame them? The refugees cause a great strain on their systems, and although they keep asking the rest of the world to share the burden, most countries are reluctant to do very much.

Adding to the resentment, Mexicans dislike Americans ever since the Wall was built, and Canada is not much better, you’ve heard, ever since some white supremacists groups based in the U.S. tried to take over the country. You know that whatever you decide, it will be miserable until you can get asylum somewhere else, but you don’t have much choice. You decide to chance Mexico because Canada can get pretty cold when you’re staying in a tent. So you and your family pack only the bare necessities, sell everything you can so have some cash for the trip, and make the dangerous journey to Mexico, dodging white supremacist strongholds and paying a coyote a big chunk of your cash to get you all over the Wall.

Once you are in Mexico, you and your family are detained in a camp with inadequate sanitation and little privacy while you wait for your family to be vetted and granted asylum somewhere. Some of the guards are compassionate, but others mistreat you for no other reason than being white. Still, at least you aren’t dodging bullets every day, so it’s an improvement and you are grateful to be alive.

You stay in the camp for many months, and finally, after more than a year of waiting, you are granted asylum in India, which has been known in recent years for welcoming immigrants and refugees to help with their economic expansion even though the recently voted President seems anti-white and promised during his campaign to ban white people from entering the country. You don’t really believe this will happen, since politicians from his party often use such rhetoric in their campaigns without acting on it. You pack up the little you have left, buy plane tickets for your family with the last of your cash, which you miraculously managed to hang on to, and go to the airport, excited and thrilled to be able to start a new life at last.

Just as you are about to board the plane, you are taken out of the line and told that you are not allowed to travel. Why? Well, India has suddenly decided to ban all travel from the U.S., citing national security concerns. You don’t understand; white supremacists have been more active in Europe lately, attacking targets in North Africa, but none of those attackers were Americans. The new president is simply making good on his campaign promise. They may eventually let some U.S. refugees in again, but non-whites and especially Asians will have preference, since they are more at risk from the white supremacists.

In the past, refugees like you would have been somewhat protected by international treaties such as the Geneva Refugee Conventions, but ever since the U.S. chose to withdraw from international cooperation in the first half of the 21st century, ignoring treaties and conventions, the leadership role in international relations ended up going to the Chinese and Russians. Without some of its strongest champions – for Europe and England fell to the white supremacists just like the U.S. did – the cause of human rights has become a footnote to history.

Imagine how you would feel if that happened to you. How do you feel about the refugee ban now?