Book Review: Little Green Men From Beyond the Amazon

41rzXlojn-L._SL500_AA300_Little Green Men From Beyond the Amazon

By: Ken Floro III

Genre: Sci-fi/action


Jury still out pending completion of series.

Little Green Men From Beyond the Amazon (heretofore LGM) is written in the first person narrative of the main character Max, a southside park ranger whose job it is to hunt down boogey men, or little green men, or dog-men depending on who’s talking about them.  Boogey men are some sort of half-dog half-primate hybrids with moderate intelligence and an appetite for human flesh.  The southside is an area of St. Louis, Missouri that is saturated with boogey men.  Max and his cohorts spend every night out patrolling the southside and shooting little green men to death.  When people, or rather, corpses, are involved, the rangers’ job is to hide the evidence of boogey men.  Civilians are not supposed to know about them.

Everything is going pretty hunky-dory, Max supposes, until one day when along comes Dr. Victoria Tersen, a biologist with an attitude that blows hot and cold.  Oh, and apparently a nice body.  Dr. Tersen demands that the rangers capture one of the boogey men alive so that her crew up in Montana can observe their behavior and find out how to kill them.  They find out some useless information and then the Committee cuts their budget.  From here, which is about a quarter of the way into the book according to my Kindle, to the 90% mark, it’s all politics and jockeying for position.  The reader should keep in mind that this is the first book in a series.  I’m not sure how many books there are supposed to be in the Southside Ranger series, but I’m assuming this one did all the necessary discussing and figuring things out.  The book ends with a cliffhanger.

LGM is not the type of book I usually read.  I figured this out pretty much right away.  It’s an adrenaline-fueled hypermasculine creature feature with lots of thumb-jabbing and grabbings by the scruff of the neck.  Aside from Dr. Tersen, there is a woman named Terry who is a nurse that shows up for two sentences.  Everyone else is male.  Everyone.  I won’t lie; this made my inner lesbian sad.  However, and yes it’s tragic, not everyone is a lesbian.  Some people are men.  Some people, I’m even told, really enjoy stuff  like this regardless of their genders and have made Vin Diesel a bajillionaire.  Before Vin Diesel, there was Jean Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Steven Seagal, and Chuck friggin Norris.  Would the same people who have made Vin Diesel filthy stinking rich like this book, you ask?  I don’t know!  I’m not qualified to determine whether this fulfills all the hypermasculine man-dreams of action junkies.  I can only assume it does due to all of the thumb-jabbing.  So, we’ll go ahead and put a check in that box.

That being said, I do read and write, and I have identified at least FOUR things about the book that I can review with confidence.

Thing one: the narrator.

Max is an incredibly well written narrator.  His voice is consistent, charismatic, and unique.  Even during the times where I groaned a little bit because the plot was starting to remind me of a union meeting (which I attend monthly in real life – I’m not just guessing) my interest was never completely lost because I enjoyed reading it from Max’s perspective.  I liked the way he saw things and how casually he could describe the world and himself and the people around him as though he couldn’t take any of it all that seriously.  I particularly enjoyed one bit toward the end where Max has taken over his former boss’s office and the only thing in the whole room for sitting is an uncomfortable stool.  He fidgets around in the thing and tries to act casual, but he can’t get comfortable.  Later on, when everything overwhelms him, he leans over with his head in his hands and realizes the stool is suddenly comfortable.  That kind of deep introspection from a very not introspective character without ever breaking character was a stroke of genius.  I actually raised my eyebrows.

Thing two: the organization

It’s difficult to tell whether this works in the context of however many books there are going to be.  I checked Floro’s website and couldn’t find anything about how many books there are supposed to be, so I don’t know whether I’m a tenth of the way through the story or halfway through the story.  The book doesn’t stand very well on its own.  It doesn’t have its own complete plot with a traditional arc.  There is no conflict resolution.  That being said, if there are three or four books planned, there’s a lot of potential for this to turn out very well.  The action never comes to a dead stop.  The chain of promises is never broken.  I didn’t feel like I could have put the book down on page fifty and not needed to know any more.  The scenes flowed very well.

Thing three: the “bitch”

Dr. Tersen.  Oh, boy, where do I start with Dr. Tersen?  Well, she’s smart and tough.  She gets her way a lot.  She doesn’t take a lot of shit from Max.  She is also referred to as a “bitch” in literally all of her scenes.  From a harm-reduction standpoint, I suppose it could have been worse.  She could have spent every scene either having sex with Max or being discussed in the context of sex.  She could have walked into a room full of rangers and tried to give a presentation only to be ogled and whistled at.  Oh, wait, that all happened.

This stuff could all have been taken out and replaced with a big fat subtitle on the book cover that read: NO GIRLS ALLOWED.  I don’t even know what to say about it.  Is Floro a misogynist?  It’s hard to tell.  It might just be that Max is a misogynist.  It might even just be that Max is an idiot.  It might be that Floro conceived of Max’s attitudes toward women in an attempt to demonstrate that Max is a flawed character.  I want to believe this, it’s just hard to do when Dr. Tersen is the only female character in the entire book.  I’m hoping the sequels aren’t quite so hostile to female audiences.

Thing four: the cliffhanger

We finally get some fight scenes with the boogey men, things with Dr. Tersen are getting interesting and yes, in spite of myself, I even want to know what the Committee’s deal is.  I will be reading the next book when it comes out.  Or soon, if it already has.  I can’t tell from Floro’s website.

I wasn’t sure how to rate this book, honestly.  I want to see how things pan out and where things go with all the characters.  I want to know if the action is good and whether the Committee is ever developed as a full-fledged character.  I want to know if there will ever be some awesome action woman who shows up and starts doing flips and leveling boogey men territory.

In the meantime, I recommend this to anyone who chooses movies for their explosions.

Book Review: Run, Clarissa, Run

41Tvoj4rSYL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Run, Clarissa, Run

By: Rachel Eliason

Genre: YA fiction


Eye-rollingly awful

Run, Clarissa, Run is an after school special novel about a kid named Mary Sue Clark, later Clarissa, who is transgender.  In the first half of the novel, the main character is primarily referred to as Clark with male pronouns.  Clark is obviously this amazingly good looking gender ambiguous kid who is amazingly freaking brilliant but nobody ever notices, because literally every single person around him is an oblivious, close-minded jerk.  All the guys at Clark’s school are hypermasculine bully jock jerks who call him a faggot and beat him up all the time, but censor themselves instead of saying “fuck.”  “F-you!” they yell at Clark, while slamming his face into various parts of the school.  “F-you!” Clark yells back.  By contrast, all the women in the novel are helpless, hyperfeminine victims who rely on their husbands, boyfriends, uncles, and lawyers to keep them from anorexia and cutting and whatever.  Also, Clark hates lesbians, gay guys, and kids with ADHD.  Basically, Clark is perfect and the most judgmental thing north of the Mississippi state legislature.

In Run, Clarissa, Run, literally all information exchanged between adult women is exchanged in the grocery store between flipping through magazines for recipes, a hobby toward which Clark is naturally inclined.  Clark would like us to know this is because she is a woman.  One day, while Clark is in the grocery store with her mom, fantasizing about cooking cornish game hens like women do, a woman named Shelley who is feminine and Catholic and did I mention feminine, comes along and tells Clark’s mom Kelly that she needs a babysitter since her rotten stinking hulking manly man husband has had yet another affair with the most recent babysitter.  Whatever are her Barbie-loving, princess-loving, pink-wearing, tea-party-having twin daughters to do?  Clark is obviously the answer.

Over the next few months, Clark enjoys babysitting for the Pirella family, which includes the most cartoonish examples of men and women I’ve ever seen in literature.  Manly Man Tony is a Man who drives a Jeep which is Manly and used to be in the Manly Army and also spends a lot of time in his Man Basement, hacking.  Tony takes Clark into his Man Lair and shows him a lot about hacking.  When Tony is not home, Clark becomes Clarissa and goes around the Woman part of the house, which is decorated in a Womanly manner, wearing  Shelley’s clothes and letting the twins do her makeup.  Sometimes, when Tony and Shelley are both home, Tony goes into his Man Lair and lets Clark babysit while Shelley goes around doing Womanly chores.  One day, Manly Tony comes home early and catches Clarissa wearing Shelley’s clothes.  Nonplussed, Tony shows Clarissa where to find the fucking underwear.  Clarissa is super stoked to be finally understood as a woman.  Also, she passes seamlessly, so Tony immediately wants to bone her.  Tony’s plan of action, obviously, is to teach Clarissa all sorts of things about hacking.  Because Clarissa is super freaking brilliant and learns everything faster than literally anybody else ever could, Tony compliments her all the time on what a great student she is.

Finally, about halfway through the book, the plot begins to gather momentum and the tortured reader gets a break from the front row seat to Clark/Clarissa’s head.  Clarissa, as she’s calling herself about half the time by now, has taken her gay friend Marcus, described as swishy, limp-wristed, and flaming, with her to see a gender counselor who diagnoses her as transgender and says that she’ll just have to wait for transition until she has her mother’s approval.  Clarissa uses her babysitting money to buy some “female clothes” as she calls them and makeup, in which she immediately passes.  Magic.  Obviously.  Did I mention she’s super gorgeous?  Nobody can stop talking about how gorgeous she is.  Also smart, cause even though her teachers at the mean high school give her bad grades, she’s secretly submitting assignments to a college which is giving her A plus-plus-plusses.  Tony hacks some documents for Clarissa, then turns the creep up to 11, but that’s okay because Clarissa is now hacking her own documents.  She has also befriended some poor overweight girl named Vong who speaks Thai which is important so Clarissa can go get SRS in Thailand.  Vong also gives her birth control pills to Clarissa.  When Shelley finally decides she has enough and goes to live with her uncle, Tony decides that he’s going to blackmail Clarissa to make Shelley come back, so Clarissa hacks a bunch of money and incriminating evidence and goes on the lam to Thailand.

The second half of the book is mainly just all the adults in Clarissa’s life feeling super bad about how much they didn’t appreciate how brilliant and beautiful Clarissa was now that she’s gone, all the while reiterating everything we already knew that Clarissa did as they discover it.  Up to this point, I was almost willing to forgive the exaggerated gender stereotypes in the novel.  After all, to a dysphoric teenager, wouldn’t gendered influences seem overpowering and more noticeable than to, say, a cis person who doesn’t think about their own gender too often?  I almost forgave it.  But then, an all-male cast of manly man computer guys and manly man authorities shows up and intimidates all of Clarissa’s former bullies while searching for her.  The women also get together to discuss Clarissa.  They don’t do any of the work, though.  They mostly just cry.  Every conversation is about how completely in awe of Clarissa they are.  “Clarissa is brilliant!” they all marvel.  “And hot!” and if she ever comes back to the states and gets caught for all the fraud?  Well, she’s so brilliant and hot and unique and amazing that they probably won’t even charge her with anything.  They’ll probably just give her a six figure a year job doing network security.

With all of the nonsense in this novel, it was actually surprising that it was technically good.  It was well-paced.  The plot followed the generally accepted guidelines for plots.  The cast of characters was altogether solidly arranged.  Had Eliason swapped out every bland character and, well, the whole bland world out for something imaginative, artistic, or compelling, it might almost have worked.  She knows how to write.  She just lacks imagination.  Like a structurally sound crack den, the blueprints weren’t the problem.

The unchecked arrogance of Clarissa’s design should really be no surprise to the reader.  In the extensive introduction, I learned that Eliason had originally attempted to fund the writing of this, her debut novel, with a kickstarter.  In the appended author interview, I learned that Eliason based Clarissa on herself (she is also a trans woman).  So, to be fair, there’s plenty of warning.  But in case you’re willing to forgive an author for a little arrogance here and there, please enjoy the following bullshit, straight from the text (trigger warnings!):

They ignored Vong.  It was the juvenile ADHD kids that taunted her.

Kids struggling with ADHD in this world have formed some kind of bully clique.

“Boys and girls communicate differently,” Christy explained.  “With girls there are more non verbal clues.  There’s more than what we say going on.  A look can convey an entire message.”

Girls are telepathic.  Boys are blind.  This is why all people in theater are women, oh wait.

A brightly dressed boy came rushing up to Clark.  He swished as he ran, one arm up, wrist limp.


(Clark) didn’t want to be with a woman.  That would be too much like being a lesbian.

See, it’s not that she’s not attracted to women, it’s that nobody wants to be a lesbian!

(Clark’s) mental state was fragile enough without being a rape survivor on top of it.  He would rather be dead than in the looney bin for the rest of his life.

Rape survivors become “looney” and people who go to psychiatric care are in “looney bins.”

The lesbianism of the cowgirls (in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues) has less to do with their real sexuality and seems to be a metaphor for the feminist movement of the time period.”

Those women having sex with each other?  Yeah they’re straight; they’re just being feminists.

But okay, I’m being harsh.  It wasn’t all bad.  There was this really awesome typo that caused the one smile to cross my lips during the entire reading of this book:

She had the outfit back in the box and her envelope hands.


My trans girlfriend cosplaying as Clarissa.


For all the masochists in my audience, this book is available on Amazon for 4.99 Kindle, 12.99 paperback.






Author Interview: Alexandra Rowland

AlexRowlandThe amazing Alexandra Rowland of In the End fame met with me last night to discuss writing queer positively, drawer novels, wine-drinking suburban book clubs writing slash fic, a super prestigious writer’s resort in Ireland that does not yet exist, and my favorite color of Hot Wheels.




I just want to say first of all that I really enjoyed the book.
And before we go any further I must know how to pronounce Lalael.

Alexandra Rowland 
Thank you! It’s “LAY-lay-el”

Both of my guesses were wrong.

Alexandra Rowland
Well, that’s how I say it. You can say it however you like.

You’re the author, I think you get to decide

Alexandra Rowland
Nah, I’m all sorts of into Reader Response Criticism. Fuck my preferences.

So I read on your blog that In the End is your debut novel, but it’s clear by reading it that you’ve got a lot of writing practice. So, what were you doing before In the End?

Alexandra Rowland
Well, I guess I’ve always sort of been a storyteller. I remember being REALLY young (four or five) and walking around doing house chores and mentally narrating what I was doing. But I hated actually writing for a long, long time, and it never occurred to me that making stuff up (which I liked) was kind of what writing creatively was all about. I started writing my first “real” book when I was 13. This is finished and shall Never Ever Be Seen. Before that, I wrote a lot about princesses and their best friends.

No, come on. There’s technique there. People don’t take up writing one day and come up with technique like that. You didn’t just write a thing for fun when you were 13 and pick it up again now. I don’t believe that for a second.
Do you do short stories or do you have a hard drive full of false starts?
What have you been writing?

Alexandra Rowland 
I’ve never really been one for short stories, but I do have a lot of partial novels and NaNoWriMo drafts and ideas that I would like to potentially reexamine one day. I always tend to think in large-scale. I’ve never figured out how to go about doing a short story — it’s never seemed like there’s enough room to do what I want to do.

You’re either the most talented person ever or you’re hiding an attic full of Never Ever Be Seens
But I’ll go with the latter. I won’t push

Alexandra Rowland 
In the End was one of those at one point. I wrote the first draft for NaNoWriMo 2005, and it was a VERY different novel than what it is today. Of course there was a lot of practice writing — that first novel was one of them. No one needs to see that stuff! It’s my “Drawer Novel” — every writer has one, usually their first novel, which they stick in a drawer when it is done and never show to anyone.

I have drawer half novels
So who was your most and least favorite character to write and why?

Alexandra Rowland 
Well, my least favorite characters are, honestly, everyone who isn’t Lucien, Lalael, or Jocelin… which is apparent in the plot, as you pointed out in your review.
I do like all three of what I would call the “Main Characters”, though, and I don’t think I can choose a favorite one of them. I like them all for different reasons.

Okay, that makes sense.

Alexandra Rowland
I like Lucien for who he is. I like Lalael for who he becomes. I like Jocelin because Jocelin is just WICKED fun to write.

Jocelin’s a piece of work

Alexandra Rowland 
Don’t I know it.

So let’s talk shop for a bit.

Alexandra Rowland
Fire away!

Where do you go for beta reading and criticism? Friends and family or anonymous types? Also: what’s the worst criticism you’ve ever received and how do you deal with it?

Alexandra Rowland
Oh, I always go for friends and family. I would never give my drafts to someone I didn’t know. How am I supposed to know what their credentials are? How do I know if they’re putting real thought into what they say or just talking out of their asses?  For the first round, I generally count on one or two people to be the godparents of my draft, to do really intense criticism on a one-on-one basis as much as possible. These people have to be people I trust to give well-balanced criticism as talented writers themselves. Then for the second round, I cast my net a little wider and see what the “general consensus” is — what sort of problems do two or three people point out? For In the End, I think there were about eight people total for both rounds.

Don’t you worry that they’ll pull their punches?

Alexandra Rowland
Well, I’m worrying about them pulling punches a lot more now than I was when I first published, I’ll tell you that!

Didn’t mean to give you something to worry about haha

Alexandra Rowland
No, not because of what you said — I reread In the End recently and saw it with fresh eyes, and a lot more errors and places that needed polishing jumped out at me.

My English teachers used to tell me never to edit while I can still remember what I wrote.
It helps.

Alexandra Rowland 
I would agree. As for the worst criticism I’ve ever gotten — I’ve never heard anything worse than the things I tell myself.

I hear that.
Okay so
You may have read my recent post about writing (queer/trans/woman) positively and of course I mentioned it in my review of your book, so you know that’s an important topic to me.

Alexandra Rowland 
Yup! I read your blog today to prepare myself. Gear up for any you-specific questions you might throw at me.

I was surprised when you mentioned in your comment that it was important to you, too, and that you went out of your way to write queer positively. What inspired you to make that a priority?

Alexandra Rowland
Well, it wasn’t a conscious priority for this book, mind you. My very best friend, who has been my best friend longer and more consistently than anyone else in the whole world, is gay. I have lesbian friends and bisexual friends and transgender friends — one of whom was VERY influential in helping me wrangle pronouns for Jocelin during the 2005 draft. I could be really long-winded and say a lot of things that a lot of other people have said before me, so hopefully it will suffice to say just that these people and their representation is Very Important To Me.
Like I said before, I didn’t consciously approach the book with the attitude, “This is going to be a queer-positive book.” I didn’t have any agenda or any kind of political statement to make. I just sat down to write a good story and that’s what came out. It felt wrong and irrelevant to be talking about ( sexuality or sexual tension or explicit orientation). There wasn’t a place for it.

There was no heteronormativity in the whole book. There was no obvious and lazy sexual tension. Lucien’s feelings are completely mysterious start to finish.
That’s going an extra mile. It’s not just a token nod to some queer friends.

Alexandra Rowland
The world was ending! There were bigger problems than existential crises!

I see.  What sort of strategies did you use to avoid the easy tropes? Did you ever catch yourself?

Alexandra Rowland
Well, I’m a huge fan of worldbuilding. I love inventing different worlds and cultures. I think it helped that the two main characters both come from a (in some ways) drastically different cultural background than we do. They as characters don’t really CARE about things like that. It doesn’t register as something controversial or important.

okay so when you were writing that, you kept their “culture” in mind, then

Alexandra Rowland 
The one thing I will ‘fess up to is that I did initially start out by referring to Jocelin as “it” — making the argument that Jocelin really ISN’T human, or sane by our standards or angelic standards, and in the case of angels, mental state is directly correspondent to physical form. I was bopped on the nose for that pretty early on. After a hearty argument with my trans friend about whether or not “zhe” was a jarring pronoun to use, I settled on “they”, and I think that was the right and correct decision to this day.

Very good call

Alexandra Rowland 
I agree. That would have been embarrassing later on. *wince*

I’m not so much fond of it when people refer to my girlfriend as “it”

Alexandra Rowland
Yeahhhh, and in the seven years or so since the first draft, I’ve become a lot more worldly and educated… I was 15 in 2005, you know.

sometimes it can be difficult to say “oh yeah but Jocelin is a supernatural creature who was forged in something something”
ohgod I’m old.

Alexandra Rowland
I’m just glad I made that mistake at a point where everyone can now write it off as “idiot teenager” instead of “simply awful human being.”

Even queer and trans people start off as idiot teenagers, you know. If you can remember one, I’m curious if you have an example of some negativity in something you (or one of your friends) has read that affected you.

Alexandra Rowland
Well… Maybe this will be a funny story — I remember being totally bewildered when I was about eleven and first discovered that there were boys who liked to kiss other boys.
I had to stop and wrap my head around that for a while, and then I was kind of indignant that no one had TOLD me about that before.
I had the same kind of reaction when I discovered there was a word for masturbation. And then I was a huge fanfiction addict for a good long while… And got a lot of exposure to both good and painfully bad depictions of a LOT of different kinds of orientations. Fanfiction taught me how not to write about gay people.

ohgod, I remember reading some Harry Potter fanfic. Fanfic is really a whole other ballgame…

Alexandra Rowland
Yeah, this could be a whole ‘nother talk. I am a huge fan of the fanfic as practice for aspiring writers. I think it is a great apprenticeship, and a great way to learn a lot of different skills.


Alexandra Rowland
But back to the original question — once I met my best friend and found out he was gay… Well, I come from a family of political activists, so I took up arms for him and his cause, and watched films and read books and came to this painful awareness of how horrifically trying (understatement) it can be for LGBT people.

Can you think of a specific example? I’m always curious to hear from allies what sorts of microaggressions they noticed.

Alexandra Rowland
I’m trying to think of one. It still makes me really sad that there aren’t very many happy-ending gay films. Or happy-all-the-way-through. Same for books. I just want to read about cute people being in love with other cute people where gender or orientation or Other People aren’t an issue, no matter who they are, and I want that to be a real life story.

Yeah, that would be pretty great.
Fried Green Tomatoes almost sort of comes close almost.

Alexandra Rowland 
Well, I have two really favorite gay films of all time, which are: To Wong Foo: Thanks For Everything — Julie Newmar and Priscilla: Queen of the Desert.

I haven’t actually seen those. I’ll have to do that.

Alexandra Rowland
Both of those are awesome and fabulous and funny the whole way through except for a couple really jarring scenes where “real life” comes stomping back in and reminds you that no, not everyone is okay with this. To be totally honest, I think one of the reasons In the End came out the way it did was that I just stubbornly do not want to deal with those issues. I want to wave a magic wand and have everything be fine with everyone — unless it actually hurts other people, of course.

And it’s funny you should mention that actually because fantasy is EXACTLY the place for that.

Alexandra Rowland
Yep. Maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to writing it — I can pretty much just say “These things that bother me are not an issue for these people and here is why, and also dragons.”

I grew up with Heavenly Creatures which is a movie that came out when I first started questioning. This reveals my age. There’s a lot of negativity in that one.
enough about queer stuff and what’s important to me,
I want to know what’s important to you
Every author fantasizes about their book being read by one of those suburban wine-drinking literary clubs. If that happens to In the End, what do you hope the topics of discussion will be?

Alexandra Rowland 

(a minute or two pass)

Man, I am sitting here in stunned silence because I cannot wrap my head around the idea of a fancy-ladies’ wine-and-books club reading my book. Don’t they just read Eat, Pray, Love over and over again???

perhaps you’ve underestimated how drunk they can get.

Alexandra Rowland
OHHHHH. Okay, now we’re on the same page.

And actually last I checked there were a good deal of them reading Fifty Shades of Jesus Christ Make it Stop

Alexandra Rowland
So really drunk ladies. Man, I hope they write scandalous slashy fanfiction. Lawd, that would cause me so much glee. Endless glee. Glee upon glee.

Slash fic. Gotcha

Alexandra Rowland
Of course, I would put on my serious face and nod thoughtfully and make a pedantic speech about how flattered I am that other people would be so inspired by my work to use some of their creative energy to expand my world. But inside I would be cackling and full of glee.
In all seriousness, that is one of my secret aspirations. I think that’s one of the biggest signs of achievement and approval a writer can get in their career. When people play dolls with my characters, that is when I will know I have MADE IT.

I’ve officially changed my fantasy for my book from ladies’ wine and books club to drunken ladies writing slash fic
okay 2 questions remaining.
first, are there any sequels planned?

Alexandra Rowland
RIGHT?! It’s the ultimate goal, man. The smuttier, the better. Go wild, kids.
Everyone has been asking if there’s going to be a sequel! I hadn’t been thinking about it when I published it, but so many people have been asking me about it that I can’t help but think, “Man, if I were going to write one, what sort of stuff could I do with it?”So everyone has been asking if there’s going to be a sequel. I hadn’t been thinking about it when I published it, but so many people have been asking me about it that I can’t help but go, “Man, if I were going to write one, what sort of stuff could I do with it?”
I really like the characters. I think that there’s still a lot of room for them to grow, and more of their world to explore, and more awesome adventures to have. I just don’t have any solid ideas about what those are or where I’d go with it.  If there is a sequel, it won’t be for several years. I’ve got a bunch of other stuff that I am super excited about working on right now, so I’ll let the potential sequel simmer on the back burner for a bit and see if it makes stew.

Fair enough.
Final question:
When the rights get sold to Warner Brothers and you make tens of millions of dollars, how will you spend it and what kind of car do I get?

Alexandra Rowland
I am so glad you asked this question. I am going to buy myself a castle in Ireland and invite 30 of my closest friends to live with me in it, and invite the Society for Creative Anachronism to have events on my front lawn, and run the whole thing as a writers’ retreat. With the leftover money, I will at LEAST buy you a Hot Wheels in the color of your choice.

That’s all I ask.

Alexandra Rowland
For future reference, what is the color of your choice?

I like acid green

Alexandra Rowland
I’m sure I can manage that for you.


Alexandra Rowland
Only if you review my next book, though!

Yes ma’am

Alexandra Rowland’s self-published book, In the End can be purchased on Amazon for $6.99.

How to be -positive

As a lot of people know, I’ve been blogging semi-regularly since 2005, but this is the first blog I’ve ever had about books and writing.  I used to blog about feminism, gender equality, breastfeeding and associated activism, women’s issues in parenting, queer issues, and sundry politics.  I gave up on it simply because after a while I became tired of repeating myself.  I also got a little tired of every post of mine that became popular attracting a wide audience of MensRights idiots and having to hide my identity.  Sure, I get an itch every now and then.  This week, for example, I saw two very infuriating things in my google reader that were hard to resist.  Some idiot pastor by the name of Kevin Swanson claimed that the wombs of women on birth control were full of tiny dead babies and that he’d heard this from scientists.  Bryan Fischer of the infamous American Family Association held a long radio show about how gays in the boy scouts something something and Obama is sending women to war which causes their bodies to stop producing estrogen.  It was tempting to fall back into my old habits.

I resisted.  I am firm in my resolve not to beat my head against a desk for the rest of my life over a bunch of idiots that will never ever stop being idiots.  I’m done. I’m so done.

I’m not done.  I thought I was done but I realize now that this is probably a little bit impossible.  See, as I tell the people who submit their work for my review: I’m not famous, but my girlfriend kind of is.  She’s got over 8 million views on her YouTube channel and thousands of followers on Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook and wherever else that hang on her every word. Because she loves me, she promotes my blog.  This is good for me.  If you’re a writer whose work I’m going to review, then hopefully it’s good for you too.  This means the review of your book has access by proxy to a kind of following I have not yet developed for myself (and you may not have developed for yourself) until such a time as I do.  For me, it also means that most of the people who have heard of me have heard of me through my famous for being queer feminist atheist girlfriend.  It means that most of the things I’m asked to review are queer or feminist or religious or anti-religious in nature.  As such the subjects of queer-positivity, woman-positivity, and trans-positivity have already come up in my reviews.*  So let’s talk about it.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that you, the person reading this blog right now, are or will be in the process of writing something.  Let’s say for the sake of argument that, because you came to me to read about writing, you care about being queer, woman, or trans positive.  The thing you are writing does not have to be a work of fiction.  It could be a non-fiction book or essay.  It could even be a sales pitch, an expository article, or sports commentary.  There’s always room to be trans, queer, or woman positive.  So how do you do it?  You might be wondering, even, how you can do it without hindering your plot or spending pages explaining every character.  After all, established tropes are helpful in filling the gaps in your reader’s imagination, right?  Well, fret not.  It’s easier than you think.

Step One:  Figure out what the popular minority tropes are and don’t use them.  

I highly recommend this article I recently read from Sociology In Focus by a mother who attempts to take all the gender nonsense out of the books she reads to her daughter.  For example, she encounters a story about dinosaurs wherein a purple girl dinosaur who hates or struggles with math is taught to appreciate math when her blue brother dinosaur saves her with it.  To save her daughter from yet another agonizing stereotype threat, she editorializes and makes all the dinosaurs girls.  Aside from girls bad at math, boys good at math, some other common stereotypes that women get really sick of seeing in art include women being described by their looks alone while men are described by varying sets of strengths and weaknesses, women always being described by what they’re wearing, women being in nurturing/caring/loving/sex-related roles, but not really affecting anything important, and women being warned to stay away from the dangerous action and subsequently needing rescue from it.  It’s exhausting.  For a more, perhaps excessively comprehensive list, I suggest going to and starting with manic pixie dream girl.

Gay men are not always fashionable.  If you have a gay guy in your work, make sure that if he’s fashionable, then that’s not all he is.  Gay men are also not always lonely, promiscuous, or happy to commiserate with straight women about how much guys suck.  Lesbians are definitely not always victims of evil men who turned to women for safety.  They’re definitely not always feminine.  Bisexual women are not always gorgeous and willing to have threesomes and they are definitely not girls who just went through “a phase.”  Trans women… oh god where to start.  Well, they’re almost never cannibals, murderers of cis women who want to steal their beauty, hulking strong (HRT gets rid of that), balding (again, HRT, I’m looking at you, Nip/Tuck), or whatever the hell else you saw on CSI.  They absolutely do not exist to make every man in a 30 foot radius start shouting about how not gay he is.  Oh, and bisexual men and trans men exist.  If your writing contains those tropes, you’re not clever.  You’re lazy.  You are a black hole of creativity.  You are the death of originality.  Your work is bad and you should feel bad.

Step Two: Go the extra mile and be daring.  Make your characters individuals.  

I really don’t want any whining about how hard this is.  Charlaine Harris is swimming in bazillions of dollars right now after writing a queer and woman positive bestselling series that got turned into True Blood.  Suzanne Collins wipes your misogynist tears with hundred dollar bills from her Hunger Games money.  J.K. Rowling wrote Hermione Granger, Tonks, Ginny Weasley, Dumbledore, and Professor McGonagall then nearly outsold the bible.  Meanwhile, LEGO’s marketing team is struggling to catch up after they abandoned gender neutral inspiring advertising for hypermasculinized nonsense and lost the female half of the market. Now they’re releasing hyperfeminized junk.

Don’t underestimate the purchasing power of women and definitely don’t underestimate the appeal of queer stories to the public right now, with support for LGBT issues at the highest it’s ever been and at the forefront of the public consciousness.  Dare to make a male character that finds comfort in having the dishes super clean.  Write a gay guy with a beer belly who came out at age 30.  Write a boyish lesbian who sucks at baseball.  Have your scientist just happen to be a woman and describe her by her intelligence and not by how long her legs are.  Write a trans woman who blends in.  Write a bisexual man.  It works for Bret Easton Ellis!  When you’ve got an ensemble, make it 50/50 male/female to avoid lazily created sexual tension and even make it more realistic.

Unique characters and ensembles create intrigue.  They add depth and originality to your work.  Do not be afraid of scaring off your readers.  Color outside of the lines.  And if you needed a little more inspiration to write characters who aren’t stereotypes: think of it as an easy way to trick your readers into thinking you’re super deep.  It’s a shortcut, okay?  Take it.

Step Three:  When all else fails, fool yourself

The world is 51% women.  Movies and television distribute speaking roles at a 2:1 men to women ratio.  The ratio of men to women depicted in STEM fields is even more depressing.  VIDA has a lot of great data on how women are represented in books and poetry (mostly from the production side).  The inequalities are staggering.  It’s not quite as depressing within the actual written fiction itself, but it comes close.  LGB people are generally depicted lazily or hypersexually if at all, and trans people specifically are overdepicted and in a horrific manner.

I’ve been delving into the politics of gender and LGBT equality for years and years, but I’ll admit, I even sometimes fall into the traps.  Sometimes, a long way into writing something, I’ll be a little tired and just need to write in a cleaning staff member to get from point A to point B.  You know what it’s like.  They just have to be there, in the way.  And how does it come out? As a woman.  Maybe even a woman of color and if I’m not careful, an immigrant.  I’m not proud of it and you won’t be either, but it’ll happen sometimes by accident.  You get used to seeing these things.  You write a diner and the guy in the kitchen is overweight and greasy.  You write a banker and it’s a well-kept white guy.  Your character walks into a daycare to pick up their kid and the daycare worker is a homely woman.  Most of the domestic staff are going to be women.  Most of the people in positions of power are going to be men.  Most of your characters are going to be white straight cis men.  All this even when your intentions are pure and even if you’re not white or a man or straight or cis. You’re surrounded by it.  It’s not your fault.

But you can fool yourself.  I keep a tally.  When my men are starting to outnumber my women, I change the genders of a few of the men.  When I’m writing a woman, I refuse to describe her body or her clothes unless and until it is absolutely necessary.  When I have to write a minor character that is at a computer repair shop or beauty salon, I describe the person first and then roll a die.  Odds it’s a man, evens it’s a woman.  Roll it again.  Roll a 6 and they’re gay, roll 1-5 and they’re straight.   Roll again.  1 or 2 and they’re a person of color, 3-6 they’re white.  Get yourself a bigger die if you want to make this resemble census data.  Stick to it.  This forces you to think up a whole person before you even know what their gender or orientation or color is.  It forces you to come up with a realistic individual.

Ta-da!  You’re an artist.

Look over your work.  Look at those characters!  Look at how realistic and layered and varied they are.  Look at how much better your stuff is.  There, aren’t you glad you’re now a trans-queer-woman-positive writer?



*Since I am not a person of color, a person with a disability, or otherwise a member of or partner of a member of any other maligned class, I don’t speak about those things.  I care about them, but I simply don’t have the requisite life experience to speak confidently on those topics. 

Book Review: In the End

theend_cover_2-e1342392785769In the End

By: Alexandra Rowland

Genre: Fantasy


Exquisitely creative

In the End begins colorfully with a clever and casual remastering of the creation fable.  The Creator in this story is a being who becomes bored with their sole companion, Void, and decides to create Stuff to take the place of Nothing.  Because this Creator has only got Void for putty, and Void is kind of a jerk, Stuff doesn’t come out perfectly, but it’s better than Nothing.  So, the Creator decides this is a good way to pass the time the way some of us take up knitting, and makes it their full time hobby.  Heaven, or Riel as Rowland dubs it, is a lovely but boring sort of place on the Creator’s coffee table and Hell, or Rielat, lies underneath the floorboards.

We meet the main character, the Fallen angel Lucien, at the end of a long reconnaissance mission on Earth.  He has an apartment, a cat named Antichrist, and a crush on his local weatherperson.  Lucien is content on Earth because it is not Rielat.  Unfortunately, Lucien’s working vacation comes to an abrupt end when Lucifer and the archangel Michael get into a snit and wage war on each other, choosing Earth as the battleground.  Believers of all kinds are raptured, which we learn means harvested for their “belief” much the same way humans in The Matrix were harvested for their electricity.  Belief can be turned into Stuff which Riel and Rielat intend to use to obliterate each other.  The sky and the ground open up, throwing bits of flaming brimstone all over the place and knocking out all of mankind’s vitals like running water and electricity.  Lucien hides behind some trees that are convenient to the respective openings and watches the battle from a safe distance.

Along comes Lalael (La-lyle? Lolly-el? I don’t know), Riel’s ugly duckling.  Lowly ranked and clumsy, Lalael attempts to defeat Lucien, the nearest resident of Rielat he can find.  This doesn’t go so well, but Lucien is a slacker, not a fighter, so he tries to make friends with his hopeless nemesis and in the midst of the scuffle, the battle behind them comes to an abrupt end.  The realms close up at their backs and leave both angels behind.  Forever.

Both angels expect Earth to come to a sudden end, but it doesn’t.  With nothing else to do and no more loyalties to worry about, Lucien and Lalael move in to Lucien’s apartment together and get up to some odd couple hijinks, supernatural style.  They’re faced with the questions of what they should do with their useless-on-Earth skill sets to make a living, how to deal with people when they find out they’re supernatural, how to live among the remaining humans and their limited resources, and what to do with this weatherperson-damned angel Jocelin who arrives out of nowhere and wreaks havoc on everything.

From start to finish, this book is incredibly entertaining.  Full disclosure: I’m a bit biased when it comes to religious fiction, or at least the sort that exists simply to have fun with some well established supernatural archetypes and not to hammer in the message of believe-or-else.  In the End is exactly my type.   It’s also not all that deep.  It’s fun and occasionally emotionally engaging, but it’s not a Big Question novel.  What’s unique about In the End is that it’s an abundantly creative and intelligent work without being a Big Question novel.  It’s well-organized and carefully paced.  The rules of the world are logical and the powers of its supernatural inhabitants suitably limited.  The language is playful and mood-appropriate.  The creativity is humbling.  It is sophisticated entertainment.

The only complaint I could think to make during the reading of the book was that the development of minor characters seemed a bit unbalanced.  Motley assortments of minor characters that we’d never see again were introduced and described during the rapture while minor characters that ended up having consequential roles in the outcome of the novel were big question marks, or indistinguishable copies of some other minor characters.  I kept expecting to see more of the characters from the rapture reappear somewhere and tell us how they were doing.  But these are nothing.  They could be worked out and polished in a one-hour session with an editor.  Hazard of self-publishing.

One of my favorite things about this book aside from getting to see Lucien and Lalael be awesome and witty was how queer positive it was without actually being about being queer.  There is no central same-sex relationship.  Lalael has a girl that he was interested in back in Riel, but apart from that, nobody’s orientation is ever apparent or even mentioned.  There is none of the obnoxious heteronormativity that’s almost impossible to avoid in most media.  Girls and guys in the same room together aren’t fraught with sexual tension, nor does everyone around them start to suspect.  Lucien’s only romantic interest that we know of is in the weatherperson whose gender is never mentioned.  As for being transpositive, well  I didn’t know what to make of it honestly.  Jocelin is gender variant, but not the butt of any jokes about gender variance, and is only notable because angels in Rowland’s world all come out of the fire with bodies that fit their mental genders.  While some of the minor characters spent a little more time than I was comfortable with on the “is Jocelin a guy or a girl” question, nobody ever used this as an excuse not to take Jocelin seriously or be disgusted by them.  For the most part, the book managed to be queer positive without ever even mentioning LGBT people.  It flowed perfectly naturally.  Like The Hunger Games’ unique woman positivity which included women in all levels of power and situations without being treated differently for being women or ever mentioning inequality or feminism, In the End made it seamless.  There was no discussion of LGBT activism.  Negativity and erasure were simply absent.

In the End is Rowland’s debut novel, but it reads like well-polished craft.  It’s available on Amazon for $6.99 which is a bargain for what you’re getting, I promise.  Go read it.

I know you’re all wondering how my Sims are doing…

In the process of writing Failure to Thrive, I spent three months in front of my computer.  Three.  Months.  For several hours each day, I would glue my substantial ass to one office chair or another and write.  On most days, I wrote over two thousand words and then deleted a third to a half of them.  Those were the good days.  On other days, I’d outline, cry, scrap the outline, cry some more, resist the urge to binge drink my troubles away, and fumble eight hundred or so words onto the page.  Every day I promised myself that when the novel was finished, I’d get out of the house, maybe take a walk, see the sunlight, or maybe even try to re-learn my children’s names.

Finally the day came.  On December 21, 2012, I wrote the final word of the rough draft of Failure to Thrive.  I promised myself that I would resist this urge to do nothing until such time as the editing was finished.  Until the last t was crossed and i dotted, I would not rest.  I edited 26 pages.  I started this blog.  Things were going well and THEN….


(that’s Simish for hello or goodbye or something.  I don’t know.)


I’ve been addicted to this game since 2002 but Sims 3 is the best because you spend a lot less time reading stupid books and trying to talk to annoying neighbors and all that.  The “grinding” (I’m told this means pointless repetitive game tasks) has been reduced slightly.  Sure, you don’t have all the options there were in Sims 2 when it comes to face shape and stuff, but who needed all that?  I mean I was practically drowning in choices.

Lilith Stupidhead was my first Sim.  She married Louise.  They adopted Loretta, who married Mitzi and then they adopted Lisa who’s now a teenager with an extraordinary skill set and one published novel under her belt already.  They’re all lesbians.  Sometimes that’s difficult to do cause some guy will walk into the room and they’ll get stupid pink hearts all over their heads, but I got around that by throwing a lot of parties and only inviting women.

Who needs productivity?  I mean sure, sometimes when things are slow at work, the urge to write overwhelms me and I absolutely must write a story about a heavyset teenage girl who sells fake magic as a part time job (more on that in a later post), and yes I have to read In the End by Alexandra Rowland, my latest submission which I’m thoroughly enjoying.  But you know what?  After three months of the most productivity I’ve ever coughed up in my life, it feels damn good to sit in front of my computer and make Lilith write novels until she gets a little frazzled mood alert.

I will still try to find time for hobbies, like mocking the insipid poetry of Richard Blanco at Obama’s second inauguration.  I mean okay it was pretty awesome that we inaugurated a black president for his second term on MLK day and had a gay, Latino poet and all but who can stand the dripping pastoral imagery?  I almost tossed my scrambled egg breakfast when he got to the bit about apple stands, stained glass windows and something something Freedom Tower.  I mean why even have poetry if you’re going to do that to it?  I also found time to write a scathing reply to a recent highly transphobic article by UK feminist Julie Burchill.  You can find that here.  I’ll eventually get back to being a working, productive adult.  Really!

But for now, Lisa aspires to the honor roll and that takes a lot of work.  Also Lilith has got to be about ready to kick the bucket so I have to make sure Louise is ready with her moodlet manager.  My girlfriend wants me to take her ashes to the science lab and restore her ghost when that happens, but I don’t know.  Five is a lot of Sims to manage.  Also I want to buy the biggest house in town and charge everyone a lot of rent.  And I have to catch a robot fish.


Book Review: The Spirit of the Afterbirth and the After Birth of the Holy Spirit


The Spirit of the Afterbirth and the After Birth of the Holy Spirit

By: Debra G Patterson

Genre: Religious (Christian) inspiration/poetry/memoir


What on Earth did I just read?

If The Spirit of the Afterbirth and the After Birth of the Holy Spirit were at your party, it would be that excited, charismatic woman that wanted to tell you all about how amazing you are.  She’d introduce herself cordially to the rest of your guests and compliment your home and your outfit.  She’d listen to every single one of your boring anecdotes and tell you there is absolutely no way she could throw such a wonderful party as the one to which you’ve so graciously invited her.  You’d be flattered.  When it was finally her turn to speak, you’d have no choice but to listen with a kind smile while she told you how proud she was of her new beautiful dress that she bought for your occasion.  You simply wouldn’t have the heart to point out that it seemed to be missing a sleeve and her underwear was showing.  You’d want to punch your significant other in the face when they pointed out that it was on backwards.  It would be nothing short of torture.

So you must understand that I do not want to be giving this book a bad review.  I want to punch myself in the face for it.  When the author, Debra G. Patterson introduced herself to me one day (she’ll never remember it… I hope) and told me about the book she’d written and how she dreamed of being a “big writer,” I was excited for the opportunity to read her work.  I wrote down the name of the book, which she bashfully admitted was a mouthful, on a little notepad and told her I’d be looking her up.  She was beside herself.  Forgive me for paraphrasing as I don’t have a recording of the conversation, but she told me that she had written the book “not to convert anyone, but because everyone just has such bad self esteem these days, you know?  People just don’t feel good about themselves.”  I almost want to spell her name wrong a few times as I write this just to make sure she doesn’t ever read it.

Before I get into my feelings about the book, I know that some of my readers know who my partner is and they know she’s the infamous YouTube Queen of Atheism.  I know it will be tempting to accuse me of bringing my own personal feelings about religion into my review of this book, but let me assure you that my partner and I have significantly different passions.  I can appreciate religious literature.  I can appreciate all kinds of art without agreeing with it.  I can appreciate memoir, heartfelt poetry, and well-done fantasy along the entire spectrum of godless to extreme mysticism, and just as often I disdain poorly done work that agrees with me (The God Delusion comes to mind).  Had The Spirit of the Afterbirth accomplished what it had set out to accomplish, then I would be more than capable of giving credit where it’s due.

Enough about me.  Let’s get this unpleasantness over with.  This book is barely coherent.  It’s a collection of poems about God and Jesus followed by several personal anecdotes, followed by several commands to be grateful and happy or something followed by more poems and anecdotes.  To be fair, the anecdotes are almost interesting.  Patterson’s memories definitely come alive in their vivid descriptions and I could imagine myself in her grandmother’s kitchen washing dishes or combing her great-grandmother’s white hair.  I could see her as a child walking down hot Louisiana streets and the tar melting and sticking to her and her siblings’ best shoes on their way home from church.  But the spell was broken at the end of every sentence, because literally over three quarters of them ended with exclamation points.  Even if they hadn’t… I’ll be honest even though I want to stomp on my own foot right now, they still wouldn’t have helped the book because they never went anywhere.  She’d tell a story about combing her great-grandmother’s hair and it would all amount to nothing.  What did she take from this experience?  What did it have to do with anything?  Nothing.  She just wanted to talk about it.

The central theme of this book is difficult to pinpoint, but I think it’s meant to be inspiration.  As religious texts go, there’s very little in the way of preachiness.  Patterson made good on her promise.  There was clearly no intent to convert.  What the intent was, however, is anyone’s guess.  It did make some exciting claims like, for example, the birth of Jesus brought Democrats and Republicans together:

The Young Babe was worshiped and sought out by all nations: black, white, the poor, the humbled shepherds, and the wealthy! He was wisely honored by three noble kings! For once, both Democrats and Republicans came together under one small roof while bearing precious gifts! Above all, they hoped to witness the birth of the Boy King. They found him in the after birth!

That would have been pretty neat if there were any such thing back then.

The words were all spelled correctly, and to the best of my knowledge they were all real words that actually exist and were placed in relatively appropriate contexts, so my difficulty in completing this book was less a result of careless errors than it was my personal inability to fix my attention upon the religious-for-the-sake-of-religion.  There’s no coherent story.  There is no arc.  There is no rhyme or reason to any of it.  The poems aren’t even sectioned by theme.  The book could perhaps have benefited from  at least that.  I mean, I wasn’t expecting Milton or Dante, but a minimum of some kind of literary adhesive.  This section is about joy and that section about sorrow.  Something, anything.  In my head, I begged silently for her to work with me.  In return, I got more of a love, tenderness, joy, and inspiration that was incapable of direction.

Sitting by the roadside and while waiting upon a change, blind Bartimaeus became disturbed by a great noise! It arose from the large gathering that chose to ignore him in his problem! He had once considered many of the “passer byes” to be his good friends.  But they mocked and scorned him into silence!

I’m sorry, book.  I’m sorry, author.  You can come back to all of my parties but you probably won’t want to after you heard what I said about you.  I’m going to go drown in guilt now.

My name is Heather McNamara and I am a Women’s Lit Author.

Maybe even a Chick Lit author.  Oh my god.  I had to admit it to myself.  This was harder than admitting I’m gay.

This isn’t the way I thought I would turn out.  My whole life, I knew I would be the next author to address life’s Big Questions with low fantasy as a medium (think Orlando by Virginia Woolf) but it never really seems to work out.  To this date, I’ve got literally dozens of false starts junked in my documents folder.  I have one completed first draft and one half-completed, my previous record, from a couple of years ago.  Both are women’s lit.

Lots of people have different hurdles, like starting novels or writing powerful endings or making it funny.  Those things I could do, but until now, I had never finished anything.  Miraculously, somewhere in between my last failed attempt at a vaguely supernatural story and now, I learned a few things about finishing a novel.

Halfway through writing the novel, I’m going to decide it sucks.  It will be extremely tempting to come up with a new, better idea that will redeem me as an author and protect me from a humiliating debut with this utter piece of JUNK my brain just VOMITED out onto this word file!  But I must continue anyway.

It will be tempting to fix it as I go, but I must resist.  I’m going to change my mind a hundred times before it’s all over, but by the time it’s all over, I’ll know my characters and plot well enough to change it all at once and in the one way that will actually work.  I will lose a lot less time if I save the editing for the end.

Profundity takes time.  Stephenie Meyer can write an interesting book, but she barfed out all 150,000 words of Twilight in 3 months, packaged it, and sent it off.  I don’t know a lot of people who made it all the way through to the fourth book, but the ones who did all know: the fourth book was way better than the first and not because Edward and Bella started acting like real people act.  They were still ridiculous.  But that was okay, because at least they began to have some sort of nuance and depth that they could have had in book one if she’d cut out all of the “oh, my, god, Edward’s HAIR is just so…. so GOLDEN” and put some thought into it.  Nuance and depth will come with time and patience.  As such, they can be saved for the editing stages.  It’s okay if my characters start out as awful as Bella Swan.  That doesn’t mean I suck or I’m only capable of writing characters that are as shallow as a kiddie pool.

I have to follow my voice.  I’m never going to make myself into a sci-fi/supernatural/YA author.  It doesn’t matter how well those sell.  I’m not going to.  When I sit down and free write, women’s lit comes out.  My characters are women.  My stories are character-driven.  I can get a great deal done.  I can make it sound the way I want it to.  That doesn’t happen when I try other things.  And that’s okay.  Sometimes, it’s whimsical and fun, but that doesn’t mean I have to get boxed into the misogynist “chick lit” paradigm.  I can be funny and even light without writing a love triangle, or having my heroine meet the most perfectest, rich second husband ever (see: Twilight, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Confessions of a Shopaholic, literally every Jane Austen book ever written…) .

Indie lit is awesome.  I might write too many gay characters or happily ever afters that don’t involve marriages and babies or failed relationships without romantic counterweights into my novel for it to appeal to a broad audience, but I love them.  I want them there.  I want my writing to benefit from my personal experiences and I want my characters to find happiness that doesn’t necessarily involve Mr. or Mrs. Right coming along and fixing everything with moneys and trips.  I can’t keep allowing myself to be psyched out by the possibility that an agent or a publisher will look at it and think “ugh, who would buy this?”  I don’t want to be a part of the artistic laziness that mass marketing has birthed.  I can make my fifty grand a year when I finish my degree in technical writing.  Selling out won’t guarantee me an agent anyway.  I might as well enjoy myself.

Indie lit is awesome.  Have you ever read that stuff?  I’ve recently gotten into it.  This is where rules are broken.  I mean, some of the rules shouldn’t be, like that more than one exclamation point on a page better be preceded by the word “bear” or “monster” or something (more on this in a future post) but other times it’s so refreshing not to see characters that reinforce gender and racial stereotypes just because it’s easier and more relatable for all audiences.  Like Ernest Hemingway breaking his contract with Boni and Liveright by writing a then-unpublishable novel about a bunch of self-important literary pseudointellectuals and a Native American streaker, sometimes it’s just fun to break the rules and to make novels into a new experience.  Kick that Overton window out a little.  So, who cares if I never hit the mainstream as long as whatever I write is good.

These are really all iterations of the Nirvana Fallacy, the most insidious fallacy of them all.  The Nirvana Fallacy is that voice in the back of your head that tells you you’re no good and so you shouldn’t even try.  You won’t be Hemingway so give up.  That chapter sucked so the book isn’t worth it.  Once I can categorize and understand it, I can overcome it.

I still want to be rich and famous.  But I’ll never get there by trying to be rich and famous.  Gotta start somewhere.

Happy novel-ing.

Sneak Peek: Failure to Thrive

Well, here it is.  I’ve polished the first part of the book.  I’m not done yet; I’ve got mountains of pages to cover, but I’m on the home stretch.  Therefore, as promised, your first synopsis and sneak peek.  It’s an epistolary and its genre, if it has one, is Women’s lit.  Without further ado…

Failure to Thrive 

Following an awkward falling out with her lifelong best friend, Edith Kelly accepts a marriage proposal from Mr. Right Now, Tom Burgess.  Tom is a man who wants bigger, better things from life than a mediocre job in a sleepy semi-rural Minnesota town.  Edith quickly finds herself swept off to a creaky old house in Chicago, recently vacated by a victim of the 1995 heat wave.  She instantly regrets this decision when an unexpected and unfairly complicated pregnancy stalls her plans indefinitely.  As homesickness, a failing marriage, a charismatic but needy new friend, and a hopelessly small daughter slowly consume Edith, she begins to lose herself in the single-minded pursuit of rectifying the biggest mistake of her life and returning home.

Chapter 1

June 25, 1995

Dear Melissa,

I’m sorry about the way I acted at your wedding. Really, it’s all just a huge misunderstanding. I had nerves about making my maid of honor speech and Tom just kept offering wine to calm me down and I’m afraid I lost count before I knew what was happening. There was at least a red, a white, a blush, and a glass of champagne, but I can’t be sure the red and the white only counted for one each. I can hardly be expected to tell a merlot from a cabernet sauvignon by my fourth glass. You know how drinks can add up when you’re not paying attention. Remember my twenty-third birthday? You had a pina colada, an appletini, and a long island iced tea in one hour before I caught you in flagrante with Matt on the balcony, dress over your head and grunting like a pig, face hidden behind your mass of curls? I’d just wanted a smoke. The neighbors threatened to call the police. I forgave you for that.


That’s not how it went. You’ll never fall for this.

I’m an asshole. Why can’t I just write a simple apology? God dammit, Edith.

June 26, 1995

Dear Melissa,

I’m sorry about what I did at your wedding. There’s no excuse for it and I’m sorry. It was such a beautiful day – warm and sunny just the way you were hoping. All of the purple gerardia, lavender hyssop, and bastard indigo were in bloom at the edge of Foedested Presbyterian, spraying pollen everywhere and procreating furiously like young married couples, just the way you wanted it. The wind was blowing a little hard, but our hairspray held up. Craig’s family was simply everywhere, and my brother Chris was always close at hand, incessantly snapping pictures with little regard for the cooperation of his subjects. Snap, snap, snap. I felt like Princess Di. I was honestly a bit overstimulated. My head was swimming in the heat and the noise and all the pressure, but I won’t make excuses.

Just please forgive me. Please just don’t cut me out of your life and oh God please don’t tell Craig. He’ll never look at me the same. He won’t let you invite me to important things – baby showers, birthday parties – whatever else you and he have in store for your lives together. I want to be a part of it all the way we’ve always been a part of each other’s lives. I realize that I behaved inappropriately and to be honest, I don’t know why I acted that way.

Yes I do.





This is going in my book: quotes from Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher’s syndicated column was “retired” today, wink, nudge.  For those of you not in the know, Maggie is the founder of the National Organization for Marriage, the driving force behind almost every anti-marriage equality movement out there.  She is not, however, the most vulgar opponent of marriage equality.  Resisting the temptation to make arguments centered around how gross gay people are, she tends to take a hilarious hard-line approach that seems to be some warped version of rationality, like anti-rationality.  This is what makes her so amusing.  From her farewell column today:

Sex makes babies. Society needs babies. Babies need their mother and their father. Men and women need each other. We all need a strong marriage culture, whether we choose to marry or not.

If it is true that sex makes babies, then that is clearly the most important thing about sex, the thing around which a decent person or society will organize sexual values, behavior and norms.

Sex makes babies!  Thanks, Maggie!  Wait, there’s more:

But we need, as well, a next generation of culture creators, of storytellers, with the credentials to name reality: empirical social scientists, novelists, poets, preachers and filmmakers.

We need donors to invest in building the networks and communities through which such voices are born, flourish and give meaning to the lives of millions.

The future belongs to those of us with enough hope to rebuild on the ashes of optimism, a new American civilization — uniting sex, love, babies, mothers and fathers in this thing called marriage.

Did you get that?  Scientists, novelists, poets, preachers, and filmmakers.  These are important, and we’re not going to have any of these unless you all stop jerking off and start making BABIES DAMMIT.  GET MARRIED AND MAKE BABIES.  THAT IS LITERALLY YOUR ONLY JOB.

Oh man.  Oh, I have to dry my laughter tears.

Don’t worry, I’m obviously aware that I would have to paraphrase her.  I won’t plagiarize.  But doesn’t she make fantastic inspiration for a lunatic preacher who, in spite of being given a multitude of opportunities, is unable to comprehend even the most basic workings of the world outside of her own head?  She’s a rare find.