Friday, January 24, 2014

End of the Rainbow

It's a difficult thing to be a young activist. They don't have the thick skin that comes from decades of harsh words and verbal abuse by strangers. They don't have the ability to detach from the ugliness and see it for what it is: the ignorant, arrogant ranting of people who are talking about something they don't understand. 

Isa Shakhmarli is one such activist from Azerbaijan. It's a place much like sections of the US where the laws are at least a decade ahead of popular opinion. Gay isn't illegal but it's against the country's religious roots. Sound familiar?

Translation: God loves all the way he created them 

On Wednesday, Isa announced he no longer wanted to live in a world full of bigots. He posted his defeat on Facebook, tied a rainbow flag around his neck and hanged himself.

According to one friend, Isa was fighting a battle on two fronts. He fought for respect in his country and respect from his family. His final message speaks to something larger than family issues and there's no telling what set him off but I can sympathize with the sentiment. I know most of you can, too. It's that moment where something inside says "enough of this shit", throws its hands in the air and collapses in a heap on the floor. 

It's difficult being gay in today's world. Being an activist makes it worse. Stories of violence and intolerance abound and in order to fight for the good you spend a lot of time studying the bad. Sometimes the most positive story you read all day is about a public figure who thinks so little of their friends they make a habit of calling them "friend" with one side of their face and campaigning for their death with the other. It can make it hard to get through the day and when you don't have the perspective that comes with age it can seem even worse.

Over time, you learn these bigots aren't really talking about us. They're talking in stereotypes and generalities judging us based on "expert" testimony of heterosexuals. They lean heavily on "insider" stories told by people who spent a summer living the gay party scene and decided that was all there was to the fictitious "lifestyle" before running off to be "cured". If you believe the headlines, the LGBT Nation has less chance of achieving true equality than your average vacuous celebrity has of walking away from their wealth, shaving their head and joining a monastery. We can marry and raise kids but we'll still be second class citizens. When you develop tough enough skin and an appreciation for sarcasm, you can see the humor in it, twisted though it may be. If it weren't for my ability to laugh at people who have the balls to assume their opinion of my life is relevant I'd be in the same position as Isa but it takes a while to reach that place.  

My heart goes out to Isa's friends and the remaining members of Azerbaijan Free LGBT who have suffered a terrible blow. It also goes out to his family who might have wanted him to "turn" straight without having any idea what they were really asking. It wouldn't be the first time someone realized their religion had led them astray only after it was too late to prevent a tragedy. They might not have understood that "sin" and sexuality have nothing in common. I hope this will lead them to step away from dogma and consider an alternate point of view. 

I have no sympathy for the strangers who beat Isa down without caring that the person on the other end of their tirade was a human being with a fragile heart. I know what some of them will say to the news and I won't bother repeating it but for the few who feel to twinge of guilt...good. Swim in that sensation for a while and remember it the next time you post something hateful and ugly to someone you've never met. Some people take your hatred to heart...people like Isa.

Rest in peace, kiddo. Your voice will be missed.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Dancer's Heart Tour and Giveaway

Dancer's Heart is going on tour! 
Follow my new MM romance around the web and enter for a chance to win.

1/31 - C&F

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Paying My Dues

There are days I'm convinced the most difficult part of making the jump from aspiring author to published author is having the fantasy of publishing stripped away. This business isn't glamorous. It's not lucrative and from my point of view as a newly published author, it's not even enjoyable. It's an expensive, stressful, time-consuming pain in the ass. The writing part is fun but that's not what you spend a majority of your time on, at least not in the beginning.

I recently went to a local writers' group meeting and the guest speaker was an author who had made over six figures in a single day selling a single contemporary romance on Amazon. The group was mostly aspiring writers and from their point of view, I'm sure it was an inspirational two hours. For me it was the opposite. 

I know exactly how much I've made so far on my books and it's nowhere near six figures despite the non-stop effort I've put into it. To be honest, I didn't get into this expecting to be an overnight success and I don't anticipate being a fully self-employed author at any point in the future. Still, it can be disheartening to hear tales of wildly abnormal success and know how far I am from experiencing such a thing. I lean heavily on the notion that every successful endeavor requires sacrifice and determination. If publishing were easy, book signings would take up entire stadiums. In short, reality is nothing like the fantasy. Thankfully, I'm a realist so this isn't news. Nor am I alone in my disappointment. 

There are a lot of failed authors who gave up with barely a foot in the door when they discovered how very unrewarding publishing can be. Like them, I've spent a lot of time asking myself why I bother and not coming up with an answer. I think the reason I haven't walked away centers on my tendency to be a glutton for punishment. I'm not alone in that either. There are a lot of now successful authors who know exactly what I'm talking about. I've heard their stories of rejection and decades of failed attempts. Those are the tales of success I value most.

The recent article floating around about average author earnings supports the idea that it's a tough business. I'm sure several of you have seen this already.

Read full article at GalleyCat

I'm not sure how accurate the results are and expect to see a few rebuttal blogs about the numbers in the next few days but accurate or not, it made me feel better. According to Digital Book World, working my ass off and getting miniscule returns is typical. I'm not the only one earning an average of two cents per hour and living on a shoestring budget trying to get this mess of a career off the ground. It's an exceptionally competitive market and just like every other creative endeavor, there's a period where being broke and clinging to hope is a rite of passage. 

To my fellow struggling authors I say keep your chin up and your fingers moving. I'll do the same. Best of luck to us all!  

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Smoke Rings or Wedding Rings

I read a very illuminating report today about cigarettes and the quest for gay rights. You might ask how those two are related. The truth is they're not but the comparison points out a serious issue.

According to an article on the Advocate's website, the LGBT community spends $7.9 billion dollars each year on cigarettes. The author didn't say where she got her figures but that is apparently 65 times more than our community spends on the quest for civil rights.

Let that sink in for a minute. We spend more on our smoking addiction than we do on promoting our own cause for equality. Does anyone else see a problem?

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Does The LGBT Nation Have An Inferiority Complex?

Do you ever wonder if the LGBT nation has an inferiority complex? Sometimes I do.

I know there are days when the headlines make it seem everyone is against us and we have very few friends but I don't believe that's the truth. Public opinion polls show that a majority of Americans support our quest for equality. They just don’t do it with a bullhorn because they're not attention addicts sniffing after publicity like a dieter after a piece of key lime pie.

Vapid fatuous celebrities, sports stars and televangelists make their pronouncements from their ivory towers but let's be honest. Who gives a flying fig what Holyfield thinks about anything let alone gay rights and Alec Baldwin is more famous for his tantrums than his shows. They insult us from one side of their face and feed us empty compliments from the other and we erupt on cue. My question is why? They don't make public policy and they don't have any substantial power anywhere outside their circle of fans so what does it matter what they think? 

I'll admit I've been guilty of taking these nitwits seriously on occasion, something I intend to stop doing. Call it my New Year's resolution. They don't deserve the publicity or the attention and in some cases, that's exactly why they say what they say. Let's take the fiasco with the bearded waterfowl brothers as an example. Nobody makes a bigoted rant to a reporter from a national magazine with a liberal following without anticipating a publicity-inspiring backlash. It wouldn't surprise me to hear that the whole thing was an elaborate stunt cooked up by the family and the network to get a little extra attention. The fake 24-hour "suspension" seems to support the idea. The fact that DD announced the launch of their own line of rifles days after going out of their way to stir up the conservatives is highly suspect as well. I hate to say it, people, but I think we've been played.

It's not the first time. The last two years have seen an increase in stories manufactured specifically to get us stirred up. Remember the 'lesbian war hero' who faked the hate note on her customer's bill? How about the woman who claimed she was verbally attacked by a man in Walmart because her son was seen wearing a sparkly pink headband. 

Does the fact that we automatically rise up in their defense make us saps? No. It makes us sensitive to stories of the bullied and abused because most of us are intimately familiar with that situation. We've lived through hellish things and don't like being put back in a position of defending our right to exist. Nor do we like to see bullying happen to anyone else. We snap and snarl at the slightest provocation and sometimes our energy drifts to the wrong places. That's not a crime but my suggestion is that if we're going to be incensed about something we're better off ignoring anything that comes out of Los Angeles. Instead, how about some outrage over the states where it's still legal to fire someone for being gay even when the company in question has no religious ties? How about some fuming indignation that House Speaker Boehner still refuses to bring ENDA to a vote so we can pass a law to keep that sort of thing from happening? 

We don't need to waste energy defending ourselves to Evander Holyfield or Phil Robertson or Kirk Cameron or anyone else with zero political clout and a barbaric view of who is worthy of basic human rights. Their opinion is irrelevant and the only people listening to them are those who already believe the same thing they do. It's not like we're going to lose support by turning a deaf ear to loudmouths void of logical thought and compassion. So they think we're evil and going to hell. It's not as if they actually get to make that decision. They just like to think they do.

I propose we make 2014 the year we get pissed about things that matter and leave the ignorant ranting of people who don't understand gay because they aren't gay in the trash where it belongs. If they get to a point of asking honest questions rather than doling out blanket condemnation we can talk. Until then we have more important things to do. 

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Friday, January 10, 2014

Release Day - Dancer's Heart!

It's release day! Dancer's Heart is now available on Amazon.

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Get $1 off the normal ebook price ($3.99) through the end of January. 

25% of royalties go to Lambda GLBT Services for the life of the book.

Simon Leander is living a lie. He hides the truth from his partner in a relationship he's determined to tolerate…jealousy, rants and all. Michael was supposed to be the love of his life and he's not ready to let go of that dream even though the romantic has turned tyrant.

When Drew appears, Simon's determination begins to waver. Drew is everything Michael used to be but isn't anymore. Drew also knows his secret. When the truth he works so hard to hide bursts from the shadows he must decide whether he can trust Drew and if love deserves a second chance.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Believe It Or Not

I had a brief conversation with a couple of missionaries from a certain fundamentalist religion that is currently making headlines. They knocked on my door to bring me their version of salvation the way they do thousands of residences across the globe.

I say it was a brief conversation not because I barked them off my front porch for interrupting my nap. After all, I was raised with manners. I let the clean cut boys in the snazzy suits make their little speech uninterrupted but I've been through similar conversations and I know the key words guaranteed to send them packing. "I'm gay". What I got in response was a full five seconds of stunned silence. I'll give them credit for not gaping at me like a big-mouthed bass as they struggled to think of something to say. The conversation ended a minute or so later when I refused their offer of religious reading material and they went off to pester someone else.

It wasn't a remarkable conversation and they're not the first religious group to show up at my door offering to save my soul. The thing that struck me and still makes me laugh was their response to my sexual orientation when one of them finally figured out what to say:

"We don't believe in it but you need to do what brings you happiness."

They don't "believe in it" as if sexuality is the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny. My life is invalid in their eyes because they don't choose to acknowledge the idea that some people are different. I'm still chuckling even as I write this. I'm pretty sure they have no idea how egotistical and self-absorbed they sound when they spew such ridiculous proclamations. As if I need their approval to be gay.

Honey, you don't have to "believe in it". It's standing right here in a hockey jersey staring you in the face. No leap of faith required.

Simon has a secret.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Censoring a Hatemonger?

A headline from Gay Star News caught my eye this afternoon. It was about an ultra-conservative hatemonger who has dedicated her life to bigotry. You know the type. Apparently, she's written a book advising parents to ignore their children when they come out because LGBT kids have no idea what they're talking about and such a confession isn't relevant. If taken seriously the children will throw away their lives over something trivial and ultimately inaccurate because kids only turn gay after being led astray. Coming out is nothing more than a misguided attempt to adopt a new persona.

The first story about her publishing such a pile of rubbish came out last week. That led to today's follow-up story about how the book is no longer offered on Amazon. My interest in reading the story wasn't in congratulating Amazon for the action but in protesting the removal if that's indeed what had happened. I don’t respect the woman who wrote it or the house that published it but censorship is never ok even when the person being censored is clearly in need of a good shrink and some powerful drugs.

Not to worry. Amazon didn't go on another round of virtual book burning. Her publisher decided not to sell it on Amazon any longer for reasons unmentioned.

Further down in the article however, I did find an interesting piece of information. According to this hateful woman, gay rights advocates like me are 'masters of demonic manipulation'. I had no idea I had so much power! Can someone tell me if there's a class for making the most of that ability? I feel a little cheated that I don't have a handbook or even a pamphlet.