Where Holiday Magic Hides


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Stuff gets jumbled, and left out, for kids like me—kids born too close to Christmas. Instead of getting two holidays in one, we really only get half of each.

I remember smiling as big as I could when grownups wished me Merry Birthday. Then they smiled back when I put a bow on my head, because, see, I was a gift. But the bow never stayed on since little bits of wrapping paper were already stuck on the sticky part.

So this season, for me, has never been about Christmas or my birthday. I mean, presents are cool, food and family are nice and all that.

But the lights.

Lights are special. Unusual. These bright, colored beings all shiny in the night where, at every other time of the year, there’s darkness I’d rather ignore.

But the lights make me look. They want to prove they’re special and alive with their pops and sparks and colors burning against the night. Glowing. Mesmerizing.

As a kid, I’d lie on the floor in my footy pajamas, wrapped in a blanket, the rest of the house dark, everyone asleep, silence all around me, and just stare at the tree’s lights forever. I’d breathe them in. As they sparkled, and I crossed me eyes so the lights would go fuzzy and get even sparklier, that’s where the magic hid.

Not just in my tree, or just in my lights, or only while I was alone. Sometimes, a lot of us could see the magic all together at once.

My trailer-park family would pile in the truck and drive around to the biggest displays. It’s funny how they were always at the same houses that gave out the best Halloween candy.

The most amazing thing was when we’d round a curve, and the pine trees would open up to a winter cornfield, and there—magic—out of nowhere. Surprise lights in surprise places in the night.

Those were the ones where the most magic hid.

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I Have Too Many Damn Words Inside Me


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I’ve accepted it. I have too many damn words inside me.

Maybe the worst thing about having too many damn words: I’ll never be able to get them all out.

Maybe the best thing about having too many damn words: I get to curate which ones I set free.

(You know the worst thing about that best thing? It scares the hell out of me.)

I alone have the power to decide which words I let out. Like, nothing I say in real-life conversations or online or on paper gets through without me giving it permission. Every word in any form I ever communicate is my personal responsibility.

(I’m scaring myself again.)

But I should be scared. Because every word matters.

I want to remember that. Not occasionally, but at the exact moment I’m curating each of the too many damn words I’m going to set free.

Our Turn To Be Allies


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It’s time for the LGBTQ+ community to be allies. Tomorrow is Sunday, ya know, “church day” for a lot of people. And there are some AMAZING people, who identify as Christian, who agree that love is love.

A lot of things will be proclaimed from pulpits tomorrow: some gracious, and some not. I’m thinking about those who love their faith and many of its beliefs but will struggle with the conservative response on marriage equality. Christians who are closeted, kids with different beliefs going to church with their parents, folks who are torn inside over things.

That’s tough stuff to deal with. The clash of core beliefs. The inner struggle to marry an accepting heart with an unaccepting faith.

So, be mindful of that, fam.

Anyone who has been an ally to us, deserves us as allies in return. Whatever they need, however we can support.

And not just Christians. There are loving people struggling in every belief system right now.

Love is love, and our love can’t stop at the borders of religion.

An Open Letter To Everyone From Back Then


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Dear Everyone I knew “Back Then”,

Yes, I am gay. Or something like it. Somewhere on the spectrum at the far end from what the world calls straight.

I’ve always been that way.

Even “back then” when I was your classmate, co-worker, teacher, neighbor, friend.

But, see, at times, I was scared of letting that facet of who I am show. I had to hide it. Not for myself, but for you. For those of you who would, had I let you see that part of me, make a lot more out of it than I do. For those of you who, now that I’m not scared anymore, “just can’t believe it”.

In most ways I’m still exactly the same as when you knew me “back then”. The only thing that’s changed is that you now get to know all of me. If you choose to. And some of you can’t handle that. It’s too much. I’m not the person you thought you knew.

But that’s not really about me. It’s about you.

Coming out doesn’t happen just once. I have to do it over and over again.

It’s easy with new folks I’m just meeting “right now”. It’s no big deal, not even a thing. It’s just who I am, all of me, every facet shining right there in the open if they want to see it. But for folks I knew “back then”, revealing the fullness of me is a scary, anxious, pulse-racing thing.

Every.single.time.

Some of you amazing “back then” people have nodded, asked questions, maybe cried a little, hugged me, and transformed in front of my eyes, through the phone, or in my arms into a “right now” person. Thank you for that. I love you. Thank you for loving every facet of me, for having a heart big enough to appreciate all of me.

For you others, I’m sorry if you feel like I lied to you, back then, when I wasn’t strong enough, brave enough, to share all of me. Maybe that was wrong of me. I don’t know for sure. But I can’t rewind to “back then”, because I’m overwhelmed with joy, bursting with life, thrilled to finally be living with every part of me shining right here in the “right now”.

Maybe you can see how important that is to me. How much bigger my smile is, how much lighter I seem.

If not, okay, you can live in the back then. But me? Nah. I’m loving where I’m at right now.

Love and facets and more love,

Me

Who Wants (or NEEDS) A Mini Writing Retreat?


HEY WRITER FRIENDS

I wanna do a mini, weekend writing retreat. Just get away, hang out, do some laughing, eating, writing. When & where depend on who’s interested. Here’s what I’m thinking:

– Sometime in July or August. Like a Fri night – Sun deal?
– At an AirBNB. Either one with multiple bedrooms available ~or~ an entire house. We’d keep the nightly price between $30 & $75 per person, depending on the place & # of writers.
– It’d be great to keep the travel time down for anyone driving. So, maybe in Ohio (near the lake?), Indiana, eastern Michigan (Detroit?), western Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh?).
– If you’re interested in organizing a regional thing outside this area, say so! It’d be fun to have a few writer cells connecting in person.

Interested? Lmk! Let’s make it happen!

Poppycock To The Poppycockers


Sometimes I need a break from writing. So I take one. Of course, this goes against the one-size-fits-all advice of “you must always write everyday”. To use an old-skool word as my response to that: POPPYCOCK.

A friend found an old silverware box he wants to store his knitting needles in. He asked if we could trade art projects: I’d paint the box for him & he’d knit me about 300 miles of i-cord I need for a project.

I said yes. And I totally win on that trade. By a long shot.

His only criteria was that he’d like a spiral on the box, which was based on another super simple project I’d done before. I brainstormed, using what I know about his interests, to come up with a creative take on a spiral. I went with the tail of the Indian god Hanuman.

Here’s the project through its various stages:

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I think it turned out great. And, while I wasn’t really in a writing ~mood~ before starting this project, I now feel the itch to write. This process, which is definitely not writing, freed up something inside me so I can dive back into that world.

Making art as a reset works for me. Writing every day works for some people. But not all of us. Those “always” & “never” writing rules used to bug me. Not because I felt guilty for not following them, but because I get plain annoyed with didactic advice.

I won’t give any here. But I will say this: POPPYCOCK to the POPPYCOCKERS. As unique as we all are, it’s ridiculous to believe we all can (or even should) follow the same process.

K. Well, Hanuman’s done & he’s nudging me to get back to the words. Thanks to him, I’m ready to do just that.

Astronomical Risk & Reward ~or~ My Stellar New Agent


Astropop fan art by Crystal Smalls Ord - @SmallsOrd)

So let’s say you write a book. Well, manuscript. And, since it’s your 6th, you rank them all in order, right? Maybe on a scale of omgsuckage to yes-zomg-THE-best-so-far. And this newest one, you know (no, KNOW) it’s your strongest, deepest, brightest. Your CP’s & beta readers, some of whom have read 2 or 3 of your previous manuscripts, absolutely love (no, LOVE) it & also feel it’s—by far—your shiniest.

Then, let’s say, your agent, who signed you with a completely different manuscript… doesn’t feel quite the same way about this newest one…

Your gut believes so strongly in this book (which you title If Found Return To Astropop). What it is, what it represents, its structure, the characters (no, the CHARACTERS), the ~things~ it explores. Honestly, you have no choice but to trust your gut. You need an agent who believes in this book as much as you do, who gets it through and through.

You’re scared as shit.

You worry.

You delay.

Finally, you find your tongue.

A conversation happens.

Your agent is way gracious. Your agent wants the best for you and your career. You believe you know what that is—how this latest manuscript fits into that grand plan. Thus and so, you find yourself plunging (again) into the query trenches. You’re excited and hopeful! (But also, part of you is freaked the hell out. Because what if you’re wrong? What if your gut lied like a capricious, little scoundrel? What if you just made a huge (no, HUGE) mistake?)

No turning back, there you are.

Well, there I was.

And the magic I believed in, the comets and rainbows I hoped for with Astro, rushed in and glowed deep down in that trench with me.

  • 2 days into querying: 3 full requests (WT-actual-F?!?!)
  • Overall comparison:
    • Previously queried manuscript: 35+ long weeks of querying, 5 requests
    • This manuscript: 5 short weeks of querying, 14 requests
  • This time around, at 35 days in: 1st offer of representation.
    • Then a 2nd.
    • And a 3rd.
    • AND WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING IS THIS REAL???

The agent who wooed me, whose gut feeling matches my gut feeling? Well, I sent the query, and she requested the full the next day. A few weeks passed. Then an offer (A SACRED OFFER!) came in from a different (also amazing) agent. I nudged everyone: fulls, partials, outstanding queries.

This agent—MY NEW AGENT—I didn’t hear back from right away as I did with others. But, then, the very next day, an email to slay all emails. She was hella excited about the story. She wanted in!

DANCING. FLAILING. Composure. A phone call. Chat, discussion, vision-sharing. Questions, planning, gushing. So much Astro love. An understanding of my career goals, needs, and desires.

This book I believed in, this story & these characters which thrust me into this risky move? They found a champion. They found someone who understands them. They found someone so exuberant about them that a follow-up email illuminated my inbox approximately 60 seconds after our call ended. That was the best.

And that agent is none other than the phenomenal Sara Crowe.

Sara (can I say this?) Effin (There. I said it. Kind of.) Crowe

Listen, when I took that soul-shaking step to follow my gut, I had no idea how it would turn out. Was I reaching for a star I’d never reach? Would I languish in the purgatory of Queryland for eternity? Would any agent, any agent at all, connect with this story?

And, yes, PLEASE CELEBRATE WITH ME! (ZOMG ZOMG ZOMG) But I also want you to take something more sacred and magical away from this post. Something more than stats and timing (and Lucas doing weird things with parentheses & POV switches).

Ready?

Others can guide you, and that’s an awesome, welcome, necessary thing at times.

But, ultimately, ain’t nobody got you like you got you.

At the risk of sounding like a damn greeting card and whatnot: be that unshakable mix of brave and savvy. Maybe it’ll result in a spectacular failure. Or maybe not. (More greeting cardiness coming. Brace yourself.) The only risk you’ll ever regret is the one you were too scared to take.

Or something.

Btw, did I mention? I have a new agent. Her name is Sara Crowe. And she kinda loves this risky book I wrote titled: If Found Return To Astropop. She digs it muchly, actually. And, wow. Just wow.

*commence astronomically uninhibited Squee Fest*

BONUS MATERIAL: Astro Ink Reveal

My tattoo artist is booked forever far out. Over 6 months ago, I scheduled a session for this past Saturday. Last Wednesday I received the first offer. Saturday, Crystal Ord’s fan art of Astropop was indelibly tattooed on my arm. As hard as it was, I waited until now, until this Offer of Rep post, to share that final image.

Here it is! Stage 2 of a gifted artist’s (and Astro fangirl for life’s) interpretation of non-binary Robin “Astropop” Chicory with a few beautiful symbols from the manuscript. I adore (no, ADORE) it. Muchly.

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Also, possibly my next tattoo???

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