Joy and Sorrow, Together and Apart

Have you ever won anything? A sports trophy? A medal? A commendation for a job well done? A prize for the most cookies, cars, or houses sold? Have you ever won even a runner-up position in a competition? If you’re a writer, have you won something for your writing?

Not me. Ever. For anything. Not even as a runner-up. The closest I ever came was when I received a certificate for having never missed a class when I was in culinary school. (Okay, I did win a small scholarship as well.)

Then, two weeks ago, I got the news that the anthology I co-edited with Andi Marquette, All You Can Eat: A Buffet of Lesbian Romance & Erotica, is a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. I was floored. I truly was not expecting it. They receive so many nominations, the odds of getting chosen as a finalist are slim.AllYouCanEat-600x914
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Only 5 months Until Con

Lord have mercy, it’s already March. I just don’t know where February went. I’ve heard so many people have said the same thing.

I think part of the problem is the weather. We’ve all been so slogged down with just getting through the horribleness and just getting through each day that we didn’t notice the days and weeks going by. And now we find ourselves at the end of another month and it’s just all going by too fast.

Pretty soon, it’s going to be time for GCLS again. Yep, it will be here before you know it. This year, it’s going to be in New Orleans, so it’s looking to be a pretty good con.Beebo_Brinker_original_cover_1962

At last year’s con, I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Ann Bannon, author of the legendary Beebo Brinker series. She was so humble and sweet, and it was a special moment for me.

This year, the author who will be receiving the Lee Lynch Classic Book Award is Rita Mae Brown. How exciting is that?! Her also-legendary and groundbreaking novel, Rubyfruit Jungle, is a staple of lesbian literature, and has inspired so many women writers who followed. I can’t wait to meet her in person.

Ms. Brown, as far as I’ve seen, has been conspicuously absent from lesbian literary events. I don’t know if it’s because she hasn’t wanted to get involved or if she’s just too busy doing stuff for her mainstream writing career. She has a hugely successful series—the Mrs. Murphy mysteries—and I’m sure that her main focus these days is making the most of that.rubyfruit jungle

And I don’t really blame her. It’s so hard for a writer to make it, especially in today’s market, where self-published books have glutted all categories. It’s especially true of LGBT writers. We have been, for the most part, ghettoized, so if you’re lucky enough to hit on a successful idea, you have to run with it.

The problem with LGBT writers who successfully transition to the mainstream is that they’re often accused of abandoning their community. Amanda Kyle Williams spoke of this happening to her when she began her Keye Street series, a mainstream non-LGBT series. In a speech she gave, Ms. Williams stated that she was made to feel like a traitor and eventually retreated from the lesbian literary community because she felt unwelcomed.

I sometimes wonder if the same thing happened to Ms. Brown. Maybe she’ll address that some day.bastard out of carolina

Dorothy Allison, author of the highly acclaimed Bastard Out of Carolina, is going to the Keynote Speaker at GCLS, so I’m gearing up to meet some really great authors this year.

Hope to see some of you there.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

When you take public transportation to get to work, you tend to see the same people all the time. Maybe not every single day, because unlike most other transit systems, here in New York, during rush hour, the trains run every few minutes. So even if you leave your home at roughly the same time every day, you could very easily catch the train before or the train after your usual one, depending on the precise moment you arrive at the station. I see the same people over and over. I’ve never spoken with them, even though I know they exist and they know I exist, because this is New York and that’s just the way it is.

Every once in a while, I see this one guy who sings. And I mean LOUDLY. The entire station can hear him. He can even be heard down on the street (my station is elevated about 25 or 30 feet). I’m not familiar with the songs he sings, but I suspect they’re mostly Christian hymns (although, one time, I could swear he was singing an old Communist worker song).

So yesterday, I went upstairs to the station and there he was inside, just standing there singing his little heart out. As I approached the turnstiles, he stopped singing, but when I went through the turnstile, he picked up another tune and sang the first line or two. As I approached the door leading up to the platform, I looked at him. He looked at me and caught my eye, and it was just at this precise moment that he sang, “Emmanuel, Emmanuel.” I quickly turned away and went through the door (you don’t stare into the cracker barrel for too long, know what I mean?).

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“A Winning Miss”

As I went up the stairs, I wondered what made him sing that word right at the very moment I looked at him. Did it mean something, or was it completely a coincidence? Was it a message or sign? If so, what the hell was it? I’m not very good at interpreting signs, mainly because I’m not sure I believe in them. Some people do. Some people read something into everything. But is the meaning really there, or are people just seeing what they want to see? Or is it both? As I’ve said in the past, I really, truly want to believe that there’s a purpose to the things that happen in my life, that shit doesn’t just happen randomly. Because if that were the case, everything would be about luck and no one wants to believe that they have no luck. That would suck. But I’m just not convinced that everything happens for a reason. I tend to believe that we just throw the dice and how it lands, it lands.

Yet, here was this total stranger, evidently living in his own little reality. He knows nothing about me, and I know nothing about him. He could have chosen to sing any song, he could have started singing it at any time, and he did not need to ever look me in the eye.

But he chose that song, began singing it at just the right time so that the word “Emmanuel” would coincide with my looking at him, and he did look back at me.

Furthermore, I was posting this blog while I was at work this morning. As I was reading through it and trying to decide which Christian song the man was singing that had the name Emmanuel in it (and, consequently, thinking about mentions of Emmanuel in the Bible and what the significance might be), my supervisor passed by my desk to go speak to a co-worker. As she passed by, she said to my co-worker, “Jane, Emmanuel called me…”

Talk about synchronicity.

Is this all coincidence? I mean, really? It’s not like Emmanuel is like John or Mary. What are the odds of these things happening all roundabout the same time? If it is coicidence, is there some meaning to this kind of coicidence or it is really, truly all random shit?

What does it all mean, damn it?!

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Book Blitz!

Hey, everyone! I’m so excited to announce that today I’ve got a book blitz going on. For those of you who aren’t familiar with my longer works and want a sample, now’s the time. Below is an excerpt from my vampire novel, Twice Bitten. I hope you enjoy.

A very big thanks to Debra at Book Enthusiast Promotions and Jove Belle for all of her awesomeness.
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Book Blitz

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Book Title: Twice Bitten
Author: R.G. Emanuelle
Genre: Lesbian Urban Fantasy (Lesbian Vampires)
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions

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Book Blurb

Fiona lost her mortality unwillingly to a woman she once loved. Now she wanders through the decades, a vampire in search of a soulmate. After 200 years, she thinks she’s found her, in an upper-class family in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. Her name is Rose, and if only she will come to her willingly, Fiona will have her eternal companion. But Rose loves another, so Fiona sets in motion a twisted scheme that involves the woman Rose loves and a betrayal that will lead Rose into transformation. Will Rose succumb to Fiona’s machinations and forever lose the woman she truly loves? Or will she find a way to foil the vampire’s devious plan and save her soul—and her beloved’s life? She’s running out of options and, worse, out of time.

excerpt

SUSANNA GLANCED NONCHALANTLY at the long blade glinting in the moonlight. The ivory-inlaid handle was almost obscured by Fiona’s trembling hands. Susanna’s lips twitched into a small smile.

“You won’t do it, Fiona. You love me.”

Fiona flinched at the word love. “I used to. I used to love you with all my heart and soul.”

“And now?”
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NY Writers Event at BGSQD Bookstore

So, last night was the New York Writer Dykes event at The Bureau of General ServicesQueer Division at the LGBT Center in Greenwich Village. First, I want to say thank you to everyone who came. I hope you had a good time.

I was really concerned that the bad weather was going to keep people away. And it did keep a few away. But we got a fairly good turnout. I’d estimate about 20 people showed up.

The bookstore is a very small space and is undergoing construction. You wouldn’t even know there’s a bookstore there because you have to enter through a gate, walk into an alley/parking lot, and open a steel door. Upon my description, someone told me that it sounds like a speakeasy, and that’s kind of what it felt like—like we were going into a secret, illicit place.

Frankly, it was a bigger turnout than I was expecting, apart from weather considerations. And people readily asked questions. Which I think says something about this type of event.

New York City has one of the largest gay communities in the United States (perhaps the largest, depending on what list you look at and criteria they used). Yet our gay bookstores are dwindling and, therefore, so are opportunities for NYC-based readers and writers to gather and meet.

With each bookstore closing, it’s like our significance in the world gets pushed back a step. Of course, there are many reasons for bookstores of any type closing—online sellers, the advent of ebooks, and, in New York, soaring rents. But when heterosexuals lose a gathering place, their opportunities to mingle with other like-minded people simply move to other locations. For gay people, especially in smaller cities and towns, those choices are much more limited.

So, when a space like the General Services Bureau—Queer Division offers opportunities for gay writers to share their work and meet their readers (and potential readers), it’s such a gift. The staff at GSBQD were awesome hosts, and Ann Aptaker did a fabulous job putting the event together. Things like this are never easy to coordinate. The other writers involved were Susan X. Meagher, Cindy Rizzo, and Jane Hoppen, although Jane was unfortunately sick and couldn’t join us.

I think the only person who sold any books was Ann (yay, Ann!) but I think it was a success for all of us. Hopefully, more events like this will happen and more spaces like GSBQD will become available in NYC and around the country.

Getting on Track

It’s been a few weeks since I last blogged. That’s because the holidays, as they do every year, kept me very busy. It all becomes a whirlwind of pressure and I sometimes wonder if I’ll make it to the new year with my sanity intact. I always do.

Sort of.

Then the holidays ebb away and I find myself in a cold, gray, post-Christmas January. The festivities and frivolity make way for back-to-business seriousness. And while it’s a bit depressing to see all the lights shut off and the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center get taken down, it’s a relief as well. Getting back to business means getting back on track and, hopefully, finishing up projects that were lingering.Charleston_Nile_River_Rainforest_Train_tracks

I already crossed off one thing on my agenda, which was to complete a short story that I was working on. I read it to my writers’ group, make note of their comments, and now it will sit and marinate a while. I’ve launched into another short story, which I hope to submit to an anthology.
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Christmas Caroling

Has anyone else noticed that holiday music is the only music that we listen to 220px-Single_Brenda_Lee-Rockin'_Around_the_Christmas_Tree_covercontinuously, year after year, for decades? I mean, radio stations still regularly play “Here Comes Santa Claus” by Gene Autry, “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” by Burl Ives, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee, and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Frank Sinatra, released in 1947, 1965, 1958, and 1957, respectively.

People still listen to these songs, some of which are in the 70-year range, every year as if they are fresh and new. They are aired by pop radio stations, get played at parties, and are piped in at malls and in elevators.

What other music can say that?blue eyes

Yes, you will catch the Beatles on your elevator ride, tap your toe to “The Girl from Ipanema” while waiting to be called in at the dentist’s office, or hear the chords of “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” while shopping at Walmart. And, of course, there are stations that are devoted to “oldies” or a specific type of music that, by virtue of the genre, will play older music. (For example, no self-respecting jazz station will omit playing Ella Fitzgerald, whose most famous recordings were done in the 1930s─1950s.) Occasionally, if you’re lucky, you might get to dance to a classic ’70s disco song at a club or party.220px-Have_a_Holly_Jolly_Christmas_cover

But for the most part, older music is treated as such—classics to be listened to either with reverence or nostalgia, and usually by those old enough to remember it when it first came out. So much music gets forgotten in mere months after their release. Look what happened with U2 a few months ago when iTunes automatically downloaded their latest album onto people’s playlists. People younger than 30 were like, “Who’s U2?” O_O

I mean, holy shit. U2 is only one of the greatest rock bands of all time (okay, I’m sure some of you would argue with me about that, but let’s just go with it for now). But the music scene is fickle. Very, very fickle. It goes through a midlife crisis basically all the time, like one long, continuous identity crisis.geneautry

But I’d be willing to bet that many of those same people who asked, “U2 who?” have heard “Jingle Bell Rock,” recorded by Bobby Helms in 1958, or the Hall and Oates version from 1983, at some time or another. If for no other reason, these songs continue to be used time and time again in holiday movies, which is a film category that seems to have the vampire’s life—it will never die. Yes, they use newer music, too, but they’ll slip in an oldie here or there. And since some pop stations play 24 hours of holiday music throughout December, starting right after Thanksgiving, it’s impossible to avoid entirely.

I just wonder how long we will be listening to these decades-old holiday tunes. Will we still be toasting with eggnog at the office party to the notes of “I’ll Have a Blue Christmas” by Elvis Presley in 20 years? Fifty? A hundred? Beyond?blue-christmas-man-sparkle1

All this means absolutely nothing. I just find the idiosyncrasies of pop culture and society’s traditions fascinating. It amazes me how some traditions remain for centuries, even millennia. The tradition of the Christmas tree, as we know it today, began in the 16th century; mistletoe was hung for kissing beginning in the 18th century; and caroling began as a celebratory rite for the winter solstice thousands of years ago.

How will recorded music—specifically, Christmas music—stand the test of time?

We’ll never know. But holiday music comes in all different forms, and even the most cynical of us can enjoy some, whether it’s the heartfelt, sitting-by-the-fireside crooning of “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” the sad wartime diddy “I’ll be home for Christmas,” the nostalgic “The Chimpmunk Song,” the fun and light “Santa Baby,” the silly “Grandama Got Run Over By a Reindeer,” or the anti-Christmas “Father Christmas” by the Kinks. Whatever floats your boat.