Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thursday Threads: The Highlander's Accidental Bride by Cathy MacRae

The Highlander’s Accidental Bride (Book 1 in the Highlander’s Bride series)

by Cathy MacRae

Genre and setting: Historical Romance set in the Highlands of Scotland, 1375

Heat Scale: Sensual

Brief blurb:

Wed at the king’s command, they entered a marriage neither wanted. Realizing he married the wrong woman, can Laird Scott forge a lasting bond with his new bride and put a long-standing feud to rest?


“Ah, Eaden.” Ranald’s raised voice brought the earl to a halt.
He turned. “What?”
“There may be a problem with your, er, wife.
“I saw her with the servants.” Eaden scowled at the memory. “I’ll speak to her about her duties.”
“Och, ‘tis no’ the problem.”
“Then what is?”
“She’s no’ yer wife.”
“What do ye mean?” Eaden bit out the words. Damn the Barde wench! What kind of trouble had she stirred up in the two weeks he’d been gone?
Ranald squared his shoulders. “I mean, ye married her, but she isnae the woman we thought she was.”
“The day after ye left for Troon, yer bride came running from yer bedroom all in a panic.” He tossed Eaden a wry look. “I wasnae too surprised about that. She kept telling me she wasnae Miriam.”
“What are ye talking about?” Eaden ground out in a voice growing thin with impatience.
“She swears she isnae Miriam Barde, but Mary Marsh, Lady Miriam’s companion.”
Eaden’s face flushed hot with anger as he digested the news and considered the ramifications. “The woman is lying. She has fought me tooth and nail from the beginning. The treacherous wench is trying one last time to put an end to this marriage.” He glared at Ranald, daring him to disagree.
“Nay,” Ranald replied evenly. “You dinnae see or hear her that day. She was pale and trembling. I dinnae think she was lying.”
Eaden didn’t bother to answer. He spun on his heel and strode down the stairs and into the castle, looking for the woman who was turning his life upside down.


Soul Mate Publishing



Sunday, October 27, 2013

Author Aggravations

I recently stumbled across one author’s list of things never to say to an author. I pored through it, nodding my head vigorously at some of her points and shaking my head at others.
Sabhu: "Really, Mom, could my metaphor about thinking
outside the box be any more obvious?"
Most of all, though, I wondered if peeps really do say these things to authors. People honestly voice such gems as “Anyone can write a book, [sic] what else do you do?”?! If so, that’s pretty horrifying, and it help explains the author’s grumpy tone.

I guess I’m lucky, because when it comes to discussing my less lucrative and more creative second job, the folks in my life ooze nothing but support and encouragement. Maybe it’s because everyone knows I do have a bill-paying job, or perhaps it’s because I don’t share my authorliness with tons of people (After all, how else can it remain my secret identity?). Whatever the reason, I can’t bring to mind one person who has sneered at my secondary vocation per se.

All that said, I do have my own list of author aggravations that I feel all-too-eager to share with y’all. Now, I don’t want to toss out this discussion as a list of things never to say to an author, since I don’t like putting gags on folks’ rights to express themselves. Naw. I like to think of this list less as an order to those lucky enough to know my authorly self and more as a shameless and public opportunity to vent. I mean, why else does the Internet exist, amiright?

1. “You’re an author? Cool! I have a screenplay/short story/novel I’d love for you to read!”

This one happens a lot. I like to think the person is all “You’re an author? Me, too. Let’s bond over our literary pursuits!” rather than trying to perform their version of A Real Author or asking me to donate my editing skills (see below). I’m a busy person, though, working two jobs with erratic hours and giggle-worthy pay. I have precious little free time.

Maybe we could grab a coconut-milk latte instead?

2.  This is a variation on number one. “I know you’re so good at editing. Would you be willing to edit my blog post/novel/resume/memoir?”

Payment for my services can begin right here.
This is endemic in any job that requires a highly specialized skill set. And yes, my friends, writing well requires a lot of study, practice, and upkeep. My partner, who used to do computery things, got used to random texts from everyone asking for free computer advice and repair. Although I’m an author, not an editor, editing has become my version of computery things. I’m not saying I hate helping out my friends, and I’m pretty free and easy with my red pen o’ doom. Still, when I think about how much money I could be earning, – correction: when I think that I could be earning any money for these services, because I doubt editors make bank – I sometimes cry myself to sleep.

And btw, editors who may read this, I don’t want to pretend I’m A Real Editor (see number one). I think I’m pretty darn decent at editing, or at least at recognizing mechanical errors, but I’m no professional. Heck, if editing qualifies as greatness, greatness has been thrust upon me by others.

3. “I have an awesome idea for a book! It’s sorta autobiographical…”

So, you want me to be a free ghostwriter of the story of you? Uh, I think I might be busy washing my hair.

Also, I write paranormal romance, so unless you’re a weregiraffe who recently fell in love with a Frankenbeast from whose neck sprouts the head of Walt Disney, we’re probably not a winning match.  

4. “Oh!” *eyes start glassing* “You write romance? That’s… cool.”

I admit, there is a part of me that wants to respond with something like, “You know, it’s unfortunate that we devalue romance because it’s a feminine genre. It’s actually quite lucrative [for someones not me, but whatever] to tell stories that put feelings at the center and the action as a satellite.” Who am I kidding? I do say this. However, I also fantasize about yelling, “It’s the bestselling genre out there, hypocritical muthaf*ckas!” I’d never really do it, but  oh, the fantasy.

5. “How cool to be paid for doing something you love.”

Aw, who needs it, anyway? I'm trying to cut down on clutter.
Ha! Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

But seriously, this is a kind statement, and I thank anyone who values what I do and recognizes the emotional satisfaction that comes from being an artist. The funny part is the notion that most of us get paid. Ha ha ha!

My last royalties check bought my partner and me lunch. At TGI Friday’s. Without sodas.

During my recent, super awesome virtual book tour, one of the bloggers asked me for advice to new writers. My response was immediate: Don’t quit your day job. Unfortunately, fewer people read and more and more books are flooding the market, so the likelihood of becoming the next Charlaine Harris or James Patterson is pretty freakin’ slim. If you don’t write for the love of writing, you’ll come to resent your artistic medium – or perhaps the reading public, which has grown somewhat anemic in recent years. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Thursday Threads: The Promised One by C.D. Hersh

The Promised One
By C.D. Hersh

Genre: Paranormal romance suspense
Heat Level: Sensual

When homicide detective Alexi Jordan is forced to use her shape shifting powers to catch a paranormal killer, she risks the two most important things in her life—her badge and the man she loves.


The woman stared at him, blood seeping from the corner of her mouth. “Return the ring, or you’ll be sorry.”

With a short laugh he stood. “Big words for someone bleeding to death.” After dropping the ring into his pocket, he gathered the scattered contents of her purse, and started to leave.

“Wait.” The words sounded thick and slurred . . . two octaves deeper . . . with a Scottish lilt.

Shaw frowned and spun back toward her. The pounding in his chest increased. On the ground, where the woman had fallen, lay a man.

He wore the same slinky blue dress she had—the seams ripped, the dress top collapsed over hard chest muscles, instead of smoothed over soft, rounded curves. The hem skimmed across a pair of hairy, thick thighs. Muscled male thighs. Spiked heels hung at an odd angle, toes jutting through the shoe straps. The same shoes she’d been wearing.

The alley tipped. Shaw leaned against the dumpster to steady himself. He shook his head to clear the vision, then slowly moved his gaze over the body.

A pair of steel-blue eyes stared out of a chiseled face edged with a trim salt-and-pepper beard. 

Shaw whirled around scanning the alley.

Where was the woman? And who the hell was this guy?

Terrified, Shaw fled.

The dying man called out, “You’re cursed. Forever.”

Learn more about C.D. Hersh at:
Soul Mate Publishing:

Review and Virtual Book Tour: Princess Interrupted

 A princess, cook, master horsewoman, and assassin. I hope this blue-eyed boy is worthy of her” (page 295).

I have finally found a book I will let my daughter read. Granted, I don’t exactly have a daughter, but if I did, this would be one of the books we'd read together. The story clips along at a bustling pace, it provides ample space for its characters’ physical and emotional development, and it has some kick-butt gender politics. Yep, nonexistent daughter – I am definitely adding this delightful novel to our imaginary reading repertoire.

Princess Interrupted encompasses several months, perhaps a year, of Princess Arabelle’s life as she shoulders the responsibilities of soldier, herbalist, and protector. As she trains herself into a stronger incarnation, both emotionally and physically, her compassion lands her the friendship of a gentle, shape-shifting dwarf and leads her closer to freeing their country from the tyranny of a (rather hypocritically anti-magic) dark wizard and to locating the literal blue-eyed boy of her dreams. Yeah, our caravan princess has a lot on her gilded plate.

The novel switches vantage points among three characters: Arabelle, the princess and main character; Grisham, the pubescent, orphaned dwarf boy; and Kirag, the evil wizard’s right hand baddie. These are very different persons: Arabelle is a brash, brave, and fiercely protective human princess; Grisham is a gentle and sad young man with a greater affinity for animals than people; and Kirag is a half-ogre whose hobbies include strolls along the mountainside, torturing, and slaying. The author does an admirable job nestling inside their heads and making these characters come alive in their multifaceted and very different ways.

I was surprised and interested to note the novel is detailed in the art of assassination and war, which adds a grittiness to its otherwise intense sweetness. Arabelle trains to become a warrior, and we learn right along with her the tricks to most efficiently kill an opponent. It’s disturbingly realistic, but surprisingly, I found I didn’t mind. We see Arabelle struggle with the reality of having killed a person; death isn’t a mere plot device but a stark reality for our shero. I can appreciate the seriousness of violence in this book.  

From my perspective, the best part of the novel is its gender politics. In the beginning of the novel, Princess Arabelle is afflicted with a curse that forces her to work out, practice with weapons, and in general train to become a soldier. A good soldier. I love how fiercely she fights to protect her loved ones, how her months of training sculpt her body into a tightly controlled fighting machine. Yet, she simultaneously trains herself in the art of herbs and potions and in doing so becomes a skilled cook. I really enjoyed that, since all-too-many contemporary princess-empowerment stories feature young women who find themselves balking at traditional femininity. Femininity is weak and stupid, these stories hint. Why can’t princesses be powerful warriors instead? In Princess Interrupted, there is no instead. Arabelle is a warrior, but at no time do I feel she devalues traditional femininity and womankind. She doesn’t want to escape womanhood; she wants to expand it to include all of her. She is a warrior, an assassin, a spy, an herbalist, a cook, and a teenager who dreams of finding true love. And throughout all this, she remains a compassionate and loving friend and daughter.

Grisham is another beloved character. You want a gentle, loving, and compassionate character who finds solace with non-human mammals? (My answer is a resounding “Yes!”) You might not think this sounds like a description of a male protagonist,  let alone a dwarven one, but it is. How refreshing to see gentleness, kindness, and forgiveness personified by a young male character.

I just love how this book allows for different gender enactments without ever devaluing femininity or masculinity. This is my vision of gender equality in novels.

The novel leaves countless threads untied, which of course means a sequel will be forthcoming. I can’t wait for the next book. Until I have a daughter with whom I can read this series, I’ll content myself with collecting and vetting them all for her. I’m just a good pretend-mom like that.



PRINCESS INTERRUPTED is a tale about a fourteen-year-old daughter of a merchant king in the land of Trimoria named Arabelle. Her life of leisure is shattered when she suffers an attack from a poisonous creature that hasn't walked the land in over five centuries. 

Arabelle must learn to overcome the debilitating effects of the poison that courses through her body. All the while, she must resist monstrous foes that threaten her people and the ones she loves. 

She must do this while keeping a dark secret that only she can bear. 



It was a few weeks ago that I had presented Father with hot tea that I had brewed myself. The compliments he’d given me motivated me to try something harder.

I was in Madam Mizmer’s stall, and she had set aside a charcoal grill for my use to test out my own recipes for a stew. As I stirred the bubbling pot, I wondered if my ingredients were going to turn into something edible. When Alexandra looked into my pot and smelled the steam rising from it, the look she tried to hide was one of mixed revulsion and panic.

“What did you put in it, Princess?” She politely asked.

I looked worriedly at the creation and said, “Well, I like pickled onions and raspberries, so I started with those and just added some other things.”

Alexandra backed away and smiled. “Well, Princess, you never know. You have certainly created something unique.”

I grumbled. “Unique is polite speech for horrible.”

She shook her head. “No, sometimes you can’t predict such things. When will it be done?”

I cringed as I got a strong whiff of the brewing concoction. “I think it needs more time. Let me continue stirring.”

Suddenly Zoe came running into the stall panting heavily as she yelled, “Slavers! Slaves! Uhh…Escaped!”

“Calm down and take a breath. What are you trying to say?”

After deeply breathing in and out several times, Zoe said with wide-eyed excitement, “A bunch of slaves escaped from slavers and one of our scouting parties found them and brought them in. One of them is even a baby dwarf with a teeny tiny beard!”

I looked down at my stew and muttered, “Bah!” I lifted it off the grill and said, “I think it might get better when it’s cooled off.” I turned back to Zoe. “Can you lead me there?"



I've been writing throughout my career as an engineer, however my writing had been relegated to technical books and technical magazine articles. Heck, you might even find a couple of those musty tomes still for sale if you look hard enough.

With my foray into epic fantasy, I've shed the shackles of technical writing and created novels that I hope will be attractive to a much wider audience.

I've always admired truly epic tales. You know the ones I mean. The book you crack open, wander through and utterly get immersed in. The story takes you on twists and turns you never expected, run into dead-ends that make you wheel your arms backward to prevent you from falling into an endless abyss. By the time you reach what you think is the end, you've read hundreds of pages and realize the end is really only the beginning of the story.

You close the book and wonder out loud. "Do I have the next book? Is it out yet?"

My goal when I started writing the first book (HEIRS OF PROPHECY) that involved the Riverton family was to make a story that would allow a younger audience access to such a tale. Since then, a second book (TOOLS OF PROPHECY) was released, and now I introduce the third book in the series with LORDS OF PROPHECY. 

As to my other writing activities, I've completed another as of yet unreleased novel in the Prophecies series, and they are scheduled to be released as soon as - well, as soon as the paperwork on them is complete, and the lawyers nod their heads up and down.

I hope you enjoy the novel.

In the meantime, if you want to see my ramblings, I lurk at the following social media portals:
Twitter - @MichaelARothman
Facebook -
Blog -

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Literary No-No’s

And the irony is in a picture about poor writing that misuses "it's."
I almost always finish a book. It can contain misspellings, rampant heterosexism, yawn-inspiring action scenes, and enough clich├ęs to propel an English professor toward the liquor cabinet. Heck, it can even feature the vastly overused Stumbling Woman and a Muscular Hero to Catch Her trope, use words like “member” and “womanhood” during steamy sex scenes, and consistently misuse “who’s” and “whose.” I will still read that bad girl.

Recently, however, I had to put down a book (double entendre invoked, although unfortunately not actualized) that violated two items on my literary list o’ doom. Because I am a giver, below lies a catalog of what turns me off as a reader, not to mention a writer. After you read mine, I’d love to know yours, since I consider this not only griping but super helpful research for my future books.

Elle’s List of Literary No-No’s

5. The book doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test. As a reminder, the Bechdel Test has three criteria: 1. The medium must contain at least two named female characters, 2. The two girls or women must at some point talk to one another, and 3. The women or girls must chat about something other than – wait for it – boys or men. Sounds simple, right? And yet. 

I’m especially ashamed when a romance novel fails miserably. Shameless androcentrism in a feminine genre? Et tu, romance novelists?

I used to avoid all novels that didn’t feature at least one woman main character. Unfortunately, this cut way, way down on my book choices. In order not to read and reread the same twenty-six qualifying novels, I’ve since chilled, although I still strongly prefer female or feminine main characters.

The horrible thing about this requirement, though, is that sometimes you don’t know if the novel passes till you read it all the way through. Damn you, lack of a standardized Bechdel grading!

4. The book is actively sexist, racist, or homophobic. After decades, sometimes centuries of human rights activism in these areas, I just can’t let this slide. I do tend to grit my teeth over ableism, ageism, and sizeism in novels, too, but these are more recent activist movements and haven’t gained as much traction. People just don’t think to challenge their assumptions that, for example, old age sucks and fat people eat too much. As such, I feel comfy giving authors a little more room to work through their unintentional bigotry. Besides, if I cut sizeist books from my literary fare, I’d die of starvation. (Like the metaphor? Yeah, I’m subtle like that.)

3. It contains a distracting, disturbing, and ridiculous number of grammatical, syntactical, and mechanical errors. We all make errors when writing, but when a book seethes with run-on sentences, chronic misspellings, and – choke – comma splices, I am too busy whipping out my imaginary red pen to let myself fall into the rhythm of the story. 

On a side note, I have to wonder why these writers’ editors still have a job.

Not to sound too self-righteous, especially since I’m a notorious comma overuser and abuser, but grammar websites abound on the Internet. When writing, I visit one at least once per day. Grammar Girl and me? We’re like this.

2. It contains a graphically written, completed or attempted rape scene. Really, people, given the rape culture we live in, why would we revel in a trauma that one in six women and one in thirty-three men have experienced? Authors of the world, please stop using a graphic violation of women’s bodies to further your plot.

My special and froth-worthy pet peeve? When these scenes are titillating, so that the reader learns to associate sexual arousal and sexual victimization. This is just unforgivable. Understandable, given the eroticization of rape in our culture, but still despicable.

I’m not opposed to addressing sexual assault in novels. In fact, I’m seriously considering making one of my next protagonists a survivor of sexual abuse. I object to explicit rape scenes, whether the author calls them that or not, in which the reader is forced to identify with the victim, which can often re-traumatize people, or the victimizer, which is just creepy. What about any of that sounds productive and necessary?

If a rape is somehow necessary, authors, please don’t devote a scene to it. Mention it and move on. Quickly, please. Rape is a trauma, not a plot device. 

The book I discussed at the beginning of this post, the one I abandoned before I reached the halfway point, included an attempted rape scene in which the shero did the obnoxious, “No, no, I don’t want this!” while secretly being swept up in the eroticism of the moment. (My lips say no, but my kisses speak a language all their own.) Her jerk partner, the story’s hero, kept going while urging her to give in. After she said no. Wow. Nice slice of sexual predation, author.

Yeah, I know “yes” is hard for women to say in this sexually repressed culture in which women are called sluts for having sexual desire. Sure, these quasi-rape scenes allow women to experience sex and desire without being slutty. I know all this. I just don’t much care. I have no use for anything that props up our rape culture, whether it be explicit rape scenes or acting out soft-core rape fantasies.

1. An animal dies. This should never happen in a novel. Never ever ever ever ever ever. Ever. Period. End of story.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Presenting The Unholy by Paul DeBlassie III, along with a $50 GC

Paul DeBlassie III


Can you describe your dream home?

I’m living in it…Spanish Mediterranean with a Victorian gothic feel.

If you could be any character, from any literary work, who would you choose to be? Why?

I would be the man in the story, "The Man Whom the Trees Loved" by Algernon Blackwood.

What is the first curse word that comes to mind?  How often and why do you use it?

Pinche madre…I only use it when I’m in a very very good mood …use it frequently!

How would you spend ten thousand bucks?

I’d buy an investment

What is your least favorite word?




A young curandera, a medicine woman, intent on uncovering the secrets of her past is forced into a life-and-death battle against an evil Archbishop. Set in the mystic land of Aztlan, The Unholy is a novel of destiny as healer and slayer. Native lore of dreams and visions, shape changing, and natural magic work to spin a neo-gothic web in which sadness and mystery lure the unsuspecting into a twilight realm of discovery and decision.



Lightning streaked across a midnight dark sky, making the neck hairs of a five-year-old girl crouched beneath a cluster of twenty-foot pines in the Turquoise Mountains of Aztlan stand on end. The long wavy strands of her auburn mane floated outward with the static charge. It felt as though the world was about to end.

Seconds later, lightning struck a lone tree nearby and a crash of thunder shook the ground. Her body rocked back and forth, trembling with terror. She lost her footing, sandstone crumbling beneath her feet, and then regained it; still, she did not feel safe. There appeared to be reddish eyes watching from behind scrub oaks and mountain pines, scanning her every movement and watching her quick breaths. Then everything became silent.

The girl leaned against the trunk of the nearest tree. The night air wrapped its frigid arms tightly around her, and she wondered if she would freeze to death or, even worse, stay there through the night and by morning be nothing but the blood and bones left by hungry animals. Her breaths became quicker and were so shallow that no air seemed to reach her lungs. The dusty earth gave up quick bursts of sand from gusts of northerly winds that blew so fiercely into her nostrils that she coughed but tried to stifle the sounds because she didn’t want to be noticed.



Paul DeBlassie III, Ph.D., is a psychologist and writer living in Albuquerque who has treated survivors of the dark side of religion for more than 30 years. His professional consultation practice — SoulCare — is devoted to the tending of the soul. Dr. DeBlassie writes fiction with a healing emphasis. He has been deeply influenced by the mestizo myth of Aztlan, its surreal beauty and natural magic.  He is a member of the Depth Psychology Alliance, the Transpersonal Psychology Association and the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. 




Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thursday Threads: The King's Vampire by Brenda Stinnett

The King’s Vampire, first in an Abyss series

Author: Brenda Stinnett

Genre and setting: Historical Paranormal Romance set in London, England, after the Restoration of Charles II.

Heat scale: Sizzling


Darius Einhard, demon slayer, will stop at nothing to help Elizabeth Curran, immortal vampire, break the bonds of vampirism, even while helping her protect Charles Stuart II, who’s in danger of being entrapped into becoming an immortal vampire and leading his people into the abyss of hell by the psychic vampire demons. 


The ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, England, November, 1675
First to reach the top of the ladder, Elizabeth said, “I see a dim light outside the archways of the church. Follow me.”

They’d almost reached the entrance when a hooded figure came rapidly gliding toward them. In silence, the shadowy figure stepped in front of them, blocking the exit while tossing back its hood. Elizabeth recognized Julian, his horrible eyes blazing blood-red, and his mummified face transformed into a skull whose hinged jaws tantalizingly opened and closed, while his wings beat back and forth.

Fear-frozen, Elizabeth watched the skull increase in size, the jaws continuing to rise and fall. The creature grew until it filled the archway.

With a shout, Darius shoved his three companions away from him and toward the archway. “Run! John, take the women to safety.”

John grabbed both women by the arm and started running with them, dodging the skull and slipping beneath Julian’s enormous wings. Elizabeth pulled back and turned around in time to see the huge jaws closing over Darius. She screamed, but John yanked her back and dragged her and Amelia out of the church forcibly, before she could protest further. He gave a shrill whistle. Darius’s coach appeared in front of the ruins. John shoved the women into the coach, and shouted to the driver, “To the Boar’s Head Inn. Hurry up, my good man.”

In the coach, Elizabeth glared at him with such ferocity that he drew away from her in surprise. “How dare you, John!”

His eyes widened. “What’s wrong? Darius told me to get you and Amelia to safety, and that’s what I’ve done.”

His wife touched his shoulder and gave a shake of her head.

Elizabeth sat up on her knees, pressing her face to the back window of the carriage. Even with her superior vision, she saw neither Darius, nor the huge skull from her vantage point.

“We’ve abandoned him to those horrible demons. We should have stayed and fought.”

When she let out an enormous sob, Amelia gently pulled her back onto the seat. “John was doing what Darius asked him to do. Darius is a great warrior and he can take care of himself.”

Elizabeth hardly noticed Amelia stroking her arm in a comforting manner. She felt a pain in the pit of her stomach grow until it reached up and clutched her heart. How could she live with herself if anything happened to him?

Buy links

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Solving the Toilet Seat Debate

The toilet seat belongs down.

I know, I know: it sounds as though I’m siding uncritically with my sex in the debate that has raged for decades. However, my friends, I can assure you that I have given this much thought – probably far more than it deserves – and have endeavored to remain entirely unbiased. I firmly believe my decision is the fairest one.

We could discuss the horror of women falling into the toilet or take a more feminist stance
and say public spaces tend to become male-dominated spaces. But, no. I have a much more scientific rationale behind my assertion.

Think through this, my friends:

In a bathroom, four main activities take place:  female-identified persons use it for their two major excretory functions and male-identified persons use it for their two major excretory functions.* That’s four.

When women use the toilet, they always require the seat down, no matter which of the two functions they’re engaging in. That's two for the toilet seat down. When men use the toilet, they need the toilet seat up for one and down for the other. That's one for the toilet seat down. Therefore, 75% (three out of four) of the activities that take place in a bathroom require the seat down. (Yes, I am aware men urinate more often than they defecate; the 75% is number of activities, not the percentage of instances. Also, we  should recognize that many male-identified peeps pee sitting down.) To insist that the toilet seat remain down is saying men’s standing urination should take precedence over every other excretory activity that happens in the bathroom.

Even for those men and/or for those who identify as male and who urinate standing up, it often benefits you, too, to have the seat down at least some of the time. It always benefits the female-identified and those men or male-identified who pee sitting down. To even debate this acts as though men's peeing is equally important to all the other activities that take place in the bathroom and require the seat remain down. 

The debate seems pretty solved to me.

* Yes, I am aware trans* and intersex folks exist and complicate these categories. For simplicity’s sake, I’m dividing urinating up into people with penises who stand up to pee and people with penises and vaginas (or whatever combination therein) who sit to pee. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Thursday Threads: Lower's Blame It on the Brontes


Genre: Contemporary Romance

Heat Level: Sensual

Three separate love stories intertwine around a central theme, as fractious sisters Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronson, each in her forties, are in Puffin Bay, ME for their mother's funeral. Each is ready to sink their claws into the fortune their mother left behind. But their mother has other plans. Her substantial fortune won't be divided until the trio return to their childhood home and live together for a year. It's a request that pits sister against sister but could unite them in a common goal to find the friendship they shared as children, to create a family jewelry business and to win over the men of Puffin Bay. They have a year to figure it all out.

Anne Bronson pressed her foot on the gas pedal, trying to ignore the little red light on the dashboard—the one highlighting the E on her gas gauge. She willed the rental moving truck to make it up the next hill, hunching over the steering wheel to help with the climb. No good gas-guzzling piece of crap. Anne directed the truck to the side of the road. There should have been plenty of fuel to get to the house.
If she hadn’t already maxed out her credit card, she would have gladly paid professionals to move her from New York to Maine. But here she was, driving her own belongings north, and out of gas. Her stomach knotted even tighter. She had an inheritance at stake. Eighteen minutes till midnight. Damn.
Hauling her purse behind her, she climbed out of the truck. She kicked a tire and let out a half-hearted scream at the damage her instinctive motion caused her black leather Manolo Blahniks. Tapping her fingernails against her teeth, she peered up and down the dark road. No headlights. No life. No sound.
She fished into her purse for her cell phone and stared at it. No signal, of course. With a deep sigh, she wrestled with her old suitcase with its wonky wheel and strapped her oversized purse across her body as she began to climb the rest of the way up the incline. Two miles to the house. She had eighteen minutes to get there. In six-inch heels.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I am Not an Epidemic

A stunning and brilliant sociology instructor stands before her class, leading a discussion on the environmental, psychological, and international effects of American consumerism. Heads nod, and she’s feeling good. They’re obviously getting it.

“Totally,” a student says. The instructor smiles. “That’s why we’re having so many health problems in the U.S. Everyone is eating too much, sitting around all day, and getting more and more obese.” More heads nod.

The instructor pauses, looks around. She wonders how many of her students are looking at her fat body and thinking she represents all that is wrong with the U.S. today.

I am fat, and this scenario happens at least once per semester in one of my classes. It always hurts, at least a little. It’s also a very simplistic, ill-informed, and incomplete picture of the causes and effects of fatness. But this blog post isn’t about my emotional smarts or even about the annoying myth that fatness boils down to calories in, calories out. It’s about the shock I feel every time someone talks publicly and blithely about the evils, dangers, and ugliness of fat right in front of a fat woman.

If I could divorce myself from my instructor identity and speak frankly to my students after such an episode, my response might go something like this: “OMG! WTF? Maybe my vertical stripes hid it till now, but newsflash: I am fat! Yeah. Those lazy, stupid, overconsuming fat slugs? Those are me! Are you insensitive or so steeped in The Obesity Epidemic© rhetoric you don’t realize or care how hurtful that is to every fat person in the room?”

To be fair to my students, I feel the exact same way when people talk about their diets in front of me. I always stare at them in fascination, wondering WTF they’re doing and why. (Well, and then I throw out one of my many body love phrases like, “I think bodies are awesome at every size, but if dieting makes you happy, I wish you luck.”)

For those who have done any of this, from fat talk to diet talk to bemoaning the fattening of America, in front of a fat person, please stop and think about what you’re doing. Terror of The Obesity Epidemic© may infiltrate every corner of your life, influencing what you eat, how you dress, when and how hard you exercise, whom you befriend and date, and how much you enjoy your body. I also understand that I may well represent everything you work hard to avoid. I get it. I do. I could rail against this understanding of fatness, this construction of it as a terrifying specter and potential contagion – and trust me, I have and do in my academic work. But that’s fodder for another post. For now, I’d like to point out we individual fatties are not The Obesity Epidemic©. We’re individuals. We come in all shapes, sizes, colors, nationalities, abilities, religions, sexual and gender identities, intelligence levels, and health statuses. Speaking about fatties as social problems (and we all know talking about The Obesity Epidemic© is really a medical-sounding proxy for “those creepy fat people” and the “War on Obesity” is truly a war on – you guessed it – fat peeps) degrades us, dehumanizes us, and, at least in my experience, hurts us. Hurting and degrading us into your version of health (if that really is your motive) not only won’t work, but it kinda makes you a jerk.

Most people I know aren’t jerks, though. This makes me wonder: How can so many people talk about the evils of fatness and the necessity of dieting right in front of me? Most of these folks don’t do it to teach me a point; I think they would be shocked to find their remarks hurt and offend. But, but how can they be so insensitive? I have pondered and pondered this until recently, when my partner casually nailed it.

I had been complaining, as I often do, about students enthusiastically playing Pin the Blame on the Fatties. My partner, also fat, sighed and said, “They just don’t see it as a social identity. ‘Fat’ to most people isn’t a class of people; it’s a disease. The AMA even says so. Your students don’t see you as a fat woman but a woman who is afflicted with the unfortunate disease of fatness.”

I admit it: I was like, “Whoa.” It shocked me to think of my primary identity, that of a fat woman, as a foreign concept to my students, to everyone. Instead of seeing me reclaim the right to define my devalued body type as beautiful and valuable, many, probably most, people see me as compensating for my unfortunate body type. I guess I knew this, but wow. Just wow.

And my partner is right. Just as “homosexuality” was listed as a psychiatric disorder in the very first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (the DSM, or the Bible for categorizing mental disorders), so is my fatness labeled an aberration, a horrible contagion, a national scourge. Given this climate, and the objectification of my body as a pathology rather than a collection of lived experiences, I guess I can understand how my students and others see me as a victim trapped inside walls of adipose tissue.

It’s no wonder they feel free to participate in diet talk and to vilify fat people as lazy gluttons while I’m Standing. Right. There.

But you know what? “Homosexuality” was only listed as a psychiatric disorder till the next release of the DSM (16 years later, but still). Massachusetts is currently hearing a bill that will add height and weight to a list of protected classes. And most of all, fat people like me are living happy, productive lives that stomp people’s assumptions about us. Change is afoot, my friends.

I know I look forward to the day when I can discuss overconsumption, health, and healthcare in my classes without waiting for someone to drop The Obesity Epidemic© bomb. Because you know what? I’m not an epidemic; I’m a big, round ball of chocolate-covered awesome.